Archive | NEWS

People’s Center Dental Clinic offers comprehensive care

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

The People’s Center Dental Clinic, 3152 Minnehaha Ave., provides affordable dental care to individuals and families. The clinic accepts all major insurance plans and has a sliding fee scale for patients without insurance.

Dental office manager Noel Switzer said, “Our 15-person staff includes three dentists and three registered dental hygienists. We have staff fluent in Spanish, Oromo, Amharic, Somalian, and even Italian. We have a diverse patient population, and many of our patients are new to this country. It’s quite possible that a new patient may not have been to the dentist before, but we also have many patients who have lived in the community for years.”

Photo right: Dental office manager Noel Switzer (left) and registered dental hygienist Hassan Moallim (right) of the People’s Center Dental Clinic.. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The People’s Center Dental Clinic is a non-profit organization funded by grants and the federal government.

“We don’t turn patients away due to inability to pay,” Switzer said, “and we always welcome new patients to our clinic. We provide a comprehensive range of services, and draw patients from across the metro area and as far away as St. Cloud.”

Hassan Moallim is one of the clinic’s three registered dental hygienists and its only Italian speaker. He grew up in Florence, Italy, where his Somalian-born parents met. “I visited Minnesota several times with my family. My aunt and uncle lived here, and I eventually studied English at MCTC for two years. Their support was crucial to my success. In Somalian culture, we believe that the community is collective and that family comes first. My uncle is an internist and my mother is a retired pharmacist. I felt drawn to a career in the health sciences, and decided to become a dental hygienist.”

While studying at Nor­man­dale Community College, Moallim developed a clear sense that he wanted to work in a community dental clinic. “I enjoy the wide range of patients we get here: a lot of artists and people from many different ethnic backgrounds,” he said. “Being a dental hygienist means that you have to be skilled with instruments and tools, but you also have to be very good at working up close with people. We encourage preventive dentistry here, and I think the most important part of preventive dentistry is education. If we do a good job at that, patients will have good results.”

A common factor shared by many people coming to the dentist is anxiety. “We don’t want to scare anybody!” Moallim said. “I’m the official DJ on the lower level of the clinic, and I think hearing beautiful music helps patients to relax. In Italy, music was very prevalent and part of everyday life. This is one way that I can share what I love with my patients.”

You can contact the People’s Center Dental Clinic at 612-332-4973. Clinic hours are Monday-Friday, from 8:30am-4:30pm.


Comments Off on People’s Center Dental Clinic offers comprehensive care

Create, connect, craft at camps over the summer months

Posted on 26 February 2019 by calvin

SE Minneapolis Soccer, Little Folk Summer Camp, Minnehaha Academy, Blackbird Music, free Forest School, and others make summer memories they’ll never forget

Create a cardboard castle, a cigar box guitar, or a Lego robot. Connect with long-time friends and make new ones while learning how to kayak, juggle or sew. Make a puppet, animated cartoon, stationary, or your own song. There are so many summer camp options in the Twin Cities area, your kids will have trouble picking just one!
Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.


(Photo right provided) Be initiated into an ancient and esteemed House of The Realm, jump into live-action adventure gaming, build your own arms and armor, and more during these five-day, full-day sessions for ages 8-17. Buses available from Flair Fountains Building (4501 Hiawatha Ave.) and some camps held at Minnehaha Park.

A variety of art disciplines and mediums with themes like puppetry, world cultures, If I had a Hammer, animation, art car, public art and activism, printmaking and more offered for ages 4-18. Five-day, half- and full-day sessions available.

Write your own songs, start your own band, build cigar guitars from the ground up, and learn electric guitar.

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions and one-day sampler camps offered for ages 6-15. New this year is Teen High-Flying Adventure Camp for ages 13-18.

Free Forest School of the Twin Cities is a free group, open to young children and their parents or caregivers. This is a welcoming and non-judgmental group where parents and caregivers can practice giving children space and autonomy to explore and create in nature. Free Forest School meets every day of the week throughout the year at wilderness areas around the metro. Share a snack, take a hike, play in the woods, and have circle time. Parents get a chance to unplug and step back… kids and their imaginations take the lead.
Cost: Free

Experience the outdoors, or the lives of the engineers and grenadiers who called Fort Snelling home. Go back to the past and explore the stories of children who lived in the Fort Snelling at Bdote area. Camps range from one to four days.

(Photo right provided) A variety of athletic, academic and enrichment programs are offered, including baking basics, woodcarving, viola and cello, Ev3 robots, Hispanic Culture Camp, fencing, stop motion, sewing, painting, rocket science, drumming, and more. Half- and full-day, one- to three-week weekday sessions. Camp Minnehaha, a full day camp for pre-k to grade 8, includes daily devotions, games, indoor and outdoor activities, daily swimming lessons, and weekly off-campus activity.
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Southeast Soccer fields a variety of girls and boys teams for ages U9-U18 at beginner, intermediate and advanced competitive levels. Consider the Lil’ Dribblers soccer program for ages 4 -8, or summer traveling teams.

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options for preschool and up, as well as day camps, overnight camps, Teen Wilderness, family camps and more.



Unleashed summer campers entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun at one of four AHS locations,

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time in a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.

Blackhawks offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.

(Photo left provided) Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics,” take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!” Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors. Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care is available.

