Beating the odds in St. Paul: Lashay Thompson is moving forward

Seventeen-year- old Lashay Thompson, a senior at Highland Park High School in St. Paul is beating the odds, on track to graduate from high school and succeed in college despite enormous disadvantages. She endured abuse that resulted in her living in foster homes as a young child, lost her adoptive father in a car accident at a pre-adolescent age, lost her mother to cancer as a teenager and dealt with personal struggles throughout her life. Yet she goes forward in a courageous way.Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota will recognize Eduardo Sanchez Beltran, Lashay Thompson, Raymond Perez and Anne Sinner as the 2012 Beat the Odds winners on March 16. This is the 20th annual Beat the Odds celebration.Thompson’s weekdays start at 4:00 a.m. when she wakes to prepare for her intern job at Cargill in the Information Technology (IT) department. Continue Reading

Science Research Institute STEM program helps motivated high school and college students

Highly motivated inner-city Minneapolis students from Washburn and St. Paul students from Central and Higher Ground Academy high schools interested in science and math participated in a five week science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program this summer. Two college laboratories, each with a college professor, 20 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused students—high school mentees and college mentors—participated in the 2011-2012 Science Research Institute (SRI) summer program. Mentees said while immersed in the STEM summer curriculum, mentors were available to guide and assist them with hands-on learning projects. As a result, both said they experienced greater confidence when attempting other academic work during the program. Continue Reading

Teaching children the Way to Grow in Minneapolis

“They help me a lot; they help me teach my kids” said Fartune Abdi about Way to Grow, a North Minneapolis nonprofit organization with a vision to prepare preschool children to succeed in kindergarten through third grade and beyond.”We want to have the children we serve great by eight years old,” said the Way to Grow Executive Director Carolyn Smallwood. She explained: “Education is the key, and we believe parents are the primary educators. Part of the challenge we face is that education does start at home and helping parents realize they have the keys to educate their children. Everything parents do with their children matters and can provide opportunities for them to teach with increased confidence.”Under Smallwood’s direction, Way to Grow is partnered with 50+ other community organizations and staff leaders include family educators, resource advocates, preschool teachers, and a bus driver.Way to Grow specializes in connecting isolated families to community services and support. The families have preschool age children and barriers to community involvement such as language, limited income, lack of early childhood education and medical care.Often referrals are made by physicians and other medical staff who identify a low-income, isolated family. Continue Reading

Shutdown fears of a concerned grandmother and social worker

It took a few days for me to catch up with Vickie Moore, a 67-years-young concerned citizen, a “worried” grandmother and a conscientious Hennepin County social worker. During the day she is a full-time social worker, and in the evening, she is an avid supporter of her grandchildren—one of whom Vickie said experienced a recent “crisis” that she helped her grandchild get through. Like many Minnesotans, she has concerns about the impending state shutdown, both as a state employee and as someone concerned about its potential impact on her family.On the evening when we talked, Vickie threw tennis balls across her yard for her dogs to fetch. Her voice affectionate, Vickie said, “Sam is the most rambunctious of my rescued dogs.”  Sam proved her right as he barked intermittently in a playful, happy manner more than the other dogs while he scurried around Vickie with enthusiasm and disrupted our conversation a couple of times.Vickie told me in a straightforward manner, “If I get laid off, I get laid off.” In the same breath, she shared her concerns regarding the essential services that may be stopped or impaired on July 1 due to a state government shutdown. Vickie said, “I am worried about my grandson who has autism and other vulnerable people.” Vickie stressed, “People are really nervous, and it is not fair to have the most vulnerable feel this way” about whether they will have access to essential human services for living a productive life. Continue Reading