My name is Antonio Elias. I was fortunate enough to be selected as an Urban Scholar, interning at Minneapolis Public Schools with the Office of Student, Family & Community Engagement. I decided to intern during the summer with MPS for several reasons, and getting to know the administration and organization of such an important institution was one of them. Currently, I am a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College, studying Political Science.
As I mentioned, there were several reasons I wanted to intern with MPS, and getting to know the entire administration and how it contributed to the district was one it. As a Political Science major, “administration” and “organization” are some of the key concepts I want to look into for any institution. Minneapolis Public Schools wasn’t an exception – getting to know a big organization and how it administrates the school system was an awesome experience. During my journey at MPS, I had the opportunity to meet tons of people, for which I am privileged. An example was during a meeting of “Generation Next,” where I exchanged ideas with Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Another amazing experience was coordinating substitute-teacher recruitment fair for MPS – the best part of this was that I had the opportunity to interview the applicants.
Another activity that I thought was a great experience was doing “Mock-Interviews.” I found that doing mock interviews was terrific for a variety of reasons – first of all, I increased my professional skills and also developed new skills that can help me later on in my career, including the use of the STARS method. Second, it was helpful to keep in mind that even though the interviews were set up in a realistic way, they were ultimately just for practice and it was “ok” to make mistakes. In the end, activities such as the “Mock-Interviews” are intended to help you get a better understanding on how to control your nerves and how to respond to questions. Thanks to that, I now have a better understanding of what should I do and study before attending an interview.
Intercultural Conflict Style
Greetings all. My name is Ashley Kemp and I am currently majoring in Education at Minneapolis Community & Technical College in hopes of one day becoming a teacher right here in the school district that equipped me to be college and career ready, Minneapolis Public Schools. Who would have thought as an Urban Scholar I would be given this incredible opportunity to work at Minneapolis Public Schools’ district office, which happens to be the most culturally diverse school district within Minnesota.
Having staff and students who are culturally different means effective communication is needed to ensure all students are learning. As an Urban Scholar we have a unique opportunity to participate in leadership development sessions each week. These sessions are facilitated by the national known Shannon Leadership Institute. Our facilitator is Paul Robinson. In our fifth leadership development session we learned how to effectively communicate with others who are culturally different. Conflicts arise for different reasons, like when there are differences in goals, values and needs. It can also arise when there is misperception, misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Communication is key, or in other words creating a shared meaning; will help resolve the issue. Here’s a brief overview of what I learned.
After some self-reflecting, you decide your communication style:
Direct vs. Indirect communication
Then decide your emotional behavioral style:
Emotionally Expressive vs. Emotionally Restrained Behavior
If you are:
- Direct and Emotionally Expressive, you tend to have an Engagement Style approach to conflicts
- Direct and Emotionally Restrained, you tend to have a Discussion Style approach to conflicts
- Indirect and Emotionally Expressive, you tend to have a Dynamic Style approach to conflicts
- Indirect and Emotionally Restrained, you tend to have an Accommodation Style approach to conflicts
So, what’s the point of knowing yours and others conflict resolution style? It’s simple, to work better with others, and to be able to resolve conflicts effectively. Here are some tips I learned when communicating with people who have these different styles:
Tips for communicating with low context people (Direct)
- Avoid 3rd party (considered disrespectful)
- Practice getting to the point
- Focus primarily on getting to the results or resolution
Tips for communicating with high context people (Indirect)
- Practice storytelling
- Use 3rd party
- Don’t say “no:
- Be able to read between the lines
- Pay attention to non-verbal expressions and gestures
Tips for communicating with restrained people
- “Tone it down” a couple of notches
- Know you can still express concerns in other ways
- Think: emotional display could bring misunderstanding
Tips for communicating with expressive people
- Don’t say “calm down”
- Remember expressing emotions does not mean out of control
- They need to see your feelings
- Go easy at first
This session was by far one of my favorites. I was able to apply these tips to real life conflicts. And let me tell you, it really helps! If you want to learn more about effective communication and leadership development apply to become an Urban Scholar-it’s totally worth it!
