My name is Ka Zoua Vang.  This fall, I will be a junior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in elementary education. As a 2013 Urban Scholar, I learned so much about the City of Minneapolis, which led me to return for a 2nd year to take on a new challenge and opportunity to learn more about my home - Minneapolis.  This summer, I have the pleasure of working with Minneapolis Public Schools in the Office of Student, Family, and Community Engagement alongside another Urban Scholar. Our work at MPS this summer aligned perfectly with the Graduation Coach presentation given to us by Emma Buechs, a representative from AchieveMpls. 

       One of the biggest indicators of success among youth is having a supportive and caring adult in their life. This idea was echoed throughout the presentation given to the Urban Scholars on July 11th, 2014. The Graduation Coach program is an initiative to provide trusting and healthy mentor/mentee relationships for Minneapolis high school students so that they can be college and career ready. The Graduation Coach program is a wonderful opportunity for people to engage with and make meaningful relationships with students in their community.    
The following details what it means to be a graduation coach:

       •Undergoing training, orientation, and debriefs two times a year
       •Getting matched with a high school student based on compatibility through speed matching  
       •Meeting the student in school once a month for 1 hour 
       •Staying with student for the academic school year

       For those who want to give back to their community and help Minneapolis Public School students succeed and thrive, this program is the perfect opportunity. As an MPS alumni and future educator, I believe this program is a great way to inspire our future leaders to dream big and achieve great things.

To learn more, visit http://www.achievempls.org/get-involved/volunteer/become-achievempls-graduation-coach or contact Emma Buechs at ebuechs@achievempls.org or 612-455-1533.

My name is Ka Zoua Vang. This fall, I will be a junior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in elementary education. As a 2013 Urban Scholar, I learned so much about the City of Minneapolis, which led me to return for a 2nd year to take on a new challenge and opportunity to learn more about my home - Minneapolis. This summer, I have the pleasure of working with Minneapolis Public Schools in the Office of Student, Family, and Community Engagement alongside another Urban Scholar. Our work at MPS this summer aligned perfectly with the Graduation Coach presentation given to us by Emma Buechs, a representative from AchieveMpls.

One of the biggest indicators of success among youth is having a supportive and caring adult in their life. This idea was echoed throughout the presentation given to the Urban Scholars on July 11th, 2014. The Graduation Coach program is an initiative to provide trusting and healthy mentor/mentee relationships for Minneapolis high school students so that they can be college and career ready. The Graduation Coach program is a wonderful opportunity for people to engage with and make meaningful relationships with students in their community.
The following details what it means to be a graduation coach:

•Undergoing training, orientation, and debriefs two times a year
•Getting matched with a high school student based on compatibility through speed matching
•Meeting the student in school once a month for 1 hour
•Staying with student for the academic school year

For those who want to give back to their community and help Minneapolis Public School students succeed and thrive, this program is the perfect opportunity. As an MPS alumni and future educator, I believe this program is a great way to inspire our future leaders to dream big and achieve great things.

To learn more, visit http://www.achievempls.org/get-involved/volunteer/become-achievempls-graduation-coach or contact Emma Buechs at ebuechs@achievempls.org or 612-455-1533.

Former Mayor Rybak Praises Urban Scholars

Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak calls Urban Scholars innovative, as it helps solve the single biggest issue facing businesses today, getting ready for the coming worker shortage.

http://bepollen.com/pollen/on-failure-with-former-minneapolis-mayor-rt-rybak.html

Life of an Urban Scholar: Mayor’s Office

Hi my name is Jasmine Carey and I will be a senior this coming fall at the University of Minnesota. This summer I have the opportunity to be an Urban Scholar in Mayor Betsy Hodges office. I’ve only been in my position for four weeks, but I have done so much already. I’ve worked on a vast array of projects, attended different meetings and helped execute events. I was really excited to be placed in the Mayor’s office because she is a proponent of racial equity, which I have a strong interest in. Being that my interest is in this area, I was invited to attend the Racial Equity Policy Work Group meetings. These meetings are comprised of the Mayor, department heads as well as City Council members. This is such a special opportunity because not only am I in a room with the top leaders in the City of Minneapolis, but I am also able to see firsthand what is being done to make Minneapolis more equitable. I couldn’t ask for a better, real-world learning experience.

