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Chauntyll Allen

Chauntyll Allen’s big work

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

School board member and activist strives to create a village to support families

Chauntyll Allen

What is our collective responsibility of ending gun violence?
That’s a driving question for Chauntyll Allen, who joined the St. Paul School Board in January 2020. And it’s a question she challenges others with.
“It’s about creating a society where people don’t need to carry guns,” she stated.
Allen pointed out that the drive for Black kids to protect themselves starts early. “These kids are dealing with safety issues,” she said.
They set off trying to prove they’re tough, wearing hoodies and their jeans low. They connect with a few other kids to move around with safely in their community. If they win a few fights, they’ll be left alone. If they lose, next time they might bring a gun (which kids have told her is easy to buy for $200-400) to protect themselves. It’s a cycle that isn’t fixed by just telling them to put their guns down – because that leaves them vulnerable.
“Right now, we do have a gun violence problem,” said Allen. She plans to pull together a group to learn gun shot first aid so they can respond fast to plug the holes and do CPR before an ambulance arrives. “The goal is the train many people to respond to gun shots they way they respond to heroin,” she pointed out.

Guns Down, Love Up
Allen is involved in Guns Down, Love Up, a movement created after her friend and fellow activist Tyrone Williams was shot and killed on April 3, 2018 in North Minneapolis outside his mother’s home. She helped organize a set of rallies on Friday, July 10, one in front of Shiloh Church in North Minneapolis and the other along Maryland Ave. W. in the North End of St. Paul.
As she passed out flyers for the community rally and takeover the week prior at the Holiday on Rice St., she saw a man chasing two females around a car with a gun. Allen walked over to try to deescalate the situation. The man was trying to get his stolen car and tools back. Eventually, he left, still angry. Allen hopes to reconnect with him, and raise money to replace his tools and fix his ignition. She pointed out that his anger hasn’t gone away. Things haven’t been resolved, and the cycle will continue.
Marching down Maryland is an intentional move, one meant to support the family of 21-year-old Marquez Perry-Bank who was gunned down in the middle of the day on Friday, May 3, 2019 in the parking lot of the Maryland Supermarket at 444 W. Maryland Ave.
Allen was working at Como Park Senior High School last year, and was with Marquez’s sister when she saw the live feed of her brother dying. “I happened to have her mom’s phone number in my cell, so I picked up my phone and called her,” recalled Allen. “She was in a panic.” They helped her figure out what to do with her daughter while she was dealing with the murder of her son.
This is what public safety can look like, according to Allen. What would the school resource officer (SRO) have contributed to the situation?
The Como SRO isn’t a bad guy, said Allen. “His salary costs so much. We could have two or three of me.”
If they would have needed to deescalate things and hold a kid down, it isn’t going to be in the style of a police officer. It will be in the style of love with a hug, said Allen. “If you’re stronger than me, two of us are hugging you. We want that style of response as opposed to a police-officer-pin-you-down style of response.”
An SRO isn’t going to be part of the healing process for this family and offer continued support, Allen pointed out. She was part of the effort to help the Perry family pay for a headstone for Marquez, and just saw his sister last week. The family is still waiting for his body to be released.
Recently, Allen lent her support to a group of teens from Central High who asked the St. Paul School Board to remove police officers from their schools. The board agreed on Monday, June 22 on a 5-1 vote (with John Brodrick against) to remove the officers in high schools, stop contract negotiations with the city and develop a new safety plan. They join Minneapolis and Winona, Minn. in this shift. It’s a move that was a long time in coming, according to Allen.

