Five candidates vie for two Minneapolis School Board seats

Posted on 23 July 2018 by calvin


Five candidates have filed for two open at-large seats on the Minneapolis Board of Education.

According to state law, no more than two candidates can appear on the general-election ballot for each open seat in districts that hold a primary.

Doug Mann, Sharon El-Amin, Kimberly Caprini, Josh Pauly and Rebecca Gagnon filed between May 22 and June 5 for the two seats, which represent the entire district. One will not advance to the general election in November.

Kimberly Caprini
According to North Minneapolis lifelong resident Kimberly Caprini, the most urgent issue facing the district is trust and the need for extra support for students with the most significant needs.

“My mission is to rebuild parent trust in Minneapolis Public Schools,” stated Caprini. “I will work to provide parents and community members with opportunities to be heard.”
Caprini has volunteered in the Northside schools for over 12 years, at Jenny Lind Elementary, Olson Middle School, Northeast Middle School, Loring Community School, and Harrison High School. She has also been involved in the Family Community Involvement Committee, the Northside Schools Collective, and is a member of the district’s World’s Best Workforce 2020 Advisory Committee.

Her advocacy work has included fighting to keep Loring Elementary open and to reopen Franklyn Middle. She has advocated for access to swimming lessons on the Northside, and for middle school athletics.

Sharon El-Amin
A 27-year resident of Minneapolis, Sharon El-Amin envisions schools that are fully funded and a safe learning environment to provide the best experience for youth from Pre-K through 12th grade.

She has owned El-Amin’s Fish House for 15 years, gaining valuable experience managing budgets. As a member of Masjid An’Nur in North Minneapolis, she has volunteered as the social coordinator, cooking meals for over 100 people on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.

The mother of three is currently the President of Minneapolis North Polar Parent organization and a member of North High School Site-council. She was a member of Neon’s Board of Directors for three years. Awards she has earned include: Start-Up Business of the Year 2002, 2010 Small Business of the Year, 2010 Longevity & Sustained Impact Award, and the 2010 Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained Nominee at Women Venture.

Rebecca Gagnon
In the seven years that she’s served on the school board, Rebecca Gagnon has focused on fiscal stability, equitable access to educational opportunities, and policy work that removes barriers to academic success and addresses institutional racism. She believes that using an equity lens and accountability are foundational to all of her work.

Gagnon is proud to have been part of a board that has achieved a structurally balanced budget FY14 and FY15, revamped district discipline practices, passed policy that applies an equity and diversity impact assessment to decision-making, and increase quality authentic stakeholder engagement. The board has also done long-range enrollment planning, reduced administration, and redirected more resources to schools while hiring a new superintendent.

Gagnon says she views herself as a mom first. She has raised two graduates of Minneapolis Public Schools, and her youngest is an eighth grader at Justice Page Middle School.

Doug Mann
A school board candidate in every election cycle since 1999, Doug Mann believes that education is right not a privilege.

If elected, Mann would eliminate “watered down curriculum tracks” by evaluating ongoing impacts of ability grouping practices on student outcomes. He is also challenging the district practice of issuing layoff notices more than the projected need to layoff teachers, and thereby shrink the pool of newly hired teachers by retaining more of them.

Mann served on the Minneapolis NAACP Branch Education Advocacy Committee from 1998 to 1999, the Minneapolis Parents Union Board of Directors from 1998 to 2001, and the NAACP MN-Dakota Conference Education Advocacy Committee in 2003.

Mann is the father of a South High graduate.

He is a licensed practical nurse and earned an associate degree and practical nursing diploma from the Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Josh Pauly
A first-generation college graduate who came from a single-parent household, Josh Pauly credits education for changing his life trajectory. He wants to provide those same opportunities for all the students in Minneapolis.

He spent three years at Sanford Middle School teaching 8th-grade Global Studies, 6th-grade Minnesota Studies, and 6th-grade AVID. Pauly believes he would bring a unique perspective to the school board as someone who has worked in the district schools and understand the needs of students and the challenges teachers face on a daily basis.

He stepped away from the classroom to begin PeopleSourced Policy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization whose mission is to increase access and community engagement in the local political process. He is also the Executive Director of Books on Wings, a nonprofit serving Minnesota youth who attend schools with free or reduced lunch rates of 80% or higher with the mission of getting culturally relevant books to students in grades K-3.

Pauly also serves on the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association Board.

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Aug. 2018 NENA News: Minneapolis Monarch Festival volunteers needed

Posted on 23 July 2018 by calvin

For ten years the Minneapolis Monarch Festival – Festival de la Monarca has built a jubilant community celebration of art, culture, and the environment. This unique combination creates a magical opportunity for attendees, but also a rewarding opportunity for volunteers.

