By Pam Costain, President and CEO, AchieveMpls
AchieveMpls is tremendously proud to be a member of Generation Next in our shared work of closing the achievement gap and creating greater opportunities for Minneapolis students. As the nonprofit partner of the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), this collaborative work is a natural outgrowth of our mission to mobilize a wide web of community resources to ensure that all MPS students are career and college ready. We direct the STEP-UP Achieve youth employment program with the City of Minneapolis, manage Career & College Centers in all Minneapolis public high schools, raise corporate and foundation support for MPS strategic academic priorities and engage our community for student success and strong public schools. We believe that preparing young people in Minneapolis to succeed in school, work, and life is the best investment we can make in our city’s health and vitality.
For too long our community has settled for inadequate outcomes for our students. Our achievement and employment gaps are our collective responsibility. It’s clear that if our city is to thrive in the future, every student must not only graduate from high school but acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and networks of support necessary to pursue meaningful careers and college. While MPS is responsible for increasing academic success for all children, they cannot do this work alone. Our entire community—parents, alumni, businesses, nonprofits, faith organizations, policy leaders and students themselves—has a role to play. This work requires concerted community engagement with a wide range of stakeholders—listening deeply to what they have to say, recognizing the larger social and economic issues impacting our young people, communicating the high stakes involved in career and college readiness in our globalized economy and providing opportunities for community members to respond and engage with young people as volunteers, employers, mentors, funders and advocates for strong public schools and student success.
Research validates the importance of community engagement. Family and community engagement leads to increased student achievement, improved social skills and behavior and increased likelihood for graduation (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Parent, school, and community ties are essential supports to in-classroom school improvement, especially in low-performing schools serving poor students (Stanford Social Innovation Review). And public engagement has been identified as a key element in achieving the structural and policy changes needed to ensure a quality education for all children (Taking Responsibility: Using Public Engagement to Reform Our Public Schools, Public Education Network).
We’re excited that Generation Next builds on the critical groundwork laid by two key collaboratives that we’ve been leading during the past two years, including the Minneapolis Local College Access Network (LCAN) and the Career Readiness Collaborative (CRC). LCAN is a group of five community partners that strategically support college-readiness efforts in Minneapolis Public Schools. Together with College Possible, Get Ready, Project SUCCESS, and Upward Bound, we’re working to align our college access efforts through such activities as increasing the number of students who complete the FAFSA financial aid form and the ACT college entrance exam. We’re working hard to increase our collective capacity and ensure that we are reaching students most in need of support.
We’ve also been a leader with Genesys Works and Best Prep in creating the new Career Readiness Collaborative to bring cohesion to a fragmented network of career readiness programs for youth. The CRC now has 20 Twin Cities members that are working together to improve effectiveness and program quality by mapping services and developing reliable, shared metrics. We’re also consulting with researchers in Chicago to implement MHA Labs across the CRC, an evidence-based index of 35 21st Century skills that serve as learning objectives and assessment items.
We have tremendous hopes for the Generation Next collaboration, which builds on these earlier collaborations through strong commitments to collective impact, aligned metrics and best practices that best serve our young people. Minneapolis is an affluent city, rich with talent, volunteers, financial means, pride in our city, and good will toward our young people. Leaders, organizations and businesses in our city are increasingly recognizing the urgency of achieving greater equity for young people and are using their resources to achieve it. Yet as we have seen, these parties have largely been working independently. By working together we can help reach the community’s full potential to support youth by eliminating duplication of effort, identifying complementary programs and areas of alignment, and fostering a strong culture of communication and collaboration. By providing strong leadership in this work, Generation Next can help us realize our vision for a thriving city in which every child has the resources and support they need for satisfying work and meaningful lives.