April 2020 – Edina High School reported a graduation rate of 98.1 percent for the 2018-19 school year – nearly 15 percent above the Minnesota average. Nearly 94 percent of these graduates went on to pursue some form of higher education. These statistics are not anomalies. EHS regularly ranks in the top five among the state’s non-charter public high schools, according to the Minnesota Department of Education and U.S. News & World Report.
This impressive, consistent performance cannot be traced back to any single factor. However, the robust volunteer program coordinated through Edina Community Education is doubtless one key contributor. Matthew Hovelsrud can attest to the program’s impact, both as a volunteer and as a student.
Hovelsrud first became involved “through the youth enrichment camps that Edina Community Education offers every summer.” Run with assistance from a variety of community partners, this isn’t your conventional, rustic camping experience. Offerings geared toward day campers ages 5-12 truly run the gamut – from cooking courses to magic lessons, and even robotics workshops and a week-long YouTube video production seminar.
“What drew me to the volunteer program was that the camps changed every week … but with each new camp, I was able to establish further connections with some of the kids I had known from previous ones,” explained Hovelsrud.
His personal favorites include STEM classes, “which range from Minecraft to the building of solar-powered drones.” Sports are perennially popular, with campers and organizers both. In addition to conventional games like baseball and football, Hovelsrud is particularly fond of SNAG golf, “which is basically playing golf with tennis balls and Velcro targets.”
Hovelsrud’s involvement with and commitment to younger students is by no means limited to the summer. He has offered one-on-one tutoring to children at Creek Valley Elementary School, and touches even more lives as a board member of Edina Give and Go.
Edina Give and Go is a nonprofit partner of Edina Public Schools and exists for the express purpose of ensuring that academic, arts and sports opportunities are open to all Edina’s young people – even when the activity has a price tag attached. Over the 2018-19 school year alone, the organization awarded $165,000 in mini-grants, allowing 250 students to take part in more than 480 programs that would otherwise have been out of reach for them financially.
Over its five-year history, Edina Give and Go has consistently leapfrogged past its own records and previous year’s impact. The tireless work of its engagement committee, of which Hovelsrud is a part, is a big reason why. “Our work is to expand awareness of the organization, and integrate the community into our mission,” he said.
Among other things, this integration means making sure that the grant-maker is responsive to new needs of the student body as they arise. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic offers a perfect case in point, Hovelsrud notes. As the school district migrated to virtual platforms, “Edina Give and Go put [itself] at the forefront of the movement to support students facing economic challenges resulting from the move to the new e-learning environment.”
In a challenging time like this, grassroots community programs really have an opportunity to shine, he concluded. Hovelsrud’s positive, magnanimous outlook on present circumstances comes as no surprise to those who have worked with him through the Edina Community Foundation and Edina Give and Go.
“Matt believes that education and community support can act as an effective equalizer, and provide every child the opportunity to succeed,” said Maggie McCracken, Executive Director of Edina Give and Go. “He hopes that every student living in Edina grows up knowing the community believes in their potential and is willing to invest in their future.”