Camp and canoe while learning leadership and teamwork skills in a free, seven-day resident camp for youths age 13-18 who live within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Held on the St. Croix River in Rush City and organized by YouthCARE.

Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.

(Photo right provided) Want to make a film just like the professionals do? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems you want to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that—and more—from June to August for ages 4-14. Weekdays, half- and full-day. Extended daycare in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.

Campers have fun while gaining an appreciation for nature by meeting live animals, building forts, and getting their hands dirty during full- and half-day, four-day camps offered for students entering 1-8 grades. Shorter sessions are available for ages 3-6.

Day camps exploring science, technology, and engineering are offered in partnership with local community education programs. Sessions, length, and price are varied per location and type of camp for ages 4-14.

Make butter, ice cream, and bread while learning about science, agriculture, and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts during three four-day sessions.

Fiddle Pal Camp Minnesota is four days to discover, learn and play for children, adults, and families at three locations.

From fusing to casting to glass blowing, ages 9-18 are introduced to the mesmerizing medium of glass through immersive half-day, five-day experiences.

Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-13 at the Germanic American Institute.

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language, and song. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.

High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.

Summer camps allow time for more in-depth projects, such as Wild & Wooly, Fairies, Critters, and Sea Creatures, for kindergarten and up.

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Half-day, five-day sessions and single day sessions for beginners through experts ages 8-18 enhance hand-eye coordination, boost concentration, and build self-confidence.

Yoga infused throughout the day via story, dance, and games for campers age 5-12. Located on the Greenway = daily field adventures.

Enjoy Summer Tennis in Minneapolis parks for ages 6-17. Free and reduced programs available.

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science, and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 120 classes available over ten weeks, including a Harry Potter Theme Week with giant Hogwarts Castle build.

There’s something for everyone—from the youngster just learning to put pen to paper to the seasoned high school senior with a novel already under her belt. Sessions run in week-long blocks July and August, full and half-day options available for ages 6-17.

Roller ski, mountain bike, canoe and more during adventure camps for ages 9-13 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Equipment provided during the full-day, five-day sessions.

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun with outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, fairy camp, and much more. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
651-487-6700 x202

Play music, get creative, bake bread, and construct books while exploring the rich culture along the Minneapolis riverfront district. Campers aged 9-11 will explore a new experience each day at four arts centers.

Work with sculpture, tiles, or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.

Summer sessions for ages 6-14 are run by the University of Minnesota’s Rec & Wellness Camps. Camps also offered in partnership with MIA and Richardson Nature Center.

With camps happening at the new Discovery Center in Uptown every week of the summer, as well as at various schools and educational partners around the Twin Cities, Snapology has got you covered for kiddos as young as 3 and as old as 14—Robotics, Coding, Science, Technology, Drones, Pre-K, Engineering, Architecture and more.

Fun, exciting camps that combine physical fitness and education are offered throughout the summer for school-age kids. Register early for discounts.

Make your own games and design circuits. Paint with pizzazz. Search out connections between visual art and creative writing, and explore the life of a story in journalism. Options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12.

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults, and a “mommy and me” baby class.

Located at 30+ sites, with several locations in the Midway-Como neighborhoods, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high-quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships are available.

Learn about devised theater, music, and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for those preK to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.

Learn about track, motors, and controls and how the crew does their jobs at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum in Minneapolis. Each child ages 6-11 will have the chance to climb into the Motorman’s seat and run the car down the line.

Sew, knit, felt, dye and more. Take home completed fiber items from three- and five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for ages 6-16.

Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the weeklong, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines (including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze).

Animal encounters, canoeing, hiking, swimming, pond-dipping, mud-mucking, and gardening adventures await for ages 3-13.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us information on your camp.

Comments Off on Create, connect, craft at camps over the summer months

Johnson slams new neighborhoods plan, calling it “recipe for failure”

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

At least one Minneapolis City Council Member is sharply critical of a new proposal to tighten up management of the city’s neighborhood groups. The Twelfth Ward’s Andrew Johnson (photo right submitted) is calling the plan, known as Neighborhoods 2020, a “recipe for failure.”

The proposal was drafted by the Minneapolis Neighborhoods and Community Relations Department. If approved by the City Council, Neighborhoods 2020 could require groups like the Longfellow Community Council and the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to comply with new city standards or risk losing city funding.

Johnson is particularly concerned about Neighborhoods 2020’s diversity provisions that would apply to the composition of each organization’s board of directors. The plan would require the city’s funded neighborhood groups to submit annual reports describing the make-up of their boards. If a board’s diversity differed significantly from the neighborhood’s demographics, the organization would be required to file a “Diversity Action Plan” aimed at encouraging new board members that “reflects the diversity within the neighborhood including race, gender, age, income and homeowners and renter status.” According to Neighborhoods 2020, “organizations that do not complete a plan and meet board diversity standards within 18 months may have their funding reduced or terminated.”

Johnson, a former chair of the Longfellow Community Council (LCC), maintains that the draft plan will require neighborhood groups to meet standards that the city, itself, has been unable to meet. “Despite all our efforts and all our action plans, the City has seen at firsthand how difficult a challenge it has been to diversify our workforce and move the needle on this important issue. So when I see the punitive provisions in Neighborhoods 2020, I think about what would happen if those provisions were imposed on the City of Minneapolis by the State of Minnesota. If the State gave the City just 18 months to meet similar diversity standards, we’d lose our state funding and go bankrupt!”

