Archive | October, 2018

United Seminary slider

United Theological Seminary to move from New Brighton to Midway

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Ecumenical seminary supports a community-based model to serve diversity of people inside and outside the church

At a time when seminary students are seeking connection, flexibility, and community involvement, the United Theological Seminary has decided to move from the suburbs into the city.

Seminary representatives signed a lease in September for 25,000 square feet at the Case Building (767 N. Eustis St.), and work will start soon on the space.

Classes for the spring term will begin at the new campus on Jan. 14, 2019.

Photo right: United Theological Seminary will be moving from New Brighton into the Towerside Innovation District and Creative Enterprise Zone in St. Paul. Classes are set to start in the former Case warehouse at 767 N. Eustice St. in January 2019, which is just a few blocks away from the Green Lightrail line on University. The new location also sits at the intersection of Highway 280 and Interstate 94. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Our new campus space will be designed to best serve seminary education of today where many students participate remotely and require state-of-the-art technology, and many in-residence students commute and prefer an urban setting with access to mass transit,” observed United Theological Seminary President Lee Zeidner (photo left provided).

“It will be in a vibrant community surrounded by emerging arts and non-profit organizations with socially conscious missions—this will create opportunities for collaborative efforts and opportunities for students to be involved in a multitude of community efforts as part of their training.”

Global Academy, a pre-K-8th grade International Baccalaureate Charter School, has purchased the seminary’s former location in New Brighton.

A melting pot of faith
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities was founded in 1962 by the United Church of Christ as an ecumenical seminary serving all Protestant denominations. “Unlike other seminaries in the Cities that were single denomination focused (Lutheran, Baptist or Roman Catholic), United’s founders recognized the value of ecumenical training as families and communities became melting pots of faith traditions,” observed Zeidner.

United was started in New Brighton as the merging of two seminaries: Yankton Seminary in South Dakota and Mission House Seminary in Wisconsin. The land it was built on was originally a pig farm. In the 1980s, much of the land was sold off and became Seminary Estates, a community of single-family homes.

Photo right: United Theological Seminary students in a typical class with examples of the school’s theological art collection in the background. (Photo submitted)

The current campus in New Brighton consisted of about five acres with four buildings: the original classroom building that now includes an award-winning architectural chapel built about ten years ago, a library and dining building, an administrative building and the residence building.

United will continue to own and operate the residential units adjacent to the New Brighton campus and rent them to students. The seminary will provide subsidies for transportation from the residential units to the St. Paul campus for students that do not have access to cars.

Strong social justice bent
United has had a strong social justice bent throughout its existence, pointed out Zeidner, such as advocating for women in ministry 25 years ago when faith leadership was very male-dominated.

United has served many seminarians who have been historically marginalized by traditional church teachings, he added, and United’s work has evolved as societal challenges inside and outside of the church have similarly changed.

“More recently United has been on the front lines of advocating for the welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian people in the church and now in ministry,” said Zeidner.

“Seminary was once a cloistered environment mostly serving white men on a path to church ministry—today it is a community-based model that serves a wide diversity of people on paths to serving people inside and outside the church in developing and exploring their spiritual lives,” remarked Zeidner.

Photo left: United Seminary students learn alongside distance education students (on the screen in the background). (Photo submitted)

United has increased its focus on inter-religious chaplaincy —helping chaplains who will serve patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities, the military, and other settings to better understand and relate to people of all faith traditions, not just Christians.

“Deeply understanding intercultural and inter-religious wisdom can help our graduates better serve those who they are in service to,” remarked Zeidner.

This fall, there are about 100 students enrolled at United, 80% in masters programs and 20% in doctoral programs.

About 30% of students are people of color, and 47% of students identify themselves as female. Students come from across the United States, as well as from all continents and a multitude of countries outside of the U.S.

No denomination represents more than 20% of students. Students who define themselves as “none” (having no religious path in their background) represent nearly 10% of students.

A flexible space
The one-story, 180-000-sq-ft brick Case Building was built by the Case Corp. in 1948 as a tractor parts distribution warehouse. Suntide Commercial Realty initiated development of the 1940s structure in St. Paul’s Westgate industrial area. The area includes about six city blocks nestled into an area bounded by University Ave. to the north, Hwy. 280 to the east, Interstate 94 to the south and the Minneapolis border to the west.

The space is currently a large shell with structural characteristics including many skylights and an urban green space. United hired Doug Pierce, an architect from Perkins and Will, to design its new campus.

The design will include a beautiful chapel, flexible space for creative expression including visual and performing arts, a space for prayer and meditation for those of many faiths, a community dining area, large classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, a technologically modern library, multiple bright and engaging student huddle and study areas and a patio in an urban green space right outside. The city plans to transform an abandoned rail spur and bridge over Hwy. 280 into a bike-and-pedestrian trail connection running past the Case Building.

“Our new space is designed with input from students, alumni, faculty and staff and in that context will create an ideal learning culture for a diverse and vibrant seminary community,” commented Zeidner.

“The space is designed to be fully accessible, green and comfortable for our diverse student, faculty, and staff body.”

United’s move to the Towerside Innovation District and Creative Enterprise Zone will better support existing curricular offerings and make way for new educational models.

