University-Sabathani partnership teaches teens job and computer skills

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A six-week computer training program led by the University of Minnesota this summer helped teenagers at Sabathani Community Center learn publishing skills in a unique leadership and jobs program. The youth created a community yearbook through Sabathani’s Horizon Youth Program (HYP). HYP provides academic and enrichment programs to area children and teenagers. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the HYP book, which over the years has been given to nearly 1,000 children and teens, parents and community members.

Nearly a dozen teens who worked on the HYP book’s layout, reporting and photography were employed through the STEP-UP Summer Jobs Program sponsored by the City of Minneapolis. According to HYP program manager Bobby Lay, Sabathani has participated in this city youth employment program for more than two decades. Through STEP-UP, the City provides wages to the teens and Sabathani supervises them.

Shanell Washington, 16, was one of three who edited the yearbook’s photos. This was her second year working at Sabathani and on the yearbook. She said it was “fun to capture the moment” as a photographer but said she also gained experience that may lead to a future career. “I want to see what I can do with [photography],” she said.

Shanell also said the yearbook project sharpened her and others’ leadership skills. While creating the book, they learned about conflict resolution as part of the program’s nonviolence supplement. “We learned that patience is very important,” Shanell said.

The employment and yearbook program at Sabathani was enhanced this year thanks to a partnership with the University of Minnesota. Having lost their computer coordinator three years ago, remaining staff and consultants have since faced a “learning curve” with regard to computer knowledge, Lay said, as well as a gap in tools and training to aid production of the yearbook.

When the University of Minnesota upgraded Sabathani’s third-floor computer lab with new computers last year to launch a Broadband Access Project (BAP) center in the South Minneapolis community, the relationship also gave staff the chance to close the curriculum hole.

According to Cheryl Vanacora, training and curriculum coordinator for the BAP, the University collaborated with HYP to provide instruction to the teens in publishing, online photo-editing and photography basics. They used programs including Adobe Illustrator, Pixelar and Microsoft Publisher.

Sabathani is one of 10 community organizations in Minneapolis and St. Paul participating in the University-sponsored BAP, which brings internet access and computer skills training to urban communities.

Vanacora said the BAP has customized training before for other groups, including a QuickBooks training earlier this year for elected resident leaders of the St. Paul Public Housing Agency.

The BAP is a $3.6-million initiative of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center and its Office for Business and Community Economic Development. The goal of the federally funded BAP, which is part of the nationwide Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, is to improve high-speed internet access, awareness and use in four federally designated poverty zones.

“With the University coming in, it really got us back very quickly,” Lay said of the computer facilities and training made possible by the BAP. “We were very fortunate to have that lab there.”

Added Vanacora: “This was an important project for us because we want students to have a positive classroom experience that could open doors to new skills and opportunities.”

Fourteen-year-old Delaney Coles served as co-editor of the yearbook. Delaney said the chance to learn photography and desktop publishing was a “nice touch” to her summer job at HYP.

“I would not have taken the extra step to find a class on this,” Delaney said.

To Lay, the coming together of all parties to produce this year’s commemorative yearbook is entirely in line with what the program has always been about: providing opportunities for children and teens on the south side.

Lay said teenagers can include the yearbook in their professional portfolio. “This is going to set them apart from others when they apply for a job. That’s some very powerful stuff,” he said.

“If you engage kids in something positive, you prevent something negative,” Lay said.

To learn more about HYP, go online to www.sabathani.org. The Broadband Access Project computer center at Sabathani is located at 310 E. 38th S., Room 324. It is open Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 7 p.m. For further information, call Sabathani at 612-827-5981 or go online to www.bap.umn.edu.