Miller Mentoring celebrates 20 years with call to action

Miller Mentoring logo

This was written by Miller Mentoring program director Drew Althoff as the first in a series of stories for the Winona Post. It was originally published in January. We are publishing it now in celebration of National Volunteer Month. We will publish future stories from Althoff and Miller Mentoring as well, so be on the lookout for those in the near future.

It all began in May of 2000 with Ben Miller’s vision: With an education comes opportunities. Through a lens of academic support, the Miller Mentoring Program launched at the start of the 2000-01 school year. As time went on, the needs shifted and social-emotional support became crucial. Building strong, trusting relationships between mentors and students became key. And that is the foundation of the program.

Watch: Drew Althoff and WAPS Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit talk about the importance of volunteering

Looking back on the past 20 years, there’s a rich and vibrant history behind the Miller Mentoring Program. From Cindy Amberg’s ambition in crafting the program at its inception, to now having eight dedicated staff at three buildings in Winona Area Public Schools, the program has thrived over the years. While there are many reasons for that, there is one reason that stands above the rest: our volunteer mentors. 

Our program wouldn’t exist without mentors. I’ve always been told to not state the obvious, yet that statement goes much deeper. Mentors don’t simply tutor. Mentors offer support and encouragement while being a safe place for young people. Mentors balance accountability and understanding for our students. Mentors are consistent, compassionate and committed. And if you ask folks why they mentor, you’ll hear similar stories: the reward is all about the relationship. 

So, in honor of Miller Mentoring’s 20th anniversary, we call on the Winona community to join us on this journey. Our goal is to welcome 20 new community mentors for the 2021-22 school year. We will be highlighting a few of many stories from the past two decades. It will be a glimpse into the power of mentoring. We want to share with you what it means to be a mentor and why it’s crucial to building healthy communities. 

Will you step up and be a caring adult for our youth? We hope you consider rising to the call of action. We can assure you that you will not regret it and your impacts could reverberate for a lifetime. It’s needed now more than ever. 

Learn more about the Miller Mentoring program here (the high school page), or here (the middle school page). You can also reach Drew at 507-494-1447 or