Steve Kufus handball tourney 2019

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Every year the Minnesota Youth Handball recognize a person that has given a lot to promote handball in Minnesota by naming the tournament after them. This year outstanding person is Steve Kufus who has given time to help teach, moral support and financial support to the Minnesota Youth Handball Community.
This year the Midway YMCA had a program called Court Sports where handball, racquetball and wolleyball is taught. The players entered the Minnesota State Handball 2019 tournament that was held at the University of Minnesota. Ayan Hassan a 11-year-old from Friends School won the 2 bounce Youth Handball Tournament.
The Youth Handball Program has been growing every year. This year the group taught 40 to 50 young adults (from eight different countries) to play the game. Phil Gebben Green, along with the University of Minnesota students, worked with the older players to teach not only handball but leadership, responsibility, honesty, friendship, and sportsmanship. Mitchell Lallier, along with the older players, worked with the younger players (5-12) to learn the value of playing handball at the Midway YMCA.

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Mixed-use, multi-family projects are moving ahead

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Development Roundup


MISCO awarded city funding
A Midway company will benefit from a $49,500 forgivable Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) loan. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and redevelopment Authority, approved the loan to MISCO April 10.
Company leader Dan Digre told council members that the loan will assist with relocation to the new headquarters at 1771 Energy Park Drive. The company was founded 70 years ago by his father, Clifford, when the family lived in the Selby-Dale neighborhood. Dan Digre said it is fitting that the company is returning to its St. Paul roots.
MISCO designs, tests and manufactures loudspeakers and amplifiers. Its new headquarters facility will be the only speaker design, testing and manufacturing operation of its kind in North America.
MISCO has outgrown its location in Minneapolis and needs to locate somewhere with room to grow that is welcoming to their business and unique industrial needs. The loan will help with the purchase of furniture and equipment to support the transition. The company will bring 66 existing jobs here, and through their growth hire an additional 50 – 60 new employees over the next ten years.
No existing businesses will be displaced or relocated as a result of this project. The loan is forgivable if certain conditions are met.

Housing projects moving ahead
Multi-family and mixed-use projects near University Avenue keep moving ahead. Indiana-based Scannell Properties May 2 won St. Paul Planning Commission approval for its conditional use permit and floor area ratio variance allowing additional building height and density for a six-story mixed use development at 441-443 N. Snelling Ave. in April, Wellington Management’s the Pitch won approvals for additional height, a floor area ratio variance and relocated drive-through lanes for its six-story development at 427 N. Snelling Ave.
A third project, Raymond Station at 2250-2264 University Ave., was also granted a conditional use permit for additional height in April. The projects reflect a growing trend of mixed-use, market-rate housing planned on and near University.
The Pitch is to be built on the Bremer Bank site. The bank will relocate while its new home is built. It will also include 13,000 square feet of retail for a new Bremer Bank, and possibly a Walgreens.
Scannell is building on the former Furniture Barn site, and plans a restaurant on its first floor. Both buildings will have below-ground parking.
Both Snelling projects are in the traditional neighborhoods 3 zoning district, where a height of 55 feet is allowed. The conditional use permits allow each building’s height to top 70 feet. Raymond Station will reach a height of seven feet in one section. Its University and Hampden avenues; site is also zoned for traditional neighborhoods 3 use.
All told, the three developments will bring about 250 new housing units to the area,

