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Conradt finds success in Austin’s diversity

Carla Conradt enhanced our community for 17 years as a member of the KAAL TV 6 news staff.  Many may remember her fine work there as she moved her way up from morning anchor to main anchor and feature reporter.

It was while working the police beat for KAAL that she met her husband, Dan, who was covering that beat for KAUS radio.

Carla Conradt

Carla is now in her 13th year as a success coach at Austin High school. In 2007, with the increasing diversity of our town, the school district made a critical decision for the future achievement of students.  Success coaches in each building were added to augment the district wide interpreters.

At that time, Carla was ready for a lifestyle change. She is fluent in Spanish, which was one of her triple majors at Gustavus Adolphus College, and she had an education background from teaching English in Spain after college. So, the new challenge of success coach seemed like a good fit.  Her son, Steven, was starting kindergarten and she liked the idea of having her work schedule coincide with his school calendar.

Carla defines her position as serving as a language and cultural bridge between students and their families and the school. She sees herself as a trusted educator and friend to those she serves.

Her work involves three main areas.

First, she is an interpreter for Spanish speaking students and families, verbally relaying teacher communications and information about attendance. For those students whose parents are Spanish speaking, she coordinates and participates in the regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences, as well as in the meetings for individual educational plans (I.E.P.’s). She also holds monthly parent meetings in Spanish.

Second is Carla’s role as student advocate, recruiting students for various programs, both during their high school years as well as for post-secondary programs.

This is an area where Carla finds great personal satisfaction. She loves it when she sees potential in a student and says to them, “I see you succeeding in this program” and they go on to take the risk to try for that program or scholarship. She helps get students to participate in the Link Crew, a select group of junior and seniors, who provide leadership and mentoring to their fellow students.  To help students with their post-secondary plans, Carla works closely with Riverland Community College to sponsor a completion night to assist families with the paperwork to apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Minnesota Dream Act Aid.  She also helps to recruit promising juniors to Austin High School’s Step Up program, putting students in paid internships in the community, as well as Riverland’s summer college prep program, Be Your Best.

Other opportunities for post-secondary study for which Carla recruits are Austin Assurance Scholarships and Horatio Alger Scholarships. Students are also encouraged to attend the University of Minnesota Multicultural Open house, Riverland Multicultural Day, Mankato State University Latino and African Engineering and Academic Days (LEAD), and Winona State University Diversity Day.

Carla’s third area of responsibility is connecting any students, not just Hispanic, who may have needs with community services, often on the recommendation of the school nurse. These include the Children’s Dental Health Clinic out of Rochester, the Lewis Dental Care Fund, Sight for Students (a social security program to provide vision screening and glasses), the United Way for coats and winter wear, and the weekend backpack program for food support.

Another part of Carla’s time is spent in meetings providing good communication about student needs and progress.  She participates weekly in a Building Leadership Team meeting with administrators, police and truancy officers, the activities director, counselors, plus instructional leaders.

Another meeting is with the Student Assistance Team to plan for students of concern with regard to multiple absences, not turning in work, as well as mental or social problems.

Then she also meets with the success coaches from all the buildings to share support, and advice, so all can benefit from their various experiences.

Carla loves her job.

“No two days are alike, and I consider it such a privilege to be a trusted friend of families,” she said. “It is very meaningful to me to share in their lives. Sometimes it is the parents who need the reassurance and I try to give that as well with a hug or handshake.”

“Since we started Distance Learning in Austin Public Schools, success coaches have been working from home,” Carla added. “We’ve been connecting with students and their families through phone calls, texts, emails and video conferencing…all in an effort to support students’ on-line learning during the pandemic.  We are trying hard to be a bridge between teachers/administrators/counselors and students/families.  Relationships we established prior to COVID-19 seem to be more important than ever, now, as we reach students in their homes and encourage them.”

Austin High students, graduates and their families, plus our whole community owe a debt of gratitude to Carla for her hard work assisting Spanish-›speaking families and connecting students with opportunities.

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove  sue.grove@riverland.edu  or Carolyn Bogott  csbogott@charter.net. The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond. AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881.  We support equity and education for women.  Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination.  We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.