4 April 2018 . Comment


Please Join Us


Please join us on May 10 at Hamline University’s Klas Center for the 2018 Annual Assembly.

By Randi Ilyse Roth, Executive Director

Interfaith Action’s Annual Assembly is right around the corner! This year we will convene on the evening of May 10 at the Klas Center at Hamline University, and Sandy Klas herself will welcome us to the space.

We start with a social hour that is always buzzing as we share delicious appetizers and a drink with old friends. We can catch up with the people who we never get to see enough, and we can meet the people we have heard so much about.

Once the program begins, we will find out how the judges sorted through the nominations to choose the winners of this year’s Interfaith Progress Award and Bringing Faith to Life Award. We will share a delicious meal, and then we will see a video presentation of Interfaith Action’s Report to the Community. We will elect Interfaith Action’s new board members, and then we will turn to the keynote talk.

We are honored that this year’s keynote speaker is Clifton Taulbert. Mr. Taulbert grew up in the Mississippi Delta during the era of legal segregation. Growing up in the deep South before the civil rights era presented Mr. Taulbert and his community with many challenges.

But Mr. Taulbert is coming here to teach us not about those challenges, but about the tremendous strengths that nourished him in his community. He’ll explain the “Eight Habits of the Heart” that his community taught to him. When United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor heard Mr. Taulbert speak about community, she found the messages so valuable that she invited him to speak to the full Supreme Court in the Library of Congress.

Mr. Taulbert has taken some time to learn about our Saint Paul community; he is excited to engage with us and to think with us about how we can build community rooted in the eight habits.

To sign up for the Annual Assembly, click here.

Warm Regards,

Randi Ilyse Roth
Executive Director

22 March 2018 . Comment


OSP Volunteer Highlight: Janet Murphy

Janet Murphy
Janet Murphy, Opportunity Saint Paul volunteer

Edited by Emma Grisanzio, Program Support Coordinator, Opportunity Saint Paul

PLACEMENT | Saint Paul Public Library
VOLUNTEER ROLE | Homework Helper

Janet volunteers with the Saint Paul Public Library at Arlington Hills Community Center. The homework center supervisor there shared this highlight with us:

“Janet Murphy…is a really great addition to our staff. She is extremely flexible and diligent in her work. She is especially helpful with some of our kids that struggle with learning disabilities. Thank you for connecting her to us. We really appreciate her
contribution.”

We asked Janet about her volunteer experience so far:

Why did you decide to join Opportunity Saint Paul?
“I decided to join Opportunity Saint Paul because I am a retired Saint Paul teacher, and am well aware of the needs of the students in this district. I can make the time to tutor regularly. I also know some people have difficulty tutoring math, and it is one of my strengths and something I love to do. It is important to me to stay connected to the community and contributing in as many ways as I can.”

What’s your favorite aspect of your volunteering?
“I love the diversity of people at the library where I volunteer. We get everyone from kindergarten to adults coming in for assistance or a quiet place to study. Some people are occasional and others are regulars, and we get to know them a bit. I never know what I am going to be doing, and that, too, is a challenge. At times, something will really strike me…like helping a high school student (Karen from Burma) read and find literary techniques and make connections with The Latehomecomer, about a Hmong family escaping though the jungle, across the Mekong River, to Thailand and eventually to Saint Paul. He was making so many connections to his own life and family. I always come home feeling fortunate to have the life I have and the family I have, and all of the good fortune I have had in my life.”

Thank you for your great work, Janet!

To learn more about Opportunity Saint Paul, please contact:

Zac Poxleitner
Director, Opportunity Saint Paul
651-789-3860
zpoxleitner@interfaithaction.org

7 March 2018 . Comment


OSP Volunteer Highlight: Josh Rebholz

Josh Rebholz
Josh Rebholz, Opportunity Saint Paul volunteer

Edited by Emma Grisanzio, Program Support Coordinator, Opportunity Saint Paul

PLACEMENT | Reading Partners
VOLUNTEER ROLE | Reading Tutor

Josh volunteers at Anishinabe Academy, where the site coordinator shared this story with us:

“Josh is an outstanding young man. He is dedicated to his student and it really shows. He is always on time or early for his session and always stays late to chat with me about his student in order to make sure he is doing everything he can to help her improve her reading. He even goes out of his way to bring cookies for the holiday celebration and even purchased his student a book set for Christmas. I have nothing but positive feedback for Josh!”