“This punitive approach is clearly a recipe for failure,” Johnson added. “It will only succeed in damaging the very organizations it is intended to help. I would much prefer to see us use a carrot rather than a stick when it comes to neighborhood development.”

LCC’s Executive Director, Melanie Majors (photo left submitted), shares Johnson’s concerns. “This new proposal, coming on the heels of the 2040 plan, is overburdening neighborhoods groups, particularly those small organizations with more limited capacity,” she notes. “The plan is setting out more directives for groups like ours without providing us with a clear path on how to comply. Neighborhoods 2020 is clearly overreach on the part of City Hall. City Hall hasn’t figured out a way of dealing with its own diversity problems so now it is putting the burden on us.”

“The approach we are being asked to take is almost like tokenism when it comes to renters and people of color,” Major maintains. “It says that because you are a renter or a person of color, you are not able to determine for yourself what is happening in your neighborhood that might affect you. I think that is quite demeaning. That is not the approach we take in Longfellow. We start with the premise that everyone has a stake in the neighborhood. Neighborhoods 2020 presupposes that we don’t reach out to renters and people of color. That’s not right. We do reach out.”

Becky Timm, Nokomis East Neighborhood Association’s Executive Director, notes that diversity and inclusion are important goals for her organization. “NENA’s board understands that we need to reflect the people who live in our neighborhood. We have done a lot of work—a lot of outreach—to make sure that we truly represent the neighborhood. We have spent the last year recruiting renters and people of low wealth to become part of our association and part of our board. We are working on a leadership development pipeline. We are hiring a second community organizer. Our current organizer speaks Spanish, and our new staff person will speak Somali. All of this is hard work. But we know it is something we need to do.”

Steve Gallagher, the policy specialist for the city’s Neighborhoods and Community Relations Department, acknowledges the concerns about the impact of his department’s plan, but he notes that the plan is merely a framework, not the “final package.” If the framework is adopted by the Council, Gallagher says that NCR will prepare follow-up guidelines and go out to the neighborhoods for further review. “Our overall aim is to help all neighborhoods become stronger. We know that one-third of our groups are making great progress in achieving their diversity and inclusion goals. Another third are doing an adequate job, but the final third needs help in getting the job done.”

Gallagher says he expects the Council to act on the framework in mid-April. NCR would then work on guidelines with an additional comment period before the guidelines are finalized. After that happens, the guidelines would be sent to the Council for final action. “We want to make sure that organizations and individuals have full opportunities to provide their input as this process moves forward.”

Editor’s Note: There will be a Neighborhoods 2020 Community Meeting on Tues., Mar. 19, 6:30-8:30pm at Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Ave. S.



Comments Off on Johnson slams new neighborhoods plan, calling it “recipe for failure”

Nokomis home basement workshop has worldwide clientele

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

In the first six weeks of 2019, parts have shipped to Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, England, France

Nokomis resident Mark Stonich is a tinkerer. And his curiosity about how things work and how they can work better has led him to a unique semi-retirement profession. He has two worldwide monopolies. He sends shortened cranks and tools all over the world.

‘’I’m the last source on the planet for a couple of tools for working on vintage bicycles,’’ he said.

Those tools are a crank cotter press, used for installing and removing the tapered pins that were used to mount old steel crank arms, and a tool for removing the crank bearing cup from old English bikes. “And I’m the only person anywhere commercially shortening bicycle cranks,” he added.

Photo right: Mark Stonich at work in his basement workshop. (Photo by Jan Willms)

A crank consists of one or more sprockets attached to the crank arms to which the pedals attach. It is connected to the rider by the pedals, to the bicycle frame by the bottom bracket, and to the rear sprocket, cassette or freewheel via the chain.

People need shortened cranks for a variety of reasons, according to Stonich. ‘’There can be a limited range of motion due to an accident, congenital disabilities, or knee surgery,’’ he said. Other reasons for needing a shorter crank include short limbs in small adults and children, dwarfism, or unequal leg lengths.

From the basement of his home where he has his business, Bike Smith Design, Stonich connects with customers from all over the world, as well as the United States. In just the first six weeks of this year, he has sent parts to Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, England, and France.

One of his customers who has greatly expanded on his cycling is John ‘The Hammer’ Young. ‘’He was the first dwarf triathlete and now is quite a celebrity among the Little People community,’’ Stonich said. Stonich was first contacted by Young about ten years ago. He just wanted a bike that would fit him so he could go riding with his children. He found a 20-inch wheel REI girls MTB, and Stonich made him up some 100 mm cranks. Young said when he was finally able to ride a bike, he almost broke into tears.

‘’Six months later, he called me and asked if I could help him gear the bike higher so he could go faster,’’ Stonich recalled. ‘He said he was pretty fit for a little guy, as he was the swim coach at the school where he also taught math.’’ Six months later Young wrote that he was going to try doing a community triathlon, even though he was sure he would come in dead last. He did not finish last, and eventually a triathlon team noted that he was beating some of their participants in swimming, and they asked him to join their team and help coach swimming. In turn, they helped him with the run, filming him on a treadmill and convincing him to shorten his stride, which saved him 30-40 seconds per mile.

