Education


For 24 hours, starting at 8:00 am on November 17th, every donation made through www.GiveMN.org will be eligible to receive a portion of the $500,000 match. These funds were contributed by the Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul Foundation and Bush Foundation.  Also, generous funders are defraying donation processing fees on this site, so 100% of your gift goes straight to the organization!

In addition to the matching funds, the three nonprofits that receive the most individual donations will receive cash prizes: $5,000 for first prize, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third.

Over 36,000 organizations have a profile on the site.  So I helped narrow it down for you.  Below are 21organizations that I’ve had some interaction with and would support with my own money if I had lots and lots of it.  I threw in a random 22nd for diversity’s sake!

Youth Development

  • Longfellow United for Youth and Family have played a huge role on my work here in MN.  LUYF is a coalition of community members and churches that provide a free tutoring program and strongly support the work of the Sanford Job Corps – one of my primary responsibilites at Sanford.
  • Elpis Enterprises has been another great partner for my work in MN. Elpis or Hope provides teenagers the opportunity to gain work-related skills and leadership through screen printing and other businesses.  My first encouter with Elpis was with their bird feeder program.  We bought kits and Paul brought out one of his employees and they helped my kids build 20 bird feeders in 1 hour!
  • Achieve Minneapolis is more or less a foundation that supports programs within the Minneapolis Public Schools.  They provide grants for classrooms, teacher professional development, field trips, host career fairs, and much much more.
  • Urban Ventures is a youth leadership program located in my neighborhood that provides youth opportunities that might not otherwise get.  This includes tutoring, mentoring, family support, entrepreneurship programs and much more.
  • Best Prep does a lot of things surrounding financial education, including supplying classroom volunteers to talk about their career paths. I used them to bring in entrepreneurs to talk about their businesses and ventures they supported.
  • Junior Achievement is a better known cousin of Best Prep.  JA is best known for their Biz Town program where students visit their city and apply themselves in different roles such as CEO, Mayor, barista, etc. JA also does classroom volunteering programs in partnership with corporations.
  • YWCA provides a variety of services to pretty much every population.  They focus primarily on racial justice and empowering women and girls.  In Minneapolis they also operate 3 fitness facilities.  We are a member of the YWCA.
  • YMCA also provides a variety of services and operates a lot of fitness facilities around Minneapolis and the West Metro.  Some of our friends work for the YMCA, though none of their facilities are conveniently located for us.
  • CommonBond Communities provides affordable housing and supportive services in the Twin Cities.  I put CommonBond under youth development because I volunteered with them during the summer of my Americorps*VISTA service.  I served as a program assistant in a summer program that combined fun and learning during the afternoons for children residents of the Seward Towers.  They provide many more services to their residents.
  • Cookie Cart is an innovative teen led and run business venture in North Minneapolis.  Teens make, bake, and sell the cookies out of the West Broadway store front in the midst of a tough part of the city.
  • Search Institute is a nationally recognized leader in youth development.  Most famous for its 40 Developmental Assets I worked alot with these principles while in Indiana.  They provide resources to enable every adult to have a positive impact on the youth in their lives.
  • Bolder Options is a great youth mentoring program that connects youth and mentors through running (and biking) activities.  I would highly recommend volunteering as a mentor with Bolder Options.

Refugee Services

  • World Relief helps refugees adjust to life in Minnesota and America. This is the umbrella organization for the English literacy site that Christy and I co-coordinate.  They also provide job training, initial welcoming services, housing assistance and much more to refugees as they walk off the plane and into the sometimes harsh tundra of MN.
  • Center for Victims of Torture helps refugees and other immigrants who have been tortured in their home countries or at any point in their journey. They are a great advocate of human rights and the dignity of all peoples.
  • MN Literacy Council is probably the largest provider of literacy services in the Twin Cities and around the state.  We have attended their trainings and they are excellent.  They work with refugees, immigrants, children, adults, and families.