Lexington site eyed again?
Mixed-use redevelopment is eyed for a long-vacant Lexington Parkway property. Minneapolis-based developer Alatus LLC and about a dozen neighbors met with the Union Park District Council (UPDC) Land Use Committee in April to discuss ideas for 411-417 N. Lexington Parkway. The potential developers would like to shape their plans over the next few months. No timeline for development has been set.
Alatus has 15 years’ development experience, mostly in the Twin Cities. Its recent projects range from market-rate to affordable housing, including apartments in New Hope and 63 new affordable single-family homes in North Minneapolis.
“This is a very interesting area,” said Chris Osmundson, Alatus director of development. It is in Lexington-Hamline area of Union Park but borders Frogtown, Hamline-Midway and Summit-University. Area residents are a mix of ethnicities and economic backgrounds. It’s also part of the old Rondo neighborhood, a predominantly African-American neighborhood that was partially destroyed when Interstate 94 was built in the 1960s.
The 2.05-acre site is just south of TCF Bank and White Castle. It is owned by Wilder Foundation, which has its headquarters west of the property. A new development would finish the southwest corner of Lexington and University Avenue. The site was one home to the St. Paul Saints ballpark, but was redeveloped as a strip mall more than 50 years ago. High-profile battles were waged over redevelopment in the 1990s. Neighborhood groups called for a dense, mixed-use urban village. City officials saw the site as being ideal for big-box retail. It since has been redeveloped with an Aldi grocery store, TCF Bank, Wilder headquarters and an Episcopal Homes senior living building. One original retaining wall for the old ballpark is still in place.
Alatus is mulling the notion of a six-story mixed-use development, with first-floor commercial use and five stories of housing above. About 250 housing units in a mix of size options and an undetermined amount of structured parking spaces are planned. Prices haven’t been determined.
The property is zoned for traditional neighborhoods four use, which could allow heights of up to 75 feet, with additional height allowed through a conditional use permit process.
About a dozen site neighbors attended the meeting, as did a representative of the Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC). ASANDC has expressed interest in buying the parcel. Neighbors raised concerns about addition; a traffic and parking demand generated by the development. Those concerns will be discussed the month ahead.

City seeks grant funding
The St. Paul City Council April 24 approved a grant request for a Midway site that has long been eyed for redevelopment. Property at 1730 University Ave. and the former Ford Motor Company site in Highland were submitted to the Metropolitan Council, for consideration for possible Livable Communities Demonstration Account (LCDA) pre-development grants.
Then city has used various Livable Communities Development Grants for several years, and for projects all along Green Line light rail. Projects funded through the grant program have to meet certain criteria. The city has to apply for the grants on behalf of developers. In this case a developer hasn’t been named.
1730 University is a commercial building. It’s on a block with another small commercial property and two homes. The properties have been marketed as a group and are zoned for traditional neighborhoods 3 mixed-use redevelopment. The rezoning occurred several years ago as part of a larger rezoning project all along Green Line light rail.
A total of six parcels, comprising .46 acres, make up the site.

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Monitor In A Minute – May 2019

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jane McClure

Convenience store is fined
An area convenience store must pay a $500 fine, as a result of St. Paul City Council action April 17. The council fined Midway Amoco BP, which is located at 1347 University Ave., and didn’t request a hearing or challenge the fine.
The fine stems from an incident in fall 2018. The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) received a notice of seized contraband letter from the Minnesota Department of Revenue dated Nov. 13, 2018. State officials seized products at the store in September 2018. Flavored Babbo products were found to be offered for sale or held as inventory at the store, without an invoice from a licensed seller, and were seized as contraband under state law.
The city’s regulations allow for the city to take action of its own if such contraband is found. The city opted to assess a $500 fine.
Midway Amoco BP had until March 22 to challenge the fine or seek a hearing, either before the City Council or a legislative hearing officer, but chose not to do so.

Liquor laws are changed
Two of St. Paul’s remaining “blue laws” are no more, as a result of St. Paul City Council action April 17. Liquor can now be sold within 300 feet of religious institutions throughout the city. In the downtown area, liquor can be sold within 300 feet of a school. The sales apply to restaurants with on-sale liquor licenses and liquor stores.
The changes, which won unanimous City Council approval, strike down regulations that have been in place since the 1960s. Schools and places of worship have long had to the ability to veto on-sale liquor licenses or liquor stores that are within 300 feet of their locations. Requests made for licenses within the 300-foot zone also needed at least five of seven City Council votes for approval.
The changes didn’t draw public comment, and no one attended public hearings earlier in April to speak for or against the changes.
Ward Two Council Member Rebecca Noecker brought the changes forward. She said the changes and other regulatory issues she is working on will help make it easier for downtown businesses to operate.
Another change is one the city has to make. The liquor regulation centered on places of worship removes city legislative code language that has been found to be unconstitutional.
The changes came forward after a disagreement between the Gray Duck Tavern at Wabasha and Fourth St. and the St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts, a charter school at 16 W. Fifth St. The liquor license for Gray Duck was approved in 2017 after an extensive building renovation. Charter school officials objected in December 2018, noting that they hadn’t been asked to weigh in on the matter. School officials asked the city to suspend liquor sales at the restaurant. The city declined to do so.
The school has operated at its downtown location since 2013. It is in the same building as the Pazzaluna restaurant and is within a short distance of other restaurants with liquor licenses.
The new regulations indicated that schools within the downtown business district will still be notified if a liquor license holder is moving in. Schools still can raise concerns about a liquor license.