Join us as a volunteer at this year’s Monarch Festival and see for yourself. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Bilingual Spanish speakers are especially encouraged to volunteer. All volunteers receive an official Festival T-shirt as our way of saying thank you.

This year’s Monarch Festival will occur on Sat., Sept. 8 from 10am to 4pm. The Festival celebrates the monarch butterfly’s amazing 2,300-mile migration from Minnesota to Mexico with music, food, dance, hands-on art, and native plant sales.

The Festival will be held just east of the Lake Nokomis Community Center in the area bounded by E. Minnehaha Pkwy., Woodlawn Blvd., and E. Nokomis Pkwy.
Please sign up at to be an important part of running the Minneapolis Monarch Festival.

NRP Plan Modification public notification
The NENA Board of Directors will be considering three updates to the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan (NRP) documents and voting at its July 26 meeting.
A 21-Day Public Notification period started on June 29. All residents, businesses and property owners in the four Nokomis East neighborhoods are encouraged to review the plan modification materials and contact NENA or attend the July Board meeting if you have any questions and comments.

July 2018 NRP Plan Modification
Fund Reallocations & Language Update

1. Nokomis East Utility Box Wrap Project, Requested Amount $4,500 from NRP Phase I, Housing 1.1.1
NENA will install utility box wraps in Nokomis East in partnership with the Nokomis East Business Association. NENA’s Housing, Commercial and Streetscape Committee will draft a Scope of Service for this project and present to the NENA Board for review and approval. The project will be allocated against Identify/Address Neighborhood Concerns strategy (Phase I, Safety and Crime Prevention 1.2.6).

2. Keewaydin Dancing Classrooms Project, Requested Amount $6,000 from NRP Phase I, Housing 1.1.1
The Lake Nokomis Community School–Keewaydin Campus partnered with Heart of Dance MN to offer the Dancing Classrooms project for fifth-grade students in the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 school years. NENA will fund 25 percent of the total cost of the project. See the Scope of Service from the Executive Committee for more information on the request and project. The project will be allocated against Identify/Address Neighborhood Concerns strategy (Phase I, People Services 2.1-3.6)

3. Keewaydin Dancing Classrooms Project
Plan Language Update for Identify/Address Neighborhood Concerns strategy (Phase I, People Services 2.1-3.6)

Current plan language: “The NENA neighborhoods want to create a space that encourages family interaction and enhances livability of the neighborhood community. NENA will provide partial funding to provide safe and updated playground equipment for the Keewaydin School playground.”

Proposed plan language: “The NENA neighborhoods want to create programs and spaces that encourage family interaction and enhances livability of the neighborhood community. NENA will provide partial funding to provide safe and updated playground equipment for the Keewaydin School playground and other programs at the Lake Nokomis Community School – Wenonah and Keewaydin campuses.

Questions? Please contact NENA’s Executive Director Becky Timm at 612-724-5652 or

Nokomis Days
Enjoy a weekend full of fall fun at Nokomis Days! Join us the second week of September for the Minneapolis Monarch Festival on Sept. 8, Lake Nokomis Community Schools Fall Fundraiser later in the day on Sept. 8, and the Nokomis East Business Association Block Party on Sept. 9. More details are coming soon, so follow “Nokomis Days” on Facebook or check out the NENA website today to stay up to date.

Sign up for NENA News
NENA News is your guide to news, events, and resources! Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday. Sign up today at Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings for your neighborhood.

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St. Helena gym remake reveals artistic contributions

Posted on 23 July 2018 by calvin

Above: The St. Helena gym remake now provides a stunning background for performances. (Photo submitted)

To the Editor:
I first heard this challenge put to a group of St. Helena volunteers and children when the WorldLegecy team CN166 performed their magic to produce our playground and basketball court enhancements. Mike Russell and his wife Jill were there, and I swear I saw a light go on that has only shown brighter and brighter. An artist was there that nobody other than Jill and a few close friends knew. Let me show you what that light and that artist have projected on the walls of our gymnasium.

Photo right: Artist disguised as ordinary painter. (Photo submitted)

We are a humble school that can only offer excellence to our students by being frugal with the dollars we try so hard to secure. Our gym walls had been a faded light blue since 2002 when the last group of volunteers made the sacrifice of their time and talent.

Photo left: “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” (Photo submitted)

Mike Russell capitalized on the momentum of the playground miracle to perform yet another. His energy and enthusiasm were enough to impress Dave at Hirschfield’s to donate all the blue and white paint for the gym project, and Orlando at Thrivent Financial and Dave at Diamond Lake Hardware found Mike’s appeal irresistible and went out of their way to supply materials needed for the job. I will not burden this article with a list of paint-slinging volunteers but know that they were impressive, capable, and smiling. The fresh white and the new blue have been a big beautiful change and one that sets a vibrant backdrop for every new gym activity of which there are many. Mike was not done.

