North High Scholarship Response 12/20/23

Dear Parents and Guardians, 

We hope this message finds you well. At Pillsbury United Communities (PUC), we are committed to supporting your child’s educational journey, and we understand the vital role scholarships play in this process. Recently, we’ve received feedback about difficulties in accessing the North High Scholarship funds. We want to clear up any confusion and provide clear guidance to ease the process. 

Steps to Receive the North High Scholarship: To ensure a smooth scholarship disbursement, please follow these steps: 

  1. Obtain a Student Statement: Ask your school’s financial aid office for a copy of your student statement. 
  2. Submit Required Information to PUC: Email the student statement to Gary Ly at GaryL@pillsburyunited.org.
    Please include:
     
  • Student’s Name 
  • Student’s Email 
  • Student ID or Social Security Number 
  • Statement with the balance due to the student’s account 
  • Address of the School’s Financial Aid or Bursar’s Office where the payment should be sent 

PUC will coordinate directly with your academic institution to apply your scholarship towards your balance. 

Additional Support for Post-secondary Planning: If your student is still considering their post-secondary options, PUC offers college and career counseling services. To access this support, please contact Gary Ly at GaryL@pillsburyunited.org or 651-252-4649 during business hours. 

Extended Deadline for Scholarship Application: We acknowledge the community’s need for more time to apply for the scholarship. Therefore, we are extending the application deadline to June 30th, 2024. 

Holiday Closure Notice: Please be aware that the PUC offices will be closed from December 25th to January 1st. During this period, responses may be delayed. We will resume regular operations on January 2nd. 

We appreciate your understanding and patience as we strive to assist each student effectively. Our goal is to make the scholarship process as accessible and supportive as possible. If you have any further concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

Thank you for your continued partnership in advancing your child’s education. 

Warm regards, 

Cinnamon Pelly 

President, CEO of Pillsbury United Communities 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

Can the check be cut directly to me? No. The check will only be distributed to an educational institution for eligible expenses. 

Can I give the $10,000 to someone else? No. The award is unique to you. Your classmates are all awarded the same amount and are not transferable to other classmates, friends or family members. 

What are the eligible expenses? Tuition, registration fees, room and board. Books and technology purchased only through the school. As noted, the institution will invoice Pillsbury directly for any fees incurred for you. 

 Do I have to spend all the money at once? No, but all funds must be utilized by June 30, 2024. 

 I graduated in summer ’23. Can I access the scholarship funds? Currently, the funds are specifically for students who graduated in 2022. 

A Series of Immersive Cultural Events

September was a month of celebration of food and culture at the Brian Coyle Center thanks to “We Are Cedar Riverside”, an event series that invited any and all people from across the city to attend cultural immersion workshops hosted at the community center. The event included a series of workshops based around Somali, Oromo, and Native American cultures – three cultures that heavily populate the neighborhood of Cedar Riverside. The series also included Brian Coyle’s annual Multicultural Dinner, which hosted over 700 people and featured food from local restaurants and performances.  

Things kicked off with the Somali Cultural Immersion Workshop on September 9th. Members who attended were provided a rich history of the country of Somalia and its people by a representative from The Somali Museum of Minnesota. Artifacts and textiles from the museum were included in the presentation to show off the country’s beautiful art. After the event, participants were given a feast of Somali foods and flavors provided by local vendors.  

At the Oromo Cultural Immersion Workshop, Dr. Hussien Kedir Kelil of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) led a highly informative lecture on Oromia and what life is like for the Oromo people. Dr. Kelil is a PhD holder and an Associate Professor of Policy and Leadership and is a prominent and exceedingly respected influential personality among the Oromo people His presentation illustrated how Ethiopia is widely regarded as a unique and incredible place. The crowd was captivated to learn that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Spectators got to try Ethiopian cuisine after the event and engaged in discussions about what they had learned.

The Native American Cultural Immersion Workshop wrapped up the series with a presentation from Jennifer Webber an Oklahoma Choctaw Tribal descendant as well as our Youth Operations Manager at Pillsbury United Communities, and Dancina Warner, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. Their presentation focused on the history, culture and current events of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and Dakota Tribes located in the state of Minnesota. It provided exposure to the culture, spirituality, and communities so that audience members could listen to their experiences and feel more educated.  

One of the most anticipated events of the series and of the year was the Multicultural Dinner. This beautiful Fall evening took place on September 21st and consisted of food, performances, and cultural celebration. Lines of food were set up in Brian Coyle’s gymnasium for community members to walk through and dish up a variety of different cuisines. Once their plates were full, they transitioned outside towards rows of tables which were set up to drive conversation and discussion. Performers representing Somali, Native American, Ecuadorian, and Oromo cultures got up on stage to dance while groups gathered by the stage to enjoy. The evening concluded with lots of warm smiles, full bellies, and a rejuvenated sense of community among neighbors.  

