To help more students reach their potential

Dropout prevention model keeps kids on track to graduation

In the early 1970s, Eileen Klemm attended Catholic elementary school in St. Paul, Minnesota. At her school, it was natural to be surrounded by diversity. But this was a time of declining enrollment, so eight similar schools merged. For the second grade, Klemm attended Our Lady of Guadalupe on the west side, an area the Mexican-American community still calls home. She has fond memories of warm tortillas with melted butter as an afternoon snack at her friends' homes rather than the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she was used to. The new school conglomerate was called Project Discovery featuring the tag line “Let’s Celebrate Our Differences.” Having Hispanic, African American and American Indian classmates was very natural for Klemm and only added to her fond childhood memories. 

Early in her career, Klemm was drawn to working with adults with disabilities who had significant communication issues. This led her to enroll in graduate school to pursue a degree in communication disorders and become a speech-language pathologist. “I wanted to help adults – and later children – overcome their communication obstacles.”

“I want all students to have the opportunity to realize their potential.”

Towards the end of her tenure in public schools, Klemm worked as a peer leader, providing cognitive coaching to a caseload of 70 educators, helping teachers and other professionals improve their daily practice with students. Through this experience she began to see the bigger picture and how her work with adults had a broader capacity to help young students.

Photo of three people
Photo of Eileen Klemm, Joe Angaran, and Jana Hallas holding Check & Connect training participant guides.

Today, Klemm manages all training and technical assistance provided by the Check & Connect student intervention model. Check & Connect is an intervention used with K-12 students who show warning signs of disengagement with school and are at risk of dropping out. At the core of the program is a trusting relationship between the student and a caring, trained mentor who both advocates for and challenges the student. Since the 1990s, Check & Connect has been successfully implemented in over 40 states across the U.S. and internationally.

Photo of mentor working with student in a library
Mentor support student working at a computer

Through her work, Klemm continues to make a difference by helping students, schools, districts and states increase their collective high school graduation rates. She now hopes to expand the reach and support for Check & Connect throughout the country and further around the world.

Contact Information

Institute on Community Integration

102 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Dr SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

P: 612-624-6300 | F: 612-624-9344

ici@umn.edu

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