Photo right: “Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray.” (Photo submitted)

A version of Mike Russell started to appear, and he has given our school a gift that no one could have imagined. Inspirational and motivational quotes began to appear elaborately scripted on the walls around our gym, and an image of our patroness Saint Helena started to take form on the wall behind our stage. Saint Rocco and Saint Catherine appear at her sides to give her company, and color, donated by Ben at Sherwin Williams, begins to find its place in the creation. You can find their stained glass representations on our church doors, so the mural serves to unite our church even more closely with our school. You cannot help but marvel at what has been produced on this concrete canvas.

Photo left: “Earn the right to be proud and confident.” (Photo submitted)

Now that this version of Mike has surfaced, you must find ways to feed it. Think of a project where he can exhibit the talent he has recently shown and help him unlock the talent he has yet to discover in himself. You both will benefit from the exercise. Please find an opportunity to come and see this artwork we now call our gymnasium ( You might even have the light go on in your own heart and step up to this challenge.

Jane Hileman, Principal
St. Helena Catholic School

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Longfellow sisters in epic sci-fi adventure

Posted on 23 July 2018 by calvin

(photo left) Lillian Kline, (photo right) Juliette Kline (Photos provided)

Juliette Kline, an 11th grader at Minnehaha Academy and her sister, Lillian Kline, who recently graduated from the school, are among the advanced students of the circus arts who will be starring in Circus Juventas 2018 summer show, “STEAM: Grab your goggles and fly!” It’s an epic sci-fi adventure set in 1890’s Paris following a young H.G. Wells and beloved science fiction writer Jules Verne on an unforgettable trip. The Steam Punk atmosphere of the show has spurred the imaginations of many of the performers.

“I wish that I could travel through time,” said Juliette, who plays the mechanical doll Clockwork Girl in the show. “I also think it would be amazing for a doll to come to life with real feelings like my character does in STEAM.”

“The athleticism and artistry in STEAM has pushed our advanced students to a new level,” said Dan Butler, co-founder and executive director of Circus Juventas. “The massive 20-foot revolving Wheel of Steel will be just one of the exceptional acts holding our audiences spellbound.”

STEAM premieres at 7pm, Fri., July 27 and runs through Sun., Aug. 12. Tickets may be purchased through the Circus Juventas box office or through Ticketworks. Ticket prices range from $18.50 for children 10 and under and seniors 65 years of age and older to $45 for VIP seating. All shows are held at the Circus Juventas big top, 1270 Montreal Ave., St. Paul.

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2018 Lake + Minnehaha Open Streets

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin


Photo right: Although US Bank moved to its present location at 2800 E. Lake in 1979, it first opened its doors in 1910, according to Cheri Kay Getz (pictured), who has been an employee since 1980. The branch bank has a “wall of history” of photographs of its earliest structures, board members, and officers.

Pointing to a photo of a bank vice president who became president in the 1960s, Getz said he started out as a 19-year-old teller. “His duties were to take money in for deposit, clean out the skylight and the spittoon,” she said. He would put the money under a seat in the streetcar to deliver it for deposit.

“There’s a lot of history here,” Getz said. She has collected numerous old photos of Lake St. from when the bank first opened.

This year Getz will join five other bank employees in a booth for Open Streets. Two can man the booth while the others go out and see the other businesses along the street. “We want to see how our bank can help businesses,” she stated. “I also want to talk to some of the craft people, and see how we can help them build their businesses, also.”

She said people taking photos of Open Streets can send their photos to US Bank and win a good prize. “We just want people to know we are here to really help the community,” Getz said.

Photo left: Samosa, a deep fried pastry pocket filled with vegetables. Reshmi Kebab, chicken marinated in garden fresh cilantro and green chilies, blended with yogurt and baked in a Tandoor oven. These are the foods that will be served by Gandhi Mahal, 3009 17th Ave. S., at Open Streets. The restaurant features fine dining Indian cuisine. Profits from Gandhi Mahal and Minnehaha Lake Wine and Spirits for their Open Streets offerings will go to Surly Brewing, to be donated to charity.

Photo right: A demonstration of the art of aikido (pictured) will be given by individuals attending classes at East Lake Aikido, 3359 36th Ave. S., at Open Streets. Galen David teaches classes to youth and adults in aikido, a Japanese martial art that is described as a path for polishing the spirit, nourishing the body and developing the whole person. Visitors to Open Streets will have an opportunity to view aikido.