While coursework in the arts and theology, social justice, and interreligious competency have been optional up until now, starting fall 2019, they will be required. Technology infrastructure will support a growing base of distance education students.

Rev. Karen Hutt, vice president for student formation, vocation, and experience, plans to provide new places and contexts for United students to serve. “We’ve partnered with Episcopal Homes to support their spiritual development program through chaplaincy internships,” stated Hutt.
She continued, “Our partnership with Episcopal Homes is just one way our students are addressing the changing role of the church.

“People are lonely and in trouble everywhere—public spaces, clinics, libraries, correctional facilities, waiting rooms and human service organizations. These same people may not be going to church to talk to a minister, but they certainly benefit from talking to a chaplain or even a chaplain in training. This is what community and fellowship look like to our seminary students.”

The concept of church evolving
The concept of the church may be evolving, but the core needs of people are not going away, stated Zeidner.

“While much has been written about the diminishing perceived need for ‘church’ at the center of community life in modern society, the need for a spiritual life within the community is growing life,” said Zeidner. “A place to ask the big questions of life about the broader meanings of our lives and how we can live happier and more fulfilled lives in community with others are still important to many.”

He continued, “Despite the clouds of ambiguity about the future of faith communities, it seems clear that less will center on large buildings with steeples and stained glass.”

“More will require leaders who can bridge between the everyday experiences of people and historical contexts and texts in a manner that is perceived as relevant and useful,” Zeidner concluded. “More will require leaders who can lead from within the community rather than from raised pulpits with sage voices. Leaders will require strong interpersonal skills with egos that can tolerate conflict and ambiguity. More will require deep skills at meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of people.”

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CRWD is 20! 120

Capitol Region Watershed District celebrates 20 years of service

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

The iron used to make Ringler’s sculpture was heated to 2,500 degrees, and carried very carefully to the pour site by her students. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) celebrated two decades of exemplary water stewardship on Sept. 21. The well-attended gathering served several purposes: it showcased the agency’s new headquarters at 595 Aldine St., which will be completed in November. It was a chance to celebrate CRWD’s many achievements and strong community partnerships. And last, but far from least, supporters were able to watch sculptor Tamsie Ringler and her team make an art piece out of molten iron as the sun went down.

CRWD is a local, special-purpose unit of government that works to protect, manage, and improve lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands within its boundaries. The district covers 40 square miles and includes portions of Maplewood, Rosedale, and St. Paul. All of the water in the district eventually drains into the Mississippi River.

Administrator Mark Doneux opened the evening’s program by saying, “We have had many successful projects and innovations in the last 20 years, all of which happened because of strong partnerships.”

Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman was the first to lift her glass and offer a toast. “I haven’t seen another agency that does a better job of using tools and tax levies responsibly. Here’s to another 20 years!” she said.

CRWD Citizen Advisory Committee Member David Arbeit has been on the board since the first day. “We moved to the Como neighborhood from Austin Texas,” he said, “and couldn’t believe how awful the water quality of Como Lake was at the time. The District 10 Council invited neighbors in to talk about what could be done. A group of us petitioned the State of Minnesota, and a modest version of CRWD was created in 1998. We’re proud of how far we’ve come.”

Following complimentary food from the Foxy Felafel food truck, beverages from Burning Brothers Brewery, and live blues music by Dan Rumsey, sculptor Tamsie Ringler supervised a live performance pour of molten iron. The iron used to make Ringler’s sculpture was heated to 2,5000 degrees and carried very carefully to the pour site by her students. The bright red metal filled the rivulets and streams of the 8 1/2’ x 12’ mold, eventually forming a portrait of the river that will hang in the new office building.

CRWD is excited to start the next chapter in its history. They’ll be moving into their Midway location in November, a repurposed building that formerly housed city street sweepers. Green building principles have been used to remodel the entire building, including stormwater management and energy-saving practices. The building will have public, interactive features designed to provide a unique look at watershed science. There will also be an on-site watershed learning center and a pocket park with water elements for neighbors and visitors to enjoy.

For more information, visit www.capitolregionwd.org.

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Galtier 16

New maker space at Galtier Elementary is a hit with students

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

A maker space is someplace where students gather to create, invent, tinker, explore, and discover, using a variety of tools and materials. No two school maker spaces are exactly alike—they’re as unique as the school culture they represent.

Galtier Elementary, 1317 Charles Ave., has a brand new maker space located in their Exploratorium/Library. According to principal Sharon Hendrix, “All of the classes (K-5) get a 50-minute block of time in the maker space each week. Suddenly it’s everybody’s favorite thing to do.”

Hendrix is a second year principal at Galtier, and a 29-year veteran of the Saint Paul Public School District. “I’ve been very inspired by the maker space at the new Bell Museum,” she said, “and it helped to bring my thinking to the next level of what a maker space could be. Our staff believes in the mindset of our maker space because it incorporates design thinking and collaboration. The kids are challenged to look at problem-solving physically, by manipulating materials with their hands. They’re also challenged to look at form and function in real, three-dimensional ways.”

Photo right: Principal Sharon Hendrix enjoyed Galtier Elementary School’s new maker space, along with a kindergarten class. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The open, inviting space at Galtier has several low tables, and a variety of materials set out for kids to experiment with: everything from legos, blocks, and marbles to Play-Doh and craft materials. Students either work independently or with a friend, requiring relatively little instruction or assistance.