Peace Park wins grant
The Midway Peace Park in Lexington-Hamline neighborhood will receive an additional $180,000 from Capitol Region Watershed District. The St. Paul City Council accepted the funding April 17. That bumps project funding up to $3.18 million.
The watershed district works with the city on issues including water runoff, drainage, rain gardens and other needs.
The park is located on the east side of Griggs St. between University and St. Anthony avenues. The park has been several years in the making and was originally proposed as a project by students at Gordon Parks High School. City officials have worked with the Trust for Public Land to purchase the property for transformation into a park. It was used as surplus parking space by Midway auto dealers for many years.
The park is near the Skyline Towers high-rise apartments, and near senior house owners and operated by Episcopal Homes. It is in an area that was eyed during Green Line light rail development for added green space.

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Print is not dead – but we are changing

Print is not dead – but we are changing

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Too Much Coffee

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN, Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com

Print is dead, you say?
Nah. It’s just evolving.
A few months ago I attended the Minnesota Newspapers Association (MNA) annual convention, and listened to a speaker talk about just that. I was particularly interested in the topic as I was negotiating to purchase the Midway Como Monitor and Longfellow Nokomis Messenger from longtime owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson. Was I taking a leap into a dying industry?
After listening to Bill Ostendorf of Creative Circle Media Solutions, I was reassured. He’s spent his whole career in newspapers, and he doesn’t believe print is dead.
After 20 years in the industry, I don’t either.
Why am I convinced?
Well, they first started saying newspapers were going to die when radio got popular. But newspapers stuck around.
Then they said newspapers and radio couldn’t last when the television came out. Yet newspapers stayed and even thrived.
When the Internet got big, they were sure it was the final death knoll of newspapers, radio and television. Yet radios are still in every car, most people have one or more televisions in their house, and newspapers continue to print.
The thing is, people are reading now more than ever before. So the question isn’t whether people are reading, the question is are they going to read particular publications.
The questions those of us in the news industry need to be asking is why should people read our stuff instead of the myriad of information out there.
What makes us different?
What makes us worth reading?
What makes our editions important?
Those are the questions I’m committed to asking. I entered the field of journalism at the cusp of the Internet revolution. For those first few years, I called the local librarian to doublecheck my details. And then fact-checking things became much faster via Google. (Although with its own new set of accuracy questions.) I even did a few editions of cut and paste before we switched over to electronic layout with QuarkExpress.
As I ask others what they love about neighborhood newspapers, I have been thinking about what I value. I want to know what’s happening on my street, what development is going to change my neighborhood, and what fascinating things my neighbors are engaged in. I want to see photos of kids I know and congratulate them on their achievements, noting, “I saw you in the paper.” I want to hear the various sides of issues and wrestle over what the best solution will be in the long run. I want to learn what sparked the coffee shop and hardware store and secondhand boutique owners to open up shop, and hear what tips they have for other entrepreneurs.
The daily stuff of my neighborhood can’t be found anywhere but in the papers of my neighborhood newspaper.
That’s what I love about community journalism. I stay in this industry because I love local, I love to see people engaged, and I love to watch community being built. I appreciate the slice of life the pages of the Monitor offer each month.
I’m also excited to see how newspapers are being innovative and creative. It’s amazing to see the convergence of media – of print, TV, radio, audio, video, and more – coming together in to something new.
What will community newspapers look like in 10 years? I’m looking forward to finding out. I think that the answer lies in asking our readers what they want.
Bill Ostendorf encouraged all the reporters in the room at the MNA Convention (and his session was packed) to focus on being reader-centric. This starts with the basics of what we write in an article, how we shape it, and who we include in it. It also means focusing on writing really good headlines about people instead of things, and really interesting photo cutlines. Plus we need more break-out boxes and standout photos. Research has shown that people read headlines, cutlines and break-out boxes first – and they may or may not read the whole article.
Ostendorf advocated for content that is more engaging and more relevant. He encouraged designers to adopt modular layouts that are easier on the eyes. He encouraged sales staff to sell bigger ads that get attention and bring value to the readers.
Ostendorf reminded us that our print newspapers help people live better lives. The information within our pages informs and educates. It helps people make better decisions and be successful.
What do you want from the pages of the Monitor? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.