Photo left: Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, 4101 37th Ave. S., has participated in Open Streets the past three years. Last year the church featured a rap artist. This year they will be offering soap bubbles, according to Pastor Dan Ankerfelt (pictured). The church also has an orchard, and Trevor Russell with Community Hops will be on hand. Community Hops educates the community and facilitates involvement in the cultivation of specialized crops with sustainable agricultural practices.

“I think Open Streets is a wonderful opportunity and chance to greet people without traffic,” Ankerfelt said.

Photo right: The Fix Studio, 3725 Minnehaha Ave., offers a training studio and bike shop and, as of a few months ago, a café that serves healthy snacks. Owners Sophie St. Jacques and Larry Foss (pictured) have been at this location since 2010.

“We teach indoor cycling strength, provide injury rehab and massage therapy,” Foss said. “Sophie was the massage therapist for the Canadian Olympic team.”

He said the bike shop, in business since 1921, is the oldest bike shop in the Metro that he is aware of. For Open Streets, they hope to get the business owners on their block to come up with something that will make it “the most fun block for Open Streets.”

Photo left: Surly Beer Brewing will be on hand with a beer truck in the parking lot of Minnehaha Lake Wine and Spirits, 2613 E. Lake St., according to owner Jason Krause (pictured).

“We will have games going on in our lot: bag games, a gigantic tic-tac-toe, and Jenga,” he said. People can have a beer and sample food from Gandhi Mahal’s food booth. “It works well,” Krause said. “It’s just great for lunch.”

He said Open Streets is good for the community as a whole. Previously, when the store was closed on Sundays, he didn’t participate. But last year he did, and he considered it a great event. “People bike up and down the streets, and it’s a good day,” he noted.

Photo right: Pizza slices and poetry will be offered at Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha, during Open Streets. “It will be like poetry karaoke, combining two great parts of our business,” said co-owner Angela Schwesnedl (pictured). The bookstore moved to a new location, and two months ago added a restaurant, Geek Love Café. A patio is also being added.

The move has allowed for a larger inventory of books. There is an auditorium where book readings can be held, and an upstairs floor that has a wonderful view of Minnehaha Ave. “Up here on the second floor we also sell used books and have room for book clubs to meet,” Schwesnedl said.

She said she finds Open Streets to be a lot of fun, especially when the weather is nice. “We have had good luck with the weather, and I really like that you can go the whole length of Open Streets and see something different in every part of it,” Schwesnedl claimed. “We spend so much of the year inside; it is really nice to get access to the outdoors.”


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Free youth soccer league kicks off in Nokomis with NENA’s help

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

NENA and park board partner with father-son team to offer a regular activity for kids at Bossen’s multi-use fields

Thanks to a father-son team, nearly 400 kids are participating in a free youth soccer league on Saturdays at Bossen Field.

José Garcia and his 20-year-old son José (Beto) Garcia approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) in December 2017 about

starting a soccer league in the neighborhood. They have been running an informational soccer skills group that meets about two times a week and wanted to do something more formal.

The Garcias asked NENA for help finding field space as they were tired of getting kicked off baseball fields.

NENA agreed to approach the Park Board with the Garcias, in part due to community response from a set of activities held last year courtesy of a grant from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Photo right: Father and son, José Garcia (left) and José “Beto” Garcia, have been running a soccer skills group in the Nokomis neighborhood that grew into a free, 24-team soccer league this summer. “We’re doing this for the reason that we want to help our community and we want to share the disciplines of this beautiful sport,” stated José Garcia. “We want to teach them the values of respect, leadership, gratitude and compassion for each other.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

NENA used the grant funds to put on a series of activities with the Park Board, including flag football, soccer, and birdhouse making at the multi-use fields at Bossen, explained NENA Community Organizer Karla Guadalupe Arredondo-Payan. Residents asked for more activities for younger kids.

A free soccer league answered that request.

“We are here to serve residents. We don’t dictate the events going on. We ask for resident input,” observed Arredondo-Payan.
She added, “We want to help build the community.”

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) supplies the goal posts, soccer balls, and other equipment. NENA provides the paint to mark the fields and other items as needed.

While the multi-use fields don’t have soccer markings, they are free compared to the soccer fields that are rented by groups.

Open to every race and gender
The league includes 24 teams that were organized by each coach and began playing in late May. The league will continue through Sept. 22, and conclude with a big end-of-the-season celebration. Games are held between 8:30am and 4pm on Saturdays.

The coaches met at NENA’s office in April to iron out the rules of the league, which focus on good sportsmanship and safety. The Garcias were clear that they can’t run a league alone, but need the commitment of coaches and others to make it happen.

