At Frogtown’s Daily Diner, staff work for more than tips

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in late February, it was official—after months of paperwork and stress, Monica Spencer, a trainee in Frogtown Daily Diner’s vocational program, had moved out of the halfway house she had been living in for nearly seven months and into a sober living building on the East Side of St. Paul. That evening, when she got back from work at the Diner, would be the first time in seven months that she would not have to test in a breathalyzer to get a pass of approval from her supervisors. In fact, after her time spent in the prison system, it would be the first time in eight years that Spencer had not reported to authority figures before turning in for the night.“I haven’t had time to enjoy it yet,” Spencer said, speaking from a table in the Diner after her work shift. “Today I just got up, went to work and I’m only just getting off now.”Not that Spencer was complaining — she credits her time at the Daily Diner as an important part in a big transition she is making in her life.“I really changed a lot over the last year,” Spencer said. Continue Reading

Reading, writing, and speaking English go better with tea at St. Paul’s Skyline Tower

It is 10:30 am on a Thursday morning and the eleven adult students in the Level 1 and 2 adult English class at Skyline Tower are making tea. Muhubo, seated near the front of the class and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, shakes back the sleeves of her bright orange hijab to unwrap a yellow Lipton tea bag. Udbi, seated next to her, stirs one, two, three spoonfuls of sugar into her cup of hot brew. As other students filter back into the classroom after their break, they stop by the tray of ceramic mugs before taking their seats.“It is something of a ritual,” said English teacher Joe McMorrow. “We take our tea very seriously here.”The students at Skyline Tower take their English education even more seriously.For thirteen years now, Skyline Tower, an affordable living complex run by the non-profit CommonBond Communities has offered free classes and services to residents in their “Advantage Center,” located in a two-story building attached to the apartment building. Continue Reading