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Light shows, scarves, Wonderwall: trip to Allianz Field

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director


The dream of Major League Soccer in the Midway, which only seemed like a fantasy four years ago, has become a reality. For those of us who have lived or worked in the neighborhood for years, Allianz Field looks like a spaceship descended upon our community. And a beautiful spaceship it is, especially when lit up. Whether in purple in Prince’s memory, red and green for Christmas, or its standard blue, the light show adds to the aesthetic.
The Minnesota United have now played three home games in Allianz Field. I was fortunate enough to attend the April 24 game against the LA Galaxy, but not fortunate enough to take part in the tradition of singing the Oasis song, “Wonderwall” after a United win (they tied their first two games before winning 1-0 over DC United).
Are you unsure if you like soccer? I never got into the sport until the Minnesota United, and while I still don’t know why a yellow card gets raised, the games are very fun. For low scoring affairs, the excitement is still off the charts, especially when your team scores a goal. The big soccer fans are unmatched in their enthusiasm, waving giant flags and banging drums in the fan section, but a first-time visitor will still have a great time. If you are skeptical, give it a try. The excitement is contagious.
Here are some observations if you decide to check it out.
There are things to do outside Allianz Field, so allow time to walk around the entire stadium, and then walk through the entire concourse. Walk into the Brew Hall, located north of the field. The Brew Hall is open Thursday-Sunday when there isn’t an event at Allianz Field, with non-game prices. It also stays open 1.5 hours after home games, so a great way to avoid traffic.
Another way to avoid post-game traffic is to stop by nearby restaurants and bars. If you can afford the time, a person is better off grabbing their last drink at the Black Hart or other bars before venturing to their vehicle or transit.
If you plan to come by car, the closest parking lots are $25. You can also take a shuttle bus from the State Fair, which charges $15 to park. I suspect more restaurants will use a shuttle service to get patrons to the game.
Transit may be the best way to get to the game. Cheaper than driving, Allianz Field is close to both the Green Line Light Rail Line and the A-Line Bus Rapid Transit – which ends up connecting to the Blue Line at Hiawatha and 46th St. So far, public transit is taking about 45 minutes to clear out after a game – typically larger events are considered good if the time is less than one hour.
Over the past few years, there has been a lot of thought going into Allianz Field. Would it actually get built? If so, would it be the best option for the old bus barn site from a community standpoint? Once it was a foregone conclusion, the talk turned to the details. What would the rest of the “superblock” look like? Would public funds be used for the development? What impact would it have on the neighborhood, both on game days and always?
The biggest concerns the Midway Chamber heard from both members and residents was parking and traffic – both strictly gameday concerns. With the United playing 17 home games a year and a handful of other larger events, traffic and parking are not regular problems occurring most days. Most games are also played on weekends, meaning games are rarely a concern for rush hour.
If you go, take notice of the neighborhood. Open Hands Midway, a nonprofit who can provide 28 meals for those in need with a $50 donation, is housed at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and will have hundreds if not thousands of fans walk by their door each game. Even organizations farther than walking distance will benefit from the thousands of fans coming from each direction as they drive by either by personal vehicle or transit.
I am thrilled the Midway will get to welcome 20,000 soccer fans 17 times at Allianz Field this year, college football fans for the Tommie-Johnnie game, and other events in the future. Our guests will support our local businesses and give many more added visibility and name recognition. Here’s to hoping we sing “Wonderwall” a lot in the Midway this year. Scarves all the way up!

