Monthly Archives: March 2010

Campuses Help New Minnesotans to Thrive through K-12 Partnerships

A recent “Success Story” piece on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Networks site titled: “Minnesota’s First Model Center Lives Up to Its Name,” highlights effective community engagement by two MNCC member campuses, Concordia University, St. Paul and Hamline University. In 2003, a grant from MNCC’s Community Service-Learning & Campus-Community Collaboration Initiatives grant program to a partnership between the Twin Cities Housing Development Corporation and Concordia University helped to establish the PLUS Time program.  In 2005, Hamline University’s McVay Youth Partnership (Youth VOICE) program began serving Liberty Plaza, funded by a generous endowment from the McVay Family Foundation. We are excited to see how these programs continue to help K-12 students in St. Paul schools.

To help students in grades K-5 achieve greater academic success, the Liberty Plaza Resource Center and Concordia University St. Paul created PLUS (Playful Learning with University Students) Time, an afterschool academic enrichment program that serves between 100 to 200 children per year. For PLUS Time, students from Concordia University majoring in education provide one-on-one and group tutoring, and the positive results are evident.

“Muhammad, who spoke no English, recently moved to Liberty Plaza with his family,” explained Crowley. “Within a few weeks, his English blossomed. We thought that perhaps he was in a special school program for ELL students. However, we later discovered that the extra support he received through PLUS Time greatly contributed to the English skills he acquired so quickly.”

Crowley tells of another student who attended PLUS Time, as well as Youth-VOICE (Vision, Opportunity, Interaction, Community, Empowerment). This center program for students in grades 6-8 combines academic enrichment, relationship building, and community service. Hamline University students help youth improve academic proficiencies, bolster self-esteem, and foster a commitment to community service.

After participating in Youth-VOICE, a young man moved on to the center’s multi-faceted leadership/personal development program for junior and senior high school students that pairs older youth mentors with younger students. The young man bonded with the student volunteers from Hamline University, graduated from high school, applied to the college, and was accepted. He now volunteers with Youth-VOICE so he can give back to the community that supported him throughout school.  Read the full article

Band Formed at MSU has Roots in Community Engagement

By Maria Ortiz

Parallax is a popular independent Indie/Hip Hop band that has been described as a gritty, funky, mid-western take on urban rock. The band formed in 2005, while its members were students at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU). They include: Chance York, from Minneapolis, Tyler Jensen, from Minnetonka, Marcus Skallman, from Chanhassen, and Eric Burton, from Maple Grove. The band’s lyrics are relatable, speaking to a broad range of personal life experiences about family and relationships, to the betterment of the world.

On Sunday, April 25, 2010 Parallax will partner with the Minnesota Alliance with Youth for a Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) event at Mall of America. GYSD is an annual campaign that celebrates and mobilizes millions of children and youth in the effort to improve their communities each day of the year through service and service-learning. Established in 1988, GYSD is the largest service event in the world and is now celebrated in over 100 countries.

Parallax seems to be the most socially aware band I have ever met. Every band member has been involved in some sort of service or volunteerism in the past and plans to be involved in the future. Whether through their congregation, school, or on their own, these individuals see the benefit in doing something for someone else or something else. Marcus describes service as, “something you feel passionate about, a selfless act.”

Chance was an AmeriCorps member involved in the Reading Corps where he worked at the Nellie Stone Johnson Community School (K-8) in North Minneapolis. He also studied abroad in Mexico and Ecuador where he was able to help youth with their homework and English skills.

Growing up Tyler was involved in Tree House a faith based, non-profit organization that provides the space to have fun, meet friends, discover faith, overcome pain, serve others, and be empowered to succeed. While at MSU Tyler also took Graphic Design courses that involved service-learning. He was able to use his talents to design posters and images as advertisement for several non-profits in the Mankato area.

Marcus has taught affordable drum lessons to youth and given free lessons to those who were not able to afford lessons. He also plans to continue this in the future.

Eric is passionate about service and its importance both in terms of personal development and as a form of education, with its ability to reach individuals with multiple styles of learning. Eric described service-learning as an exciting way to engage youth and get them involved in different and creative ways. While attending MSU Eric helped to initiate a cooperatively operated bike shop open to students and residents in Mankato. The shop focuses on fixing bikes, bike safety, and cycling awareness. In Eric’s words, this was an opportunity for “an exchange of knowledge.”

