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Imagine a different kind of life...

Posted: September 09, 2016

Last week a group of people from St. Patrick’s Church went on a bus tour of the Northside in preparation of our Fall Forum, Bridging the Divide, on Tuesday, October 11 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm in St. Martin’s Hall. Sondra Samuels, President and CEO at the Northside Achievement Zone will share the hopes, joys and struggles involved with ending generational poverty and working with their community to rebuild North Minneapolis one block at a time. The goal of the bus tour was to build a relationship with NAZ and to help us understand the challenges they face. The conversation ranged from grocery stores to education, real estate, bus routes and economic development. Our tour guide compared our experiences living in Edina with residents of North Minneapolis.

We started our conversation with groceries. It sounds simple. Imagine that you are cooking dinner and you forgot a couple of key ingredients. If you are like me, this means a quick trip to Jerry’s or Lund’s. Both stores are only a couple of minutes away. Both stores are stocked with beautiful, fresh meat, seafood, spices, fruits and vegetables. They offer a fabulous selection of fresh baked breads and desserts. It’s bright and clean. If I need fresh coffee, there are coffee shops conveniently located within in the stores. If I need flowers, there is a florist on site. One of the highlights of a trip to the grocery store is running into friends and catching up on the news...

What if you lived in a community that only had one grocery store? Your only alternatives were expensive convenience stores with a limited selection of merchandise that offered few healthy options for your family. Instead of enjoying a cup of coffee or an espresso in a lovely coffee shop, your option for a cup of coffee on the, “go” involved a trip to the gas station. What if 50th and France was filled with fast food restaurants like North Minneapolis? What if we only had one locally owned restaurant and one bakery? These were some of the scenarios we discussed on our tour.

In contrast to a limited selection of shops on the main street in North Minneapolis, downtown Edina offers beautiful shops and restaurants. We enjoy safe, tree lined boulevards with gorgeous seasonal flowers, outdoor patios and well maintained, clean roads. People walk and ride their bikes without fear.  All of these elements create natural intersections to build community life for families. It’s a combination of great city planning, strong businesses, and neighborhoods without the back drop of violence.

Life in North Minneapolis has become tougher because freeway designs in recent years have created more physical barriers, isolation and limited access to many amenities in the City of Minneapolis. Even with the work of neighbors, community leaders, teachers and churches, there are still so many gaps. North Minneapolis has one of the highest poverty rates in the city. It has been difficult to generate strong, economic growth and attract high paying jobs.

The North Side Achievement Zone (NAZ) is working from the, “inside out” to build a stronger community,leveraging the strength of parents and children in North Minneapolis by focusing on education, from parenting classes, pre-school, and elementary education through high school. They are creating a broader vision for families and writing a different narrative focused on possibilities. After five years, NAZ is making strides and closing the achievement gap. They are also focused on closing the “opportunity” gap. NAZ’s powerful message that transformational change can happen is a core belief grounded in action.

The dream of the NAZ is that all of its, “scholars” will go to college. They also dream of authentic change in the landscape of their community that speaks to their aspirations and reflects their values of community, diverse cultures and voices with opportunities and access for all of its residents.

Join us for a game changing conversation on poverty, justice and education at St. Patrick’s Annual Fall Forum, Bridging the Divide. The event is free and open to the community! It includes a community dinner! Click here to register!