As Schools See Surge in Struggling Students, MREA Partners With EmpowerU

by The EmpowerU Team on September 20, 2021

As the mental health needs of Minnesota students skyrocket, MREA is excited to partner with EmpowerU to support schools. The partnership offers districts access to an evidence-based solution that is helping thousands of students become more self-directed and confident learners.

“I’m hearing from so many school leaders that the disruption and social isolation of the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on student behavior, emotional regulation, and motivation,” said MREA Executive Director Bob Indihar. “Especially in rural areas, where mental health services and guidance counselors are in short supply, our schools are looking for help responding to students’ needs at Tier I and Tier II. That’s why we are excited about the innovation that EmpowerU brings to districts. ”

EmpowerU provides a K-5 and 6-10 plug-and-play resilience curriculum that teaches students they can “take charge” of their thoughts and learn to overcome challenges. With prepared lessons, reflection questions and activities, teachers can easily integrate daily prompts and lessons into morning meetings or advisory for Tier I support. And teachers are finding the reflective prompts support their own well-being, as well. 

For middle and high school level, EmpowerU equips Tier 2 students with the skills to build persistence, resilience and success by pairing online interactive daily lessons with 1:1 support from online instructors. These instructors, who have master’s degrees and a high degree of training in EmpowerU’s programs, serve as life coaches to personalize and apply the course content based on each student’s goals and barriers.

“We know there is a significant need to help students process and learn to overcome the feelings of isolation, hopelessness and anxiety they experienced during the pandemic. The problem is too big for most schools to provide the daily skills and support that students need on their own,” said Katie Dorn, MA, LSC, MFT, EmpowerU’s founder and licensed school counselor and family therapist. “EmpowerU is an online partner that can support schools as they need to scale. As an online credit-bearing course, it may be a first step for many students learning resilience, while earning needed high school credit.” 

More than 93% of students who complete the EmpowerU program report increased confidence and wellbeing, making meaningful progress toward their goals. 

Students in the Tier 2 intervention (grades 3-12) have short daily lessons and personalized coaching. These activities can easily access all coursework by phone, computer or tablet. The lessons equip students with essential skills such as problem-solving, goal setting, social interaction and emotional regulation to improve a student's academic learning, study habits and test scores. 

“We teach students about the stressors they are experiencing, and we teach them to move from a fight-flight-freeze response to a think-feel-do response,” added Katie Dorn. “They first need to believe they can control their own thoughts, then we teach them how to do it. It’s really about helping kids make sense of what’s going on around them and how they can respond. As a former school counselor, I see EmpowerU filling the daily reinforcement needs for true behavior change, that I didn’t have time to do when I was working in my school.” 

Students benefit from a personal coach

Everyone can benefit from a personal coach. And in our Tier 2 program — thanks to our partnership with MREA — schools have an affordable way to provide this intervention. Four evidence-based elements help students move from a place of discouragement, avoidance and disengagement to confidence, resilience, persistence and success. These form the foundation of EmpowerU’s work to help schools prioritize student motivation and mental health during the coming school year.

  • 1:1 personalized support
  • Daily engaging content
  • Comprehensive and robust
  • Accessible and equitable

EmpowerU’s approach helps schools. School counselors can monitor student progress on the EmpowerU live dashboard, and receive a full data report on student growth pre- to post-participation using the Prochaska/DiClemente Model of Change. With insight into each student’s goals and progress, the school’s MTSS or student support staff can make student appointments more focused and intentional.

The semester-long online Tier 2 course has rolling admissions and can be completed in 30 minutes each school day. EmpowerU’s approach is aligned with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and National Health and Wellness standards. Students who complete all six units of the course can receive a semester credit.

As one school principal observed, “EmpowerU is more than just talking about problems. It gives students tools to engage in the process of self-improvement and equips them to overcome obstacles — now and in their future.”

Independent evaluation of EmpowerU showed that:

  • More than 88% of students complete the program, compared to completion rates of 5-30% in other programs.
  • More than 98.5% of students would recommend EmpowerU to a friend or classmate.


About Empower U

EmpowerU’s highly personalized, data-driven Tier 1 and Tier 2 solutions equip students to be resilient, self-directed learners and reach their goals — without additional hires or a heavy lift from schools. The program provides each student with interactive lessons and personalized coaching, pairing technology with brain research in a unique way that supports students, empowers their growth and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. Multi-year data makes it clear: nobody understands Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and approaches student success the way EmpowerU does.