We asked Josh about his volunteer experience so far:

Why did you decide to join Opportunity Saint Paul?
“I joined OSP because I wanted to better educate myself about the issues we face in our community. Volunteering through OSP allows me to make an immediate impact and, hopefully, become a part of the long-term solution to these issues.”

What’s your favorite aspect of your volunteering?
“Seeing my student learn and improve every week is hugely gratifying. The collaboration between teachers and tutors is an awesome thing to be a part of. Getting the chance to make learning fun is something I will always look forward to!”

Thank you for your great work, Josh!

To learn more about Opportunity Saint Paul, please contact:

Zac Poxleitner
Director, Opportunity Saint Paul
651-789-3860
zpoxleitner@interfaithaction.org

1 March 2018 . Comment


OSP Volunteer Highlight: Suzanne Donovan

Suzanne Donovan
Suzanne Donovan, Opportunity Saint Paul volunteer

Edited by Emma Grisanzio, Program Support Coordinator, Opportunity Saint Paul

PLACEMENT | Reading Partners
VOLUNTEER ROLE | Reading Tutor

Suzanne volunteers at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet, where the site coordinator shared this story with us:

“Suzanne Donovan has been a great asset to Reading Partners and to the student she is paired with in particular. Her student was shy and reserved when she first began arriving for tutoring sessions, but Suzanne has been generous and sincere in her praise so that her student’s confidence has grown greatly. Suzanne’s student is an English language learner and vocabulary has been a significant obstacle for her; Suzanne takes time every lesson to not only review key English words, but asks her student to teach her a few words in the student’s native language. They share personal stories about their lives as well as work on reading skills. Both Suzanne’s student and Reading Partners are lucky to have her!”

We asked Suzanne about her volunteer experience so far:

Why did you decide to join Opportunity Saint Paul?
“Opportunity Saint Paul is taking a hard look at poverty in the city of Saint Paul, a complex issue that can feel overwhelming. But it’s so much more than that. OSP is asking us to understand the effects of poverty from multiple angles, and it’s raising important questions in the context of faith and personal responsibility. But perhaps most importantly, OSP is working to build an interfaith community of people who care, people who are prepared to make a difference. I joined because OSP is helping a group of us to come to grips with the hard data about poverty in our city while acknowledging that real change comes from the heart, from seeing ourselves in one another.”

What’s your favorite aspect of your volunteering?
“I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my Reading Partners experience, from learning how to tutor a child in reading to being a small part of a positive school environment with teachers and aides who truly care. We’ve got an inspiring site coordinator. Mostly, though, I love learning from and with the 5th-grade student I’m tutoring. She’s enthusiastic and focused on our work while willing to teach me about her culture and language. Side benefit: We read great books and deconstruct words together.”

Thank you for your great work, Suzanne!

To learn more about Opportunity Saint Paul, please contact:

Zac Poxleitner
Director, Opportunity Saint Paul
651-789-3860
zpoxleitner@interfaithaction.org

26 February 2018 . Comment


Let’s Join Together


Clifton Taulbert, author, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker, is this year’s Annual Assembly keynote speaker.

By Randi Ilyse Roth, Executive Director

We’re hoping that you will mark the evening of May 10 on your calendars to join all of us at Interfaith Action’s Annual Assembly. This event is not a fundraiser. It is a time when we join together to enjoy each other’s company, to give awards to inspiring leaders in our interfaith community, and to learn from a national leader about how we can take effective action to help heal our community and the world.

This year’s Annual Assembly will be on May 10 at Hamline University’s Klas Center. We will mingle, visit, enjoy appetizers, and then sit down together for a delicious dinner. We will reveal the winners of Interfaith Action’s two main awards: the Interfaith Progress Award and the Bringing Faith to Life award. We will hear Interfaith Action’s report to the community about the year’s accomplishments. We will elect new Board members. And then we will hear from our main speaker.

This year’s speaker is the award-winning author, speaker, entrepreneur, business leader, and memoirist, Clifton Taulbert. Taulbert’s accomplishments cannot be recited within the word limit of this article! You can read more about him on his Website or in this News-Herald article.