Other

  • Books for Africa sends used books to African partners who have a need for books! My school donated a bunch of textbooks that we never used last year.
  • Minnesota Public Radio is a great news source for both local and national issues.  They also have a rocking music station that plays a lot of local bands.
  • Feed My Starving Children is a well-respected Christian organization that pre-packages food here in MN that then gets shipped to over 60 countries.
  • Second Harvest of the Heartland is a large food bank that is helping to end hunger in MN.  It is affiliated with the national Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest Network) and does some great work here in the Twin Cities.
  • Somali TV of MN is my random organization.
  • Citizens League is a nonpartisan grassroots organization that focuses on a civic action for policy change. Think League of Women Voters with a younger group and a focus on grassroots advocacy and information sharing.
  • Team USA – MN is a post-collegiate training center and group for runners to be coached and supported while they strive to fulfill their athletic goals.
Here Comes Everybody
Image via Wikipedia

A little book club of non-profit emerging leaders I’m involved with picked Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody as our latest book.  The subtitle is very intriguing – The Power of Organizing without Organizations.  With this intriguing title and Shirky’s well-respected background in social media, it was odd that most of us were disappointed (with one exception!)

I won’t try to summarize the other’s positions at all,  however, I think the exception to being disappointed with the book is this: A person who truly geeks out regarding social media, social theory, and information will probably enjoy this book.

In fact that summarizes the book.  Shirky takes well-known social theories such as the power distribution law and applies them to social media outlets like Flickr, Wikipedia, and Meetup.  If you are looking for concrete steps on how to create social change without creating a new organization – this is NOT the book for you.  If you want to think and be academic about the idea in vague terms this IS for you.

Much of what was discussed throughout the book was either common knowledge or intuitive.  Another large portion is highly unlikely to happen due to the special circumstances surrounding the event.

One problem with books about social media is that they quickly become outdated.  This book published in 2008, barely mentions Twitter (at the end he confesses that it just started becoming big while writing the book).  I’m sure he would have written about the power of Twitter in the Mumbai bombings and more recently the Iranian election.  In his defense on this section, Shirky created a blog to continue the discussion.

Finally, I found it a little dull overall.  I enjoyed the stories, but some of the social theory stuff was hard to get through.  I would not rush out and purchase this book, if you’d like my copy let me know!

Note: I didn’t realize until I was at the book club (only 2 people had read the book cover to cover) that my copy was an unedited manuscript.  It was clearly marked “not for distribution” but somebody dropped it off at Goodwill where someone found it for $3.99 and turned around and sold it to me for $8.99 plus shipping.  I felt a lot better after discovering that it was unedited because there were a lot of grammatical errors and random double words or words omitted!

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We made it pretty clear that one of the things we were most excited about in moving to Minneapolis was the large African/International population based here.  With over 70,000 Somali refugees there are plenty of opportunities to talk and learn about Africa.

We have tried really hard to connect with and engage this population.  One way we did this was by connecting with a group that is teaching English to primarily Somali adult women.  This has been a great way for us to learn about the culture while providing a valuable service.  It has also given us, especially Christy, the opportunity to build friendships.

This resulted in us being invited, with some friends, to a student’s son’s wedding.  She is actually Oromo, which is a distinctive Muslim culture within Ethiopia.  On a side note, many of the local Oromo people have learned to speak and understand Somali. In part because they are often lumped together – even though traditionally there is an underlying conflict between the two people groups. So back to the story.

We were told to arrive at a banquet hall around noon for the wedding lunch which would go from 12-2.  Knowing the culture we showed up at 12:30 and were still the first people there.  We waited around for awhile and finally one of her son’s came to open the hall and he said we could come back at 6pm.  We questioned that and then he said between 2 and 3.  Long story short we ended up coming back to the banquet hall around 2:30.  There were many women around finishing up the food preparation.  They said, “She is coming, she is coming.”  So we waited…

We tried to be patient and the banquet hall was filling up.  We had almost given up (we did have other commitments) and were told that she was almost here, “maybe even in the parking lot.”  A few minutes later we decided to leave and almost missed her.  She came and was very excited to see us which was great – but she wanted us to sit and stay and eat.