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Picketers support Hamline University’s adjunct  faculty union

Picketers support Hamline University’s adjunct faculty union

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Photo by Margie O’Loughlin

The Inter-Faculty Organization (IFO)is an organization that represents the interests of faculty at the seven Minnesota state universities. They held an informational picket at Hamline University on Thursday, May 2, 2019, to support the Hamline adjunct faculty union. Adjunct anthropology professor Marcia Regan said, “We are here because we believe in Hamline University. In inflation adjusted dollars, we are asking to get back to where we were in 2005. We haven’t had a raise in more than a decade. Adjunct professors are hired course by course. There are 91 adjunct professors teaching 128 courses at Hamline University this year. We represent 33% of the faculty faces that students see on campus.” More at www.hamlinetakesthelead.com. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

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MN United Game I 023


Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Photo by Margie O’Loughlin

Photos and Article By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Despite a daytime high of only 39 degrees and lingering snowbanks on the field, the stands were packed for Opening Day at Allianz Stadium. Following a 12 p.m. opening party on April 13, 2019, the gates opened two and a half hours early for the 4 p.m. Minnesota United FC kick-off against New York.
Several hundred fans parked at the State Fair grounds, for a fee, and rode the complementary shuttle to the stadium. There are about 15 St. Paul businesses that allow parking in their lots and ramps, including Spruce Tree Centre and Fairview HealthEast. A full list of parking and transportation options can be found at www.mnufc.com/stadium. >>


One of the first things fans see as they approach the stadium from Snelling Avenue is the 12-foot-high letters spelling out the word “U-N-I-T-E-D.” The sculpture recognizes the contributions of the club’s Itasca Society members. Limited to 11,842 fans — one for every lake in Minnesota — the society is made up of season ticket holders who supported the club during its first major league season. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Four thousand individuals, families and business names are etched into the sculpture. South Minneapolis residents Omar Elias and his father, Dan Elias, found their family name together. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Major league soccer is a growing sport in the US. Most of the season tickets were purchased by families, many with very small children in tow. All 14,500 season tickets have been sold out for the season, with a waiting list of 5,000. The stadium capacity is 19,500. There are single seats still available for some games. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)


Complaints slow, but people still refusing to pay trash bills

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Rate of residents not paying bills still at about 11%

By Jane McClure
St. Paul residents have had organized trash collection for six months. While complaints have slowed down, there are still people refusing to pay their bills. That was a key takeaway in a report delivered April 24, 2019 to the St. Paul City Council.
St. Paul Department of Public Works solid waste program supervisor Christopher Swanson reviewed the data from the program progress thus far. While council members are pleased about some aspects of the program, other areas were targeted for improvement. Questions remain on other issues, as to whether or not organized collection has resulted in fewer instances of illegal dumping.
The City Council is due for another report on organized collection in September. While the council is monitoring the trash issues closely, there is a five-year contract in place between the city and haulers. The ability to make changes is limited.
In the meantime, the St. Paul Trash group is pushing ahead with its lawsuit against the city. They return to Ramsey County District Court May 9. One goal is to put the question of organized trash collection on an election ballot.
Since October 2018 St. Paul has required single-family, duplex, triplex and fourplex properties to have city-supplied trash carts and haulers assigned by district. While that pleases people who complained about illegal dumping and too many trash trucks in an alley or on a street, other decried the loss of choice of hauler and the ability to comparison-shop. Another complaint is no longer being able to share a cart with a neighbor.
A fourth issues foes raise is that about half of the firms that were initially involved in organized collection have sold out to other firms. The most recent sale, which affects parts of Hamline-Midway and Merriam Park, is last month’s sale of Advanced Disposal to Waste Management.
Complaints about the program have dropped, said Swanson. But the number of people not paying their trash bills is still hovering around 11 percent. That’s not changed in recent months. Unpaid bills eventually are added to property tax assessments.
Council members told Public Works staff that while the complaints have dropped, they’re still concerned about incidents of poor customer service. Ward 7 Council Member Jane Prince described a situation in which a customer had to quickly leave town to help an ill family member, and yet couldn’t get ahold of trash collection. The company told the customer that a minimum two weeks’ notice is required for such holds.
Prince also said she continues to be concerned about people on fixed incomes, who struggle to afford even the smallest trash cart and every-other-week service. She said the haulers consortium needs to show “common sense’ in dealing with customers.
Other council members said they, too, continue to hear complaints about poor customer service and missed collections. There have been almost 1,400 complaints, with most focused on billing, late fees, missed pickups and other issues. Legislative hearings on unpaid bills began in April, with many hearings focusing on misdirected or incorrect charges. The first challenges to bills go to the St. Paul City Council for final action in May.
The missed pickups number of 1,676, or .7% seemed low to some council members. But Swanson said that doesn’t include weather-related issues. One related issue the council is looking at is whether the city should take over alley plowing, which would be one way to address the problems on snow-clogged alleys.
Another question council members had was how to measure the success of organization collection, which could be seen as reducing illegal dumping and wear and tear on streets. Swanson said that while the dumping figures can be easily collected, looking at impacts on streets is something that could take years.