‘’They also helped him modify his bike until nothing original remained but the frame, brakes and my cranks,’’ Stonich said. When Young, who is from Massachusetts, had business in Albert Lea, he rented a car and strapped his homemade extenders onto the gas and brake pedals and drove 85 miles each way to take Stonich and his wife, Jane, out to lunch. This kind of connection with his customers is what makes Stonich’s craft exciting.

Photo left: The crank and crank arm are two of the items that Stonich specializes in. (Photo submitted)

“One morning I woke up to an email that had been sent from Japan, an hour before the Fukushima tsunami,” Stonich said. “A bike shop owner asking about a cotter press. I replied that I hoped he was okay, and I said I would understand if he wouldn’t need it until things settled down.”

“He replied ‘Now I need it more than ever. Tens of thousands of cars were destroyed. People will need to get their old bikes running again’….”

Stonich explained that 98 percent of cranks for adults are between 170 mm and 175 mm long. But adults 5’5″ and under, or 6’4” and taller, are common. “Most bikes for children are sold with cranks that won’t be the right length for the child until he or she has outgrown the bike,” he said. “When your cranks are too long, your glutes and quads are stretched too much to be effective in the top half of the pedal circle. This makes cycling much more tiring than it should be, so they take up a different activity or watch Netflix.”

It takes Stonich just under an hour to shorten most cranks, but he spends an average of 5-6 hours working for every crank sold. “The hard work is gathering enough information about the customers, their bikes and the riding they do, figuring out what length and front sprocket sizes they need and which cranks will work and what, if any, adapters will be needed to the crank of their bikes,” Stonich said.

“The actual shortening of the crank, the welding or glazing and joining tubes, that’s the fun part and only takes ten percent of your time. But when you have that torch in your hand, that’s some sort of nirvana for people like me.”

As a child, Stonich said he would have liked to tinker but never really had the chance. “We were dirt poor, about the poorest family in a pretty lower-middle-class town. I was born in Duluth, but my parents were living in Grand Rapids at the time on a forestry station.”

As a teenager, Stonich had a job and wanted a car, but his dad would not allow him to have one. “Back then, a bike for a teenager was a shameful thing, like riding a toy. So I built up a bike from scrap parts to embarrass my dad into buying me a car, and it worked. He got me a car.”

But Stonich’s bike riding continued, and a few years later he was at a party in Duluth where he met a girl. “She needed a ride home, but she thought we were all too drunk to drive. However, she was desperate to get home, and we went outside, and I pulled out a bike. I folded my serape and put it on the rear rack for her to ride on. As we rode along, I thought this girl was such a good sport. We rode a mile, and she said to make a left and it was straight up a hill. We walked the rest of the way to her home. And now we have a great grandson who is a senior in high school. We have worn out three touring motorcycles and are on our seventh tandem bike. We still ride together a lot.”

The two shoot a lot of photos while on their bike rides. “Photography is a hobby, but biking is my life,” Stonich said.

“The beautiful thing about what I do is that while special needs folks usually need more of my time, they end up with my cheapest cranks. Triathletes and racers will spend anywhere from $219 to over $700. So helping upper-middle-class white folks go even faster, subsidizes helping people who otherwise wouldn’t’ be able to ride at all.”

Two of the most satisfying things in life, according to Stonich, are problem-solving and making a difference in someone’s life. He said one of his rare Minnesota customers loved riding her bike, but was hit by a car and her knee was badly damaged, severely restricting her range of motion. The bike was unharmed but put away for 30 years before someone told the woman about Stonich’s services.

“I installed a set of 100 mm cranks on her bike, and she rode right off. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, and apparently, that’s true. She rode down our street, made a U-turn and returned crying like a baby. She wouldn’t stop hugging us.”
Stonich said the nice thing about being semi-retired is that he can spend a sunny Wednesday outside on his bike and spend time in his workshop on a Sunday night.

“At 72, I’d love to have more time for travel and photography,” Stonich said. “But as long as there is no one else to help those with special needs, I can’t quit.”



Comments Off on Nokomis home basement workshop has worldwide clientele

‘Black boys are not broken’

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

A listening tour inspired OBMSA Director Michael Walker to develop a Belief Framework, which formed the foundation for the work of OBMSA. Four key stakeholders—community, parents and families, educators, and Black male students—form the outer ring of the framework. “They all need to believe in each other, which is why the arrows on the illustration are circular, having no beginning and no end. Their beliefs need to change and reinforce each other rather than work at odds as they currently do,” he explained. “Students need to believe in themselves. They also need educators to believe in them. Parents need to believe in educators. As the parents start to come around, as their beliefs change, the community at large will believe the system is working.” (Graphic provided)

OBMSA focuses on changing a broken system while building relationships with Black males

Five years ago, Michael Walker was tasked with solving a problem affecting the largest demographic group in Minneapolis Public Schools.

Today, he’s happy to report that black male students have higher GPAs, are dropping out at lower rates, and are more engaged.
These positive statistics can be directly tied to the district’s Office of Black Male Student Achievement (OBMSA) and the B.L.A.C.K. curriculum that Walker helped develop with University of Minnesota Department of African American & African Studies Dr. Keith Mayes.