Hendrix explained, “We also have a 3D printer which has been popular with all of the grades. It’s important for kids to learn how to code computers and, with the 3D printer, they can see the results of their coding. It’s like learning a foreign language, and it’s an important one to learn. 80% of the jobs that will exist for our elementary school age students don’t even exist yet.”

Hendrix is looking for parents and community members interested in volunteering in the maker space, either on an ongoing or occasional basis. The supervising teacher, Wilson Goss, would always be present, and volunteers would work with small groups of no more than five students at a time. All talents and interests are welcome; makers are artists, crafters, knitters, seamstresses, builders, programmers, engineers, painters, woodworkers, tinkerers, inventors, graphic artists and more. Contact Hendrix directly at 651-293-8710 if you are interested.

The maker space is part of the five-year vision Hendrix has for Galtier Elementary. “I wrote and received a 50K Bush Foundation grant last April,” she said. “We’re using the grant in a number of ways including teacher training to personalize the learning experience, and professional development on improving classroom management with non-verbal cues. There are a number of students enrolled here who are coming from difficult life situations; we can’t get to academic learning until we have success with social and emotional learning. Our test scores are still not great, but I’m hopeful that innovations like the maker space, along with our other efforts to personalize learning, can help to turn things around.”

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Prior Ave N

On-street parking? Nope, wider bike lanes with buffer zones.

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Right now, Prior Ave. between University and Minnehaha avenues has 2 traffic lanes, 2 5-ft bike lanes and one parking lane. A Council-passed proposal would widen the bike lanes and remove the on-street parking. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Wider, buffered bike lanes will be installed on Prior Ave. between University and Minnehaha avenues. The St. Paul City Council approved the project Sept. 5. The lanes are intended to provide a safer and more comfortable cycling experience on a north-south bike route. Work will be done as part of a street mill and overlay project this fall.

City Council members said they’ve heard strong support for bike lane improvements and unanimously approved the project. While the project has its supporters, including Hamline Midway Coalition and area cyclists and members of the city’s cycling groups, it has drawn objections from a landscaping business that uses Prior for parking.

Prior has had bike lanes for several years but they are about five feet wide in the area north of University. It’s not a width city officials and cyclists consider adequate today.

“It does meet our standards for bike lanes, but it is the absolute minimum,” said Reuben Collins of St. Paul Public Works.

Prior is a collector street and Municipal-State Aid route. It carries more than 4,800 vehicles per day. The posted speed is 30 miles per hour. It’s not a transit route but connects to several bus routes and Green Line light rail at University.

The street is about 40’ wide between Charles and Minnehaha avenues, with two 11’ travel lanes, two 5’ bike lanes, and an 8’ parking lane. It has parking on the east side.

The changes after the mill and overlay allow for 11’ travel lanes, 2’ buffer lanes, 7’ bike lanes, and no on-street parking. Public Works will also reconfigure the area near University on the north side of Prior, to add turning space and improve safety.

Because the project is in a commercial-industrial area with no residential uses, Public Works didn’t hold an open house but instead reached out to property owners. One property owner objected to the project, citing the loss of on-street parking.

Josh Arvold and his brother own Arvold Landscaping at 622 Prior. They bought their property in February and use their lot area to store landscaping materials and supplies. Arvold said employees and customers park on Prior and will have to walk a block when the parking is removed.

While supporting the street and bike improvements, Arvold said the change would create a hardship for the family business.

Collins said city officials heard from a second business owner who wants changes made on Prior south of University. But those won’t happen until the street is reconstructed in 2022.

Another person who’d like to see improvements extended north is Rob Clapp, one of the owners of the Can Can Wonderland entertainment complex just north of Minnehaha. He asked if the mill and overlay could be extended one block, as that stretch of street is in poor condition, and also asked city officials to consider making the street more walkable.

Clapp and other proponents spoke for the project’s safety aspects for bicyclists. Hamline Midway Coalition member Erin Parrish was among those who frequently bike along Prior, and don’t feel safe with the current narrow lane configuration. Neighborhood resident Jake Ruter cited the importance of Prior as a bike corridor.

Improvements to Prior are consistent with the bicycle plan the City Council adopted in 2015. Long-term, a goal is to have the lanes be a connection to a future bike route along Pierce Butler Rte.

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Adopt a drain 1

Which neighborhood can adopt more drains?

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Como, Hamline-Midway, and Macalester-Groveland accept the adopt-a-drain challenge for cleaner water

Which St. Paul neighborhood can adopt more storm drains over the next year? The challenge has been accepted by the Como, Hamline-Midway, and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods.

As of Oct. 1, 630 storm drains have been adopted by local residents.

The official breakdown of the competing neighborhoods:
• Como/District 10—197 participants have adopted 297 drains.
• Hamline-Midway—103 participants have adopted 159 drains.
• Mac-Groveland—115 participants have adopted 174 drains.