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Loons open Allianz Field era with draws and a win

Loons open Allianz Field era with draws and a win

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Minnesota United FC kept an unbeaten mark for the first month in its new home.

Photo by Margie O’Loughlin

By Matthew Davis
The Minnesota United FC Loons Major League Soccer team (4-3-2) capped its first month playing at Allianz Field in St. Paul with a win April 28. The Loons won for the first time in the new stadium as 19,620 watched. The Loons edged a win 1-0 over D.C. United (5-3-2), which came into the game at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
“I thought we deserved it with our second half performance,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said in the postgame press conference. “We got the crowd in the game.”
Loons forward Angelo Rodriguez had the crowd roaring with the game winner in the 82nd minute. He collected his fourth goal of the season, which matched his total from 2018.
Goalkeeper Vito Mannone earned the win in net as he faced one shot on goal in 90 minutes of action. Mannone improved to 4-3-2 overall, which included starts in the first two games of Allianz Field’s brief history.
“It feels great. Hopefully more to come,” Mannone said in the press conference. “It’s a great base for us to go and win games.”
He allowed three goals in that first game when the Loons had a 3-3 draw with New York City FC (2-1-6) April 13 in front of 19,796 fans. The first-year goalkeeper faced six shots on goal and made three saves.
Loons midfielder Osvaldo Alonso scored the first-ever goal at Allianz Field in the 13th minute of the game, which shot off the offensive fireworks for the stadium’s premiere.
“It means a lot! I never thought I would score the first goal in the new stadium,” Alonso said in the postgame press conference. “I’m very happy for the goal but disappointed in the result, but we have to keep going.”
New York City FC forward Valentin Castellanos became the first visiting player to score with a goal in the 16th minute. He added another two minutes later for a 2-1 New York City FC lead.
Rodriguez tied the game 2-2 in the 20th minute. The Loons took a 3-2 lead on a gift from New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson when he let a loose ball slip by his foot in the 32nd minute for an own goal, when a player causes a goal in his own team’s net. New York City FC forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi saved his team from defeat with a game-tying goal in the 64th minute.
“I’m glad that we didn’t lose,” Heath said in the postgame press conference. “I thought our supporters were magnificent. I though the noise in the stadium was incredible. And it bows for better times ahead I think.”
The Loons also reached a scoreless draw with the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Galaxy (7-1-2) April 24 in the second-ever game at Allianz Field. Mannone stopped four shots in that game to preserve the draw. His LA Galaxy counterpart, David Bingham, only saw one shot on goal by the Loons.
“This game, we were in control of the game,’ Mannone said in the postgame press conference. “We managed the game in the right moments in the right time against a good team.”
Minnesota United FC has four home games in May, which includes a friendly with German league squad Hertha Berlin May 22. The Loons wrap up the month’s home schedule with the Houston Dynamo (5-1-1) May 25.