The B.L.A.C.K (Building Lives Acquiring Cultural Knowledge) program introduces students to the complexity of the black male experience by exploring the lived reality of black men in the United States. The program is offered at four high schools, including South High, and four middle schools, including Folwell.

Photo left: “Our job is not to change or fix Black boys,” observed Minneapolis Public Schools office of Black Male Student Achievement Director Michael Walker, “because Black boys are not broken. We need to fix the system that Black boys navigate.” (Photo submitted)

While American history courses typically introduce Blacks in 1619 with slavery, B.L.A.C.K. reaches farther back to the thousands of years before slavery interrupted the history of Africa.

If you only start with slavery, that can lead to low self-worth and low self-esteem, Walker pointed out.

Since its inception, about 554 middle and high school students have participated in a B.L.A.C.K. class, and there have been 31 participants in the new elementary school program. Those who take the class for more than one year show the biggest improvements in their academics. The average GPA at the end of the 2014-2015 school year was 2.21 compared to 2.42 at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Non-participants were at 1.99.

Fifty-four percent of participants graduated in 2018, compared to 47 percent of non-participants. Plus, 100 percent are on track to graduate, and none have dropped out of school. Discipline issues have decreased.

“I think if it weren’t for the [B.L.A.C.K.] class, my grades wouldn’t be where they’re at right now. And I wouldn’t be on track,” stated one participant.

Awakening greatness
Established in 2014, OBMSA is the second such office in the nation, following Oakland Unified Schools.

The mission of OBMSA is: to awaken the greatness within Black males in MPS, to have them determined to believe and achieve success, as defined by their own values and dreams.

In the beginning, Walker and team members set out to make sure those impacted were at the forefront of the decision-making process. Knowing that the traditional course of holding meetings in the school would end up with the same results, Walker used his status as a member of the Black community to gather input at local barbershops and hair salons.

Walker pointed out that generational trauma affects how well today’s students do in school, influenced by the experiences their parents had while they were in school. Today’s high numbers of Black students who are referred to Special Education classes or suspended is not brand new.

“This has been going on for generations,” he pointed out, and leads to parents who don’t even want to step foot into school buildings.

The unifying theme that came out of the listening tour was that there was a system of broken beliefs about others, Walker wrote in an article for VUE (Voices in Education) 2018 that he coauthored with OBMSA Equity Coordinator Corey Yeager and MPS Director of Accountability and Evaluation Jennie Zumbusch. “Parents and families did not believe that the teachers were fair and equitable when it came to dealings with their Black males. The community did not believe that the educational system was serving all students. Educators did not believe that they had the tools necessary to support Black males in the classroom, and, in some cases, they didn’t believe that they could be successful. Finally, Black males didn’t see academic success in their future.”

But one thing became clear to Walker and staff. “What is apparent from OBMSA’s work is that there is no such thing as an achievement gap, only a belief gap,” they wrote.

Through his work, Walker seeks to engage authentically with students and to create a family. Staff consider themselves “uncles” to participants, who are their “nephews.”

Participants themselves are called “Kings,” as a positive alternative to the other negative terms that have been used to describe Black males throughout history, and OBMSA staff see themselves in the “King building business.”

“We are intentionally using positive terms that bring value and honor to who they are and can be,” remarked Walker.

Photo right: Kings, B.L.A.C.K. participants, attend one of the monthly extended learning opportunities (ELO) offered at the University of Minnesota. Participants themselves are called “Kings,” as a positive alternative to the other negative terms that have been used to describe Black Males throughout history. “We are intentionally using positive terms that bring value and honor to who they are and can be,” remarked OBMSA Director Michael Walker. (Photo submitted)

Through the state’s Community Expert process, OBMSA brought in Black teachers as studies have shown that Black students matched with a Black teacher have both short- and long-term positive outcomes. The MPS teacher force is only 5 percent Black (and one percent Black male), while Black students make up 38 percent of the student body.

Jordan basketball incident
Walker is intimately acquainted with the Minneapolis School system. He grew up in North Minneapolis and moved to South Minneapolis in high school. He’s a graduate of Roosevelt High School (1994), where he later returned to work as a dean and then as assistant principal (2011-2014). As assistant basketball coach at Roosevelt from 1999-2011, he worked with the same man who coached his own team, Dennis Stockmo. He’s since returned as head varsity coach.

Walker sees basketball as a way to develop young men, who learn life skills on the court that can help them be successful off the court. The Roosevelt basketball team grades 9-12 is composed of about 70% Black players (Somali, Ethiopian, and African American).

In January 2019, an incident involving a Trump re-election flag during an away game in Jordan had players and community members talking about the issues of race.

Together, team members wrote a statement to show their unified intent to not be divisive but to bring people together. The team had stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem because of the Trump flag and did not participate in the pre-game handshaking as they don’t do that in their conference.

“This all comes down to people trying to see one another’s point of view—and we’re coming from a place that recognizes a history of oppression for people of color in the U.S. As young people, it’s our job to bridge the divide and make the world a better place, a safer place, for every person, no matter their color or culture. We mean no harm toward Jordan or its fans, and we hope they will stand with us for change,” wrote players.

“The lines of communication are open,” stated Walker.

Black boys are not broken
“Our job is not to change or fix Black boys,” observed Walker, “because Black boys are not broken. We need to fix the system that Black boys navigate.”