Her English is very limited so we thanked her and tried to explain that we needed to leave soon. She kept insisting on us eating, but we didn’t want to be singled out to eat before everyone else.  We finally had to leave at 3:45 and were able to say goodbye, but everyone kept insisting on eating!  I finally realized that this was a HUGE deal for them and said we would go into the back room and eat. We had some great food. Injera, rice, chicken, and other special sauces. Yummy.

This was a great cross cultural learning experience.  I think we all wished we could have spent the whole day and actually gotten to enjoy the wedding and take part in that experience.  But it is so great to be able to have this experience within our city.  We drove 10 minutes and got to experience a part of Africa.

While we were waiting we discovered the Holy Land grocery store. There is a small one at the Global Market, but this was much larger and included random things like lamb heart, goat’s feet, beef tongue, and much more!

Another quick story that makes me happy and reminds us of our great life happened at work the other day.  You might recall that many of the students at the school  I work at are East African (Somali, Oromo, and Ethiopian). We also have a significant African-American population.

Last week was the last day of after-school classes, so for the last 15 or so minutes I took my group of kids outside to have some fun.  They mainly played basketball but there was also a girl’s soccer group outside playing soccer.  While standing around watching the kids I felt like I was back in Africa.  All of the kids (and other adults) were black, some wearing flowing multi-colored burqa’s or hijabs.  It was a great feeling.

Another really random story! I was taking a group of students that I work with to work a banquet for the volunteer department of the school district.  Again most of them were East African and inner-city students.  We got on the bus and started driving when the kids asked for the driver to turn the radio on.  They should have known better since the driver was wearing a cowboy hat.  He turned on country music!  The kids didn’t like it at all!  They kept yelling at him to turn it off and he would give them the thumbs up and turn it up! It was really funny to me since I grew up on a lot of country.

So there you go, a few stories about the great life we lead here in Minneapolis.

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The title of the book conjured up images of Native Americans and baseball at first thought – not leadership. But that is what Seth Godin wants you to come away with in his most recent book Tribes: We need You to Lead Us.

It makes sense once you think about it a successful leader has a group of followers or a tribe behind him/her. Godin defines a tribe as a “group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. ” The main point of this book is that leaders, true leaders, can come from anywhere and don’t have to have formal power in an organization.  Central to that idea is that leaders lead, not manage their tribe.

Written in 2008, the book incorporates social networking ideas and even talks about then-presidential candidate Obama and his tribe.  It is pretty chopping and he illustrates his points with anecdotal stories – some making more sense and relevance than others.  There are not really any chapters or an outline to follow, but lots of good one-liner inspirations.  Clearly not a typical self-help or checklist book many of his points are relevant.

Leading from where you are

Taking risks and being willing to fail

Not accepting status quo and asking questions

Go first step out in faith and have no fear

This is a fairly quick read with less than 150 pages.  Because of that I would recommend it to others interested in persaonl growth and leadership.

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Want a snippet of American history each day? This is your book.  Organized as a daily reader The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America can be read in short (2 minute) intervals throughout the year.   Bennett and Cribb offer a wide variety of historical anecdotes from throughout the USA’s history including some more obscure dates and events that I’d not heard of.

I’m a on again off again history buff so I was eager to read this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger program.  Part of me was a little disappointed that the book sometimes almost preaches civic religion to the reader.  Nelson is a Christian publishing house and Bennett is a well known Christian author so the book’s tone at times makes it seem that American is tied up exclusively to Christianity and vice-versa.

It is no surprise given the book’s title that this paints an awe inspiring picture of what we have accomplished since the colonies were first settled.