Besides attending meetings, my other job duties include doing background research on projects that the Policy Aides are working on. I have created research reports on other city early childhood initiatives, public safety campaigns and zero waste programs. I will be starting a long term report on youth diversion programs in the next few days. These reports include information on the goals of each city initiative, the programs that were created from the initiative, tactics used, funding sources as well as strategies used to implement them. All of the projects are around different areas of interest of mine. By working on these different projects I can hopefully narrow down what area I am most interested in.  

Also, in my time here I have found out that the Mayor’s Office works closely with President Obama’s Office. During my first week as an Urban Scholar I got to be on a conference call with President Obama. On this conference call President Obama spoke about the importance of clean air and the new EPA regulations that he presented using his presidential executive orders. It was such a surreal moment, because I never thought I would be on the phone with President Obama. A week later the White house administration asked the Minneapolis Mayor’s office to co-host an event with the City of St. Paul Mayor’s office. This event would highlight programs both cities have that represent the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The My Brother’s Keeper initiative was created to address the opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. We were only given one week to pull off this event. There were many behind the scenes tasks that needed to be completed in such a small time frame, knowing how to work well under pressure and multi-tasking came in handy. The event came together wonderfully and was a great success.

My best experience so far was being able to attend President Obama’s town hall meeting at Minnehaha Falls. I had one opportunity to hear him speak a few years ago, but the event was open to the public and I was not able to get in. On June 26, 2014, I finally got to hear him speak. Since the event was closed to the public, I didn’t have to worry about being turned away. Because of the intimate nature of the town hall meeting attendees were able to ask many questions about issues that everyday people face. The pay gap between men and women and student loan debt were just a few topics that the questions touched on. Although I didn’t get to ask a question, I feel like I understand more about what is happening on a federal level, policy wise.

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Overall, my experience in the Mayor’s office as an Urban Scholar has exceeded my expectations. I have been able to gain new skills while experiencing new things. During my time as an Urban Scholar I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, and so far I have not been disappointed. 

Jasmine Carey

Urban Scholar ‘14

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Pioneers of Minnesota

Hello, my name is Vivian Scott; and I am a second year law student at William Mitchell College of Law. I am an Urban Scholar at the Metropolitan Council; working with the Community Development Division. I applied for the Urban Scholar program, because it provides an opportunity for me to gain professional experience and skills in public policy and urban planning.

Last Tuesday was very inspirational. I attended the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 right in front of Capitol in downtown Saint Paul. It is always encouraging to celebrate the movement my people and other people of color spent their lives fighting for not too many years ago. The celebration included singing, poetry, and several testimonies from civil rights activists of Minnesota.
This event enlightened me of the stories of Mr. Matthew Little, Mrs. Deb Montgomery, Mr. Nathaniel Khaliq, Jerry Dearly, and so many other pioneers from the Civil Rights movement in the Twin Cities. This was powerful to me, because I was able to hear from activists who spent their lives challenging inequality; and to learn about the history of racial disparities in Minnesota. Despite constant exclusion, these activists persevered in their fight for the equality and inclusion of people of color.

Issues of employment opportunity, access to a profound education, and the incarceration of men of color are all current barriers for people of color living in Minnesota. Before attending the event, I researched the relationship of evictions records and housing opportunities for women of color in the state of Minnesota. The plight is discouraging at times, so I left work wondering what I can do during my time at the Metropolitan Council to address this issue.

Learning about the lives of Matthew Little and so many others was truly reassuring. As a Community Development Urban Scholar at Met Council I can contribute to challenging these disparities. I am working on a Housing project that is geared to address and change racially concentrated areas of poverty in Minnesota. I vow to utilize my time to ensure communities of color are heard and included in the policy that will affect the community’s sustainability. Just like these courageous individuals, I must continue to be active in the fight for equality throughout my studies at Mitchell.

