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The Courage to Succeed – Volunteer Champion: Joyce Lancaster

The first thing you notice when meeting Joyce Lancaster is her big warm welcoming smile, which is often accompanied by her cheerful laugh. Joyce’s warm personality helps her connect with the students she tutors in the UMFS Courage to Succeed program.

Courage to Succeed is a unique program that provides college support for students with autism or other neurological differences. The program was started in 2011 with just four students. Six years later it has grown to serve 21 students. The majority of the Courage to Succeed students are enrolled at Reynolds Community College. They take classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Courage to Succeed staff are on campus with them to provide support. On Tuesday and Thursday, the students come to UMFS to learn independent living and social skills. They also receive mental health support and tutoring.

Tutors like Joyce are an essential part of Courage to Succeed. Joyce has worked with six different students over the last four years, and she really enjoys it. “The students are super hard working, focused and really appreciative of your time,” shared Joyce. Her specialty is math. She has tutored Courage to Succeed student Zach through several different math classes. When Zach decided to tackle applied calculus, Joyce jumped in to support him. “The last time I took calculus was freshman year in college, which was years ago,” Joyce said with a smile. “Zach and I literally took the class together. I didn’t go to the actual class sessions, but I had the syllabus and the book, and we did all of the homework together. He just worked incredibly hard. He’s so dedicated!”

The students really appreciate Joyce’s support and dedication. “Joyce is fun to be around because she likes to laugh at silly things and laugh at mistakes that we tend to make,” shared Rachel, another Courage to Succeed student. “We love working on math whenever I am stuck on something. She is very kind and she also really cares about other people.”

Joyce was inspired to start tutoring at UMFS after her pastor challenged each member of her congregation to volunteer one hour each week to help someone else. She encourages others to consider tutoring as well. “Don’t be scared to try it,” she said. “I don’t know if I would have said that I’m suited to work with kids on the autism spectrum, but the students are so motivated. It’s just one hour a week. That’s not much time at all, but you can really see the difference it makes!”

Volunteers like Joyce Lancaster make a huge difference in the lives of our children across the state. Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities at UMFS.

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