Riverside Listening Session Co-Hosted By Pillsbury United
“A tree, no matter how big, will never be a forest.” This African proverb shared by a native Oromo speaker and roughly translated to English, served as an apt reminder to our staff and leadership, as well as all of those present at a recent listening session in the Riverside Community co-hosted on February 25th by Pillsbury United. The theme of the evening became one of partnership and community empowerment in education: what kinds of partners and assistance does the Riverside community need most to help their youth realize their aspirations, as well as what actions could the community take to demand more and be more engaged for their students and families.
Many students were present and took to the microphone to address their concerns about safety, opportunities for higher education, access to better technology and counseling, and the need for culturally relevant/aware curriculum and educators. Parents and other community members echoed these concerns and also advocated for the support of more organizations that have connections to the various African immigrant communities as a means to better reach parents (who are viewed as foundational to student success). One concern that was voiced repeatedly, by both students and adult community members, was the desire that changes be made with the community and not imposed upon them.
In response to the ideas and concerns raised, Generation Next’s executive director, Michael Goar, was joined by Minneapolis Public School board member, Hussein Samatar, and Pillsbury United Communities president and CEO, Chandra Smith-Baker, to discuss ways in which each felt that they/their organization could do more to ensure that these issues are addressed. Community members were also encouraged to engage with the school board at meetings and voice their concerns, with Pillsbury United through their many service offerings, and with Generation Next through a number of avenues that are now listed in our Invitation to Partner . Michael also made a promise to the community that, as part of our work, we would help to provide the tools—particularly in access to and understanding of student data—to help the Riverside community better know how their student is progressing and what resources are reliable and available to help them succeed.
This initial listening session, and the ones that will follow in the coming months, are building off of the initial information sessions hosted this past summer and fall prior to the launch of Generation Next. If you are interested in co-hosting a listening session with Generation Next, let us know by accepting our invitation to partner. Additional listening sessions around the Twin Cities are being scheduled now and by staying on our mailing list, you’ll be among the first to know about future sessions!