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Sondra Samuels inspired at the Fall Forum!

Posted: October 19, 2016

We were thrilled to have a full house for our Annual Fall Forum, Bridging the Divide. Sondra Samuels, President and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), has lived on the Northside of Minneapolis with her husband and children for 19 years. She and Andre Dukes, colleague and Youth Pastor at Shiloh Temple are working with parents to lead change, close the, “achievement and opportunity gaps” and inspire children to go to college. By partnering with over 40 agencies including Catholic Schools, they are changing the narrative about what is possible. Beating the odds against poverty has never been easy… 

Sondra also shared some of the historical barriers that have isolated the Northside including limited economic investment, geographic barriers, under resourced schools, racism and cumbersome public transit to name a few. The Northside Achievement Zone has reached across the city and our capitol to encourage investment in the greatest community asset, its people. By focusing on Early Childhood Education, preschool and kindergarten readiness, the Northside Achievement Zone is preparing children to be successful at school. They walk alongside parents by providing mentors, identifying issues that impact the family and making connections to community resources. 

The challenges are numerous. Many people in our audience at the Fall Forum asked what they could do to help. Sondra said the most important thing we could do was to pray for them. She is a person of deep faith. Sondra also encouraged people to visit the Northside, tour the Northside Achievement Zone, become a mentor and learn more about NAZ. As their five year Federal Promise Grant concludes this December, they are also looking for individuals and businesses to invest in their ground breaking work.

We are grateful to Sondra and Andre for joining us at the Fall Forum and sharing their inspiring work! The work at NAZ ties beautifully into our Catholic Social Teaching. In, “The Church of Mercy” written by Pope Francis, he says, “The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be, but she must step out. Jesus tells us, “Go into the World!” Go! Preach! Bear witness to the Gospel!” (Mark 16:15)1  This is an invitation to all of us to love, serve and seek justice. 

Thanks to all of our guests at the Fall Forum! If you would like to learn more about the work to end multi-generational poverty at the Northside Achievement Zone, please visit their website. If you would like to learn more about Catholic Social Teaching, there are copies of writings of the Popes through Encyclicals in the Social Justice Office. There are also copies of, “Think and Act Anew,” written by a previous guest speaker at the Fall Forum, Fr. Larry Snyder, former President of Catholic Charities USA, and the current Director for Mission at the University of St. Thomas. You may also visit the Vatican website, to learn more about Catholic thought and Catholic Social Teaching on poverty and justice. 
1 The Church of Mercy, Pope Francis, A Vision for the Church, page 99, Loyola Press, A Jesuit Ministry, 1994.