Being involved in GYSD is an opportunity that Parallax sees as a chance to share their creativity, their talents, and their art. Seeing as this is a new audience for Parallax they only hope that they inform and inspire others as well as act as positive representatives of their trade. These people, Chance, Tyler, Marcus and Eric are more than just band members; they are living examples of passion. As they develop their music to reach out to all ages and demographics, they also reach out to help others realize their talents and passions. They are simply good people.

Leadership in Support of Neighborhood

By Maria Ortiz

Created in 2004, Leadership in Support of Neighborhood (LISN) was a joint venture of the Hamline Midway Coalition and Hamline University. The project was designed to develop the talents of emerging community leaders committed to enhancing the Hamline Midway neighborhood and/or organizations and groups that serve the neighborhood. A lack of funding forced the program to end after just two cohorts of LISN Fellows, but its impact is still evident in the neighborhood today.

The vision of the LISN program was to create a dynamic, progressive, and nurturing Hamline Midway neighborhood, benefiting from and supporting an ever-expanding cadre of diverse individuals and organizations contributing their distinctive talents and energies as leaders. LISN operated with a broad concept of leadership defined as involvement in bringing about positive new visions and changes through various means, including organizing power and resources of people in a given constituency, as well as artistic, journalistic, spiritual or other work, that addresses and/or expresses community spirit, themes, issues, and values, and thereby contributes to the common good in the community.

Like many inner-urban neighborhoods, Hamline Midway works to address a variety of challenges. The neighborhood also recognizes that it has a great many assets to work with to face those issues, including the busy commercial corridors, multi-cultural population of workers and residents, schools, block clubs, community organizations, faith communities and a private university (Hamline University).

Audrey Matson-Lies a LISN fellow was instrumental in forming the Mighty Midway 4-H Club. Audrey believed that an urban 4-H Club could help to bring the community together.  During her LISN year, Audrey interviewed leaders of other urban 4-H clubs, publicized and held a meeting for interested parents and created a planning committee to organize an initial meeting, which was held in January, 2007.  During the spring, 10 families participated in a project to raise chickens for the University of Minnesota’s Student Organic Farm and 12 children participated in a project to learn Shakespeare and stage combat, which culminated in a performance at the Ramsey County Fair in July.

The club participated in several community service projects, including the Snelling Avenue Cleanup event and tending three planters at the corner of Englewood and Snelling. Adult members of the club hosted meetings on biking, theater, cooking, gardening, and maple tapping.  Five club members submitted projects to the Ramsey County Fair, one of which received a purple ribbon and went on to the State Fair in August.  The Mighty Midway 4-H Club continues its good work today.

Another LISN-initiated project that continues to have an impact in the neighborhood is Paint the Pavement, which promotes community building and “placemaking,” like traffic-

Paint the Pavement

calming and neighborhood identity through creating neighborhood art.

In December of 2008 Margaret Shields a Hamline University undergraduate student began the student organization SPROUT, which stands for Students Proposing Real Options for Underutilized Territory. The organization focuses on issues of environmental sustainability and food justice. She described the LISN program as a positive experience where she learned a lot about organizing and leadership.

Shields joined the LISN program with the goal to unite the assets of SPROUT with the assets of the neighborhood in order to plant gardens that could be enjoyed by the entire community. During the first year of the project, SPROUT established three growing sites: one at Hamline United Methodist Church, another along Minnehaha Avenue, and 10 on-campus “ornamental edibles” container gardens. The produce grown at these sites was distributed by Hamline Midway Elders to seniors at the Hamline High-Rise assisted living facility and to the Second Harvest food shelf.  SPROUT also hosted several community events including:  documentary film screenings; a community meal; and garden work days. SPROUT is still active in its commitment to food issues and to the neighborhood.

Don’t let larger class sizes be an excuse for avoiding community engagement

By John Hamerlinck

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Big Classes Encourage Experiments in Teaching” by David Glenn, shed some light on the fact that strained budgets are leading to larger class sizes at many colleges and universities. I have written previously that we need to look at economically-driven institutional change in terms of the opportunities they present. This phenomenon is a good example.

There couldn’t be a better time to expand our notions of what “service,” and “service-learning” might entail. If you previously had 20 students volunteering at – let’s say – a food shelf; and now you suddenly have 30 students in that class – why not expand your options beyond either sending 30 students to the food shelf or giving up altogether because logistically, 30 is just too much extra work.

What if 15 students did the food shelf service and 15 students worked on strategies to help food shelf users find employment. What if all the students worked on a sustainability plan for the employment piece, so that the effort could be part of a long-term commitment by multiple faculty, staff and students. What other ways can we come up with to mobilize even more educated people to solve pressing societal issues?