“Unlike adopting a pet or a child, storm drains are pretty easy to take care of,” remarked Hamline Midway Environment Committee member Lucia Hunt. “By signing up, a neighbor commits to watching a drain and making sure it stays clear of garbage, leaves, ice, and other debris. This means visiting the storm drain every month or two and sweeping it clean, weeding around it, and tossing litter into the trash. Chopping ice buildup in the winter is a great way to keep our streets clear and dry during slush season.”

Hunt first learned about the Adopt-A-Drain program while going through the Master Water Steward coursework when they were all encouraged to adopt their own drain.

“There is an education component to the Master Water Steward program, and instead of coming up with a unique idea, I thought about how to increase adoption rates in my neighborhood,” recalled Hunt. “I wanted to start a friendly competition between the neighborhoods to inspire some pride and pleasure in water conservation.”

The competition between neighborhoods began in August.

What washes down the drain…
“Water quality issues are making the news more and more here in Minnesota. We talk a lot about the impact of agricultural practices, but our urban impact can be just as damaging to the water bodies we love and are connected with,” observed Hunt. “Some of us use pesticides and fertilizers on our lawns, rake our leaves into the street, or are careless with our wrappers and garbage. It is important to realize what happens to all that stuff when it goes down the drains.”

“Many people do not know that our storm sewers go directly into lakes and rivers without any filtration,” remarked Jenni Abere, who administers the Adopt-A-Drain program out of Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education. “Also, many people don’t know that leaves and grass (in excess) actually pollute lakes and rivers.”

Phosphorus is one of the most troublesome pollutants in stormwater runoff. When leaves, lawn clippings, animal wastes, fertilizers, and soil are picked up by stormwater runoff and are carried directly to local lakes and streams, they provide the lakes with excess phosphorus. This excess phosphorus increases algae growth and is why lakes turn green.

“All of the water, plastic bottles, straws, leaves, and road grime go straight through the underground pipes to the Mississippi River—unfiltered, untreated, and unseen,” stated Hunt.

“We do not have any surface water in the Hamline Midway neighborhood, so everything appears to just ‘go away.’ However, if you take a stroll along the riverbanks, it’s a real eye-opener when you see all that trash accumulating and even worse is the invisible nutrient load flowing downstream.”

District 10 Como Community Council Executive Director Michael Kuchta pointed out that storm sewers are the tributaries for Como Lake.

“What washes down the sewer grates goes directly into the lake—trash, excessive nutrients, and who knows what else. It’s the equivalent to manure and fertilizer runoff into the Minnesota River. It directly degrades water quality,” stated Kuchta. “In our case, anyone walking past could see and smell the consequences this summer—green water, algae blooms, and all kinds of trash in the water and on the shoreline.”

40,000 pounds of debris diverted last year
By adopting a drain, participants commit to keeping it clear of leaves, trash, and sediment. These simple steps keep debris from washing down the storm drain and becoming pollution in local waterways.

Last winter and spring, St. Paul participants diverted more than 40,000 pounds of debris from metro area lakes and rivers.

The Adopt-A-Drain program began in 2014 with support from the city of St. Paul and Capitol Region Watershed District. It was subsequently piloted in Bloomington, Roseville, Maple Grove, and Minneapolis, with support from those cities plus Nine Mile Creek and Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed Districts.

“There is a surprising number of people who are not ‘official’ adopters but who have been cleaning out their storm drains for years,” Hunt commented. “They understand that the work they do benefits the entire neighborhood and that those individual civic actions make the Midway a better place to live.

“If you are considering adopting, look for one that you walk by or live by so it’s not a hassle to visit it. You can even give your drain a name! Sign up at Adopt-a-Drain.org and pick one or two drains, or go all out and adopt an entire intersection to call your own.”

Kuchta added, “We’re in this friendly competition with other neighborhoods because it provides a fun way for all of us to take a simple, specific step to start turning things around. If residents adopt a drain, if they keep catch basins and gutters clear of grass clippings, leaves, and other debris, it makes an immediate, positive impact on Como Lake. Plus, you get a nice-looking sign for your yard.”

This fall, District 10 is also partnering with the city’s public works department to spread the word that it is illegal to rake leaves into the street.

4-year-old adopts a drain
When four-year-old Miriam Hansen walked past the Adopt-A-Drain exhibit at the State Fair, it was a no-brainer for her family. They adopted a drain.

Photo left: Miriam Hansen checks her drain daily. “Drains need to be clean so the water can drain down it,” explained the four-year-old. (Photo submitted)

“My daughter’s pre-K class focused on learning about rivers,” explained her mother, Jill Hansen, of the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, who was inspired by her daughter’s excitement. “As a part of this, they included drains and where the water goes.”

During family walks, they started paying attention to the storm drains they walked past and cleaning them as needed. “We had many conversations about water, the animals living in and around the river, and the effect trash can have on them,” said J. Hansen. “It was exciting for our daughter. The connection she made with helping the earth and animals was caring and beautiful.”

Miriam checks her drain daily. If she notices that the drain near hers that was adopted by neighbors needs to be cleared, she is very prompt in telling them so.

“Drains need to be clean so the water can drain down it,” explained the four-year-old. “The water goes to the river. We can’t let garbage go down it because then the fish could eat it and die.”
J. Hansen appreciates the Adopt-A-Drain program.