“It’s not an easy task to be a leader, but we’re trying to do the best we can to satisfy everyone,” stated Beto Garcia.

Photo left: Members of the soccer league meet up during the week at Bossen field to practice, despite the rainy weather on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

This year, the Garcias are focusing on creating a strong league that puts a priority on skill-building and teams. Next year, they may add other amenities such as food trucks.

They will also evaluate whether to offer a winter league based on demand from participants.

The league seeks to be inclusive and is open to every race and gender. While many of the players from South Minneapolis are from the Latino community, the majority from St. Paul are of Asian descent. There are also African American and Caucasian players.

“We’re working together to build something for all of us,” said Garcia.

Giving back
In addition to helping to run the league with his father, Garcia coaches a team of 10-year-olds. He sees his role as more than just instilling the discipline of soccer skills. It’s also about team building and respect.

When two of his team members argued recently, he stepped in to help them resolve their differences by modeling respect and conflict resolution.
Beto is inspired by his father and what he’s done to give back to his community by sharing his love of soccer.

The Latino community is passionate about soccer, pointed out Garcia, so he and his father wanted to build upon that interest. Plus, they recognize that parents appreciate some help with their kids.

“A lot of the kids spend so much time on PlayStation or video games,” pointed out Garcia. “They have a lack of exercise in the summertime.”

“Families and kids really enjoy playing soccer,” agreed Arredondo-Payan. “It gets them physically active and doing something productive.”

For Garcia, his work as a volunteer comes down to “inspiration, motivation, and dedication for our community.”

He added, “We just feel inspired, and we know that this is important for kids and families.”

For more information, contact Beto Garcia at 612-707-1499.

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Reading Corps volunteer receives President’s Lifetime Award

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Kristen Evanston’s life has always been one of service, whether to her country or her community. And on June 14, Evanston received some deserved recognition when she was presented with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, given to those with a commitment to building a stronger nation through volunteer service.

For the last four years, Evanston has been working as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Minnesota Reading Corps, tutoring at the Lake Nokomis Community School’s Wenonah Campus, a school serving kindergarten through 2nd-grade students.

Evanston lives in South Minneapolis and calls Wenonah Elementary her neighborhood school.

The Minnesota Reading Corps is a statewide effort to tutor students in math and reading. The program focuses on the one in three students who, without intervention, will not be reading at grade level by 3rd-grade. A study at the University of Chicago found that the Reading Corps was one of the most effective national literacy programs available.

Schools identify the kids who might fall behind and then, volunteers like Evanston are called upon. “They just need a little bit of support,” Evanston said. “Up through the 3rd grade, they’re learning to read. From the 3rd grade on, they are reading to learn. That’s why this is so important.”

The AmeriCorps program allows volunteers to serve for only four years and no longer, and this year, Evanston had reached her the maximum time allowed. Minnesota is one of the top states for volunteering, with more than 40 percent of people putting in time on their favorite causes. Nationally, most people who put in time volunteering serve about 52 hours a year, averaging an hour a week. But, based on this ‘average,’ Evanston’s work—4,000 hours of volunteerism—added up to a comparable 76 years of service.

Right out of school, Evanston joined the military hoping to follow in her military father’s footsteps. She was looking, she said, for a chance to serve her country and to travel the world. Her 18 years in the army took her to Germany, France, and Switzerland and then to a two-year assignment in Iraq.

Photo right: Kristen Evanson (left) receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from Chris Erickson, the program manager with the Reading and Math Corps for her for her years of commitment to local children. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

“I was in Iraq in 2003 until the end of 2004, part of the Iraqi Freedom. As an officer—I was a first lieutenant—I was put in charge of a supply unit, distributing items that soldiers needed and helping work with our unit to reach our goal,” she said.

When she returned to the states as a civilian, she worked for eight years as a graphic designer, but the job just didn’t seem to fit. She wanted to do more. “I wanted to work with kids,” she said. She went back to school, earning a degree in early childhood education, with the goal to work with the very youngest students.

“In that age range, the kids are eager to learn new things. We try to help improve their confidence and their skills, and when we can do that, then they just fly,” she said.

This last year, Evanston worked tutoring 55 kids, teaching them basic reading skills, working on vocabulary words and reading aloud with them. “We work with all kinds of kids. When they come in, you get to build a relationship with them. Kids need adults to support them in everyday things.”

This year, her job with the tutoring program ending, Evanston applied for positions around the Twin Cities and got three offers. She chose Lucy Craft Laney Community School in North Minneapolis where she begins in August, working with 1st-grade students. But, she still strongly supports the Minnesota Reading Corps.

