OUR MISSION: We encourage East African young women to connect and evolve as leaders and entrepreneurs by creating space to explore, express, and educate each other and their community. Because, we believe the future is for all women.
For Pillsbury United Communities, 2021 was a summer to remember! After last year’s summer programs were forced to operate remotely due to COVID-19, we were so pleased to reconnect with our young folks in-person for summer 2021.
This year, 145 young people in middle school and high school completed paid summer internships through Pillsbury United programs—our largest ever class of interns! Our young folks explored new opportunities in technology, business, media production, and more. (For photos from some of our summer activities, take a look at a couple of recent albums on our Facebook page.)
Read on to learn more about our summer internship cohorts—and the dedicated youth program leaders who made it all possible.
Amplified Youth Storytelling at Brian Coyle Center
Our Amplified Youth Storytelling cohort was based out of the Best Buy Teen Tech Center at Brian Coyle Center. Under the guidance of our experienced youth mentors, 16 interns learned audio production and podcasting skills. Special thanks to The Clubhouse Network and the city of Minneapolis’ Step Up program for partnering with us to offer this unique opportunity.
This cohort was led by Emery and Jose. Emery recently completed his term with Public Allies Twin Cities, through which he served as Content Specialist at the Teen Tech Center. Jose also works with our Coyle youth programs as our Pathways Coordinator, helping young people plan for college and a career.
Arts & Agriculture at Waite House
Our Arts & Agriculture youth group at Waite House led 12 interns in exploring the intersections of food, art, culture, and social justice—connecting to the land by working hands-on at our Pillsbury United Farms, and sharing their experience through the visual and performing arts.
Our cohort leaders were Angelica and Ebony—both artists and activists. Angelica is a performance artist who has previously led our youth spoken-word and tutoring groups. Ebony is a visual artist and an alumna of our youth programs, returning to Pillsbury United this summer after graduating from Clark Atlanta University.
Cinematography & Business at Brian Coyle Center
Based out of the Best Buy Teen Tech Center at Brian Coyle Center, our Cinematography & Business cohort provided opportunities for 16 interns to explore filmmaking, editing, scoring, and sound design—while also learning to make a business plan to support their activities as independent artists and creators. The cohort also participated in a site-visit to the Institute of Production and Recording to learn from working professionals in the field of media production.
The cohort was led by Gonkama and Sisco, two youth leaders who are deeply rooted in the Cedar Riverside community. Gonkama is a seasoned youth worker and recent IT grad with experience in hip-hop production. Sisco is a graduate of our Coyle youth programs and a professional filmmaker and photographer.
Cyber Seniors at Brian Coyle Center
This unique cohort focused on intergenerational engagement between young folks and community elders living in Cedar Riverside. Our six youth interns partnered with volunteers from Best Buy to work with Cedar Riverside community elders and assist them with technical support. Through twice-weekly clinics at Currie Park in English, Somali, and Oromo, these young folks stepped up—helping our elders install apps, configure webcams, and other essential tools to stay connected in the post-COVID world.
Our cohort was led by Hassan and Kenya, two very talented undergrads. Hassan joined us this summer after many years of participation in youth programs at Brian Coyle Center. Kenya was brought on through the ServeMinnesota emergency response program.
Girls & Femmes in STEM at Brian Coyle Center
Our Girls & Femmes in STEM cohort at Brian Coyle Center offered a unique eight-week course in a variety of science and technology-related topics, including astronomy, coding, biodiversity, food science, medicine, and digital art. Our cohort members also took part in a biodiversity field trip to Cedar Creek with a University of Minnesota professor, tested the new flight simulator at the Best Buy Teen Center, and participated in Scrubs Camp at Augsburg University.
The cohort was led by Idil and Fardowza, both of whom are studying STEM fields at the University of Minnesota. Idil is a Page Scholar, and she is currently majoring in microbiology and cell biology. Fardowza is a graduate of Sisterhood Boutique, majoring in computer science.
Healthy Living at Waite House
Young folks in our summer Healthy Living cohort at Waite House enjoyed a wide range of activities to support their physical and mental health. This included cycling and bike maintenance with Bici Xicas, a local biking collective; group therapy sessions, in partnership with counselors at Tubman; and tennis at Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center at Fort Snelling.
This cohort was led by Ivonne, a senior at Augsburg University studying political science and an alumna of our youth programs at Pillsbury House + Theatre. Ivonne also managed our 22 off-site interns, including partnerships with Roots for the Home Team and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Growing Good program.