Towards that goal, OBMSA staff provide professional development for educators within the Minneapolis Public School system. Over 1,200 faculty and staff at 14 schools have attended sessions on topics such as unconscious bias, engaging Black males, power and privilege, and involving Black families more in education.

The goal is to help adults self-reflect on the ways they have been approaching Black students.

“I wish all of our MPS teachers had the opportunity to engage with OBMSA,” wrote one participant after a training. “It is clearly one of the best things MPS is doing for our students.”

OBMSA staff will also be presenting on Apr. 10 at the U of M Urban Leadership Academy.

“I am so grateful for the team I work with,” stated Walker. “I love what we have developed and built together.”







Comments Off on ‘Black boys are not broken’

Wonderwoman Construction stands out in male-dominated industry

Posted on 25 February 2019 by calvin

Wonderwoman Construction is a woman-owned, one-stop design and general contracting business in the Longfellow neighborhood. Owner Lori Reese said, “Our team is dedicated to the concept of using building science to improve not only the look and function of your project but also its impact on the environment.”

Sustainability practices are a big deal in the building industry these days. Reese said, “The earth is our home, and we make it a priority to treat it that way. We use tools, materials, and processes that are sustainable and would make Mother Nature proud. We optimize our projects for energy efficiency, which can save both your money and your conscience in the long run.”

Photo right: Wonderwoman Construction owner Lori Reese said, “It’s super important to recognize that women can be successful in the construction business, and that we can provide strong role models.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Reese grew up on a dairy farm in Blooming Prairie, MN. “I learned to work hard on the farm,” she said, “shoveling manure, picking rocks, baling hay, carrying buckets of water. Looking back, it was kind of sexist because my three sisters and I didn’t get to weld or use any of the heavy machinery—and I wanted to do those things. I majored in business in college and did an internship in construction even though I didn’t know much about construction at the time. I liked it so much that I became a Union Carpenter in 1988.”

Using her business acumen, Reese soon opened her own business. In 2002, she started hiring employees. She had a female business partner at the time, and using their combined names for a company name didn’t suit them. “We went to superheroes for inspiration pretty quickly,” Reese said.

Growing up on the farm, Reese had loved watching Wonder Woman on one of the three TV stations that existed back then. The original DC Comics Wonder Woman had some pretty amazing powers: superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, agility, empathy—and an enhanced sense of smell, vision, and hearing. The name fit the business, and Wonderwoman Construction was born.

The company has grown steadily, and Reese now employees 15+ employees. “We got so busy that I hung up my tool belt in 2006, recognizing that I could either be a good carpenter or a good business manager,” she said. “We usually have about ten projects going at a time, each one with a project manager assigned to it. Our workload is roughly 80% residential and 20% commercial projects. We try to work close to home to keep our gas consumption down. We do projects as small as our minimum $200, up to $1,000,000.”

Photo left: Wonderwoman Construction is located at 3715 Minnehaha Ave. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“I’ve always asked questions,” Reese said, “it’s what I’m known for. If I don’t understand something, I’ll ask. I’ve encouraged my carpenters to do the same thing because we want to look at the big picture and give our customers all the options. For instance, if a client wants to do a fancy kitchen remodel but it’s obvious they have ice dams, we’ll encourage them to deal with the structural problems first.”

“The construction industry is still male-dominated,” according to Reese, “although the judgments are a little less than they used to be.” Wonderwoman Construction employs men as well as women, and Reese refers to her team as superheroes in their own right for their commitment to excellence. She said, “Our team is made of people anyone would be comfortable having in their home. Every one of us is conscientious, hard-working, and very friendly toward kids and pets.”

Wonderwoman Construction has a master electrician on staff, a designer, and three master painters (interior and exterior). They install insulation and do custom welding. Reese recently got certified as an electrical contractor herself and, to top it all off, started a snow removal service this year. The flat fee is $75 for a house (corner lot is $95) including sidewalk, steps, and garage apron.

Call 612-210-9220 with questions, or stop in at 3715 Minnehaha Ave. M-F between 8am-5pm. Wonderwoman Construction t-shirts and other merchandise are available for purchase.



Comments Off on Wonderwoman Construction stands out in male-dominated industry

LoLa opens second annual Winter Fine Art Exhibition

Posted on 28 January 2019 by calvin

Sue Romain’s “Allergy Time” (Photo provided)

Come to see the art, stay to make a fun little item to take home during drop-in artist activities for all ages, at the second LoLa Winter Fine Art Exhibition at Squirrel Haus Arts, 3450 Snelling Ave. S. Admission is free and open to the public; a small donation is optional for make-and-take activities.

Photo right: Adam Iverson’s “Lake Of The Isles Canoe” (Photo provided)

The League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) is pleased to announce their second annual Winter Fine Art Exhibition, featuring works by local artists who are members of LoLa. Art will be for sale at the discretion of the artists, and the full purchase price will go to the artists.

An opening reception on Sat., Feb. 16, 5-7pm, and includes wine, beer, and other beverages plus a variety of snacks; a chance to mingle with other art lovers and many of the artists; and music provided by DJ Phil Borreson of Solid State Vinyl.