“I love that it empowers the community to play a small part,” said J. Hansen. “If we all do a small part it can make a big difference.”

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Upgrade of University Ave. Fire Station 20 delayed yet again

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

The long-awaited replacement of the West Midway’s Fire Station 20 (2179 University Ave.) will wait for a few more years. A proposed $1 million allocation to start the station relocation and replacement process has been zeroed out of the city’s 2019 Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB). The change, proposed by Mayor Melvin Carter’s administration, was reviewed by the CIB Committee in September. It will be adopted at year’s end as part of the city’s overall 2019 budget.

The budget calls for moving $500,000 to the East Side’s Fire Station 7. Another $500,000 was moved to Rice Recreation Center in the North End. Funds for both projects will be used to plan new facilities.

A check with Midway Chamber of Commerce and area district councils indicated that people weren’t aware of the proposed budget change.

East Side’s Station 7 was a flash­point in last year’s city budget process because adding a medic rig there took away a fire engine. The new, larger station would allow a fire engine to return to Station 7, said Ward Seven Council Member Jane Prince.

Fire Chief Butch Inks presented plans showing Station 7 being completed in 2020-21. The planning and construction process For Station 20 would then start in 2020-21.

Inks said replacement of Station 20 is also an infrastructure need. Station 7 was built in 1930. Station 20 was built in 1921.

Station 20 serves parts of the West Midway, Merriam Park and St. Anthony Park. Earlier this year an ambulance was added there to meet a growing demand for medical services, under a plan announced by Carter. The closest ambulances were at Station 23 (1926 Como Ave.) or Station 14 (111 Snelling Ave. N.) Moving the ambulance was hailed as an improvement for public safety.

A fire engine was moved from Station 7 to Station 20, tripling the number of rigs there from one to three. But that sparked the battle to get the engine back to the East Side.

Replacement of Station 20 has been discussed for more than two decades. Studies over the years, including the 2017 TriData consultants’ study, indicates the city has gaps in fire service coverage, including West Midway. The need becomes more pronounced with redevelopment along the Green Line light rail, where many new housing units have been added.

Another need that has been raised is fire safety at the Westrock, formerly RockTenn, paper recycling plant one block south of Station 20. It is the only one of WestRock’s facilities that doesn’t have an on-site fire station. Company officials have long contended that the lack of fire protection has stymied efforts to expand and upgrade facilities.

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Como Homecoming

AP Scholars, Election Season, and Como Homecoming History

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• The national Advanced Placement (AP) Exam results administered by the College Board were released to school coordinators in September. The information revealed that Como students earned hundreds of college credits. AP scores are categorized on a five-point scale for each test taken in a specific subject, with colleges and universities generally awarding credit for scores of 3, 4 or 5.

The rigor of AP courses and the effort put forth by students to succeed in them is optimal preparation for future college studies, regardless of test scores. Experience in AP is also favorable to students in college admission decisions, demonstrating a commitment to challenging study in courses of a student’s interests, according to the College Board.

The College Board also revealed its individual student awards which are based on multiple exams across a variety of disciplines being passed at high levels. “AP Scholar” status is granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams.

Como AP Scholars include Najma Ali, Kajsa Andersson, Ruby Beckman, Sunniva Burg, Amira Boler, Mark Brenner, Carter Brown, Roan Buck, Bridger Carlson, John Conway, Jared Czech, Nora Ellingsen, William Farley, Thomas Freberg, William Gray, Alexandra Harris, Asha Hassan, Olivia Helmin, Willow Hollister-Lapointe, Nicholas Jacobsen, Naddi Jillo, Zach Konkol, Georgia Langer, Song Lee, Abby Levin, Khyri Lueben, Olivia Mancia Chavez, Toe Meh, Jordan Moritz, Asia Nor, Alistair Pattison, Anthony Phelps, Serena Raths, Mason Salverda, Shyann Salverda, Mario Sanchez-Lopez, Chris Schanks, Lila Seeba, Sawyer Wall, and Emma Wallisch.

The AP Scholar with Honor award is granted to students who earn an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams. Como AP Scholars with Honor include Lucas Carmichael-Tanaka, Elijah Frese, Eva Hanson, Jacob Kingson, Joseph Newman, Bridget Proper, Gabriel Reynolds, and Isak Stillwell-Jardine.

The AP Scholar with Distinction is granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams. Como AP Scholars with Distinction include Aiyana Aeikens, Arlo Beckman, Stephen Boler, Arturo di Girolamo, Henrie Friesen, Isaac Haker, Chloe Hollister-Lapointe, Jackson Lee, Celia Olson, Thomas Quinn, Peter Schik, Antero Sivula, and Dina Thoresen.

National AP Scholar is a classification granted to students in the U.S. who earn an average score of at least 4 on all AP exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams. Como’s National AP Scholars include Christian Berger, Dylan Brady, Grace Commers, Noah Frese, Jackson Kerr, Eli Pattison, Vincent Portuese, and Dominic Wolters.

Como’s long-established AP program continues to challenge and support students opting to study rigorous courses of their choosing at the college level in over 20 subjects taught by College Board certified Como teachers.