Mr. Taulbert will talk with us about how the lessons in his book, “Eight Habits of the Heart,” give us a practical guide to building a more caring, engaged community right here in Saint Paul. Mr. Taulbert came of age in an African-American community in the era of legal segregation in the Mississippi Delta. Taulbert will explain the eight values that he saw over and over in his family and his neighbors: Nurturing Attitude; Responsibility; Dependability; Friendship; Brotherhood-Sisterhood; High Expectations; Courage; and Hope.

If we were to build those habits into our community, we would have a different fabric between us. But how do we become people who habitually live those values? If we could take on these values as habits, how might our community change? What would it really mean?

Taulbert will reflect on practical ways that our faith communities can help us to build the world we seek to live in. Taulbert wrote, “Many of us remember a time when our lives and the success of our lives were the concerns of a great number of people, not just our primary families.” Spend the evening with us on May 10 and let’s dream together about how we can build that kind of time here and now.

Warm Regards,

Randi Ilyse Roth
Executive Director

26 February 2018 . Comment


Interfaith Action: A Legacy of Enrichment


Rev. H. David Stewart, retired pastor at Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church, has served on Interfaith Action’s Board of Directors since 2009.

By Rev. H. David Stewart, Board of Directors

When I became the pastor of Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1985, I quickly learned about Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul (then called Saint Paul Area Council of Churches) and its Department of Indian Work (DIW). We were impressed by everything we heard, and even more impressed by the personal invitation we received from Sheila WhiteEagle who was the director of DIW at the time. We were immediately immersed in its work, which proved invaluable to a newly arrived pastor and a family learning the idiosyncrasies of a very new home.

As years passed, I learned about other programs of Interfaith Action, finding each of them enriching to my pastoral work and my church’s mission abilities. Very few faith communities can accomplish independently the kinds of collaborative mission and services offered by Interfaith Action. For example, Project Home allowed us the opportunity to be directly involved in homelessness outreach. Interfaith Action’s youth activities are a marvelous adjunct to parish-based youth ministry. And, of course, DIW allows churches to be an integral part of its work through its Diabetes Education, Youth Enrichment, and Holiday Food Bag programs, as well as through regular donations to the food shelf and clothing closet. No single faith community could possibly have the impact of these programs.

As the former name shed the limitations of a “Council of Churches,” Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul was born. While maintaining programs and forging new ways to serve our East Metro neighbors through the Opportunity Saint Paul program and the Farm-Faith Project, Interfaith Action adds new dimensions to how people of all faiths engage jointly in the shared work of community care. Interfaith Action is truly opening doors for local faith communities to make a cooperative impact of far greater importance than any one of us could accomplish alone.

To learn more about faith community involvement, please contact:

Thekla Rura-Polley, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Development
651-789-3857
trura-polley@interfaithaction.org

13 February 2018 . Comment


OSP Volunteer Highlight: Lorrie Tucker

Lorrie Tucker
Lorrie Tucker, Opportunity Saint Paul volunteer

Edited by Emma Grisanzio, Program Support Coordinator, Opportunity Saint Paul

PLACEMENT | Reading Partners
VOLUNTEER ROLE | Reading Tutor

Lorrie volunteers at Maxfield Elementary School, where the site coordinator shared this story with us:

“Lorrie Tucker works with a second grade student. They are both very sweet and have developed a great relationship. So great, in fact, that the student asked Lorrie to come to her slumber party. She even started telling Lorrie her address before Lorrie stopped her. Pretty much the cutest thing that has happened in this room.”

We asked Lorrie about her volunteer experience so far:

Why did you decide to join Opportunity Saint Paul?
“I wanted to become more involved with Interfaith Action as I’ve been impressed by the work they do in the community, and support their programs. I also wanted to start tutoring reading with elementary students. Thus Opportunity Saint Paul provided me with a means to fill both of these goals.”

What’s your favorite aspect of your volunteering?
“It makes me smile when my student tells me how much she likes coming to Reading Partners. I love seeing the joy in her eyes when she successfully learns the definition of challenging new words, or earns a star for successfully reading her ‘sight words.’ It has been a joy for me to get to know her and work with her!”

Thank you for your great work, Lorrie!

To learn more about Opportunity Saint Paul, please contact:

Zac Poxleitner
Director, Opportunity Saint Paul
651-789-3860
zpoxleitner@interfaithaction.org

29 January 2018 . Comment


Potential Government Restriction on Daytime Shelter In A Church


First Lutheran Church hosts Listening House in their church’s lower level.