Afraid of Public Speaking? Toastmasters International can help.

Hello, my name is Nabil Shuna and I am an Urban Scholar working with the Minneapolis Public Schools in the Office of Equity and Diversity. I currently attend Augsburg College studying sociology and will be starting my senior year in the fall. To me, being an Urban Scholar is an opportunity to learn from experiences in many different fields, and get a firsthand look at the public sector. One opportunity to learn from experience is through Toastmasters International. In Toastmasters we focus on improving our public speaking skills and for our first three weeks, we have done so by doing table topics, and giving our first organized speeches. Table topics are short 1-2 minute speeches on a specific question asked to an individual. But wait, there is a catch!! This individual only has a short amount of time to come up with their answer/speech. We have from when we are called on and asked the question until we stand up and walk to the podium. This sounds frightening and it can be, but from my experience of table topics, I actually enjoy them. Table topics makes us think on the spot much like many on the job and life situations where we will not have time to prepare a well thought out answer. But Toastmasters does prepare us for those situations as well. In our second week we gave our organized speeches that we all prepared. The organized speeches were meant to help us learn how to structure a speech from beginning, middle, to end. We gave our speeches in front of a group of about eight people, except for the lucky few that got to give their speeches in from of the whole group. When I think of public speaking, I think of how frightened and nervous I get, but I believe that Toastmasters is going to be a very good way to improve my public speaking skills and reduce the stress and fear that comes along with it.

Thanks for reading
Nabil Shuna

Wells Fargo Credit Session

Hello, my name is Malik Day and I am an Urban Scholar working in the Finance & Property Service Department for the City of Minneapolis. I currently attend Carlson School of Management at the University of MN-Twin Cities studying actuarial science and finance and will be a sophomore this fall. I applied for the Urban Scholars program so that I can get a feel of how the financial field will be for me, and I’ve received more than just that within this program. I am involved with a leadership program as well, in which I find very beneficial for me because this developmental program gives me feedback on what it truly means to be a leader. In a nutshell, Urban Scholars surpassed my expectations.

Throughout the summer, I loved working in finance. There are so much areas of expertise within this field. I was able to help treasury conduct a project for their future employees, practice creating budget reports, and now, I’m creating a historical analysis upon a decision making deal that will take place in a couple of weeks. I’ve also learned other aspects of finance as well such as putting together financial statements and token part of a risk management process for the City of Minneapolis. So far, it’s been a worthwhile position and I look forward to more financial activities as the summer progresses.

One experience through the program that I found interesting is the Wells Fargo Credit Session that was given to us. I felt that we learned a lot about credit, including myself. I worked for Wells Fargo before, and I still learned a few things on how to build my credit. The biggest take away for me is that it would be very beneficial in the long run to start credit now so that you can build history. It will surely help in the future.

Some things that I learned is that in order to buy a house, unless you are a millionaire, you’ll need credit in order to receive a loan for the property. If you don’t have any credit, it will be almost impossible for you to get a loan large enough for your house. Also, say for instance that you needed a loan, but didn’t know how much money you need: I learned through the session that this where a line of credit comes in. Line of credit can be very useful in situations that you will need to borrow an indefinite amount of money to conduct your activities. I truly appreciate all of the advice that Wells Fargo was able to give to us. This knowledge has given me an advice that will allow me to make such easier and efficient decisions as I grow.


Thanks Wells Fargo!!!

My Brother’s Keeper

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Hi! Aaron Brink-Johnson here, former Urban Scholar and current Urban Scholars Program Assistant. I am here to tell you about an amazing event where many of this year’s Urban Scholars and I got to meet both Twin Cities Mayors, a representative from the White House, and other community leaders.