• The National Merit Scholarship Program has recognized (photo l to r) Antero Sivula, Jackson Lee, and Peter Schik  from Como’s class of 2019 for their academic excellence. They each received a Letter of Commendation for their exceptional academic promise and outstanding potential, demonstrated through their coursework and performance on the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

• Over 20 Como seniors enrolled in AP Government and Politics classes will be serving as Ramsey County Election Judges in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. The non-partisan service to the community is a wonderful opportunity to promote the democratic process and ensure fairness in the administration of elections. Students will receive training and then work at their local precincts along with a team of judges.

Como students will also be participating in the “Students Vote” state-wide election sponsored by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. Before election day, AP Government and Politics students will monitor and facilitate an election in which all Como students will have the chance to practice voting procedure in our democracy. Students will use the official Minnesota ballot, and Como’s results will be reported to the state where they’ll be tabulated along with other participating schools, creating interesting data for classroom analysis.

• Como’s Debate team has been busy practicing since the second week of school and has already had its first competition. For several of the new team members, the Minnesota Debate Teachers Association (MDTA) Jamboree held at Wayzata High School was their first competitive experience. The event turned out to be a confidence-building opportunity for those in the “novice” division, as well as the varsity returners.

Last year, two Como debaters qualified for the state tournament while all participants improved their research skills and oral presentations. Coach Deb Hansmeier and the team are excited about the possibilities for growth again this year.

• Homecoming week events at Como (photo right submitted) were festive and fun with spirit days in school, a pep fest, coronation, and “Battle of the Classes” on Sept. 28. On Friday night, it was a soccer doubleheader under the lights as the varsity boys’ and girls’ teams celebrated senior night with convincing victories over Johnson.

Saturday included a parade and for the first time—the homecoming football game was played on the Como campus. The new turf field made that possible, even though some basic amenities are still lacking. Local food trucks stepped in to provide concession options, and a portable, low-volume sound system was allowed to be utilized.

The Cougars lost the football game, but it was a joyful community gathering. Overall, homecoming week was well-orchestrated and full of positive activity thanks to the hard work of the Como Park Booster Club and Como staff.

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Little Grocery

Little Grocery on University turns tobacco shop, seeks variance

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

The Little Grocery, 1724 University Ave., has applied for a variance of 40’ to become a “tobacco product shop” this fall. Tobacco products shops in St. Paul need to be at least one-half mile, or 2,640 feet apart. The Little Grocery is 40’ short of the half-mile limit and have asked for a variance. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

St. Paul’s upcoming restrictions on menthol products sales have business owners scrambling to retain the ability to sell such products. The Little Grocery, 1724 University Ave., wishes to get out of the grocery business and become a tobacco product shop this fall, with a separation distance variance approved Sept. 10 by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). But that decision has been appealed to the St. Paul City council, which will hear the request in late October or November.

The BZA vote was 4-2 for approval with Robert Clarksen, Luis Rangel Morales, Danielle Swift and Diane Trout-Oertel voting for the variance and Gloria Bogen and Thomas Sailor against.

Little Grocery owner Mussie Embaye is converting the grocery store into a tobacco shop because many of his sales are of menthol-flavored tobacco products. About 75 percent of the store’s sales as a convenience store are of tobacco products.

In 2017 the St. Paul City Council voted to restrict the sale of menthol-flavored tobacco products to tobacco shops. At the time of the City Council vote, anti-tobacco advocates contended that menthol-flavored products are more heavily used by young people and people of color, putting them at risk for negative health impacts.

The ban was delayed to give stores time to sell out existing inventory. Convenience stores, grocery stores, and other retailers must stop selling the menthol-flavored products by Nov. 1. A few small grocery and convenience stores have already renovated their buildings to separate tobacco sales from other products. For Embaye, who rents his space, it is just easier to drop milk, bread, and eggs, and just sell tobacco.

Tobacco products shops in St. Paul need to be at least one-half mile or 2,640 feet apart. 1724 University Ave. is 2,600 feet from Vape Pros, 681 N. Snelling Ave. Vape Pros sells e-cigarettes and accessories. E-cigarettes in St. Paul are regulated in the same way that tobacco products are, so shops selling those items fall under the tobacco products restrictions.

A variance of 40 feet is needed to allow for the new shop to open. It’s the second tobacco products shop distance requirement waiver the BZA has passed in three months. In July the board approved a 240-foot variance between two Rice St. shops. The board will hear a third request soon.

Embaye said he has little choice but to change his store. “Everything I am asking for is in reaction to what the city has done,” said Embaye. His convenience store, which he recently closed, wouldn’t be profitable if he cannot sell menthol-flavored tobacco products. Embaye believes it makes more sense for him to sell tobacco.

“It’s the only viable option I have at this point,’ he said. By becoming a tobacco product shop, the University Ave. storefront can have more than 90 percent of its sales from tobacco products, including the sale of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, loose tobacco, plants, herbs, and smoking devices.

BZA members debated the impact the latest variance would have. Bogen said Embaye could still sell other tobacco products in his store, just not those that are menthol-flavored. She said the variance doesn’t meet all of the required findings for approval, and that not meeting the distance requirement isn’t a hardship.

Other BZA members said the request is reasonable. “The applicant is at a disadvantage because menthol cigarettes are what sells,” said Trout-Oertel.

