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Community Renewal Good Stories - Minneapolis

EZ Funding Helps Programs Bring Students Back to School

Minneapolis, Minnesota, EZ

Convincing teens and teen parents to pursue a high school diploma is a challenge, but one to which the Minneapolis, Minnesota, EZ is committed. Two recent EZ grants totaling $350,000 have substantially increased the number of local teenagers looking forward to graduation day.

More than 100 students have enrolled in the Broadway Teen Parent Program in north Minneapolis, which began in January 2003. "We knew there were many teen parents who had dropped out of school and we needed this program to reach out and bring them back in," says Mary Pat Sigurdson, a teen-parent specialist for the Minneapolis Public Schools. "The school district didn't have the money. A 2-year grant of $175,000 from the Minneapolis Empowerment Zone was the first funding we received, and it helped us attract more than $940,000 in additional funding."

For teen parents like Jennifer Vargas, Kristal Fineday, Amanda Stroud, and Rachel Nitschke, the Broadway Teen Parent Program has not only helped them earn a diploma, it also has enhanced their life skills, introduced them to the business world, and provided a choice of internships at 15 sites.

"I never had a job before," Vargas says, "and this program helped me learn how to create a budget for the living expenses I need to support my kids. I enjoyed computer training and learning how to provide good customer service."

Following a successful internship, she took a part-time job with Sun Country Airlines. "I was not much of a 'people person,' but I learned how to keep a good attitude at work and to build relationships," Stroud says of her internship at the North Community YMCA. In 2003 she graduated with a high school diploma and now has a paid position at the YMCA. "I was able to get my own apartment and can now manage my bills," Stroud says.

Another $175,000 grant, this one to the Plymouth Christian Youth Center's Capri Alternative High School and Neighborhood Center on West Broadway in North Minneapolis, will help renovate the organization's facilities. Under a contract with the Minneapolis Public Schools, the Capri school works with junior- and senior-high youth who have been unsuccessful elsewhere. The school's positive climate allows students to improve their ability to read, write, and listen-skills that not only help them earn their diplomas, but prepare them to be successful at other educational institutions, in their jobs, and in personal relationships.

"This new building lets young people see that education is valued. It makes a difference in their behavior and attendance," says Chrislee Jacobs, a teacher at the school.

For more information on the programs of the Minneapolis EZ, please contact Project Coordinator Maria M. Conley at (612) 673-5115.