Houa Xiong, a senior at St. Paul Johnson High School, and her mentor, 3M engineer Keith Grauppman, have a great relationship that spanned a 3M internship last summer for Xiong and helped inspire her to apply to Macalester College and the University of Minnesota to study science and math.

For Grauppman, a decade-long mentor to several high school students, Xiong and the other bright kids from the East Side of St. Paul are inspiring and increase his "faith in the future."

"Some of these kids say they can't afford to go to college, or that nobody from their family has gone to college,'' Grauppman said the other day. "I encourage them to apply and tell them" about all the aid available to promising students, regardless of income.

Countless studies and anecdotal evidence prove that mentoring between caring, successful adults and low-income kids is a low-cost, high-return way to improve high school academic performance and motivate many of them to post-high school education by linking school to economic success.

3M mentors have done such a good job, including providing corporate support to a variety of mentoring initiatives, that the company was named the first corporate recipient of the "Excellence in Mentoring in America Award" from Mentoring Works, at its annual January conference in Washington, D.C.

More than 500 3M employees and retirees serve as mentors through the 3M/St. Paul Public School Partnership. And 3M funds a volunteer coordinator at Johnson and Harding schools, near 3M's Maplewood campus, who helps connect the teachers and students with 3M volunteers and mentors for classroom discussions, science fairs, tutoring and mentoring matches.

Joellen Gonder-Spacek, executive director of the 20-year-old Minnesota Mentoring Partnership, calls 3M a cornerstone supporter of her organization, the umbrella organization for hundreds of mentoring organizations, from schools to Big Brothers Big Sisters to Bolder Options, that can use business volunteers.

Eventually, as the economy continues to recover, employers hire and baby boomers retire, America will have a job shortage, the demographers tell us. Besides, I've never met a mentor who did not say he or she got more than they gave from the relationship. More information: www.mpmn.org.


Dan Pfarr, the three-year boss at the Bridge for Youth, the counseling and short-term housing resource for homeless teens, is relaxing a bit after spending most of his initial tour streamlining budgets and staff amid the recession and unprecedented demand.

Corporate and individual donations rose in 2012. And, thanks to critical technology investments from the likes of Target, Wells Fargo and Fidelity Investments, the Bridge is installing an electronic-records system and working with the Wilder Foundation on a "point-in-time shelter-count" system that will enable it and similar nonprofit businesses to better manage their caseloads in concert with sister agencies.

Meanwhile, Pfarr is grateful for the pro bono work of marketing agency StoneArch, which provided up to $90,000 in services, including a new website at www.bridgeforyouth.org, YouTube videos, marketing material and more.

"The 'rebrand' takes us from who we were to who we are and what we want to be," Pfarr said. "StoneArch understood us from the get-go."

The volunteers got more than they gave.

"Our team was just overwhelmed by the experience," said Jessica Boden, president of StoneArch. "We gained a greater empathy and appreciation for their tireless work and the countless ways they are making a difference.''


• Minneapolis-based Peterson Milla Hooks, for more than a decade the creative agent behind successful Target branding and advertising campaigns, has been named "Comeback Agency of the Year" by Advertising Age for its recovery in the wake of losing the Target account less than two years ago.

In 2010, Target accounted for all of PMH's revenue. Ad Age said PMH replaced all the lost Target business in 12 months while increasing net income from 2011 to 2012 by 16 percent. Today, the client list for the 62-person shop includes retail giants J.C. Penney, Kmart, Gap, Chico's, Mattel, Sephora and Children's Hospitals and Clinics.


• Alleged electronic hacking by China against the New York Times is just the latest wrinkle in the ongoing China cyber-security story.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 a.m., U.S.-China Business Connections, a nonprofit that serves small businesses doing or seeking Chinese business, will sponsor a panel discussion at Opus Hall at the University of St. Thomas downtown campus on "Cyber & Digital Asset Security with China."

The panels will include Scott Singer, chief technologist at Par Systems; Mike Mantzke, CEO of Global Data Sciences; and moderator Amy Xu of Dorsey & Whitney.

More information at www.ucbcgroup.org and registration at ucbcevent@gmail.com or 612-865-6543.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • nstanthony@startribune.com