Urban Scholar’s Group Project: Blueprint for Equitable Engagement
My name is Vermul Gboluwatife Pewee; I am 18 yrs. old and an ongoing sophomore at the University of Minnesota who has had the privilege of serving as an Urban Scholar of 2014. I have spent my summer working at the Minneapolis Police Activities League. where I am learning about the summer camp, school year programs, as well as what it takes to run a non-profit. Someone explained to me once that it’s not just about getting a seat at the table, but really what you bring forward while you’re there. Now I don’t know about all the other Urban Scholars, but this is the mindset I had when allowed to work on the Blueprint for Equitable Engagement project.
Since Urban Scholars orientation, when Lance gave his speech, I decided that this equitable project was right up my alley. The first meeting with all 14 project members was filled with uncertainty, confusion and a whole lot of silence “Was it awkward or nah?” We were all excited to do great work for the city, and for the youth, but none us of had a clue as to how exactly to start that process. We had a goal; to develop a policy that allowed and ensured that the voice of young people in Minneapolis was not only being heard but also valued and implemented within City decisions. Without a clearly paved path, we held onto that vision, engulfed in the guidance of Mr. Lance Knuckles, Access and Outreach Manager for the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department and ran with it. The first meeting we had without Lance ended like this, “well we will just ask Lance”. I think feeling the heavy responsibility of a task that’s due to face potential rejection, and also having to be presented to a group of pretty important people in the city, there was some intimidation, and nerves.
Because we were all at various locations and had a busy schedule, we had to take advantage of every available means of communication. We had mass emails going back and forth, lunchtime conference calls, extra after hours Wednesday meetings. Although not all could make it to every communication opportunity, this allowed for each person to at least have a chance to partake in some aspect of the work. After about the third meeting, we finally had a set plan and dates in place. There was a committee responsible for arranging focus sessions with other youth groups; a committee responsible for collecting and analyzing the data received at these sessions, and finally a committee that put together and presented the final project. I commend our team for being smart about assigning someone neutral, who’s not asking questions/ facilitating the focus group to be the one collecting the data so that way we eliminated the potential biased results from that respect. After three focus sessions, one with the Urban Scholars themselves, another with an organization called Youth Care, and finally one with the Minneapolis Youth Congress; and all the data had been color coordinated and organized; and the PowerPoint had been nicely put together, we were ready to rock the show.
Arriving into the City Council chambers, I couldn’t help but smile and feel a sense of hope. As the Council Vice President Glidden called up the Urban Scholars to present our project, my heart began beating faster, not because I was nervous that our chosen presenters would mess up or fail to present well, but because the excitement of having descriptive representation as opposed to the usual substantive representation was amazingly overwhelming. The invitation to present our project to City Council sends the message that our thoughts and opinion are valid. The quiet and attentive mood in the room as the presentation went on let us know that we were being heard and
Fire Department Overview
Hello, my name is Ikram Koliso and I am a rising sophomore at St. Catherine University. I am an Urban Scholar working in the Human Resources Department in the City of Minneapolis.
Fire, water, and heroes; I hope those three words made you think of firefighters. On July 24, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Fire Department Overview. The Urban Scholars started off our day by visiting Fire Station 14. While touring this station, we had the chance to get a feel for what it is like for the firefighters when they are at the stations. The station had a kitchen, family room and everything else that a house encompasses. The firefighters cook, clean, watch TV, and have fun with their colleagues, just as they would if they were home; this is their second home. Being a firefighter is a tough job, and many times they come across situations that are hard to leave behind, it is challenging not only physically, but psychologically as well. This is why it is essential to have a second family who is there to support you, at the fire stations.
At Fire Station 14, many of the Urban Scholars were brave enough to slide down the fire pole. After that great adventure, we made our way to the Emergency Operations Training Facility. At the Emergency Operations Training Facility, we had the great opportunity to meet Chief John Fruetel and hear about his experience in the Fire Department. Chief Fruetel discussed the importance of having a diverse workforce. When recruiting, the Fire Department makes sure to recruit individuals from diverse backgrounds. However, there is a lack of women of color and this is something that Chief Fruetel wants to continue working on. There is great diversity in the city of Minneapolis which continues to grow; Chief Fruetel emphasized that it is essential that we have a representation of the community within the Fire Department.