By Randi Ilyse Roth, Executive Director

Interfaith Action’s work is organized around this vision: People of faith working together to relieve the effects of poverty and address its root causes. We are following with great interest what is happening to a faith community in the East Metro recently threatened with governmental restrictions on its anti-poverty work.

Listening House is a non-profit that moved from its downtown location to First Lutheran Church in June 2017. It is a daytime shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Listening House’s web site explains that it is a place where:

[P]ractical assistance, counsel, and a friendly ear are offered to people who are homeless, disadvantaged, or lonely. Staff and volunteers aspire to create a sense of community and connection by promoting respect for all. Respect nurtures hope, which in turn strengthens personal resolve toward positive change. . . .Our doors open to up to 120 adults each day. Though our space is humble, friendships are rich and we actively engage with surrounding businesses to be a good neighbor.

Now Listening House finds itself at the center of a conflict. The Saint Paul zoning administrator determined that Listening House is “similar to” a church, and based on that, Listening House was permitted to locate in First Lutheran. Some of Listening House’s new neighbors, though, were unhappy about it being located in their residential neighborhood, and they appealed the administrator’s determination to the City Council. On December 13, the City Council adopted a resolution that it has not yet presented to the Mayor for signature. If the Mayor signs the resolution, then, among other restrictions, beginning on April 2, 2018, Listening House will be limited to serving 20 people per day. Listening House says they serve on average 65 people per day, with up to 125 people per day when it is bitterly cold outside.

Interfaith Action’s Project Home serves guests experiencing homelessness in 24 churches and synagogues. Many are in residential neighborhoods. Our Department of Indian Work food shelf is operated out of our Summit Avenue location. We are a former Council of Churches that is now an interfaith organization of houses of worship dedicated to economic mobility and to keeping faith with those experiencing economic hardship. We will watch as this case and related cases venture into defining the parameters within which government can restrict decisions made by churches and other houses of worship that choose to be present in the lives of those in need.

Warm Regards,

Randi Ilyse Roth
Executive Director

12 January 2018 . Comment


Caution: Under Construction

Megan Gunnar
Megan Gunnar, Director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota

By David Schimke

Developmental Psychologist Megan Gunnar talks about how environmental stress affects children’s astonishingly resilient, yet fragile brains.

As an undergraduate student, Megan Gunnar remembers being innately drawn to the link between psychology and biology. That what a person thinks can actually affect the body (and vice versa), whether in moments of calm or in the face of an existential threat. An independently minded woman coming of age during the feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s, she was also fascinated by genetic differences between the sexes, which led to her first serious research project at Stanford University, where she examined the developmental effects of sex hormones.

In short order, this work put her in close proximity to babies, and researchers such as Seymour Levine, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the school, who were looking at the effects of neonatal experiences on adult behavior, stress levels, and the immune system. “That was the moment of truth,” says Gunnar, who went on to get her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Stanford. “Oh, and the second moment of truth is when I realized that assays [investigative, analytic procedures] were coming along that would make it possible to measure stress hormones in saliva. And I knew I would be able to study the experiences that we have when we were young and how those regulate our stress systems.”

After spending a decade learning about infants’ basic brain systems and architecture, Gunnar felt ready to look more closely at how children respond physiologically and socially to chronic mistreatment. She worked with kids living in orphanages, as well as those adopted from orphanages, and unearthed evidence establishing that a child’s earliest experiences have a powerful effect on shaping a child’s neurological infrastructure, their behavior, and their learning potential.

In the years since, Gunnar has honed her expertise and made it her mission to share what she’s learning with both peers and the general public. She is currently the co-Director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Development at the University of Minnesota, and in that role, has become involved in many activities to translate research on early development for use by policy makers, practitioners and families. She is a founding member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child that is part of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. The goal of this group is to translate what we know about the science of child development into communications that make sense to legislators, policy makers, and people who are in a position to work with and advocate for children. She was also a member of the Institute of Medicine study that produced Neurons to Neighborhoods, a review of what we know about early brain and behavioral development.

What is the biggest myth about child development?
That it’s all genetics. That basically there is a program that just plays out. Our brains are adapted to the context in which we develop. It’s easiest to see this in language. If you’re a Japanese child, pretty soon you can’t hear the difference between ra [as in raw] and la [as in law]. But English- speaking children continue to hear the difference. It’s just a way for the brain to process information efficiently, based on outside circumstance. Now, this sort of plasticity is always a double-edged sword, because it also means that under adverse or harsh conditions you adapt in ways that may limit how you operate in different environments. So, for instance, if you learn to adapt in a very harsh, neglecting environment, one of the things you develop is the capacity to act first, think later.