Goal: create a village
The kids Allen worked with at Ramsey Middle School are about 20 now. “Some heard what I was saying but they’re trying to find their own way,” she said. “The bottom line is gun violence has plagued them. What is the start of this gun violence occurring? It was the lack of village in our community.”
Folks are scared of little kids, she observed. They don’t want to insert themselves and redirect.
“I am not that person,” remarked Allen.
When they see Allen walk up, the kids pull up their pants, get themselves together, and talk to her about the trade school they’re considering. She wishes the whole community had this level of expectation for kids. But it needs to be tempered with the understanding that kids need access to resources, she pointed out. Some need help filling out applications. Others need financial assistance.
At her second job, working with Learning Dreams at the University of Minnesota, Allen does street outreach centered around talking to kids about their dreams, and helps figure out what steps they need to get there.
Allen thinks the K-12 push towards four-year degrees has been lacking and resulted in many kids disengaging from school. Not everyone wants to get a four-year degree nor do they need one to get a good job. They may not want to go in the corporate world and fight white supremacy for their whole lives, she observed. Ask the kids what success looks like for them.
Allen said has seen many Black teachers, paraprofessionals, and leaders leave the St. Paul School District due to its unaddressed internal racism. Those folks are now leading the way in districts like Roseville, St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale. She’s also watching Black students get pushed out to charter schools.
Allen took a $20,000 pay cut to serve on the St. Paul School Board. She had to step down at Como in order to run.
It’s part of her goal to create a village.
Allen wants to see the “poverty pimps” cut out. Towards that goal, she’s encouraged the city to cut ties with those who aren’t really helping and put their money into programs that support kids. She supports sports programs, as they give kids a team to be part of, which also helps keep them safe because then they’re known for being a baller and left alone.
She’s watching to see how the Healing Streets Project performs this year after receiving funds from the city. Allen supports the Community Ambassadors Program of the North End, Midway, East Side and Frogtown – those folks wearing green shirts who work both in and out of schools.
“They don’t have to call the police when they see someone acting up,” said Allen. “They can call the auntie.”

Big work
Allen graduated from Central High School, and earned her degree in African American students and psychology. She worked for 10 years in child protection services (CPS) before switching to schools. She’s a fourth generation Rondo resident, and her mom is trying to figure out where to buy groceries and household items right now after the closure of shops in the Midway. She remembers when there was a bowling alley in the Midway, because that’s where they had family nights, and she wishes there was a movie theater now.
“The goal is to create a village to save my community,” she said. “No one is stepping up to do the work.”
So she decided to. She is approaching it in an interconnected way, supporting individual families, making changes within the city and school district, organizing rallies, helping distribute funds through the Neighbors United Funding Collaborative, and pushing for the interruption of systems like CPS.
“It’s a process. It’s big work.”


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Ryan Vernosh

Maxfield students, teachers wrestle with COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

I Am Somebody

Maxfield Elementary School Principal Ryan Vernosh had just four days to lead Maxfield into a completely different learning environment. AT RIGHT The poem ‘I Am Somebody’ is said each day by Maxfield Elementary students to encourage them through their day. (Photo submitted)

School happening remotely has impacted students and families with more than just technical problems.
Maxfield Elementary School, 380 N Victoria St. in St. Paul, has a food pantry on site for students and families in need. They collaborate with Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, an organization that works with families and students in the Frogtown, Rondo, and Summit-University neighborhoods to support their needs and approach the gap between education and opportunity.
Maxfield provides dental care, extra clothing, counseling, social work and mental health care to students and families. All of these have been greatly impacted by COVID-19.
“Some families lost employment, so access to healthcare became more challenging, access to food became more challenging. We’ve seen the current unemployment crisis that we’ve had in the city and our community, which was just exasperated by the pandemic,” said Maxfield Principal Ryan Vernosh.
During school hours, Maxfield Elementary would normally be bustling with 300 students going in and out of the library, gym and classrooms. Teachers would be preparing for another day of classes. Their rooms filled with colorful banners and encouragement for the students. But, for the last four months of school, the halls were mostly empty. COVID-19 had drastically impacted what Maxfield, and all schools around the state, looked like in their last stretch before summer break.