Our biggest cohort of the summer was at KRSM Radio, broadcasting out of Waite House in the Phillips community. Our interns explored on-air hosting, radio DJing, journalism, and audio production in our brand new youth recording studio. KRSM also partnered with ThreeSixty Journalism, MPR News and MIGIZI to plan and engage BIPOC youth for MPR’s Radio Camp. Click here to see some of their finished projects.
Our cohort was led by Michel.Be, a professional DJ, our agency-wide youth media manager, and a longtime alum of our youth programs at Pillsbury House + Theatre. They were supported by Minneapolis Community Education, who offered a full-time staff coordinator to assist with facilitating this summer’s internships—our thanks to KJ for their invaluable assistance!
Based out of the Cedar Riverside community, our team at Sisterhood Boutique led a cohort of 24 young women—giving them direct experience in managing a fashion consignment boutique, plus ongoing development of their business and leadership skills. Highlights include a site-visit to local apparel brand sota clothing, as well as a week at Augsburg University Scrubs Camp.
The cohort was led by a trio of long-time Sisterhood Boutique leaders and alumni. Zikki is a co-founder of Sisterhood from its very first class, and Kidist is a former Sisterhood intern; both are now leading programs at Sisterhood. Ugbad is a Sisterhood grad and currently an undergrad in phlebotomy at the U of M—a passion she discovered on a Sisterhood field trip.
Earlier this month, Twin Cities Public Allies gathered at Oak Park Center to participate in Core Week. Public Allies is a 10-month Americorps apprenticeship program that focuses on advancing social justice and equity by teaching allies about leadership and placing them in key operational roles at a wide range of partner organizations throughout the Twin Cities nonprofit sector. For new and returning allies, Core Week offers the chance to explore the values of the Public Allies program through a variety of culture-building activities that exercise their creativity and empathy. It is a time for allies to connect, reflect, and build.
Ashlyn Stenberg is one of several new Public Allies cohort members; Core Week was her first week with the program. Ashlyn is serving as a communication system specialist at the Wilder Foundation, providing administrative support for a variety of projects focused on racial equity and community outreach. Although she was not sure what to expect with many of the high-energy culture-building activities, she says that by the end of Core Week, “[The experience has] already paid off. I’m seeing the benefit of putting myself out there in these spaces.” Ultimately, Ashlyn hopes that Public Allies can help her develop new opportunities that utilize her interest in health equity issues.
Roda Abda, also new to Public Allies, is serving as an operations manager at Twin Cities RISE, where she is assisting with project management and communications for a major upcoming event. After a period of trying to determine her next steps in life, Roda says that she was encouraged to apply by an acquaintance who had already completed the program. “I hope to become a strong communicator and learn to assert myself during my time as an ally,” she says.
Another new ally, Colton Taylor, was placed at Senior Community Services as a home program coordinator. In this role, his job is to recruit, organize, and manage volunteers who assist seniors with a wide range of day-to-day tasks. Like many young people in the program, Colton is eager to explore different post-college options during his time with Public Allies. “I graduated not knowing exactly what I wanted to do,” he says, “and I’m hoping [Public Allies] can help me get a clearer sense of what my career is going to be.”
Now that Core Week has come to an end, the hard work is only beginning. As our new cohort members begin their 10-month journey with Public Allies, the energy and enthusiasm of Core Week reminds us all that real learning happens when young people feel empowered to break out of their comfort zones.
Many residents of North Minneapolis may be aware of North News through its monthly print paper and digital platforms, elevating honest and nuanced narratives about the Northside that aren’t represented in the institutional media. What they may not realize is that in addition to its quality hyperlocal reporting, North News is also working to lift up the next generation of Northside youth voices.
Through classroom programs and internship opportunities overseen by North News staff, youth throughout North Minneapolis are learning to tell their community’s stories and gain experience that will prepare them for careers in mass media and communications. This need is especially critical in the Northside community. “We are the only journalism education program most of our young people have access to,” said Kenzie O’Keefe, editor-in-chief of North News. O’Keefe also co-teaches the North News journalism class at North High School and expects to lead a similar program at Patrick Henry High School later this fall.
“Working under Kenzie and being a proud intern for North News over the last three years taught me the skills I needed to become a great journalist,” said former intern Daija Triplett, currently serving at Pillsbury United Communities through the Public Allies program. After the conclusion of her term, she plans to major in communications and media studies at Stetson University in the spring. “I’ve learned so much about how journalism can help connect people to their neighbors in the community.”