When we were in high school, and thinking about colleges, a career as a firefighter is something that many of us were not exposed to. Due to this, Chief Fruetel is working on a program in which the Fire Department will go out and recruit from various high schools. This will open another door for younger individuals who might be interested.
Getting an overview of the Fire Department made me think authentically about the importance of the department. The next thing we knew, we were out the door and engaging in firefighter training activities. The first activity that we had the chance to experience was climbing the 100 ft. ladder, which I was not brave enough to try. Although it was a hot sunny day, that did not stop me from getting into the hot and heavy firefighter’s gear, which is something that I have always wanted to try out. With the gear on, we had the chance to spray water through the hose, this was a dreamlike experience.
Prior to the Fire Department Overview, this was a department that I didn’t really think about. However, after spending a day learning about it, I realized the importance of the department. The Fire Department is full of brave heroes who risk their own lives to help those who are in need. They play a critical role in making sure that the safety of residents is the number one priority. Something very important that I learned during this experience is that all of the firefighters love their jobs, despite how hard it can be. They love it so much because they are making a tangible difference, and things in the city would not be the same without those courageous souls. Wherever I end up, I hope to someday love my job as much as they love theirs.
This has been one of the best experiences for me through the Urban Scholars program, and I would love to do it again.
Thank you for taking the time to read!
Prepare & Prosper
Hello everyone, my name is Jamil Corbin; a student attending Mankato State University. This is my second year as an Urban Scholar working in the Fire Department.
I am here to fill you in on a tax presentation the Urban Scholars were given last week from a Prepare & Prosper outreach coordinator on income taxes. Mekdelawit Bayu came to share some key tax concepts and additional information about their organization. Before I jump into details that can earn you more money the next time tax season rolls around, let me give you a brief background on Prepare & Prosper. Formerly known as AccountAbility Minnesota, Prepare & Prosper is a community-based nonprofit organization celebrating more than 41 years of providing free tax preparation and financial services to low-and moderate-income taxpayers in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. They focus on moving Minnesotans out of poverty by creating pathways to economic security.
This presentation included a lot of specific details on various tax tips and terminologies, but I will only touch on a few starting with rules for claiming dependents. These main rules include that the child must be younger than the taxpayer, but can be any age if permanently and totally disabled. The child must be either 18 or younger at the end of the year, or 23 or younger and a full time student. The dependents must have lived with the taxpayer for more than ½ the year with the exception for temporary absences such as school, military, and medical. Lastly, the child must not have provided more than ½ of his or her own support for the year. On the other hand, if you are the person being claimed as a dependent you can still file a tax return as long as you report you are a dependent on someone else’s return. The main difference is whoever claimed you as a dependent will receive your exemption amount of $3,900, while you are not eligible for tax credits or adjustments.
Speaking of adjustments; common examples include a necessary classroom expense for educators, self-employment health insurance contributions, alimony paid, certain IRA contributions, student loan interest paid (max. $2,500), and tuition and fees deduction. (not including research, travel, room and board). One of the most important pieces I found helpful for me focused on exemptions and the top ten tax credits to know. There are two kinds of exemption amounts; personal(taken for yourself), and dependency (for other people the taxpayer is supporting who qualify as dependents). Dependents cannot take a personal deduction; whoever is claiming them will get to use their $3,900 exemption amount.
As far as the top ten credits to know:
Earned Income Tax credit (EITC) Child Tax Credit
American Opportunity Credit Child and Dependent Care Credit
Premium Tax Credit Lifetime Learning Credit
Additional Child Tax Credit
Minnesota Working Family Credit (WFC)
Minnesota K-12 Education Credit
MN Property Tax Refund
I highly encourage everyone to look into as many refundable credits types available to see which ones you can take advantage of. Prepare & Prosper can help you with any tax questions or concerns you may have. If your tech savvy you can e-file federal and state returns for free. This process is recommended for single filers claiming no dependents and taxpayers with W2’s or other simple income; no self-employment. E-filing through this tool is free for anyone making under $58,000 during 2014. Visit www.youclaimit.org for more information. You can prepare your own taxes online by clicking here.