Photo left: Rachel Cain’s “Tree on House” (Photo provided)

New this year will be more opportunities to visit, and more reasons to drop in and see what’s happening. Open for two weekends instead of one, with the opening reception at the close of the first day. For art lovers with small budgets, some of the artists will also have small items for sale during their volunteer gallery shift, such as note cards featuring their artwork. This will be continuously changing.

Photo right: Pottery by Carol Pratt (Photo provided)

Artist educators will lead informal make-and-take activities for children and adults (very small children will need an adult helper), for a small optional donation of up to $5 to cover the cost of materials. These will occur at various times during gallery hours, with a schedule available on LoLa’s website, and announced on the event’s Facebook page. See a few examples below.

Photo left: Art by Jean Shannon (Photo provided)

Here are a few activities scheduled so far:
• Sat., Feb. 16, noon-2pm: make a cardboard mask with Pete Talbot, and play a cardboard pinball machine.
• Sat., Feb. 16, 2–4pm: make your own zine from a single sheet of paper with Olli Johnson.
• Sat., Feb. 16, noon-5pm: Jean Shannon will demonstrate wood block carving
• Sun., Feb. 17, noon–2pm: make a mini alphabet book to write and sketch in, with Meg Erke.
• Sun., Feb. 24, 2–4pm: make a mini polymer clay pig (for Year of the Pig!) with Laura Burlis.


Photo right: Carley Swenson’s “Pisces by Birth (Photo provided)

For more information visit or the Facebook page at




Photo below: Parker Sharon’s “White Admiral” (Photo provided)

Comments Off on LoLa opens second annual Winter Fine Art Exhibition

Food Shelf fundraiser dinner raises double over last year

Posted on 28 January 2019 by calvin

The annual Food Shelf Fundraiser Pasta Dinner raises funds to feed food insecure individuals and families in East Nokomis and other nearby neighborhoods. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Many people living in southeast Minneapolis rely on local food shelves for necessities. Two of those food shelves operate out of the Minnehaha United Methodist Church, which partners with two other East Nokomis churches, Lake Nokomis Lutheran and St. James Episcopal.

Photo right: 30 volunteers worked to serve up rigatoni, donated by Fat Lorenzo’s. ‘Fat Lorenzo’s is so fabulous,” said volunteer Katie Carter, far right. Other food donors included Panera and Turtle Bread. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Each year, the food shelves hold a fundraiser—a popular pasta dinner—now in its eighth year.

This year, the dinner was held at Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church on Jan. 9 and brought in what organizers called ‘a substantial amount,’ twice as much as last year. The money raised from the more than 320 who attended will go to help fund MinneHarvest, a once a month food give away open to anyone in need and to the Nokomis Food Shelf, a federal government supported program, that distributes food once a week to those eligible.

Photo left: The cafeteria at Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church filled up quickly. The annual Food Shelf Fundraiser Pasta Dinner raises funds for the Minnehaha Food Shelf and Minneharvest, both organized through the nearby Minnehaha United Methodist Church. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

“Food shelf clients include more than 600 people, including 165 children and 107 seniors,” said George Gallagher, the Food Shelf’s Director. Last November, the Food Shelf distributed nearly 13 tons of food to those who might have otherwise gone hungry. MinneHarvest’s client base varies, but also includes a number of seniors and children.

Photo right: The popular Accordion Fun Club polka band has entertained at the food shelf fundraiser for the last seven years. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Local restaurant Fat Lorenzo’s donated tubs of rigatoni with a choice of red or white sauce. Other contributions came from Panera and Turtle Bread.

None of the money raised for food shelves went for door prizes, as some local businesses provided merchandise for the drawing.

The 30 volunteers included two members of Northstar Boy Scout Troop #1 and members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Western Rivers Division, Flotilla #8, who helped out during the two-hour event.

The Accordion Fun Club polka band provided entertainment for the seventh year.

Photo below: The Accordion Fun Club, made up of veteran musicians, found a fan in Natalie Petras. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)


Comments Off on Food Shelf fundraiser dinner raises double over last year

Owner of IronFlow Gym capitalizes on professional dance career

Posted on 28 January 2019 by calvin

Dan Partridge, owner of IronFlow Gym, is a certified Russian kettle ball trainer. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Dan Partridge celebrated the New Year by opening his first business venture bright and early on Jan. 1. Iron FlowGym, 3020 E. 28th St., is in the heart of the residential Longfellow neighborhood. Partridge launched an eight week training challenge for members that day: to become stronger and more flexible than they’ve ever been before. That tall order has several elements of mastery: the deadlift, the squat, the kettle ball swing, and the pull-up. Strangely, it appears that gym members are having fun in the process.

Partridge is a native of Devon, England, and has been working as an athletic trainer in the Twin Cities for the past three years. His classes are intentionally fairly small, and his approach to training is personable.

Photo right: IronFlow Gym co-owner Dan Partridge said, “Building body awareness is not only fun, but it’s also necessary for health and longevity.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The training schedule at IronFlow is rigorous, and it’s no wonder that Partridge appears to have the strength of Superman. He leads classes Mon.-Fri. at 6:15, 7:05, 7:55, and 8:45am, as well as 12, 12:50, 3:30, 4:20, 5:10, and 6pm. On Sat., classes are at 8, 9 and 10am. On Sunday they are closed.