I wish everyone who graduates high school or college would have to serve on a volunteer program, she said. “It’s not just what you can give, but what you get back. You learn to work with a staff; you get connections to a community. I want my own kids to volunteer and interact with everyone, to work with all kinds of people. Once you give, you want to give more.”

Evanston has advice for the parents of young kids, recommending that they read to their children every day. “It’s essential to get them to love books. And you can build relationships with them and with their educators. “

The tutoring program is currently looking for 1,700 volunteer tutors throughout the state, in reading and math. Locally, they’ve already recruited about 20 percent of the 325 volunteers needed, but are looking for more people in the community who can work full or part-time, teaching reading or math to students who need a little extra help.

In schools, each tutor is paired up with a professional educator working in the school. For Evanston, her guide was Andrea Carter, the school’s media specialist at Wenonah, and she attributes some of the program’s success to the training and support tutors are given. “The initial training starts with a week of intensive training at the Minneapolis Convention Center. When they are done with that, they are ready to go,” Carter said. “We have a rigorous support structure, internal coaches are provided, as are master coaches.”

The program accepts volunteers just out of high school, those taking a year during a career change, college students, and those who have retired but are looking to make a difference.

Anyone interested is urged to call 866-859-2825 or visit or

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24/7 Crisis Line for abuse, crime survivors, operates along 38th

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Advocates recognize it takes a lot of courage to just pick up the phone, identify issues, offer options, and just listen

For those who don’t feel safe at home, the 24/7 Minnesota Day One Crisis Line, 1-866-223-1111 is a lifeline.

Advocates listen, offer options and help callers make a safety plan. It’s their choice to go to a shelter, use resources, or just talk.

The statewide Day One call center operated by Cornerstone at 2249 E. 38th St. handled 28,000 calls last year. The call center is the only one in the state that connects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and general crime to emergency safe housing and resources from over 80 agencies. People can call via phone, text or online chat message at

“We work together to make sure survivors get what they need in one call,” pointed out Day One Program Director Colleen Schmitt.

Before Day One began in 1995, someone might need to make 8-15 calls trying to find shelter. Today, Day One can search shelters throughout the state to find immediate housing for those trying to leave an abusive or unsafe situation, and then connect the caller to the shelter via a three-way call. Other resources are also available with a quick search of the regularly updated Day One database.

Photo right: There are many good services for domestic abuse survivors in the Twin Cities, but what sets Cornerstone apart is its comprehensive approach, according to Day One Program Director Colleen Schmitt. Programs include the Day One Crisis Line, Crime Victim Services Line, Emergency Services including a 35-bed shelter, Children, Youth and Families, Community and Economic Empowerment, and Civil and Criminal Justice Intervention. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Day One first operated through the Alexandra House in Blaine until it came to Cornerstone in 2005 and expanded. Schmitt, who has been in the field for 30 years, came with the call center.

Day One moved into space along 38th Ave. in January 2017, when it expanded to include a 24/7 General Crime Victim Services Line through funding by the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs (1-866-385-2699). At the same time, Cornerstone expanded to offer support to people who have experienced any type of victimization through crime. Cornerstone’s experienced staff members provide services through a trauma-informed lens to help individuals rebuild their lives.

Exerting control
Calls spike at the Day One Crisis Line once school lets out for the summer. “Many feel it is an easier time to get out of a relationship,” explained Schmitt. Another peak time is the day after a holiday. “A lot of times someone is trying to keep the family together during the holiday, and they need that extra support,” said Schmitt.

Rather than use the term “victim” found in the courts, Cornerstone staff members prefer the term “survivor” to refer to someone who has experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking.

“We tend to use ‘survivor’ because it’s more empowering,” explained Schmitt.

The term domestic violence is used for “any pattern of physical, emotional or psychological tactics of control over another person,” stated Schmitt.

“It’s not always physical. It can be emotional. It can be financial. It can be threats over actual physical violence.”

The term domestic violence is pretty encompassing, but at its basic level it is about one person trying to maintain control over another, she said.

“A lot of calls we receive are from folks who are experiencing emotional abuse and are unsure how to identify that,” observed Schmitt.

Calling the crisis line is often the first step in figuring things out.

“It takes a lot of courage just to pick up the phone,” remarked Schmitt.

Callers often hear about the crisis line from family members or friends—or social media.

‘It’s not that bad’
Cornerstone staff members encounter many false stereotypes around why someone stays in an abusive relationship. Some are things the general society believes, and others what the survivors tell themselves.
• It’s really not that bad.
• They could get out if they wanted to.
• It’s better for the children to stay.

