Bennett Olupo is the new Longfellow Community Council Community Organizer.
Olupo joined LCC in 2022 after teaching at Shakopee West Middle School. Before teaching at Shakopee, Olupo taught physics and chemistry at Huntington Park Senior High in Los Angeles, Cali. Olupo derived joy from empowering students and watching them grow as people in each of these places.
Olupo grew up in Shakopee, Minn. He studied biology and spanish at the University of Minnesota. During his time at the university, Olupo volunteered at Pratt Elementary School, Roosevelt High School and other organizations around the city while maintaining a strong presence on campus. He looks forward to calling Minneapolis home again.
Tell us a bit about you.
I recently moved back to Shakopee after living in Los Angeles for a couple of years. I spent a lot of time with my parents and brother over the last year, and I could not be more thankful. I look forward to moving to, or at least closer to, South Minneapolis later in the year. After volunteering across Hiawatha at Roosevelt High School, I am somewhat familiar with the area. However, I have a lot to learn. I have enjoyed some of the beautiful nature in the neighborhood while attending the University of Minnesota.
I love to woodwork, play basketball and be in nature in my free time. I am learning to box at Ludy’s Gym, and I see myself practicing the sport for years to come. I cannot wait for the warmth to come back so I can garden, as well. On top of looking forward to gardening at home, I am excited to enjoy Longfellow’s gardens and nature scenes.
What’s your favorite thing to do
One of my favorite things to do in the Greater Longfellow is to go to the Longfellow Gardens. I grew up helping my grandmother in her garden, and I love being outside. It is hard for me to want to be in a different place during the spring and summer. Maybe a solid restaurant would be the only other place I would rather be. I do love food and I have fallen in love with some of the Ethiopian restaurants along Hiawatha. I cannot wait to explore the different eateries in the area.
What drew you to Longfellow
and this position?
After the murder of George Floyd, my heart stayed in Minneapolis even though I was in Los Angeles. The emotions following the murder of George Floyd compounded the feeling of frustration I was developing as a teacher. The students were struggling due to problems outside of the school. I felt like my efforts to help the students as a whole were too little, too late. I wanted to seek opportunities where I could enrich the home lives of students, and people in general, can be their best selves in any situation. As soon as I saw the position open, I knew I wanted to be a part of the organization and participate in the enrichment of Longfellow.
What strengths do you bring
to the position?
I have a calm and warm demeanor that opens up communication. People often feel comfortable around me, and I think it is essential to be a beneficial member of any community. The sense of comfort is important to help open up about struggles they face to help lead to broader change.
In addition to creating an open environment, I am persistent. I believe this will be useful to help realize the community's goals. I have a hard time stopping my fight until I see that promises are met. I hope to bring this energy to community members' requests and those who wish to see a better Longfellow.
What are your goals for this role?
The goals I have right now are open-ended. I am still a guest in the community as a whole, so I want to amplify the goals of others. As long as people in the community become happier over time, I will be happy and my goals will be met. Much of my attention will be focused on empowering the marginalized communities of Longfellow and making sure all resources are utilized.
What issues and challenges face the LCC?
Some of the larger challenges the LCC face center around engaging communities of color and low-income communities. We need to provide tailored services to these communities and give them a platform to have their voices heard. Longfellow is stronger together and we need to make sure every group is fairly recognized and advocated for. We also need to support local businesses and help them rebuild for life after the pandemic. These two areas have a wide range of needs and will take a great deal of focus.
What are you excited about in this role?
It is hard for me to think of things that I am not excited about. I have done many things related to being a community organizer as a teacher, but I have never intentionally done community organizing on this scale. After reading, speaking and being involved in protests, I cannot wait to focus on change on this level as a profession. There will be a lot to learn, a lot to experience and a lot to give.
What value does the LCC bring
to the community?
The LCC helps create a sense of home in the community. A focus on the environment and events engaging all ages of the community is needed. Something that highlights this is the Share the River Gorge event. Longfellow Community Council brought people together to enjoy simple pleasures in Longfellow’s backyard.
I can’t wait to build relationships and learn more about the community day by day!
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