A lesson in civics: New job opens eyes on resources in Albert Lea community

Published 10:37 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Allyssa Sorenson sits in her office at Brookside Education Center. Sorenson is a community success coach and works to connect people in need with resources in the area. – Tiffany Krupke/Albert Lea Tribune

Allyssa Sorenson sits in her office at Brookside Education Center. Sorenson is a community success coach and works to connect people in need with resources in the area. – Tiffany Krupke/Albert Lea Tribune

Though the area was familiar to her, the job helped her to become more engaged in the community.

Allyssa Sorenson took the position of community success coach coordinator this August with United Way of Freeborn County and Albert Lea Adult Basic Education, but serves under the AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America, also called VISTA.

“This job has really given me the chance to get to know the community better,” Sorenson said. “I had no idea how many resources were available for people in Albert Lea.”

She will serve as coordinator during a gap year before seeking a graduate degree in occupational therapy.

AmeriCorps VISTA members make a yearlong, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization
or public agency. Sorenson’s position as a community success coach coordinator has been paid for through a Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation grant.

Each day at her job, Sorenson works to connect community members with resources they need. She matches up skilled mentors with mentees in need of guidance.

Sorenson gave the example of someone needing help selecting an apartment. A mentor would talk the person through the process.

Sorenson said she hopes to help the large number of area refuges transition into life in the community. Recent efforts to reach out include a group presentation with local law enforcement. Attendees were given surveys, created by Sorenson, asking about their needs. Sorenson uses the surveys match mentors with mentors.

The program has five mentors, but Sorenson would like to see it grow.

Sorenson grew up just down the road from her office a Brookside Education Center, a place she still calls her home.  She attended school in Albert Lea and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Olaf’s College in Northfield.

She has applied to several colleges, including her first choice, University of South Dakota. She is close with her family, though, and wouldn’t mind staying the area. Her mom is a fourth-grade teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School and her dad is the plant manager at Carpenter Co., an Albert Lea manufacturer of foam, cushioning and bedding products. She has two siblings, Cole, 21, and Lauren, 17.

After graduation, she hopes to live in a small community and use her degree to help the elderly. She isn’t sure where her future will take her, but she hopes continue to help others with her career as an occupational therapist.