Ojibwe youth camp helps restore once-forbidden language

My Norwegian-born grandmother, who arrived on America’s shores in 1912, played an outsize role in my childhood telling stories of what seemed to us her exotic homeland where children skied to school, had summer homes on the fjords and every Christmas baked hundreds of Scandinavian cookies for family and friends.

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How one couple made a difference in a troubled Minneapolis neighborhood

The day before they bought their big stucco house in the Phillips neighborhood in 1990, Joani and Tim Essenburg dropped by for another look.The former kindergarten teacher and the college professor thought they knew what they were getting into. After all, they’d made a conscious decision to buy in a low-income, high-crime Minneapolis neighborhood to try to make a difference.Only what they encountered that day gave them pause: the neighbor’s garage was still smoking from a fire intentionally set the night before, the house they intended to buy had been broken into and defaced with gang graffiti.They hoped in a small way to build community and change lives in Phillips and they wanted to live in the neighborhood to do it.More than 20 years later, they’re well along that path.What started with Joani bringing cookies and friendship to 12 families on her block has developed into Banyan Community, a non-profit organization that provides after-school tutoring, mentoring and summer youth programs to 120 children and social support to 75 families.Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them.It is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, and some Minneapolis Foundation donor advisors.Community Sketchbook articles may be republished or distributed, in print or online, with credit to MinnPost and the foundations.Today, Banyan kids are graduating from high school — 21 so far. Some are the first in their families to do so. Most go on to college.Banyan adults are rallying together in block clubs to fight street crime in their neighborhoods.Banyan families are staying put because they see this Christian community development program with its web of community connections as their ticket toward a better life. Banyan provides the educational and social supports families need to see their children graduate from high school and go on toward post-secondary education and, hopefully, enter the middle class.“We moved with the intent to live in a low-income neighborhood and live out our faith…The big vision grew over five years living there, maybe seven years,’’ explained Tim Essenburg, co-founder with Joani of Banyan and an economics professor at Bethel University in Arden Hills.Their motivation is to love God and love their neighbors, said Joani Essenburg, who changed careers, picking up a degree in the non-profit field to become Banyan’s executive director.Teacher Bethany Theobald helping students fashion a volcano. Continue Reading

Program helps African-American children learn and parents advocate

African-American books and art line the walls. Soft chairs beckon readers to sit a bit.Yet more than a welcoming place, supporters say, the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent (NdCAD) is the launching pad to a better life.Children enrolled in their programs do better in school. Their parents learn support and advocacy skills. Both learn pride in their African roots.“It has changed each one of us and our lives a lot, being aware of who we are and where we came from. We’re not just descendants of slaves,’’ parent Tamara York said recently.In tribute to such accomplishments, last year its executive director, Gevonee Ford, received the White House’s Champions of Change award for founding the culture-based family and literacy education center.Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them.It is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, and some Minneapolis Foundation donor advisors.Community Sketchbook articles may be republished or distributed, in print or online, with credit to MinnPost and the foundations.“We believe that cultural identity provides the foundation not only for school success, but for life-long learning and success,’’ said Ford, who in 1997 established the network housed in an old building in a Midway neighborhood in St. Continue Reading

Student video documents ‘invisible’ homeless in Minneapolis

The homeless — we see them in all the so-called obvious places: at freeway exits holding hand-lettered signs, on shady public-park benches and standing in lines outside social service facilities waiting for food or shelter.But there’s another side to homelessness revealed in a new 16-minute documentary, the “invisible” homeless, those people walking unidentified through our lives. We hear from four of them in “No Place to Call Home,” the video story of four homeless students — two white, two black; two men, two women — at Minneapolis Community and Technical College where 10 percent of the student body is homeless. We learn of their plight and admire their dogged determination to get an education and get out of poverty.Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them.It is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, and some Minneapolis Foundation donor advisors.Community Sketchbook articles may be republished or distributed, in print or online, with credit to MinnPost and the foundations.Among those students is Daniel, who utters: “When you don’t have a roof over your head, math might just get put on the back burner.” Yet he and the others, with the help of support programs at the college, keep plodding along.The documentary, which has students describing evictions, chemical use and other hardships, incorporates both still and video photography. It is narrated by Peter Koeleman, former director of photography at the Star Tribune and a friend of mine. He was faculty adviser for the video journalism class project produced and edited by students Shannon Beelman, Anna Kostochko, Darrin Kovar and Brigitta Serrin.Take a peek here:Don’t miss the hopeful, innovative program mentioned at the video’s conclusion. Continue Reading