When Bob Kaitz was selected to lead an experiential learning project at the Breck School in 1973, he met with Fred Metcalfe, then Vice President of Consumer Affairs at 3M, to develop the pilot project. During the project trial, 3M provided students with an 8-week on-site, experiential learning opportunity. The discovery that students learn best through a hands-on approach, rather than in a traditional lecture format, led to the official founding of BestPrep in 1976 powered by 3M, Cargill, Ecolab, and General Mills.
The collaboration between 3M and BestPrep has since evolved into a 45-yearlong partnership. Last year alone, 149 3M employees volunteered 337 times for a total of 2,882 hours. 3M helped begin BestPrep’s Minnesota Business Venture program in 1981. The company has additionally hosted twelve teachers in a corporate job shadow during the Technology Integration Workshop.
BestPrep has formed strong relationships within 3M during our partnership. Anne Seaquist, 3Mgives Community Initiatives Manager, recruits 3M employees to volunteer as mentors, mock interviewers, and classroom speakers. One longtime mentor is Andy Hennig, 3M Communications Manager, who also serves on the BestPrep Board of Directors. “Our collaboration is a natural fit for both organizations as we look to develop a strong workforce for the future,” Andy shared, “Our employees love the variety of ways they can participate and stay connected with today’s students.”
For more than ten years, 3M has worked closely with students in St. Paul east-side schools, participating in more than 4,200 mentorships through eMentors. The company has also conducted mock interviews and played an integral role in the creation of Cloud Coach by funding the pilot program. Not only does 3M support many BestPrep initiatives, but the company’s sponsorship of our biennial Educational Forum has been instrumental in allowing Angélique Kidjo and Alan Page to be the event’s keynote speakers.
BestPrep provides the rare opportunity for volunteers to see the impact of their work firsthand. Keith Graupmann is an engineer at 3M and longtime BestPrep volunteer. Reflecting on his own experience, Keith explained, “By sharing my journey, I help students connect the dots between their interests and hobbies, through which classes they like, to possible careers, to picking a major and a college, to internships, and finally to graduation and interviewing for a job. Once they see an example of how to get to the end, they can shift their focus from the ‘scary unknown’ to ‘Okay, I can do this. Let’s get started.’”
3M’s involvement has been fundamental for the development of BestPrep and our seven programs. We are grateful for our extraordinary partnership that has created an everlasting impact in the lives of so many Minnesota students and teachers during the past 45 years.