Of course, while saying that it’s all about genetics is a very big mistake; the brain isn’t completely plastic, either. Genes do play a role. So you can’t take anyone and turn [him or her] into anything. There are genetic constraints.

And we still have a lot to learn about this balance—nature versus nurture?
Right. And nature doesn’t like to get put in the box, even though human beings really like to have boxes. We like to say, “This is it!” And when you say, “On the one hand, on the other hand,” like every scientist does, you start to lose people. “Just tell me what it is, don’t tell me it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” So one of the challenges we face is trying to come up with metaphors and examples that allow people to think about these issues more complexly.

How does a baby’s brain change in the first few months and years?
The first few months are critically important for setting up the sensory systems and the communication between sensory systems—like vision, sense, and taste—and motor systems. In the second-half of the first year, we have the social revolution, when there’s just loads going on in terms of orientation and processing and becoming highly social. We also begin to engage in this thing called social referencing—treating others as if they have a mind separate from our own. If you want your mom to look at something you get to the point where you point and coo, and you expect that she will look and that you will share an experience. We then begin to turn into real social beings. We begin to differentiate ourselves from others. It’s just the beginning, and that will continue through our second year, which is a very important year for social processing: You begin to be capable of thinking more abstractly. So you can begin to use a pencil as a spoon to feed your doll, pretending. Pretend begins to come in, that’s huge, and the prefrontal cortex is really developing like crazy so that you can begin to have that self-reflection and so on. And with that language production really takes a big zoom. You’ve begun to learn words but now you’re beginning to put words together and so on.

How might these early stages of development be adversely affected by environmental factors typically associated with poverty?
Throughout this whole time you have been sprouting synapses and pruning them in different regions of the brain, as your brain is wiring-up to be able to do all the things that you are going to be capable of doing. Poverty is a risk factor during this process.

Consider what all kids need to develop well: They need to have somebody who is available to be sensitive and responsive to their needs. They can handle several people, so it doesn’t have to be the same person all the time. But they need to have their people, they need to know their people, and their people need to be able to be responsive to them. So how does poverty threaten that? Well, if your mom’s working two jobs and your dad’s working two jobs and there still isn’t enough to get ends meeting, and your parents are worried and they’re fighting, and they’re arguing about money, and your mom is depressed because we know maternal depression goes up in poverty, they’re just not as available to you. That’s a huge issue. And it’s not because economically disadvantaged parents aren’t sensitive or responsive, it’s just harder to establish frequent, secure relationships as families fall down the socioeconomic latter.

It’s situational, not intentional.
It’s situational. We can do this to animals. We can put them in situations where they just don’t do the right thing because they’re just trying to keep everybody’s head above water. So that’s huge. You need to have enough one-on- one time with adults so that they can talk with you, so that you can learn language. And we know that those opportunities decrease as you go down the socioeconomic ladder. The amount of words that children hear in conversation simply goes down. And words are concepts, and concepts open the world so that you can learn more stuff. Skills beget skills. All of these things are building blocks. So if you’re not learning as many words early on, you are not getting as many concepts. Your brain isn’t experiencing as much digestible information to help it build its brain architecture. There are a lot of stimuli in the homes of impoverished kids, but it’s often incoherent. It’s not organized. It’s more chaotic than predictable. In all of these ways poverty is a risk to the development of brain architecture.

What is an acceptable level of stress for a child, and what kind of stress can cause long-lasting damage?
It’s important to find a way to distinguish different levels of stress anecdotally, because when you give a talk, all of a sudden everybody’s saying, “Yeah? I experienced a lot of stress as a kid and it was good for me.” And yes, we all experience challenges along the way, so wrapping a kid in bubble wrap is not the way to develop a competent human being. When a child is told they can’t have a cookie because it’s dinnertime, and they throw a hissy fit, and Mom puts them in a timeout, that’s stressful. But it’s good stuff. Learning to a bike and falling down or going to the doctor and getting a shot, these things are stressful. But if you have people supporting you, you can cope and overcome. And you learn you’re a competent kid and that the world is actually pretty safe.

