Young Men Commit to Change: EMERGE Celebrates the North 4 Banquet

On Friday, February 6th, EMERGE celebrated the achievements of the most recent group to complete the North 4 program.  North 4 is a work readiness program for African American young men in four high crime neighborhoods in North Minneapolis. Young men ages 16 – 21 participate in a 16 week program that includes a week of orientation, weekly group sessions, regular one-on-one meetings with program staff, and a 240 hour paid internship. To complete the program and to be recognized at the February 6th banquet, participants needed to meet an 80% rate of participation, throughout. The 65 people who attended the banquet created a standing-room-only crowd that included family members, partners, internship supervisors, and EMERGE staff.Several of the young men addressed the group themselves, sharing their experiences. According to one participant, Soldon, North 4 is the perfect program, “for someone who has been through a lot.” He recalled that he was forced to be a father figure at a young age for three young brothers. Continue Reading

Parents: Raise Your Children to be Artists and Entrepreneurs

From the book, Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz:That is the great question about bureaucracies. Why are the best people so often mired in the middle, while nonentities become the leaders? Because what gets you up the ladder isn’t excellence: it is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Being smooth at cocktail parties, playing office politics, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Continue Reading

First homeless Youth Shelter to open in “African suburb” of Brooklyn Park

The first of its kind in a Minnesota suburb, a homeless shelter for youth in the City of Brooklyn Park, will open tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 31) during an open house to celebrate the achievement. Brooklyn Park and the surrounding northwest suburbs referred to as the “African Suburb” is home to the largest concentration of African immigrants in the state that are homeowners.Called Brooklyn Avenues, it is a 12-bed, short-term shelter and transition housing program, for teens aged 16 through 20. The Minneapolis nonprofit, Avenues for Homeless Youth, will run the shelter built by the City of Brooklyn Park through its Economic Development Authority at a cost of $950,000. The City will lease it to Avenues for $1.The grand opening ceremony on Saturday will be open to the public in the form of an open house that will run from 1-4pm.According to the renowned Wilder Research in Saint Paul, more than 4,000 youth are homeless and living alone in Minnesota on any one given night. Continue Reading

Student documentary explores media portrayals of women

This documentary explores how the media portrays women and how that affects how women see themselves. It specifically links media portrayals with body issues and eating disorders in women. Through interviews with students and professionals, the video dives into the root of the issue to discuss how everyone can work to lessen the impact of these media portrayals.This video was directed by Alaina, Maddie, Morgan and Taylor in the VOICES class of 2014-2015. VOICES stands for Values, Options, Issues and Choices Explored in Society. Students in the VOICES class create social issue documentaries with the guidance of teachers Delainia Haug and Laura Lanik and Teaching Artist/videomaker John Akre. Continue Reading

Lawmakers listen as educators share ‘achievement gap’ success stories

As Minnesota leaders in K-12 education continue to work toward their shared goal of narrowing the achievement gap, the House Education Finance Committee is looking to the educators themselves for examples of progress.On Tuesday, principals and superintendents from public and charter schools and school districts that have reported improvements in that arena shared their success stories.The purpose of the hearing, said committee chair Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), was to allow the committee to glean from educators successful tools and strategies they have used that have proven effective in closing the gap between students of color and white students with respect to their scores on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) exams.One of those schools is Global Academy in Columbia Heights.The public charter school with an enrollment of 430 kindergarten through eighth graders — 75 percent of whom are students of color — has been designated by the Department of Education as a “Reward School,” a status that recognizes the top 15 percent of Title 1 schools that have demonstrated exceptional student outcomes in helping to close the achievement gap.“‘How do we do this?’ People ask us that a lot,” said Helen Fisk, director. “Sometimes we are pretty stumped ourselves. But I think the answer is really pretty simple: it never occurred to us that our students wouldn’t be anything other than very successful.”Fisk pointed to the school’s International Baccalaureate learning program, ability to control quality of teaching staff based on at-will employment model and its one-to-one student-iPad ratio as a few of the reasons for its high MCA scores across the board in math, reading and science.About 68 percent math of its black students in grades three through eight were measured to be proficient in math, Fisk said. About 63 percent measured proficient in reading and 62 percent in science.In the most recent round of MCA results released by the Department of Education last fall, the gap between white and black students continues to persist on a statewide level. In reading, 33 percent of black students in grades three through eight were achieved proficient for their grade level, compared to 67 percent of white students. Continue Reading

GLBT Youth seek Safe Space

High school students often face challenges and discrimination as they work to discover and define their sexual identities. This documentary is about the LGBT community in schools and some of the problems LGBT students face. Its focus is the transgender community struggle to be recognized and respected in light of an anti-transgender advertisement run in the Star Tribune last fall.This video was directed by Luis, Yesenia and Matthew in the VOICES class of 2014-2015. VOICES stands for Values, Options, Issues and Choices Explored in Society. Students in the VOICES class create social issue documentaries with the guidance of teachers Delainia Haug and Laura Lanik and Teaching Artist/videomaker John Akre. Continue Reading

Teen Pregnancy Center keeps young mothers in school

The TAPPP, Teen Age Pregnancy and Parenting Program, is in three of the seven major public high schools in Minneapolis. The program supports teen mothers so they can continue their education.This video was directed by Shannon, Sam, Mai Lia and Lucy in the South High VOICES class of 2014-2015. VOICES stands for Values, Options, Issues and Choices Explored in Society. Students in the VOICES class create social issue documentaries with the guidance of teachers Delainia Haug and Laura Lanik and Teaching Artist/videomaker John Akre. To see all of this year’s VOICES documentaries, visit http://johnakre.com/teachingartist/voices/voices14.html. Continue Reading

Holding onto your heritage: Somali traditions keep family roots intact while chasing the American dream

My mother came to America for one reason and one reason only. The “American Dream.”What she didn’t know was the land we held onto might be sacrificed for that dream.She came from Somalia, which was going through a civil war at the time. My mom fled to Europe in 1992 while pregnant with my eldest brother. Soon after, my two older siblings, Zamzam and Abdinaim, and I were born in Bonn, Germany.She wanted us to have the best life, filled with opportunities she never had. The only place to do that was America.Coming here when I was only three, my family and I soon realized that we needed to learn English in order to succeed. Continue Reading