“In reality, it’s very difficult to leave for a variety of reasons,” remarked Schmitt.

Some survivors still love their abusive partner, and so they stay.

Others don’t have the financial ability to get out. Some fear that if they leave, they’ll be killed. In 2016, 21 people in Minnesota were killed in domestic-related homicides.

“It’s very difficult to find affordable housing now,” pointed out Schmitt. “The option may be to stay in the relationship because they have a place for their children to live. Leaving may lead to homelessness.”

There’s the belief that those with more money don’t experience abuse or feel stuck in a relationship, but that’s not accurate, according to Schmitt. “All their finances may be taken away by that abusive person,” she said. “I think that economics is a big reason why people stay.”

Abusers may turn children against their spouse or partner, convincing them that it is all the other one’s fault. Or, there is a threat of taking children away or threatening not to allowing future contact.

And even though more and more is known about domestic violence, it’s still a hidden problem, pointed out Schmitt.

“Some of it is we want to deny that something this horrific can happen,” Schmitt said.

Adding to the problem is that some people think that this type of thing should be kept within a family and not shared with others.
“The media tends to glorify extreme violence, so sometimes survivors compare themselves to that and say, ‘It’s not that bad in my situation,’” said Schmitt.

But she stressed that the emotional abuse can be just as severe as the physical. “Often it causes trauma that takes longer to heal,” she said.

Abuse effects on kids
The impact on children can be hard to pinpoint as it can just look like they’re behaving badly.

“What we know about children that experience domestic violence in their homes is that they may have physical and emotional symptoms,” said Schmitt. Children may complain of general aches and pain, such as headaches and stomach aches. They may also have irritable and irregular bowel habits, cold sores, bed-wetting, constant tiredness, and fatigue. Symptoms can mirror those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and include short attention spans. They may appear nervous, exhibit out of control behavior, suffer from frequent nightmares, and distrust adults. They can be withdrawn or act out. School truancy is common.

Sometimes there is also child abuse going on which can show up as bruises or other psychological effects.

“It can affect them for a long time unless we do work in a trauma-informed setting,” said Schmitt.

Kids are often labeled as bad kids instead of helped.

Cornerstone is working to educate teachers and school staff on the dynamics of violence and how it can affect youth.

Staff members also focus on court services and education within the criminal justice system, working with police officers, custody evaluators, judges and attorneys.

A comprehensive approach
There are many good services for domestic abuse in the Twin Cities, but what sets Cornerstone apart is its comprehensive approach, according to Schmitt.

Cornerstone offers everything from the statewide crisis line to shelter to mental health services. There is someone to help with filing a protection order, multiple support groups to join, and one-on-one services offered.

Overall, they work to protect children, youth, and families.

When it comes to support groups, there are many to choose from. Some are topic-driven and look at financial literacy, economic empowerment, and general information about options. Others provide ongoing support for those 18+ and older adults, as well as children. Some offer support for family members and friends.

Cornerstone services for youth focus on one-on-one support and mentoring. Special staff members are assigned to the youth living in Cornerstone’s shelters.

Knowing that abusing pets is a way to control, intimidate and hurt other members of the family, Cornerstone initiated the Minnesota Alliance for Family and Animal Safety (MNAFAS) to help find safety for pets. Women in shelters often report they delayed leaving because of concern for their pet.

Cornerstone operates three offices in Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, and Minneapolis.

In addition to housing the two 24/7 crisis lines, the Minneapolis location on 38th St. is home to the general crime program. Plus a therapist is in the office several days a week to see adults and children.

“We are finding this a great location to be at,” said Schmitt, in part of because of its accessibility via light rail and bus.

Cornerstone will be expanding at 38th to offer additional support groups. Learn more at

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Acorn Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten to open Fall 2018

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

Longfellow resident and long-time teacher Kristi Papenfuss looked for a Montessori preschool with a language immersion program when her daughter was little. There wasn’t one in the metro area—so, along with fellow teachers Veronica Vital and Li Sun, she started one.

Acorn Montessori will be Minneapolis’ first trilingual Montessori preschool and kindergarten when it opens this fall at the Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. Operating under a public charter, the school will serve children ages 3-6 from across the city. Tuition and transportation will be free for all kindergarteners. Parents of preschoolers will pay tuition and provide transportation unless their children qualify for the free and reduced lunch income guidelines. In that case, there is no cost to attend (but transportation must still be provided).

Photo right: Longfellow resident Kristi Papenfuss (l to r), with Acorn Montessori co-teachers Veronica Vital and Li Sun. They believe that their new Montessori-based, trilingual preschool will impact the community in a peaceful, respectful way. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Acorn Montessori will be part of a national network called the Wildflower Schools. The classroom model is to have three teacher leaders in a mixed age classroom. There are openings for 30 students, and school starts Sept. 4.