Four days to restructure
Vernosh has been principal at Maxfield Elementary School for three years now. He’s overseen budgets and paperwork. He supports the students and staff – and makes sure they are doing well socially, emotionally, and academically. He’s never had to deal with something like this before. Maxfield was tasked with changing an entire learning environment in just four days.
“Our staff really rose to it and we did the best that we could to connect with our kids and keep them learning and supported,” Vernosh said.
The staff had meetings on a weekly basis in order to stop and assess how online learning was going, and to make any changes they felt was necessary for their students. St. Paul Public Schools has a one-to-one iPad policy, so everyone had access to online classes. The district provided hot spots for families without high speed internet, although, they still had many technology issues. Professionals came in for classes in order to instruct the teachers on how to use Schoology and Seesaw, two online learning platforms, to their full advantages.
They also had educators’ workshops and presentations. During these workshops, teachers presented what was working and what wasn’t to other educators around the school. Each teacher visited at least three other presentations in order to get ideas about how to better their online classroom. But, it was still difficult to keep students engaged with online learning.
“You just can’t mimic in person instruction,” Vernosh said, “Our teachers did the best they could to carry on instruction, but it’s just not the same.”


I Am Somebody
I am Somebody!
I am capable and loveable.
I am teachable,
therefore I can learn.
I can do anything if I try.
I’ll be the best that I can be.
Each day,
Each day,
Each day,
I will not waste time.
Because it is too valuable
And I am too precious and bright.
I am somebody.
I am somebody.

Cocreating safe places
Vernosh wanted Maxfield to continue being a safe space for both staff and students to come to. Especially after the murder of George Floyd two weeks before school ended, students began to have more questions. The St. Paul Public School District sent out information in order to support teachers, and to help guide them through questions students may have or how to go about explaining the events happening. The staff had many conversations about how best to create a community of support for their students. They needed to keep things grade appropriate, as well. Kindergartners may understand less of the situation than a fifth grader.
“Our kids are aware of what’s going on whether it’s COVID or the murder of George Floyd,” Vernosh said. “Part of our role is to listen and be supportive; to cocreate a safe space for our students and families to be able to process these things.”
Maxfield aimed to never shut down a conversation that brought up any questions about COVID-19 or the murder of George Floyd. In order to fully create this safe space, the school implemented things like a restorative morning circle. This was a time where students could sit and express themselves. It also included guiding questions, activities, or a review of what lessons would be taught that day. The school wanted to focus on community building along with mindfulness for the students. Through the Cultural Wellness Center, an organization that helps communities solve problems that come due to loss of culture, the students take African drumming and dance classes in order to make sure students see their culture in each area of the school.
“If our students don’t feel seen and heard and loved, learning is not going to take place,” Vernosh said.
They have a call-and-response over the intercom each morning to let students know that they are here and being heard. This daily affirmation poem, “I Am Somebody,” is said to remind the students that they are teachable, loveable and capable.

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Q&A: Resiliency at St. Paul College

Q&A: Resiliency at St. Paul College

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

All courses at Saint Paul College (235 Marshall Ave.) moved to remote delivery approaches in response to the COVID-19 situation. Some of the technical, service and health sciences programs require face-to-face instruction, which may resume later this summer, according to St. Paul College Interim President Deidra Peaslee. Almost all of the students returned to class April 6 after the extended spring break.

The St. Paul College International Student Coordinator meets with international students to check in on how they are doing and provide any support they may need.

– How has COVID19 and the Stay at Home order affected the college?

As with everyone, the coronavirus (COVID-19) and Stay at Home Order have affected every aspect of the life of Saint Paul College.  We  feel very fortunate, however, to have been declared an essential service so that our students can successfully complete their spring term courses and continue their college education this summer and next fall.

– How have you changed your offerings for students in light of the COIVD-19 situation?

