Member Feature - Elena Torry-Schrag

This month’s member spotlight is on Elena Torry-Schrag, serving with Learning Early Achieves Potential (LEAP) Initiative!

What program do you serve with?

I serve with the Learning Early Achieves Potential (LEAP) Initiative, which serves communities across Southeastern Minnesota. LEAP is a program of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, as part of their investment in early childhood development.

What do you do in your position?

LEAP members serve in early childhood settings to strengthen the development of social and emotional skills of children ages 3-5. Research increasingly shows that a strong foundation in social and emotional skills leads to happier, healthier children who are better equipped to succeed academically. Some areas of focus include developing emotional regulation techniques, conflict resolution skills, and mindfulness. Using the power of literature and storytelling to develop emotional intelligence and empathy, we work with parents to create a home reading curriculum through a monthly distribution of books to our students.

What interested you in serving with AmeriCorps and with your specific program?

I was fortunate enough to work closely with two AmeriCorps members early on in my educational experience - once in first grade, and again in third grade. These AmeriCorps members and the work I did with them greatly impacted me as a student and a person. I grew up trusting that there were going to be adults who were personally invested in my development and success, adults who believed I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. After graduating from college in 2017, I bounced around from a job at a canoe outfitters in Northern Minnesota to a stint substitute teaching, finally landing in a position at an early childhood center in my hometown. It was there that my passion for early childhood education was ignited. I knew I wanted to give back some of what I had received from the AmeriCorps members who mentored me, so serving with AmeriCorps was an obvious choice. In researching program options, LEAP stood out to me as a way to use the knowledge I had gained in both my majors (Psychology and Education) and pursue my new passion. I started out thinking I might want to be a preschool teacher; now, I know that I do.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I'm an avid reader and amateur watercolor artist. I also spend time volunteering in the wider Winona community and singing in the local UCC choir.