Blog by: Jamil Corbin
Mayor’s Roundtable: Lessons in Growth, Local Government, and Leadership
Thursdays as an Urban Scholar are filled with anticipation. We are busy planning our weekends, planning our speeches for Toastmasters, and wondering what kind of insight we’ll get during our Friday morning leadership development session facilitated by the Shannon Leadership Institute. This anticipation can be bittersweet as we approach our final hurdles before the weekend. Luckily, this Thursday was more sweet than bitter as we dove into an inspiring conversation with Mayor Betsy Hodges at the Mayor’s Roundtable.
As Mayor Hodges walked into a room of 30+ curious young professionals, she reflected on her own anticipation: “Oh my, I hope they’re nice to me!” Mayor Hodges established a candid and open atmosphere immediately. She began her address with humble thanks for the work that Urban Scholars have done all over the City of Minneapolis, emphasizing the utility and importance of our collective work. This flowed into a narrative of her journey to become Mayor. Expectant of our curiosity, Mayor Hodges detailed her educational background, the impact of the Rodney King incident on her values, shared her reflections on gender and public office, and the grassroots campaign she led to the Mayor’s Office.
My favorite story Mayor Hodges shared was about her move to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This story resonated with me because I moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota one year ago under similar circumstances. Mayor Hodges explained that she had no reason to move to Albuquerque. She had no job, no apartment, and no friends in Albuquerque. All Mayor Hodges brought with her to Albuquerque was her passion and youth. This passion led her to establish the Women’s Health Project with New Mexico AIDS Services, which continues to do amazing work today. She followed this story with an extemporaneous reflection on young people: “Young people and young adults are completely underestimated. You have incredible capacity to do good in the world.” Mayor Hodges’ Albuquerque anecdote and following comments inspired a confidence in my own work, and a fearlessness that I will carry with me through the rest of my professional career.
During the Q & A portion of the event, many Urban Scholars asked about youth initiatives and youth participation in the City. Many of us attended the Urban Scholars’ group project presentation to City Council the day before and youth engagement was fresh in our minds. Mayor Hodges spoke at length about her Cradle to K Cabinet and the interconnected nature of employment, housing, and child development. It was incredible to hear her recognize the dynamic nature of Minneapolis’ resident’s lives and aspire to policy changes that incorporate that multiplicity.
At the end of the event, true to our millennial form, the Urban Scholars took a formal photo with Mayor Hodges, and followed it with an “us-ie” (the group version of a ‘selfie’). The Urban Scholars left the Mayor’s Roundtable with a renewed energy and maybe even some aspirations for public office. :)
About the Author:
My name is Patricia Poyer and I am a second-year law student at William Mitchell College of Law. I work in Development Review, and Minneapolis Employment and Training Programs (METP) within Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED). My summer projects include an evaluation of the STEP-UP program, developing “Know Your Rights” literature for employers and transgender employees, planning the 2014 Connection Conference and the Minneapolis Transgender Summit: The Launch, and consulting other large cities regarding their use of easements in mixed-use development.
I am a proud Urban Scholar because I believe in the use of targeted efforts to create capacity within marginalized communities. Being an Urban Scholar has given me access to amazing people and opportunities that have enriched my professional and personal development.
A Different Side of Departmental Work
Hello, my name is Nicole Bauknight and I will be starting my sophomore year at Kansas State University pursuing a Master’s of Architecture degree. I am currently an Urban Scholar working at a company outside the City of Minneapolis called PCL Construction Services, Inc.
PCL Constructions Services, Inc. is one of the major construction companies operating in the Minnesota region with its main office located in Burnsville, Minnesota. Through PCL I have been placed on a current project, the construction of a new parking ramp and office building for Fairview health practitioners at their Edina location. The current work happening onsite is for the erection of the five story parking garage.