All of the course instruction and support services at Saint Paul College were moved to remote delivery approaches in March.  Our last  in-person courses were March 14.  The last day on-campus for all faculty and staff was Friday, March 20.  By March 25, our student support services resumed operations using remote delivery approaches.  Our classes resumed remotely on Monday, April 6.  Some of our technical, service and health sciences programs require face-to-face instruction so we’re hoping those classes can complete their remaining components later this summer.  From early on, the College has also communicated and posted on our website a wide range of resources to help our students, faculty and staff as they switch to remote instruction, service provision and learning.  That included access to free and low-cost Internet access, computers, and a wide range of community resources to help themselves and their families during this very challenging time.

– What factors have gone into your decisions?

   All our decisions in response to the coronavirus have focused on two goals:

  • First and foremost, keeping all students, faculty and staff safe and healthy by strictly following the latest recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Second, providing every means possible for current students to complete their Spring Term courses successfully.

– How are students managing things and what are you hearing from them?

Yes, we have been hearing from them.  First, almost all of them returned after their extended Spring Break to resume learning when classes restarted remotely on April 6.  Second, our students have been amazingly resilient, not just in finishing their courses, but handling the many other challenges the coronavirus and Stay at Home Order have imposed on them and, in many cases, their children and extended family as well.  Many of them have lost their employment in addition to having new responsibilities for supporting their children in K-12 schools learning remotely.  Some of them also have faced health challenges either their own or within their extended families.  Whenever Saint Paul College has learned of a student, faculty or staff member contracting the coronavirus, we have reached out to express our concern for them and to provide them information to a wide range of resources that can help them during their recovery. 

– What have you heard from educators ?

Our faculty and staff have quite simply been extraordinary.  Saint Paul College’s faculty and staff have long been known and admire for their dedication to supporting students and helping them be successful.  That’s never shown itself more than over the past number of weeks.  It has, of course, been a very stressful time for all of us as we address this new challenge with very little time to prepare and lots of new information flowing almost constantly since early March.  But I couldn’t be more pleased or proud of how the Saint Paul College faculty and staff have pulled together to keep our instruction and support for students moving forward with quality and integrity despite all the challenges in moving rapidly to new teaching and service delivery approaches.

– How do you see this affecting your industry as a whole and what concerns you?

This, of course, is the key question facing all of society as we move through this pandemic.  What does the future hold?  As with any  major event, particularly one reaching every corner of our globe, I’m sure the coronavirus will have long-term and very significant ramifications for higher education.  Beyond the short-term challenges we’ve faced already, we’ll have financial ramifications like most organizations.  Saint Paul College is extremely fortunate to have built significant reserves that will be very helpful in balancing our budgets and maintaining our staffing levels over the next few years.  In the medium term, we’re working hard to assure we can maintain utmost quality in our instruction and support services during our Summer and Fall Terms.  We anticipate it may be some while before we can resume all of the on-campus, face-to-face instruction and services we enjoyed until mid-March.  But having nearly completed Spring Term with only a couple of weeks to prepare, I’m confident we’ll do even better in preparing for Fall Term. I also think that, over the long term, all of us in higher education will take away many lessons from this experience including how we can serve students with alternative approaches to our traditional face-to-face delivery, maintain flexibility and agility in responding to crises and find new ways to work together successfully even though we can’t do so on-campus right now.



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School spreads message of joy during distance learning

