Educators commit to helping all kids succeed

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Participants urged to make the right choice at MMEP’s 20th anniversary celebration

The Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP) was founded in 1987 to create a collaborative tool with major educational institutions in Minnesota to increase the success of students in schools, especially students of color. On Thursday, November 15, MMEP celebrated its 20th year at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis with a large gathering of educators who share the vision that, in order for the country to be successful, it is imperative that the framework must change from “college for some” to “college for all.”

Minnesota College Access Network (MCAN), an initiative of MMEP, held its first annual conference on Thursday and Friday as a wraparound event to MMEP’s anniversary. Jennifer Godinez, executive director of MCAN and associate director of MMEP, asserted that “all our children dream of something much better” and that both nonprofit organizations are here to help them realize those dreams.

At the anniversary dinner celebration, MMEP Executive Director Carlos Mariani-Rosa reaffirmed their mission: to increase college access for more low-income youth of color, to provide programs that will increase the number of students attending and completing education in Minnesota, and to improve those students’ success in college.

“Education is the most important thing we can do in this country,” opined Dr. Julianne Malveaux, keynote speaker at the breakfast session. She added that the largest gaps in education are with people of color, and that continued failure to engage and educate our youth is equivalent to suicide.

The Minnesota State Colleges & Universities recommend the following steps for high school students to get ready for college:
1. Meet with your school counselor to find out what courses you need to take that will prepare you for college. The recommended high school courses are: English — four years; mathematics — three years; science — three years; and social studies — three years. State universities require the above courses and two years of a single world language and one year of visual and performing arts. Taking these courses also may make you eligible for additional federal financial aid.
2. Develop good study habits, such as reading good books and practicing writing skills. Learn to organize your time to get assignments done.
3. Explore careers and college options by visiting your career or counseling center to gather information about careers and colleges and universities.
4. Take the ACT or SAT tests if you plan to attend a four-year college.
5. Apply to college during 12th grade.
6. Apply for financial aid. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, after January 1 during 12th grade.

Dr. Rosa Smith, keynote speaker at the dinner, sustained the theme of the importance of educating our youth with an emphasis on Black males, claiming that there are more Black males in jail than in college.

“It does not have to be this way; it is a choice,” she said. “Black males are fully capable of achieving at the highest level. Committed adults and great principles can lead to success.”

Minnesota has the largest achievement gap between students of color and White students in the United States, and that situation places students of color at a disadvantage not only in becoming leaders in the 21st century, but also in achieving economic success. Eighty-five percent of jobs today require education beyond high school versus 1950, when only 20 percent of jobs required a college education.

The consensus of all the speakers at the MCAN conference was that we must have one education system for all kids, and that community involvement is a key component to accomplishing that goal. They acknowledged that there is a multitude of social and economic factors that impact families and cause many to lose confidence that education can change their lives.

Elaine Salinas, president of MIGIZI Communications, remarked that “there is power in community; we have to begin right now in standing up for our young people.” Dr. Malveaux also challenged the educators gathered to be involved in effecting a change in our educational system: “We need to claim these beautiful brains and figure out how to use them in our country.”

Carlos Mariani-Rosa encouraged the educators, “We must raise and teach our children to thrive and flourish.” Dr. Smith concurred: “What is it about our behavior that will cause the situation to change?” she asked. “To do nothing is a choice; to do something is a choice. Choose to do what needs to be done.”

For more information, or to make a contribution to MCAN and/or MMEP, call 651-645-7400 or visit www.mncollegeaccess.org or www.mmep.net.

Jennifer Holder welcomes reader responses to jholder@spokesman-recorder.com.

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