Capitalizing on his longtime career as a professional dancer with the Royal Ballet of London, England, Partridge has an innate sense of body awareness.

Partridge began dancing as a child and maintains a dancer’s sense of grace in his posture and carriage. “My goal is to help each person build their own strength and flexibility,” he said. “The M-W-F classes are more geared toward strength, and the T-Th-S classes are more geared toward flexibility.

The philosophy at IronFlow is to work from a platform of integrated training methods. The clubs (see photo of Partridge below) strengthen grip muscles of the hands and holding muscles in the shoulders. Hanging rings gets the core abdominal muscles in shape. And the kettle balls improve just about everything from jumping higher, to running faster, to kicking harder, and having better posture.

Photo left: Co-workers from Spye Experience (located next door) work out together regularly. Pictured are Jason Dirks (left), Paul Krumrich (center), and Margot Fleming (right). (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Partridge, a certified Russian kettle ball trainer, believes that we’re seeing a lot of compromise in posture these days. “Just look around; people are on their cell phones all the time, curling or slumping forward. That’s very hard on the vertebrae of the neck and upper back, as well as the surrounding muscles. What we want to do here is to reverse the aging process.”

To learn more, call 763-600-2040 or email—or just stop by and take a complimentary first class.

Comments Off on Owner of IronFlow Gym capitalizes on professional dance career

Fight against graffiti leads to community artwork on utility boxes

Posted on 28 January 2019 by calvin

A combination of community efforts has provided artwork to otherwise drab utility boxes and prevented unwanted graffiti in the neighborhoods of Hale-Page-Diamond Lake (HPDL).

Margaret Craig, who was a long-term board member of the HPDL Neighborhood Association and has since been a part of the Safety Engagement Committee, said that graffiti on the utility boxes has been a problem. The HPDL Neighborhood Association, working with the 3rd Precinct in the area, decided to be pro-active.

“I have worked with community crime issues since 2004, and after my board term was up I stayed with the Safety Engagement Committee, serving as a liaison between the neighborhood and the 3rd Precinct,” Craig said. “We talked about the utility boxes and pre-empting the graffiti on them.”

The decision was made to put a wrap of artwork around the utility boxes. If any boxes were still vandalized by graffiti, it could easily be removed from the wraps.

“The HPDL Association contacted us to create artwork for the utility boxes,” said Katy Tharaldson, K-4 art teacher at Hale School, 5330 13th Ave. S. ‘I went to a meeting where the project was discussed.”

Photo right: A picture by Mark Stonich of a mother owl and baby graces a local utility box. (Photo by Jan Willms)

According to Tharaldson, the HPDL Neighborhood Association received a grant to purchase art supplies for the students. “The first year, the 4th graders made murals about the seasons,” she said. “This was about three years ago.” Then all grades created pictures of bunnies that were placed by the sculpture of the rabbit in Nokomis Park. Later, the students made artwork with insects and bugs as their theme.

Craig photographed all the students’ artwork and sent the photos off to Sign Mind, the company that made and installed the wrappers.

“I measured the boxes and found the artwork,” Craig said. “Sign Mind takes the photos of the artwork and wraps the boxes.”

Craig said she was able to get beautiful art from the school kids. But there are a lot of utility boxes in the HPDL neighborhood that needed wrapping, so the Association reached out to the community searching for photos.

Photo right: Stephanie Fox contributed a photograph of a rabbit sculpture. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Stephanie Fox, who is a freelance writer and photographer, said she saw a posting on the Nextdoor social media site.

“I was out on my deck one day, and my bulldog Quigley gave me a cute face. I grabbed my camera and shot his photo. Then I went along the Parkway and took a picture of the rabbit, a neighborhood icon.” These two photos now cover utility boxes at Minnehaha Pkwy. and Cedar and at Edgewater and Cedar.

Mark Stonich lives in the area, and his wife is a part of the HPDL Neighborhood Association. So, he learned about the project and submitted some photos.

Stonich, who calls himself a bicyclist with a camera, has his photos of an egret and of a mother and baby owl covering utility boxes at East Nokomis Pkwy. and Cedar and at West Lake Nokomis Pkwy. and Cedar.

Stonich marveled at all the opportunities there are to shoot urban wildlife in the Twin Cities. He cited a family of owls in a tree near Lake Harriet, so popular with photographers the city put up barricades around the tree. He has also come across eagles, wood ducks, and possums and shot one of his favorite photos, a turtle on a log. He was also able to shoot an eagle grabbing a fish in its mouth.

Photo right: Mark Stonich also provided this image of an egret. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“In the city, the critters have figured out that people with guns just shoot each other, and not the animals,” he mused. So it is fairly easy to get near wildlife with a camera.

“My wife spots them, and I shoot their pictures,” he said. “Although she has started shooting her own photos now.”

Stonich, who retired 19 years ago, has a business providing antique bicycle parts and making alternative sizes of bicycle cranks, which brings him customers from all over the world.

The combination of a community organization, local photographers and young art students has proven an effective way of beautifying the neighborhood and preventing vandalism.

According to art teacher Tharaldson, the project has brought children’s voices out into the community. She praised the HPDL Neighborhood Association for its efforts.

“It is important to give children an opportunity to share their art with community members. And it has been a lot of fun,” she said.

Comments Off on Fight against graffiti leads to community artwork on utility boxes