Toxic stress is when things happen that really activate your biology and it goes on for a long time because there’s nobody there, or the people who are there are actually the ones who are creating the threat. I mean, if you have to approach the same people for support who are scaring you, boy, that defines toxic.

So a stable support system is key?
Two things are key for stress regulation. Feeling that you know what’s going to happen, and that you can control what’s going to happen. But little kids know they can’t control a lot. So the third piece to this is that you have people who are able to respond to your needs. And in the beginning, that those people are also perceived as powerful. They can control stuff. Throughout our lives relationships matter because we are soothed by loving relationships, so they’re critical to stress. But in little kids it’s combination of both that feeling of being soothed and being protected by big powerful people.

Now one of the things that happens in dis-regulated, disrupted homes is that the adults aren’t being adult and the kids end up having to prematurely take over and play the role of adult. That’s really harmful.

If you have long-term exposure to toxic stress, what is one of more radical ways that it can affect brain development?
It could actually kill brain cells, which is why nature doesn’t want that to happen.

If a child is experiencing toxic stress at home, can it be mitigated by positive interactions, role models, and support systems outside the home?
Yes. Now, it can’t completely reverse what’s happening at home. But human beings are incredibly resilient organisms. There are also individual differences, too. I mean, some kids are real orchids and boy, they suffer—suffer a lot. Some kids are more like dandelions and they’re going to turn towards the sun and manage to survive, given half a chance. A little bit of rain, they’ll grab onto it.

What do you hope people who do volunteer work with at-risk kids take away from your talk on early childhood brain development?
So many of these kids can be incredibly annoying and they’re manipulative and they can piss you off. That’s because they’re often stuck in survival mode. And so the idea here is that the more you understand about why they do what they do, the more you can stay firmly in control of the situation. In other words, you don’t let them walk all over you, but you don’t do it with anger.

So the most important thing in working with these kids is to prevent them from flipping into a defensive mode where they’re not going to get anything out of it. You need to be able to set clear rules, guidelines, and hold to them as you work with them without experiencing anger when they manipulate you and drive you to the edge.

David Schimke is a Minneapolis-based writer, editor and media strategist

To learn more about Opportunity Saint Paul, please contact:

Zac Poxleitner
Director, Opportunity Saint Paul
651-789-3860
zpoxleitner@interfaithaction.org

8 January 2018 . Comment


Spreading Opportunity: Desperately Seeking Homework Helpers


Fourth grade students working on homework at Highwood Hills Elementary School.

By Randi Ilyse Roth, Executive Director

Background about OSP

Opportunity Saint Paul (OSP) is now in full swing. At its core, it involves a cohort of nearly 100 people, largely from diverse faith communities. Everyone in the cohort has committed to do two things for a year:

  • Volunteer at least one hour per week with one of our highly effective non-profit partners; and,
  • Attend bi-monthly Learning Community events to build understanding, community, and intellectual context for their work.

We can all be part of the solution by working to build opportunity – and through OSP, we are supporting the faith community’s ability to make that happen.

Most of the OSP volunteers devote their hour of service each week to tutoring. When we help children advance their reading and/or math levels, we make an important contribution to those children’s future economic opportunities.

We are learning through OSP and we are gaining inspiration through OSP. How can we take both that learning and that inspiration and spread them beyond the “walls” of our program and beyond our nearly 100 volunteers and their individual tutoring assignments?

Homework Helpers Needed at Highwood Hills

Through OSP, we came to know Mr. Abdisalam Adam, who is the Administrative Intern at the Highwood Hills Elementary School on Londin Lane in Saint Paul. Highwood Hills is located in the area known as Lower Afton/Battle Creek, in the part of Saint Paul that is near Woodbury and Maplewood. Here are the demographics of this school:

  • Total number of students: about 310 students
    • 65% Black/African American (mostly Somali)
    • 23% Asian/Pacific Islander (mostly Karen)
    • 11% Hispanic/Latino
    • 3% White
  • English Language Learners: About 72%
  • Eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch: About 95%

The students in this school are interested in having homework help in the after-school time slot. Mr. Abdisalam Adam has asked if we can help. Can we as a community make this happen? Can our community find five people who are willing to commit to homework help at this school on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3-4 p.m.? It would mean so much to these students.

If you are willing to commit to one or both slots each week during the school year, please sign up online at interfaithaction.org/volunteer and designate “Homework Helpers” in the comments field.

Warm Regards,

Randi Ilyse Roth
Executive Director