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

St. Paul City School District has a message for its 540 students: “We miss you and we are here for you!”
St. Paul City School staff is putting some heart into their distance learning plans by visiting individual students at home to post a message of joy and support in front lawns. “We want our families to know they are being supported from afar even in these uncertain times,” said District Executive Director Dr. Meg Cavalier. “This closure has been difficult for all of us, but our community has risen to the challenge by continuing to celebrate and care for our students above all.”
St. Paul City School (SPCS) is a public charter school district whose three school sites serve preschool through 12th grade students. Like all schools across the state, St. Paul City School temporarily closed all buildings and moved to distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
After the technical pieces were set in motion, such as getting classrooms online and delivering books and other materials to students’ homes, SPCS knew they needed to go one step further to bring joy to the community. “We want to help students and families find a smile in the midst of this really scary time,” explained Primary and Middle School Principal Justin Tiarks. That’s when SPCS staff began printing signs with the message “We miss you! We are here for you” in English, Spanish, and Hmong and planting them in the front yards of each of their students. Some staff were even lucky enough to get to wave to their students from afar.
Distance learning is a practice that all Minnesota schools are in the process of getting used to. There are plenty of challenges; “I don’t get to see my friends and help people or do group projects,” says Lyna N., a fifth grader at St. Paul City Primary School.
Some families struggle to access technology, meals, mental health supports, and other resources typically provided by schools.
But there are also highlights to note. “I have really enjoyed working so closely with students and their families each day. It is nice to have time to connect with families and get to know them better,” said second grade teacher Brittany Burrows.

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Graduation goes virtual, celebrate with lawn signs

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Park Senior High School

Yard signs to honor Como’s Class of 2020 will soon appear in the neighborhood.

By Eric
Social studies teacher

With schools closed through the remainder of the school year, spring of 2020 will certainly be unforgettable. The harsh loss of shared celebrations for graduating seniors will guarantee that.
Rites of passage including final concerts, awards ceremonies, prom, graduation, the all-night senior party, and even the entire spring sports season have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
Distance learning is keeping academic growth possible, but predictably, the personal relationships that students and staff enjoy are sorely missed.
Hundreds of Como students will conclude their college-level course studies with Advanced Placement Exams between May 11-May 22.
AP Exams are traditionally taken on site at schools across the nation during the first two weeks of May. This year because of COVID-19, the College Board will be administering online exams for students to take at home during specified times in each subject area.
The rollout of a plan to make testing accessible yet safe is appreciated by students and teachers, but also comes with uncertainty and stress. Anticipating there may be technology glitches, the College Board has reserved the first week of June for make-up exams in case of uploading errors or issues.
Testing formats will be altered with only essays in a shortened timeframe instead of a combined three-hour exam including multiple choice and extended writing. In all, 294 Como students will be taking a collective 529 AP Exams across 20 different subjects.

Shar Too earns Athena Award
The cancelled spring sports season has left hundreds of Como student athletes without the opportunity to pursue their passions and make memories with teammates. Traditional end-of-year banquets and ceremonies have also been scratched from the usual schedule, although honors have still been awarded.
Como senior Shar Too earned two special distinctions for her achievements. A four-time all-state soccer player for the Cougars who became the St. Paul City Conference’s career scoring leader, Shar Too was selected as Como’s Athena Award winner.
Shar Too was also a stellar badminton player for the Cougars, helping the squad to third-place state finishes in 2017 and 2018. In the classroom, she achieved a 3.59 grade point average (4.12 weighted) and earned several academic honors during her four years including a State History Day qualification.
Shar Too was also chosen as one of just six finalists for the St. Paul Downtown Lions Club Athlete of the Year. The club selects its honorees from all the high schools in Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties. The elite recognition has been humbly downplayed by Shar Too. She will be a first-generation college student next fall at Bethel University.
Como’s graduation ceremony will still be held at its originally scheduled time of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 1, but it will be “virtual.” A plan is being constructed in accordance with St. Paul Public School directives.
While there is no way to replicate what students and families always anticipated, one small gesture to try and celebrate this special senior class prior to their commencement includes yard signs for each graduate.


