Monthly Archives: October 2009

Campuses Helping Local Charter School “Go Green”

By Maria Ortiz

The Minnesota Internship Center High School (MNIC) is just starting the journey to becoming a “Green School.” MNIC committed to teaching their students how day-to-day practices at school impact the environment.  They’re achieving that goal with some help from local colleges and universities.

“Over the past five years MNIC has been building relationships,” says Amy Libman, Director of Student Support Services. The University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas and Macalester College are all partners in the “Green Project” Libman said, “This is an opportunity for MNIC students to learn green skills and also be exposed to the university experience.” High school interns will have to have excellent attendance and grades, be juniors or seniors, and have strong staff recommendations.

Two college interns, Max, from Macalester College and Jane, from the University of Minnesota, have a strong commitment and interest in the implementation of the green grant. “They each had experiences that helped them develop skills that they could bring to the internship,” Libman explained. College interns need to be willing to commit 6-10 hours per week and work with Libman and the entire team. Most interns are earning credit from their universities (but Libman does not make this a requirement). There are also service-learning college volunteers involved in this project.

This is a compelling project because “MNIC serves populations (i.e., immigrants and urban low income students) traditionally not involved in cutting edge industries and the green movement” Libman stated. The MNIC student population is composed of 98% students of color, both American born and immigrant, that are qualify for free or reduced lunch under the Federal Food program. These populations are in need of both training and income. This project is a chance to invest in the future by training students for green industry jobs, giving stipend internship opportunities, as well as the chance for students to become leaders educating one another and their communities.

Currently MNIC has begun to alter its practices to be more environmentally responsible. The Environmental Science class at one of the five campuses runs a recycling campaign for that campus. Their waste is inconsistently divided into trash and recycling. During this project, they will launch the following initiatives:

  • Become a member of MN Waste Wise and take part in their services;
  • Improve their waste management practices by separating out organic waste , increase recycling practices thus reducing trash amounts;
  • Empower MNIC students to be green leaders by devoting part of the required Environmental Science class curriculum to the study of garbage and waste management (60 students for 4 semesters over 2 years);
  • Provide 2 MNIC staff and students the training needed to improve sustainability practices at school, home and in the community through partnership with MN Waste Wise.
  • Provide service projects to the community with the possible partnership with American Indian OIC, MNIC interns and Environmental Science class. This environmental project could involve: helping MN Waste Wise conduct audits and waste sorts in surrounding communities, building compost bins for community gardens, etc.

Over the two year period of this project MNIC will be able to lower the cost of waste removal by reducing their amount of trash. By maximizing organic diversion and the associated cost savings, MNIC hopes to make organics at least a break even proposition. Grant monies will provide them with the necessary permanent supplies such as waste containers. Consumable supplies will be paid for with the savings from waste management efforts.

MNIC students will continuously be trained in organic waste management and other sustainability initiatives through more partnerships with local colleges and universities. Their increased awareness, knowledge and commitment will increase their capacity to carry on with these initiatives.

Getting Beyond “Either/Or”

By John Hamerlinck

Ten years ago, I was working for a government agency that was actively involved in remediation of the Y2K computer problem.  Now days most people look back at that time and remember some rather scary predictions and a relatively uneventful New Year’s Day, 2000.

This result was not simply a case of unfounded crisis hype. The cause for the reasonably humdrum January 1, 2000, was countless hours of work by folks in every sector of society, acting to ensure that problematic systems were updated. The smooth Y2K rollover, however, was not the only thing that they achieved.

We live in a culture where we are constantly presented an overly-simplistic, “either/or” view of the world. People are seen as only liberal or conservative; ideas are only deemed to be either good or bad (as if the “both/and” versions of these options didn’t exist). Because of this, we tend to look at events like Y2K simply as something that either did or did not happen.  A little additional analysis, however, reveals that numerous benefits resulted from all that hard work.

Cities, hospitals, businesses and schools everywhere suddenly had disaster preparedness plans that could be (and have been) implemented during all sorts of natural and human-caused catastrophes.  Widespread computer hardware updates resulted in increased productivity as organizations replaced slow, inefficient machines. Perhaps most significantly, people whose lives and enterprises moved along seemingly oblivious to the larger world were suddenly required to gain a deeper understanding of the world’s interconnectedness and interdependence.

As we engage in the work of community-building through civic engagement it is important to avoid the trap of dualism. Overcoming the common challenges we face will be more difficult if we see concepts like leadership and power in limited, “either/or” terms. We can all find lots of opportunities to demonstrate individual and collaborative leadership. As for power, it is an unlimited and renewable resource.

When we embrace a broader, multi-variant view of engagement, assessing and evaluating our work becomes more effective. We begin to recognize more unintended consequences, more unforeseen benefits and more opportunities to find underdeveloped capacities in the gray areas between the black and white surfaces.

CASE Awards Support Quality Student Engagement

By Julia Quanrud

Minnesota Campus Compact recently announced another opportunity for Minnesota students to apply for a Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur (CASE) Award, an award sponsored by the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation.  The $1,000 award enables students to take the theories and ideas they learn in the classroom and apply them to innovative and meaningful community projects.  The prestigious award requires students to recruit both a faculty sponsor and a community organization to help carry out their project, teaching students the value of creating and developing partnerships.

Kristin Riegel, a senior at Macalester College, recently completed a community project that she funded in part with her CASE Award.  Kristin’s project, entitled “Daring Dialogues:  ¡Yo Latina ProgramDiscovering the Leader Within”, applied the skills that Kristin learned as a Humanities, Media, and Cultural Studies major toward developing a workshop series on media literacy and production skills for Latina youth.  Working with Associate Professor Leola Johnson from Macalester and Casa de Esperanza, a Minneapolis nonprofit dedicated towards ending domestic violence in Latina communities, Kristin hosted several workshops that culminated in the development of an online magazine, “¡Yo, Latina!”, imagined and created by workshop participants for their peers.

Other recipients of CASE Awards in Minnesota have worked to develop culturally-appropriate health literature, digitize medical records at a community clinic, and develop mentorship programs for Vietnamese youth.  Programs like the CASE Awards recognize the value of providing students with the resources to build their skills as social entrepreneurs.  According to Kristin, “One of the most important things that I learned from working with Casa de Esperanza is that there is no one right way to be a leader, to complete a project, or to run a program. Rather, when working with people, organizations, and communities, you need to be willing to listen to others and learn new ways of doing things. Through doing this, there becomes not only more room for greater collaboration and shared power, but this also creates a space where more ideas can be shared and more strengths can be utilized.”

To learn more about CASE Awards, visit Minnesota Campus Compact’s Web site.  Minnesota Campus Compact is currently accepting applications for two $1,000 CASE Awards for the spring of 2010.  The deadline to apply is November 30th, 2009.