The Association for Nonsmokers Minnesota and Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation youth program representatives objected to the variance, citing the detrimental impacts of tobacco on public health. Jeanne Weigum of ANSR-Minnesota said the area is already “heavily blanketed’ with tobacco licenses. She said that issuing distance variances “flies in the face of the City Council’s intent” in limiting access to menthol-flavored tobacco products.

BZA staff recommended approval of the variance, citing the business’s location in a commercial district, the fact that Little Grocery has long sold tobacco products and the distance requirement hardship. BZA staff member Jerome Benner II said the 40-foot variance request is reasonable and should be granted. Union Park District Council made no recommendation.

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Fix It Cafe 1

Mending and sustainability go hand-in-hand for Mobile Menders

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

When Como resident Jenny Losey learned about Mobile Menders in August 2017, she quickly signed on as a volunteer.

“I thought it sounded like a really unique way to do something I enjoyed while helping out the community,” recalled Losey.

Today, she serves as the group’s Community Outreach Coordinator and also helps organize the Dress for Success event in the Midway area.

Photo right: The mission of Mobile Menders includes education. Como resident Jenny Losey staffs a table during an event. On average, an American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles per year. From January through August 2018, Mobile Menders’ 245 volunteers have repaired about 1,350 pounds of clothing. (Photo submitted)

“We live in a society that quickly makes assumptions about a person based on their appearance—including how they dress. Being able to help people have clothing that fits, zips, and looks decent helps provide a measure of dignity to someone no matter what their situation is,” remarked Losey. “On a broader level, helping to teach people about sustainability and mending helps reduce waste in our community which in turn creates a better environment for us all.”

On average, an American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles per year. From January through August 2018, Mobile Menders’ 245 volunteers have repaired about 1,350 pounds of clothing.

“We are helping keep clothes and textiles out of the landfills by mending items and educating people how important it is to mend your clothing and textiles,” stated Mobile Menders Founder Michelle Ooley, who is passionate about helping people understand how their choices can affect the environment.

“Recycling is such a powerful word, and people can feel overwhelmed,” observed Ooley. “Getting your clothes mended is a simple way to start.”

Ooley is a self-taught seamstress who learned by reading various sewing blogs and watching videos. It involved a lot of trial and error and a good seam ripper, she remarked.

She was inspired to form Mobile Menders after volunteering at an Earth Day work event through her employer at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in April 2017.

Photo right: “Clothes are so important to people, and they hold such a powerful emotional connection,” commented Mobile Menders founder Michelle Ooley. “We all have a favorite shirt, sweatshirt or pants. A story often goes along with an article of clothing. I’ve met some truly wonderful people that volunteer with Mobile Menders. It’s not only providing a much-needed resource to the community, but also to the volunteers and myself. It really is something to witness when you can mend someone’s shirt when they didn’t think you could.” (Photo submitted)

At a Fix-It Clinic event held at Union Gospel Mission, Ooley hemmed pants, replaced buttons, and fixed rips.

With one hour left, a man named Jim came up to her with two items needing repair: a bathrobe with a rip in the seam and a jacket that needed a new zipper. She told Jim that she could repair his bathrobe, but the jacket would need additional time. She asked for his cell phone number and told him she would replace the zipper and return the jacket in about two weeks.

“He couldn’t believe that I would do that for him,” recalled Ooley.

Two weeks later, Ooley met up with Jim to return the jacket. “Jim was moved to tears when I gave him his repaired jacket. He said it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him,” said Ooley. She was moved to tears, as well.

She knew she had to do something more. Mobile Menders was born.

Emotional connection to clothes
“Clothes are so important to people, and they hold such a powerful emotional connection,” commented Ooley.

“We all have a favorite shirt, sweatshirt or pants. A story often goes along with an article of clothing. I’ve met some truly wonderful people that volunteer with Mobile Menders. It’s not only providing a much-needed resource to the community, but also to the volunteers and myself. It really is something to witness when you can mend someone’s shirt when they didn’t think you could.”

She is always touched by the joy on a child’s face after their stuffed animal is repaired at a mending event. “Every item that someone brings to an event is important to them, so it’s important to us,” said Ooley.

Photo left: Mobile Menders volunteers have a variety of skills. Some sew at events and others act as greeters. (Photo submitted)

Losey remembers fixing a sweatshirt that had once belonged to the owner’s sister who passed away. Her cat had ripped it up, and it needed some patching. Another time, she worked on letting out a suit coat for a man at a recovery center who didn’t think he’d ever own another suit in his lifetime.

While Losey loves to sew, it wasn’t always that way. Her mom tried teaching her to sew when she was in middle school, but she couldn’t complete a project without a lot of help, so she gave up on it.

“About two years ago, I decided to try and tackle making Halloween costumes for my kids, and got the sewing bug,” she said. “I found a large online community of sewists and lots of YouTube tutorials to help me out when I got stuck, and quickly progressed into sewing a lot of my own clothes.”

Mending in the neighborhood
Mobile Menders was part of a Ramsey County Fix-It Clinic at Black Stack Brewing (755 N. Prior Ave.) on Sept. 22, and returned to the neighborhood for several events in October.

