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Life coach helps high school students stay in school

Cole Gilles, right, looks over a workbook with life coach Stacy Hartmann. The book outlines the 12 segments to life coaching, including things like goal setting, time management and communication.

Cole Gilles used to be a good student with high grades. But, within a short time span, his parents divorced and his grandfather passed away. The 15-year-old sophomore found his grades getting worse and worse.

"I was mad at the world," Gilles said.

Now, a new program offered this semester at Red Wing High School, led by Red Wing Youth Outreach, is helping students like Gilles who are struggling. Teen Leadership Coaching makes a life coach available to students at risk of dropping out.

"The students identify what issues in their life they need to work on," said Kjurstin Langer, program director for Youth Outreach.

The Minnesota Department of Education shows in 2009 - the last year for which data is available - that Red Wing had a 4.3 percent drop out rate, just below the state average of 5.5 percent.

"(The program) is aimed at keeping them in school, but it's not solely about school," she said.

The life coach program is funded through the end of this semester by a $10,000 dollar grant from Josten's Foundation and a $13,000 grant from Red Wing Area Fund, as well as various smaller donations.

Life coaching

Currently, 17 students meet with life coach Stacy Hartmann once a week. Hartmann, who has certification to be a life coach, also works as a juvenile probation officer and has a degree in psychology.

But, she said life coaching goes beyond psychology, which deals more with the past. "It's very present and future-focused," Hartmann said.

She said the techniques she's using with the students have been used in corporations and companies for years and is just starting to spread to other areas.

The first thing Hartmann has students do is take an assessment to identify their strengths and what internal blocks are getting in their way of being successful in school and other areas of their lives.

"That assessment really gets them hooked," Langer said. "They really feel understood and validated."

From there, Hartmann said what she talks about with each student is really up to the student. But, she said the goal is to stay positive and to focus on goals.


Since he began meeting with Hartmann about three weeks ago, Gilles said his grades have improved. In addition, he said he has a different state of mind and has learned how to cope with things better.

"It helped me see who I am and what I need ...," he said. "It made me happier, more outgoing."

Life coaching has been more helpful than psychologists have been and even more helpful than friends and family who wanted to help him, he said.

"They didn't know how to help," he said. "They didn't have the strategies." The more goal-oriented and strengths-focused life coaching has made him see things more positively, Gilles said.

It's also made him a leader. The sophomore said he has been able to teach some of the strategies Hartmann taught him to his mother to help her through her divorce.

"If you get yourself figured out," he said, "you can actually help others."

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.