Blessing Kasongoma, currently majoring in communications studies at Augsburg University, concurs: “Interning as a student reporter at North News helped me find myself as a journalist.” But she said the true benefits of the North News youth program are even bigger than that. “As a person, I became bolder when it came to approaching people for an interview. I grew that way. This skill is not just for interviewing, but for everyday life. I learned to be more confident as a person.”
The North News team has high hopes for their youth program over the long-term. “Our plan is to build on our successes, grow the capacity of our newsroom, and keep our news platforms strong,” said O’Keefe. By formalizing additional pathways between North News and the media industry, O’Keefe said, North News can ensure that all young people in North Minneapolis have the tools and resources to pursue a career in mass media. With that crucial support for emerging community voices, she said, “We envision that North Minneapolis will one day be known as the birthplace of nationally respected journalists.”
By cultivating young people’s skills as journalists, writers, and storytellers, North News is making a vital contribution to the Northside community. When everyday people are empowered to raise their voices and influence the narrative, real change can begin.
Our youth programs have wrapped up for the summer in what we thought was the most fitting way possible—spending time in the Minnesota outdoors. Knowing that the summer season here is short and filled with all different kinds of opportunities to be outside, we wanted to take advantage of what the natural wonders of this city and state has to offer.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve lead over 80 youth on four different canoeing excursions—two overnight expeditions in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), one overnight trip along the St. Croix River, and one day trip on Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes. Outdoor expeditions can sometimes be costly and strenuous, but in partnering with the group Wilderness Inquiry, we were able to provide the gear, transportation, and trained guides—all for free.
Maireni, 14, said her favorite part was “Looking at the stars and going to the waterfalls.” And for Luz, 15, it was “Being able to be with nature and talk to new people.” The least favorite part of the experience? The responses were almost unanimous: mosquitos.
While multiple hands-on skills are learned on these trips, from paddling to putting up a tent, making a fire to washing dishes outside—soft skills are strengthened too. Like Baldemar, 14, said, “Teamwork is very vital when you go camping.” Teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills become necessary when experiencing the outdoors overnight for several days, not always alongside familiar faces, and without the comfortable amenities of home. And without the distraction of phones or other digital devices, youth find their own ways to have fun, whether it be through outdoor games, some good old-fashioned singing, or just taking life a little slower by chatting and building bonds with one another.
Engaging youth in the great outdoors has been a Pillsbury United tradition since the founding of the first settlement houses, and we plan to continue for years to come. Next time, we might just bring some more bug spray.
For the first time since the summer of 2017, a no-cost summer K-5 program is up and running at our Brian Coyle Center. From June through August, kids will have the opportunity to participate in a vast range of activities—literacy and geography lessons, getting hands-on with gardening, cooking, technology and organized sports, going on field trips, and engaging in projects that help foster self-expression and ignites them to think about their community in different ways. Programming like this is essential during this time of year to prevent ‘summer slide,’ otherwise known as the learning loss that happens when kids are out of school and not academically engaged as they are during the school year. In the past week, some highlights include planting peppers in the garden, learning about Brazil and the greater South American continent followed up by making some delicious Brazilian limeade, getting outdoors at the Dodge Nature Center, learning about the environment, recycling, and how to save energy from Community Action Partnership, and enhancing reading skills thanks to a partnership with the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center.
Though this programming is happening now—unfortunately in the past two years, our K-5 youth have not had the academic and social supports needed due to funding cuts. Our agency along with many others serving this population were forced to cut both our summer and afterschool K-5 programs out entirely, which has had significant impacts on the families we serve. Older middle and high school-aged youth have often had to step up and stay home to care for their younger siblings, forcing them to no longer participate in their own summer/afterschool programming. Parents were faced with the difficult decision to change their job(s) or adjust their work schedules. And then there’s the K-5 kids themselves who are no longer receiving the academic and social supports that are critical in laying the groundwork for academic success and confidence in middle school.
This has been a real community need these past couple of years, and because of demand from our Cedar Riverside neighbors, we pulled as many strings as we could to make a summer K-5 program happen at the Brian Coyle Center. However, the future of K-5 still looks uncertain until there are more funds allocated to this population. If you are passionate about the future of our young people, we encourage you to follow both Ignite Afterschool and the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, two groups who are determinedly working to secure more youth funding from the City and State. Our kids deserve better.
Do you have a story of the power of K-5 programming, or want to share your experiences with the lack of it? Contact Julie: JulieG@pillsburyunited.org, 612-455-0365. We want to help uplift these stories to ensure we get the resources needed for our young people.