Mobile Menders had a table at the Hamline Elementary School’s Fall Festival on Oct. 6 for the second year in a row and demonstrated how to take an old t-shirt and turn it into a reusable bag.

Photo right: Mobile Menders was part of a Ramsey County Fix-It Clinic at Black Stack Brewing (755 N. Prior Ave.) on Sept. 22, and returned to the neighborhood for several events in October. The next one will be at Galtier Community School to offer a Make Your Own Superhero Cape during the Fall Festival on Thursday evening, Oct. 25. (Photo submitted)

Also in October, Mobile Menders began a partnership with Hamline Elementary School to provide free mending services to the students and their families in their Family Resource Room. “It’s a project that we have been working on for several months and are excited to get it started,” remarked Ooley.

Mobile Menders will also return to Galtier Community School to offer a Make Your Own Superhero Cape during the Fall Festival on Thursday evening, Oct. 25. Last year, over 150 fleece capes and masks were handed out to students. Each student then had the opportunity to go to a station and decorate a cape.

Like an old-fashioned quilting circle
“Mending events remind me of old-fashioned quilting circles where we all sit around talking and sewing,” remarked Losey. “I’ve met so many amazing people—both volunteers and the clients bringing in clothing to be mended. Lots of them stick around to chat or learn what we’re doing to their clothing, and I’ve heard all sorts of interesting stories.”

Some Mobile Menders volunteers sew, and others act as greeters at events.

“We all have different skills and it’s so cool to sit at a table and have a variety of people all work together to solve a mending problem,” observed Ooley. “It’s very collaborative in nature.”
For more information go to www.mobilemendersewing.com.

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Proposed Snelling development west of stadium is further refined

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Five-story development could house 18,000-sq-ft of retail, and about 200 residential units, 200 parking spaces

Wellington Management’s hope to build a five-story mixed-use development west of the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium needs support from Union Park District Council (UPDC) and city officials, if the project is to expand to its full potential. The council’s land use committee is expected to vote as soon as Oct. 15 on a support request to purchase state-owned property.

Wellington wants to demolish the current Bremer Bank at 427 N. Snelling Ave. The site would be redeveloped with a new bank branch and Walgreens store on the first floor, and four stories of housing above. The first-floor retail space would be about 18,000-sq-ft that could house Walgreens and the bank, or the bank and up to three smaller tenants. The development would have about 200 housing units, with a mix of micro-unit/studios, one and two-bedroom units.

The St. Paul-based developer would like to purchase Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)-owned land south of the bank. David Wellington, director of acquisitions and development for Wellington Management, told the district council land use committee in September some of the state property could be used for the new building. Some land could provide green space for residents and the surrounding community.

But acquiring the land means going through a state process. One option is for the city Department of Planning and Economic Development to work with the state on a land sale. That’s been done in several neighborhoods over the years.

Another way is to see if MnDOT would put the property up for sale on its own. The latter method has its risks as Wellington could get outbid by another developer.

A letter of support from the district council would be helpful, Wellington said. Land use committee members said while they’d be interested in supporting the land sale, they want more details.

The property was cleared in the 1960s when Interstate 94 was built and has been vacant since then. Various neighborhood visioning processes have come up with ideas for the property, which is sometimes occupied by people who are homeless. Ideas have included a park and active space.

Wellington said the project would be the first market-rate housing project near Green Line light rail in the area east of Fairview Ave. All other housing built on or near the light rail line in the past few years east of Fairview has been affordable housing.

About 200 parking spaces for residents and customers would be underground and on the first floor.
The first floor, which would be 18 feet in height, would have at-grade parking and a small parking deck.

The development has been through a number of iterations since a July presentation to the committee, including expansion to Roy St., said Wellington. Plans are now focused on Snelling Ave. between Shields and St. Anthony avenues. But that will take land acquisition. The development, which if it is to break ground next year, is at a point where it will need a decision soon on the state land acquisition.

The Snelling property eyed for redevelopment is zoned for traditional neighborhoods three use, which would allow five stories. Additional height could be granted through a conditional use permit process. With a taller first story, a permit might be needed. The need for a permit won’t be known until more detailed plans are developed.

Initially, Wellington and officials from the adjacent Central Baptist Church looked at demolishing two church-owned homes on Roy to develop a shared parking structure for the church and new development. The two houses are south of the church.

Three other Roy St. homeowners then expressed interest in selling their properties. Expanding the development west to Roy was considered, said Wellington. Making a larger project work financially would mean adding more height, which the developers aren’t comfortable with.

“We don’t want to bring commercial corridor massing into a single-family residential neighborhood,” Wellington said. Another issue is that of generating more traffic into the neighborhood west of the development.

The latest plan calls for using Snelling Ave. properties only, and not tearing down the church-owned homes.

The development team is also working on traffic flow west of the building. There is a north-south alley between Snelling and Roy, with an east-west extension to Roy about mid-block. Wellington Management met with the UPDC Transportation committee Sept. 10 to discuss traffic issues and the number of egress points for the new development. Both the bank and Walgreens wish to have drive-through windows. There’s also a need for separate resident and commercial parking access.

Most neighborhood reaction to the development proposal has been positive, said UPDC Board and land use committee member David Rasmussen. He lives near the development. Wellington Management has held meetings with neighbors to discuss their plans.


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