Last week a representative from the White House came to Minneapolis! His name was Roy Austin Jr. Austin works on the White House Domestic Policy Council as the Director of the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity.  He works on a number of policy issues for President Barack Obama including but not limited to: criminal justice, civil rights, community development, worker’s rights, and combating homelessness. He was in town to discuss the President’s newly announced initiative called My Brother’s Keeper.  My Brother’s Keeper tackles many of the policy issues that fall under Austin’s expertise particularly the effect that policies in these areas have had on young men of color in this country. Austin’s arrival was marked by this event that also included Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Minnesota Council on Foundations President Trista Harris and many other important local leaders. Several Urban Scholars were asked to serve as volunteers for the My Brother’s Keeper event and I was asked to supervise their participation

The event took place at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The Urban Scholars and I volunteered by helping check in attendees and directing people to their seats; we were very busy. The school’s Cowles Auditorium was full to its 250 capacity and more than 100 people were present in the overflow room! The event included short presentations by the leaders about local initiatives that complement the national objectives. Highlighted in the presentation were AVID, New Lens Mentoring Society in Saint Paul and the Healthy Start and Father’s Research project in Minneapolis.  Speaking on behalf of AVID was Tommy, who thanked the mentoring program for helping him graduate from Central High School. He spoke about the importance of being yourself.

 In her concluding remarks before the session was opened up for questions and answers MCF President Harris quoted an insightful analogy.  She described how when wheelchair ramps were originally put into sidewalk corners that initially there was some apprehension and fight back to the idea. However after they were put in, people realized that they not only helped people in wheelchairs but also people with luggage, bikers, and numerous other travelers. She likened this example to the idea that while people may be skeptical of initiatives that focus on one part of the population, like My Brother’s Keeper, helping them out in turn helps out everybody.

Overall it was a wonderful experience to be able to attend this event with  the Urban Scholars. It was a once and a lifetime experience to network, hear about the important work that is being done, and spend some time in community with one another. We would not have been able to attend without a gracious invite from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodge’s office.

Thank you Dianne Haulcy and Mayor Hodges!

Just a few snapshots of the Friday leadership sessions with the Shannon Leadership Institute. The days we spend outside are especially fun as the sunshine serves as a positive factor.

Please enjoy.

Nick Ngo
Urban Scholar ‘14

Leadership Development

Greetings everyone, my name is Nick Ngo, a graduate student at Hamline University. This summer I am working with the Neighborhood and Community Relations department as an Urban Scholar. The experiences thus far can only be summed up as amazing, rewarding and educational.

The Urban Scholars program does especially well in composing efforts for us to learn and utilize towards professional development. The support systems are large cornerstones to strengthening our foundation. One tool that is advantageous (to better craft ourselves) is the Shannon Leadership Institute.

Fridays are reserved for leadership training and organized by the Shannon Leadership Institute. It is quite refreshing, actually. The sessions are comprised to explore leadership styles and the functionality behind them. These exercises and activities create a portal for to us look within, explore and reflect.

Reflection is incredibly beneficial during the end of the week. The Urban Scholars program is great for exposure into the inner workings of local government and municipalities. Some days are consuming and overwhelming; getting the feel of the land and understanding multiple frameworks. In digesting everything, Friday leadership sessions are helpful for reflection while re-capping the week. It’s like sitting down to review the tape of last night’s game, notating what went well and areas for improvement. This highlights the on-going leadership and professional development the Urban Scholars program offers.

Sessions with the Shannon Leadership Institute are an opportune time to connect with other Urban Scholars. The activities is not only a space to grow individually, it also has tremendous capacity in creating relationships and building trust/teamwork. The conducted exercises explores styles of working with others and communication. It allows us to open up by sharing aspects about ourselves such as our narratives, values and goals.

I look forward to the continuing leadership sessions hosted by the Shannon Leadership Institute. The ride has been incredible so far, with being an Urban Scholar and support from the Shannon Leadership Institute.

Posted with this piece will be pictures taken over the past few weeks, please enjoy.

Thanks for reading,

Nick Ngo
Urban Scholar ‘14