Thank you to everyone who came and participated in this year’s workshops and dinner. Events like these are so special when we get to share them with members of our community. Thank you to all the volunteers who put forth their time and energy to serve plates, greet faces, and decorate Brian Coyle Center. Lastly, thank you to our sponsors who helped put on this event and make this year’s annual tradition one of the best it’s ever been.  

“Our Stories Our Lake Street” Showcase

On Friday, August 18th, seven of our youth interns voiced their concerns and advocated for change in their community during the “Our Stories Our Lake Street” Showcase at Urban Ventures in Minneapolis. The event was a partnership between Pillsbury United Communities and the Minnesota Humanities Center to celebrate youth voices from in and around East Lake Street.

Our youth interns put in time and effort over the summer to research issues in their community, interview locals, and craft speeches and to create a final film that encapsulated their perspectives. With the mentorship of their youth leader, Kay Carvajal Moran, they created a piece of work that reflected their beliefs and findings. The efforts of their work were on full display during the event. 

The evening started with a social hour as party-goers chatted with the numerous vendors in attendance. Tables were set up for jewelry, fruit, artwork, and more. A food truck occupied the street right outside of the entrance. One of the wildest attractions of the showcase were two piñatas just outside of the building. Both were quickly raided for their sweet treats by the children in an exciting frenzy.

After all the fun festivities, the crowd gathered at the stage to welcome the interns who were ready to present their work. Each intern began with a prepared speech that talked about the different issues citizens face on and around Lake Street. To cater to the audience, a mix of English and Spanish were used. The issues they spoke on ranged from drug and alcohol abuse, housing insecurity, food access, education, etc. It was clear that their time spent on these topics either taught them new things or reinforced what they already felt.

Following their powerful words was what had originally been a set time to screen their film. Due to unforeseen technical issues, the attendees were not able to complete their screening. In lieu of this, however, members of the audience were invited to the stage to share their own words, speeches, or poetry in a moment of impromptu magic. Everyone in attendance left the event feeling assured with the future of Minneapolis being in these students’ hands.

The Natural Hair Care Institute

Continuing its mission to co-creates enduring change toward a just society, Pillsbury United Communities began a partnership with Natural Hair Care Institute (NHCI) this summer. This organization is the first natural hair training program and trade school in the Twin Cities. Founded in September 2022, the NHCI aspires to be the premier provider of dynamic and innovative programs of natural hair care education and services in Minneapolis.

The NHCI helps train people to care for a career in natural hair care and braiding. They do this by providing up-to-date training with all types of hair textures in their state-of-the-art facilities. Upon completing the 8-week training program, students earn a Minnesota Office of Higher Education-recognized certificate. Techniques taught during the program include extending, locking or braiding of hair by hand and much more.

In order to help cover the cost of attending the program, PUC is offering financial assistance to through its Youth Employment Program. People between the ages of 16-24 and who qualify for various criteria can receive aid to help put them through this program. The NHCI just began its most recent cohort on July 18th and students will be hard at work studying to make the most out of their education. The next cohort does not begin until November 13th of this year and applications are now open for that period.

Through Pillsbury United Communities, students will ultimately receive case management services from a Career Counselor including: goal-setting, support services, gift card incentives and job placement.

Here are some resources

In July, PUC’s Community Voice Intern, Alanee sat down with NHCI’s Founder Kemi to discuss the school and the program’s curriculum.

Natural Hair Care Institute Multimedia Campaign

Additionally, Kemi joined KRSM’s Andrea Pierre on her show ‘The Narrative’ to discuss the program and the upcoming cohort. Watch the video below.

Codifying community wisdom for educational equity

The murder of George Floyd demanded that Minnesota, and the country, reckon with the violent systemic racism in American policing.  The pandemic has made similar demands of our education system. The past couple of years were supposed to be a watershed moment of transformative change. Unfortunately, there now exists a narrative (and for the most part, a reality) that little progress has been made.

It has become clear that our systems are unlikely and unable to lead change at the scale of what is needed. The Minnesota State Legislature adjourned with billions left on the table this year. While community groups continue to demand a special session to move critical legislation forward to meet the urgent needs of students across the state, it remains doubtful that the legislature will substantially reconvene and pass an education bill.

At Pillsbury United Communities and our Office of Public Charter Schools, we are not waiting for the political posturing and an election cycle to conclude to move forward with transformational change. We are acting now. The primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income students, and families we serve deserve an educational accountability system that is built for and designed by them. 

Pillsbury United has been a community-driven charter school authorizer since 2007. We intentionally authorize schools that serve students who have historically been served poorly in traditional district settings, enduring chronic educational disparities for decades. We come to the work with an investment and a track record of attacking the institutional racism that plagues education.

In 2021 our team set out to redesign our accountability system for the schools in our portfolio to align with our values as an organization and the assets in our schools. Our goal has been to develop an accountability system that celebrates schools’ innovative, anti-racist, student-centered, and community-responsive practices, while also calling all of us to be better and do better.