Being on a construction site provides a unique opportunity to really see the whole process of constructing a building and the challenges that come with that. This summer I have been onsite fulfilling many roles and duties. My main role onsite is to observe and absorb all the knowledge and information I can from the experiences and work happening around me. This also includes performing other tasks that vary from day to day depending on what the work schedule is like that day.
There are always lots of activities to watch, observe and participate in every day. Some of my favorites have been: observing how concrete pours are done and analyzing the construction drawings and determining what is being built where, when and how.
Concrete pours are a common occurrence on the site because the whole parking garage is made out of concrete. When preparing to pour a wall or column or beam you first have to construct the structure or cage that the concrete will be poured into so that it can form and set. Once the cage is constructed the concrete is poured in, let set and then the cage is removed. Concrete pours can turn out good or bad depending on the quality of the concrete mixture and the temperature at which it dries. This process is repeated practically every day.
Construction drawings are drawn by the company that was hired to design the building so that company’s architects and engineers. They are then sent to the construction company who uses them to determine how to construct the building. There are six different types of drawings: Architectural, Civil, Electrical, Landscape, Mechanical and Structural, all used for different purposes. The employee’s onsite, the superintendent, the foreman, the project manager and the engineer all review the construction drawings daily to determine what is being built that day, foresee any potential problems that could occur and to direct the workers what they are doing today. The drawings are updated throughout the project due to problems that are fixed and changes that are made.
This is just a brief insight into the workings of a construction project. Every day brings about new experiences and new challenges. I absolutely love being onsite experiencing opportunities that will eventually help me out in my career ahead. This has been one of the best internships I could have asked for.
Thanks, Nicole Bauknight
What Exactly is Public Works?
Hello, my name is Maria Maddox and I am going to start my sophomore year at Brown University in Providence, RI this fall where I plan on majoring in Structural Engineering. I am currently an Urban Scholar in the Public Works Department specifically the Administrative Services Division. By working in the Public Works Department, I discovered that Public Works takes care of everything. I really mean EVERYTHING. There is so much work that goes on in this department that I had never guessed. I’ll do my best to give you a brief overview of what exactly Public Works is and does.
Public Works is the largest Department in the City and is responsible for maintaining all the city resources and taking caring of all the necessary public services throughout the city. This department is split up into 8 smaller divisions each of which focuses on specific aspects to help maintain the city. Those 8 divisions are: Administrative Services, Surface Water & Sewers, Solid Waste & Recycling, Water Treatment & Distribution, Fleet, Transportation Planning & Engineering, Traffic & Parking, and Transportation Maintenance & Repair.
The first division I’ll talk about is Administrative Services. This division is the head of the department and they are responsible for council relations and department finance.
The remaining divisions are categorized into 3 main groups which are: the Utility Business Line, the Internal Services Business Line, and the Transportation Business Line.
The Utility Business Line is made up of the Surface Water & Sewers, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Water Treatment & Distribution divisions. The Surface Water & Sewers division maintains all the sewer pipes and tunnels within the city and also helps with the clearing and flow of stormwater. The Solid Waste & Recycling division is responsible for all the trash and recyclable goods throughout the city. So every time you see a garbage truck, know that they were sent by this division. They also help with graffiti removal and are responsible for the removal of yard waste as well. Lastly, the Water Treatment & Distribution division does exactly what it sounds like it would do. It treats water that comes from the Mississippi River so that it can be sent out to locals for use. They produce about 58 million gallons of water per day and are able to store a 2 day supply of water for the whole city.
The Internal Services Business Line is made up of the Fleet division. The Fleet division keeps and maintains 1,883 vehicles which used over 1 million gallons of gas last year! So, essentially, they manage all the city vehicles and make sure they keep running.