“We chose to locate our school at Sabathani because it’s accessible from many different neighborhoods,” Papenfuss said. “We want our school to be available to all families interested in Montessori and language immersion for their children. Acorn Montessori provides an option for kindergarteners on the waitlist at other schools, and a preschool program to give children early language exposure in Chinese and Spanish. Even if a child only went through our school for preschool and kindergarten, the benefits of being in a Montessori and language immersion environment are enormous.”

The three teacher leaders have more than 40 years of teaching experience between them.

Sun has been teaching Mandarin Chinese for 18 years. “Our curriculum helps students develop skills to become global citizens,” Sun said. “English, Chinese, and Spanish all belong to different language groups. Exposure to several languages at a young age has been proven to be beneficial for brain development. The Montessori method emphasizes grace and courtesy in social interactions. As teacher leaders, we will model good conversation and listening skills.”

Vital was born in Mexico and has been a Montessori and Spanish teacher for 22 years. She said, “My three boys went to Montessori schools from infancy until third grade, and I wish they could have continued in that method through high school. It is a ‘whole child’ education system. They learned to be peaceful members of their communities, and they felt respected for who they were. With Acorn Montessori, it’s important to us that the school is open to all. We have no geographic preference, and the income guidelines make it possible for any child to attend.”

Acorn Montessori is operating under the auspices of Wildflower Schools. Wildflower is a network of learning environments that share the following learning principles:
• A peaceful, mixed-age, child-directed environment.
• Small, teacher-led schools.
• Schools that are nested in communities where students feel anchored and involved.
• A strong commitment to on-going scientific study, and the exploration of new ideas.
• Home, school, and community life are seen as seamless, interconnected experiences.
• A commitment to making diverse, inclusive learning environments that are models for justice and peace.
• Cultivation and appreciation of the deep beauty of all things.
• Cultivation of each child’s relationship with the natural world.
• Cross-pollination across Wildflower’s ecosystem of independent schools for the benefit of all children.

Acorn Montessori will be housed in the Sabathani Community Center at 310 E. 38th St. A community Open House is scheduled for Wed., July 11, 6-8pm at the Seward Community Coop Friendship Store (right across the street from Sabathani at 317 E. 38th St.).

For more information, call 612.444.2236 or visit the following sites:,, or or email

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Program on medical cannabis planned by Nokomis Healthy Seniors Aug. 2

Posted on 25 June 2018 by calvin

It’s been four years since the use of medical cannabis—commonly referred to as medical marijuana—was approved in Minnesota. But, many people still have questions and misconceptions about its use and how the state-managed program works.

So when several older adults who participate in Nokomis Healthy Seniors (NHS), which supports local elders maintain their health and independence, asked about the possibility of hearing from an expert to educate them about medical cannabis for its Health and Education program, the nonprofit’s Executive Director, Megan Elliasen, took notice.

Everyone is welcome to attend a free program on Thur., Aug. 2 at 11am at Nokomis Healthy Seniors’ office, located within Bethel Lutheran Church, 4120 17th Ave. S. The program will be presented by staff from Minnesota Medical Solutions of Otsego, MN, which is one of two companies that “cultivates” medical cannabis in the state. No RSVPs are needed. People can come as early as 9:30am to take advantage of NHS’ free weekly “Nurse is In” blood pressure clinic and grab a treat and socialize.

Photo right: Medical cannabis in Minnesota is provided to qualified patients as a liquid, pill, topical or vaporized delivery method that does not require the use of dried leaves or plant form. (Stock image)

Over its 24-year history, Nokomis Healthy Seniors’ program has presented a wide range of topics to educate and benefit older adults—from learning about how to spot a stroke and organics recycling to decluttering and the benefit of companion rabbits. But scheduling a session about medical cannabis marked the first time the organization tackled a topic some consider controversial.

“That’s why I decided to schedule an expert to speak about it,” Elliasen said. “I think the public has a lot of questions and misconceptions about it, and since many older adults are dealing with chronic pain and other medical issues, more and more of them are wondering how the state program works and if medical cannabis might be able to help them manage their conditions and improve their quality of life.”

Effective as of July 1, 2018, legal Minnesota residents who have been diagnosed with one of these the qualifying conditions are eligible to receive medical cannabis*:
• Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting;
• glaucoma;
• HIV/AIDS; Tourette’s syndrome;
• amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS);
• seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy;
• severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis;
• Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease;
• terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of less than one year;
• intractable pain;
• post-traumatic stress disorder; and autism spectrum disorders

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