Educating future nurses as a ticket out of poverty

Sometimes, an airplane ride can change your life. Rachelle Simmons was college visiting in Baltimore with her son, and mentally noted something unique. “Usually in the inner city, on every corner you see a liquor store or a church – every corner. And there (Baltimore), on every corner there was a clinic! Or there was a hospital! Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | You really don’t want to meet the Dicks at Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America

I’m not one to cry. Truth is, I rarely cry, but during a visit to Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America I was literally reduced to tears! The bartender was abusive, abrasive, and mean as HELL. I wasn’t sure why he was in a bad mood, but later found out that it is their “niche” to be mean as spitfire. Were they really trained to treat people like this, to the point of harassment? Continue Reading

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

Frogtown residents speak out on St. Paul’s Saxon Ford site development on Central Corridor

A bowling alley, a water park, a community center for the elderly, a pharmacy, hospice care, and green space were just some of the many ideas that residents came up with for the redevelopment of the largest vacant site in Saint Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood.On Wednesday, February 19, the University Buffet was transformed from a restaurant into a city planning workshop for 18 Frogtown area residents, two city workers, and 13 Corridor Development Initiative staff and consultants. “Are we ready to create and envision what our community is going to look like?” asked workshop facilitator Sheronda Orridge, as she started the meeting. The Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the City of Saint Paul have teamed up to put on four workshops about the redevelopment of the Saxon Ford lot, located at 253-255 University Avenue in St. Paul. The city bought the lot a few years ago. The goal of these workshops is to provide the city with information about what Frogtown residents want to see in their community.The next workshop will take place on Wednesday, March 5 and will include a panel of developers. The fourth and final workshop will be on Wednesday, March 19 and will be used to summarize the information gained in the first three meetings into developmental guidelines and to get a consensus from the participants on these guidelines. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Fifty Shades of Gender begins to go into production

Fifty Shades of Gender is a project that I have been personally coordinating since around April of 2013. It’s been started as a documentary project focused on telling the stories and experiences of the transgender struggle from the perspectives of transgender individuals directed by a transgender identified person. The goals of this project include “looking at the fine points of the gender binary and questioning if these gender definitions are too rigid for us to all be living in. We aim to identify other gender identities, the struggles that we go through trying to fit into these binaries or beyond them, and what we can do to break down the boxes of simply male and female” “I really just want people to be educated about gender and trans* issues and learn how to treat us with respect and human dignity.  Raising awareness is the first step to changing things.” Says gender-queer identified participant, Ollie Schminkey.There will be discussions throughout the project on how our society currently defines gender from the day that we are born, the role of patriarchy, and the intersection of various other identities that are affected in relation to our assigned gender and personal gender identities. Continue Reading

Frogtown getting greener as ‘crazy idea’ puts down roots

When 70 people come together to talk ideas, to-do lists can get lengthy.“Trails for walking and biking,” said City Parks Planner Kathleen Anglo, reading off of her notes. “Restrooms, lighting, public art, multicultural festivals. On the farm, people suggested greenhouses, a commercial kitchen for food production, beehives, on-site composting, a seed library…”The list went on—a bit overwhelming, perhaps, but a sign that the Frogtown community is invested in the project that’s taking shape on the corner of Victoria Street and Van Buren Ave. With a healthy amount of community input to help it along, design of the long-awaited Frogtown Park and Farm has begun.It’s a venture that’s been in the works for four years, since the Wilder Foundation made known its plans to sell a 12-acre plot of land in the heart of Frogtown. A few residents came together with a “crazy idea,” as Seitu Jones put it in this 2010 article about the then-nascent project—the idea being to turn the space into a park and demonstration farm. Continue Reading

Unify University celebrates neighborhoods in St. Paul

The August 17 Unify University parade featured organizations as diverse the community itself. Children from Heart and Soul Drum Academy sent the parade off to vibrant rhythmic beats. Giants puppets operated by youth from the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent towered overhead. Unifying University refers to University Avenue, which divides the neighborhoods of Frogtown and Rondo.”Unify University is about bringing this neighborhood together,” explained organizer John Slade, “…it’s about bringing the white community, the black community, the Hmong community, the Asian community, the immigrant community who live here, together.”Since this is an election year, campaign workers representing mayoral and city council races frequently darted from the parade to greet and apply stickers to spectators. The parade began at Maxfield School and concluded at the West Minnehaha Rec Center where an open microphone provided community residents the opportunity to share their unique talents. Continue Reading