No longer could we accept a narrative that our students were failing.  Our students, families, and communities are incredible assets that bring infinite wisdom to our education system – if only we really listen to them and act.

In our structures, we have codified community wisdom into an accountability framework that is relevant and responsive to our students and not reliant on racist, white normative measurements of assessments.  Our Equity Framework, developed in partnership with Future Focused Education, is the highlight of this work and will be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education for approval to ensure our schools report outcomes using our new system for the 2022-2023 school year.

This is the work our students, families, and communities have called for and it has been our mission to deliver.

Read the full framework here

Samantha Diaz Named Director of Office of Public Charter Schools

Welcome graphic for Samantha Diaz

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Pillsbury United Communities has named Samantha Diaz as its new Director of the Office of Public Charter Schools (OPCS).

In this role, Samantha will provide oversight and evaluation for all charter schools authorized by Pillsbury United Communities—supporting the operations, compliance, and efficacy of existing and prospective charters within the Pillsbury United network.

Additionally, Samantha will facilitate the OPCS’ ongoing work of developing a “community of practice” within the charter school sector, deepening best practices around authorizing standards; building awareness of policy shifts impacting the sector; and developing collaborative approaches to achieve the best educational experience for all students.

“Samantha is a fierce advocate for Black and brown children, with a deep commitment to equity and accountability,” said Adair Mosley, President & CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. “Given her immense knowledge of charter schools and policy, she was the ideal candidate to lead the continuing evolution of the OPCS in developing new and pioneering authorizing practices.”

Samantha previously served as Associate Authorizer Liaison for the OPCS and most recently served as the Education Legislation & Policy Director at the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. Prior to Samantha’s work in Minnesota, she served as Legislative Director for the Chairman of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizen Committee in the New Jersey State Legislature. She received her Master’s in Public Administration at Baruch College – Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, and a Bachelor’s degree in History at Kean University. Samantha is also an alumni of the National Urban Fellows leadership development program.

The OPCS authorizes 20 public charter schools throughout the state of Minnesota, including sites throughout the Twin Cities Metro, and in Rochester and St. Cloud. These schools are designed so that the children and families whose needs are not being met by traditional public schools have access to relevant education that supports each student’s personal, social, and academic achievement.

Learning that sparks imagination and potential

Young girl at PEEC

Birth through age five is a critical time in childhood, when little brains make more connections than at any other time in life. During this important window, children need access to age-appropriate learning — social, emotional, and academic — or risk falling behind. Yet many children in our state lack the early learning opportunities they need to arrive at kindergarten prepared. That feeds the pronounced achievement gaps in Minnesota, where our students of color rank at the bottom nationally for graduation rates, test scores, and other metrics.

The reality is, access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally-relevant preschool is severely limited in precisely the communities where it’s most needed. We see that as an urgent call to action. To give more children in our community the opportunity to succeed, we created Pillsbury Early Education Center, or PEEC.

Situated in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, PEEC prepares children to thrive in school and life with a genuinely integrated approach. More than ABCs and 123s, PEEC works to nurture kids’ curiosity, creativity, and cultural identities and support their physical and emotional well-being. Staffed by experienced teachers who know the communities they serve, PEEC brings culturally responsive instruction that responds to and celebrates diversity and difference.

Arts have the power to increase access, attachment, and agency for all. So we make creativity the hallmark our curriculum. The school is housed in a vibrant neighborhood arts center that supplies teaching artists to the program. Our teachers are creative role models who encourage children to express themselves through writing, drumming, movement, music and formal and informal performances. As part of PEEC’s theatre and storytelling curriculum, preschoolers create and act out their own stories — developing literacy, communication skills, and confidence in the process.

When families are engaged, children simply learn better. PEEC is co-located with a variety of Pillsbury United social services, making parental involvement part of families’ daily routine. Through tuition support and other resources, we help families in times of financial hardship, so kids have a stable foundation for whatever uncertainty life brings.

Around 40 children a year participate in PEEC. And the results speak for themselves. In 2017 and 2018, 100% of children aging out of the program demonstrated kindergarten readiness. 100% of younger children showed age-appropriate social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. 100% were up to date with immunizations and received well child check-ups. And 100% of parents and caregivers reported that the information and resources PEEC provided helped with positive parenting.

Of course, PEEC can’t solve the gaps in educational access and achievement on its own. Our brand of culturally-attuned education can serve as a model, in Minnesota and beyond, for how communities prepare their youngest members for a lifetime of lively learning and creative participation.

“Our family has loved the exposure to the arts — dance, singing, theatre, art and the cultural influences provided at Pillsbury. Our girls’ confidence in themselves and creative energy is a direct result of their time at Pillsbury.” — Genevieve, Parent

BY THE NUMBERS

100% success rates for kindergarten readiness over the past six years

4-STAR rating from Parent Aware, their highest rating

3 languages of instruction: English, Spanish, and ASL

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