On March 30, 2019 the Minnesota Youth Council hosted the first of its kind, Youth in Educational Leadership Summit at Patrick Henry High School. The Minnesota Youth Council is a group of youth and adults working together to empower and mobilize young people across the state to use the power of their voices to address issues affecting youth. The event featured many young speakers. Janaan Ahmed spoke about advocacy and leadership and Maddy Fernands spoke about climate justice. Edie Weinstein, a young author, spoke about her book and connecting with people with dementia. More than 200 students, parents, mentors, and teachers participated in the event.
A team of Public Allies volunteered at the event. They did everything from provide childcare to take photos while not participating in workshops. “As a Public Ally, the experience at YELS was refreshing.” said second year Public Allies fellow You Lee. “Many times, youth voices are pushed aside to make space for adults or professionals in the room. So, it was cool to see youth-led presentations and overall coordination of the conference. I can see that the conference was a good experience for youth as they continue their work in the future.”
Public Allies is a national movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership capacities of our young people. Since 1992, Public Allies has helped thousands of underrepresented young leaders serve our country, get on successful pathways to higher education and careers, and bring communities together to work for the common good. Public Allies seeks to find and cultivate young community leaders and connect them to the issues and causes that ignite their passion to create last change. Allies are placed with a nonprofit organization where they help address critical community needs such as youth development, education, workforce development, environmental issues, arts programming and community health.
On March 5, 2019 Sisterhood Boutique celebrated its fifth anniversary with a fashion show. The boutique was started by Somali and east African girls as safe space to learn skills like financial literacy, leadership and sewing by running their own business selling secondhand clothes.
“We do a lot of things and the fashion show is a way to show the community what we’ve been doing. We’ve had over 200 people go through the process,” said store manager Amal Muse.
The fashion show is part birthday party, part fundraiser and features models of all shapes and sizes wearing looks designed by students from the University of St. Catherine’s Advanced Construction Class to reflect the diversity found in the West Bank neighborhood where the boutique is located.
“We have women wearing traditional hijabs and burkas; there’s everything. It really runs the gamut of what you would see walking around in a very fashionable Minneapolis,” said Julie Graves, Director of Career & Future Readiness.
For some of the girls involved with store, the show is a chance to strike a pose, while for others, it’s one more example that the Sisterhood Boutique lives up to its name.
“It’s very family-like. You feel like you are part of a sister family. I don’t have sisters, so I gained sisters,” Ali said.
On May 23, 2019 the team at Full Cycle made their first food delivery of the spring. The weather was great, everyone biked hard, and most importantly 150 meals were delivered to transitional living programs in Minneapolis. Food delivery by bike is just one of the many programs offered by Full Cycle, a social enterprise bicycle shop in south Minneapolis, MN that offers support and connection to young people experiencing homelessness.
Young people who have experience with homelessness can make an appointment to pick out and help fix a bike they can use for transportation. The free bikes also function to relieve stress, provide a fun outlet, and allow youth to practice being self-reliant. In addition, bike appointments are a natural way for youth and youth workers to get to know each other and how Full Cycle can be useful.
Full Cycle also offers youth a two-phase, six-month-long paid internship, which teaches a structured mechanic curriculum and imparts professional knowledge like résumé writing. The idea is to give kids a complete set of skills—not just the know-how to work on bikes.
Each spring, kids and their adult acting mentors star in plays written just for them by adult playwrights, and each winter, kids and their adult playwriting mentors write plays to be performed by adult actors. The most recent CAP show, Fortune Favors the Bold, was performed by kids and their adult acting mentors on April 22nd and 23rd. Among other stories, the plays included a robot uprising, a wolf directing a nature documentary, and a couple of cartoon characters having an existential crisis!
One of the CAP stars, 8-year-old Deparis, made his acting debut in Fortune Favors the Bold. He played a DJ named Mr. Peep who was on his way to the biggest show of his career, along with his trusty sidekick, Donkey. “I’ve been watching CAP since I was three years old,” he said. “I always wanted to do CAP, and now I have the opportunity, which I’m very excited about… I love CAP because I finally get to let out all my energy and I get to make things that just express me.”
Since 1996, the Chicago Avenue Project (CAP) has brought local youth together with the Twin Cities’ best adult playwrights, actors, and directors to create and produce original theatre that is heartwarming, hilarious, and infused with the brilliance of young minds.
To learn more about the Chicago Avenue Project, visit http://pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org/chicago-avenue-project/.