The Transportation Business Line is made up of the Transportation Planning & Engineering, Traffic & Parking, and Transportation Maintenance & Repair divisions. The Transportation Planning & Engineering division works on things related to the Light Rail and help plan routes such as bike and pedestrian paths. The Traffic & Parking Division works with the Transportation Planning & Engineering division to help with Biking and Pedestrian programs, but they focus on timing all 790 stoplight intersections and setting up all of the almost 100,000 street signs and street markings. Lastly, the Transportation Maintenance & Repair division is responsible for all the snow plowing that takes place during each season, maintaining and repairing all bridges and sidewalks throughout the city, and keeping the streets clean.
So, in a nutshell, the Public Works department takes care of everything related to city maintenance, from timing the traffic lights, to keeping all the City vehicles running, to making sure the water you drink out of your tap is clean. I hope all this info didn’t confuse you because I feel there is no way to explain everything that this department does for the city. Every day I am here, I learn something new that this department helps out with. If you have any questions or want to learn more about what Public Works does, you are always free to stop by the department located in room 203 in City Hall!
(Information taken from the “Public Works Intern Orientation 2014” powerpoint created by Megan Conley)
Working for City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden
Hello, my name is Jeremiah Osokpo and I am a rising senior at Hamline University. This summer has been a special fulfilling experience working as an Urban Scholar within City Council for the Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden who represents the 8th Ward in the City of Minneapolis. As I sit here reflecting on the opportunities and projects that I’ve been a part of because of this position, I cannot help but smile. These past few weeks have opened up doors to new learning opportunities, and a great deal of making a visible impact in our neighboring community. I can honestly say that participating whole heartedly in the work that we’re doing, there’s never a dull moment working with Andrea Jenkins, Deebaa Sirdar, and CVP Glidden.
My position in CVP Glidden’s office has given me the opportunity to gain a real world experience on how to execute projects that affect the city, work with other offices that are willing to invest in your project, interact with top leaders and organizations in the City of Minneapolis, and better communicate with the residents within Ward 8. These unique opportunities have taught me how to take on a challenge greater than any other that I’ve previously encountered, which is what the City Council members do every day. The work that they do demands not only their time and effort but also a team capable and willing to deal with unique events. This is why I consider myself lucky to receive an abundance of guidance from such a knowledgeable and hard-working staff.
Throughout my internship thus far, I’ve primarily been working on a historical designation project which the nomination for its designation was recently supported and nominated by the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) and the Heritage Preservation Commission. The project is focused on the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder which is the longest running African American family owned newspaper in Minnesota. This designation will help maintain and improve the neighborhoods value, bring recognition to the newspaper, as well as highlight the rich African American history that lies within Minneapolis. Working on this project I’ve had the opportunity of working with other offices such as CPED to help prepare a designation study and establish a landmark within the 8th Ward. This project is just one of several projects that I’ve either participated in or executed.
Another part of this project is that we are not only conducting a designation study but we are also including oral interviews from elders of importance to the paper and individuals that can share a good history of the Spokesman Recorder. Some of these individuals will hopefully include Wayne Glanton, Skip Humphrey, Gary Cunningham, and Peter McLaughlin. These are not only great leaders in the City of Minneapolis but they also have a wealth of information which would both highlight the importance of the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder and yield some information that may be important to African American history in Minneapolis.
I’m humbled and grateful for this experience because I truly believe that each day brings forward a new challenge and the Urban Scholars program teaches you how to encounter those challenges and conquer them through the resources that are available. CVP Glidden’s office is especially interested in making sure that I receive the best opportunity out of this internship which is why they’ve taken me to committee meetings to see a behind-the-scenes look at how committees make decisions that positively affect Minneapolis, exposed me to other city departments such as the Minneapolis 311, as well as getting me familiar with some of the other City Council members.
Lastly, our office is not only focused on getting you the best experience but also having fun along the way. We have bonding sessions planned to come together as a group and do something creative and fun which strengthens our relationship as a group. More than that, I know that I am forming a support system for the future. I’ve learned what it takes to create long-lasting interpersonal relationships, improved my work ethic through setting goals, and gained knowledge that I would not have had otherwise. I’m excited for the rest of my internship because this I believe is one of the biggest stepping-stones of my college career which will eventually grant me a better spot in the professional world.