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Minneapolis Promise makes progress in getting kids on early college track

Date Published: 11/04/2011

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Research shows that getting kids and their parents in a post-secondary mindset as early as possible -- creating not just hope but an expectation for college attainment -- makes a big difference in whether they get credentials.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and his top economic development official, Mike Christenson, without a lot of fanfare, have been working this angle for years.  Every year in the fall Mayor Rybak addresses every 9th grader in the city with a message and specific programmatic inducements that encourage them to compete for summer jobs and scholarships for college, or that put them on the post-secondary track.

Christenson, director of the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning & Economic Development, and a Growth & Justice Policy Fellow, summarizes the success of those efforts in a recent MinnPost Community Voice column, key parts of which we reprint here: 

Mike Christenson  
 
"Let's begin with the story of Alex Glaze. Alex and his twin sister grew up in poverty and were removed from their mother's home early in life. Alex quickly learned that if he needed a ride to school or school supplies, he was on his own. He began working in junior high to take care of household needs. At 18, Alex and his sister were told to leave their father's home for good.

After graduating from Southwest High School, Alex worked in the Minneapolis mayor's office as a STEP-UP intern. This summer, he joined nearly 2,000 other STEP-UP interns and dozens of employers to celebrate their summer accomplishments. For many interns, it was their first work experience. Like so many of us, they described their summer jobs as their first big break...

....The summer job is one of three parts of the Minneapolis Promise offered through Achieve Minneapolis. Mayor Rybak visits assemblies of ninth-graders in each Minneapolis public high school every fall. There, he lays out a compelling alternative to street life. Every Minneapolis youth may compete for one of 2,000 summer jobs, must complete a college and career map called "My Life Plan," and can apply for thousands of scholarships through Minneapolis Community & Technical College, Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, Admission Possible, the Children's Defense Fund, the McGuire and Wallin and Page Foundations and many more programs.

State and city leaders from all sectors worry about the overwhelming challenges of the achievement gap in Minnesota. Populations of color trail others in measures of educational success at a nation-leading rate. We're a proud state, and national leader in so many categories, but this is a leadership position we need to vacate. After eight years, the Minneapolis Promise offers hope. A combination of summer jobs, career and college plans, and scholarships adds up to more than the sum of its parts...[and]...if the Minneapolis Promise continues to grow, the achievement gap will shrink. Here are the facts:

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