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What is it like to be in a courtroom?

Posted on 12 May 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Hamline Elementary students find out.

Photo by Jan Willms

By Jan Willms
What is it like to be in a courtroom? Serve as a prosecutor or defense lawyer? Preside as a judge? Be part of a jury?
Fifth graders at Hamline Elementary, 1599 Englewood Ave., were able to walk across the street on April 26, 2019, and find the answers as they participated in a mock trial that took place in the moot courtroom of West Hall at Hamline University.
The learning experience is all part of a collaboration between the elementary school and the university that started 125 years ago. The mock trials have been going on for at least the past 12 years.
“Each grade level has a departmental/academic pairing with the university,” said Kristin Reilly, principal of Hamline Elementary. “As teachers build units around standards, we try to make the connection with the university that is aligned to learning outcomes. Fifth grade is a grade in which social justice issues come up often in the curriculum.
“Having university students and professors work with our teachers and students to enrich and expand learning is a win/win for everyone involved,” continued Reilly.
She said the fifth graders work with Hamline University students and professors to dive into a specific case. The case that was tried in April was the State of Minnesota vs Mike Jacobs. Reilly said Jacobs was being charged with spray painting a racist statement on a locker of another student, Chris Burke. It was damage of property in the third and fourth degree.
“It is up to the students to dig into the case and dependent on their role bring this process to life,” Reilly added.
According to Jodie Wilson, a teacher and alumnae of Hamline elementary who serves as a liaison for the collaboration, university students come over a couple of weeks in advance of the mock trial and help the elementary students prepare.
“This experience allows the students to see themselves in the real world,” Wilson said. “They can see how school is like real life, with rules and consequences.”
Reilly explained that the roles students play in the trial process are determined by the interest level of the students. “Depending on their comfort level, the students decide what role they will take, but the expectation is that everyone participates. What is always wonderful to see is that students who may struggle in other areas of learning can really shine when learning is authentic and builds upon strengths.”
The fifth grade students themselves were positive about the experience. One student who played the role of a prosecutor said he was excited about it and practiced a lot. “It is possibly something I could do,” he said. Another student who played a police officer giving testimony said, “It’s fun, because you can say whether they are guilty or not guilty. You can learn more if you want to be a lawyer when you grow up.”
Reilly said that when students see themselves as part of a larger part of society, the impact is immense. “The opportunity for our fifth graders not only to understand how our legal system works, but also to have a real life experience and take an active role builds thinking skills, develops speaking and presentation skills, and taps into who they are and what they believe.”
Stacy Agha, a parent in attendance at the mock trial, said her son had told her he was a witness but had not said much more about it, so she came to observe. “He has a Hamline University buddy, so he comes over here a lot. He tells me this is where he is going to college,” she said.
Scholarships are available at Hamline University for Hamline elementary students when they are ready to enter college.
The mock trial experience is only one of four programs that are a part of the pairing of the schools, according to Kevin Yang, coordinator of civic engagement for the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration. “We also have the tutoring program, where university students get paid work-study to work directly with the elementary teachers,” he said. “Another is called Hand in Hand, which is a program where university students called buddies get to volunteer with elementary buddies for 45 minutes a week, reading together and getting a chance to build an authentic relationship.”
Yang said there is also a project called Snelling Connection, which is a newspaper operated by fourth and fifth graders, with two editors and teachers from Hamline University. “They develop reading and writing skills, and confidence,” he said. He added that the mock trial, which is part of an academic program shared between the two schools, is a powerful learning experience for students from Hamline University and Hamline Elementary.
Reilly concurred. “Currently this valuable and cherished partnership, the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration, includes over 70 classroom tutors per week, academic and activity pairings at all grade levels, classes, gifted and talented programming and many other meaningful connections,” she said. “This collaborative learning community brings one of a kind opportunities for elementary students, college students, teachers and professors that enriches learning through shared campuses, resources and experiences. We are two campuses but one community in the heart of the neighborhood.”

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