The book is formatted by month and day, unlike some 365 day readers which just say Day 1, Day 2, etc.  At the beginning of each month is a longer essay about some component of American History.  The daily reading is a “this day in history” synopsis about a single event on that day.  Followed by a bulleted list of 4-5 other significant events that occurred on that day in history.

I would recommend this book as a way to get a small piece of history each day for you and your family.  It could also serve a good starting point for conversation about the impact of the particular event and whether it is good or bad.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Youth Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, and youth job readiness training.

Why you ask?  They have become a major part of my job.  For the past year I’ve been working on a new program at my middle school.  The short version of the story is that many of our students are constantly needing to raise money  for field trips, athletic fees, and other school-related fees.  We are a pretty mixed income school with a few homeless/highly-mobile youth and a few who are pretty wealthy.  And a bunch that are working and/or middle class.

In 2007 an involved community member/former parent had an idea of students earning money by doing work around the community. When I came to the school in 2008 I was tasked to get the program up and running. The foundation of the program is connecting our students with local residents who need work done around their house.  Yes, there are lots of issues surrounding this idea, but so far it is working! Students shovel, rake, weed, mow, etc for a donation of $5 an hour.  Even if the students don’t completly love the idea of working, their parents do!!

We think it offers a chance for the students to learn some valuable skills and experiences, while also meeting needs in the community. A lot of our customers are elderly residents who like the idea of supporting a local school.  As you can imagine this takes a lot of work – connecting customers and students and on a really busy day I feel more like a dispatcher than anything else!  I enjoy talking with the customers (except the crabby ones) and especially getting to talk with the kids.  Because of the intense amount of time and pressure for this aspect we’ve decided to branch out and create something a little more sustainable.

Thus, entrepreneurship.  The idea is that student create their own small businesses that can help fund their education.  It can be targetted towards other students or the broader community.  We are still in the beginning stages of exploring this opportunity.  During the last year I also realized that many of the students I work with aren’t financially literate.  Few of them have bank accounts or have an understanding of the simplest financial practices.  As a result we are going to start covering some of the basics.

This is a somewhat random post, but I missed church this weekend due to a fundraising dinner for the program I described above.  See, it all connects together!

I think we all now that at some level our new President is going to sign some type of  economic stimulus package.  We may disagree on the need or scope of the package, but we all would agree that if you are going to do it, it needs to be done right with accountability and ensuring that we get the post bang for our buck.

Unlike some of the first “bailout” money which helped line corporate coffers and plush resorts, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan has some real potential to impact real people, with real issues.

Obama’s original plan included:

  • Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
  • Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.
  • Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.
  • Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.
  • Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
  • Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

A version of this bill has already passed through the House of Representatives.  I received an action alert from a hunger related organization in Minnesota with some encouraging news that current bill included:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance: $20 billion to provide nutrition assistance to modest-income families and to lift restrictions that limit the amount of time individuals can receive food stamps.
  • Senior Nutrition Programs: $200 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.
  • Afterschool Meals: $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program Information Systems: $100 million to improve state management information systems for the WIC program.

Obviously alleviating hunger is an important part of ending poverty and ensuring everyone has a chance to be successful, especially during a recession. Food is often cut from family budgets so that they can continue to live in a warm house.  Obviously conservatives are against government handouts, even in the form of food aid, but that is sad.  Two of these hunger related items will have a lasting long-term impact on the economy.  Improving the management of WIC programs is an investment in the future of the important program which assists mothers and new born babies – ensuring proper nutrition.  Another is the after-school meals.  For many students the only food they recieve is at school and for many more, the only hot meal they recieve is at school.  Again this is an investment in the education of our future generations.

Call your Senator today and say:

Food insecurity impacts nearly 10% of our population.

The most effective response to hunger in this economic crunch is to improve low income (your state)’s  access to and participation in federal domestic nutrition assistance programs.

Food assistance also helps unemployed citizens make the transition back to self-sufficiency.

Increased participation in these programs also brings millions of additional federal dollars into the state’s economy.

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