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Free online learning resources for parents, teachers

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Junior Achievement offers financial literacy, work and career readiness, and entrepreneurship programs for students in grades K-12

Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest (JAUM) is now providing free online resources for teachers and parents to keep children engaged, inspired, and educationally challenged. In response to the COVID-19 guidelines, the organization quickly enhanced its digital program portfolio to make select programs and lessons available to the public.
Parents will find a variety of free financial literacy, work and career readiness, and entrepreneurship resources that children can do on their own, with a parent or other caring adult. K-12 educators can also access new and existing JA programs through the national JA USA Learning Management System. “There may be no better time than today to equip our children with the tools needed to make smart financial choices as they experience these tumultuous economic times,” observed JA representatives.
Junior Achievement’s experiential programs teach students in grades K-12 how to manage money, prepare for a successful career, think innovatively, and start businesses that create jobs. Programs are age-appropriate, hands-on, and engaging.
“Now is a perfect time for Junior Achievement to connect with our young people via technology, allowing them to keep learning and planning for their future,” said JAUM President & CEO Gina Blayney. “Junior Achievement is opening up our digital learning platform in innovative ways to give teachers and parents tools to teach in a virtual environment.”
To access Junior Achievement’s free online learning programs, visit www.jaum.org/resources.

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Inside Pages March 2020

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen


YMCA roses

The Friendship Club was started by Gary and Jean Ales over 50 years ago. Gary and Jean both graduated from Central High School. Now a new Central Sophomore student Satya Mamdani from Central and her sister Rosanna decided to be a big part of the Friendship Club by giving out Roses to the community.
For the past four years, Joseph Lallier, a junior at Eagan High School, organized with Eagan Sam’s Club to collect roses not sold on Valentine Day and give out to the community.
Satya and Rosanna Mamdani wanted to get involved in bring a little smile to people in their community. They asked if they could pass out roses at the Midway YMCA.
After they pass out roses at the Midway YMCA, the group went on to reach out to about 1,000 people by delivering them to 11 Senior Centers, police, fire and five schools.
People receiving a rose from either Satya or Rosanna could not believe that these girl took the time to give back to their community in this very special way of kindness.


Murray Middle School students at state science fair

Murray students get ready to board the bus to the Minnesota State Fair’s Rose & Lee Warner Coliseum where the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair was held Feb. 28, 2020. The State Science Fair will be held at Benilde – St. Margaret’s School, St. Louis Park March 26-28, 2020. Chittra Xiong (Senior) has submitted a research paper, “Formation of Nanopores in a Polymer Monolith Through Cleavage of Bulky Side-Groups” and qualified for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) Program. (Photo submitted)


Database of mass shooters released for public use

The Violence Project, a nonpartisan think tank has released the largest, most comprehensive database of mass shooters in the United States.
This new database, funded by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, was developed by professors Jillian Peterson and James Densley and a team of students at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. It includes 171 mass shooters from 1966 to 2019, each coded on 100 pieces of life history information. The entire database is downloadable for free at www.theviolenceproject.org.
“Mass shootings are a complex issue, requiring multiple avenues of prevention,” says Dr. Jillian Peterson, “The goal of this project is to ground our public policy discussions in data and develop evidence-based policies to prevent these tragedies.”
The mass shooters in the database each shot and killed four or more people in a public space, including schools and houses of worship. They are 98% male and 52% white, with an average age of 34.
Most mass shooters were in crisis prior to the shooting and suicidal, and almost half of them leaked their plans in advance. 62% of mass shooters had a criminal record and 57% had a violent history. 70% of mass shooters knew at least some of their victims.
This database is the first to look closely at the mental health histories of mass shooters. Among the 171 mass shooters, two-thirds had a mental health diagnosis or presented mental health concerns. This is only slightly higher than the 50% of people in the general population who will meet the criteria for a mental illness in their lifetime. However, a mental health diagnosis does not mean that the actions of mass shooters are directly motivated by their symptoms. The database shows that 16% of mass shootings are at least partly motivated by psychosis – which is less than the percentage of shootings motivated by domestic issues, employment changes, interpersonal issues, and hate.
This is also the first database to look closely at how many shooters obtained their guns. The majority of mass shooters use handguns (77%) and 25% used assault rifles. Of the known data, 77% of shooters purchased at least some of their guns legally, 13% made illegal purchases, and 19% stole guns.
“Mass shootings have increased in recent years, both in the number of incidents and the number of people killed”, Dr. James Densley explained. “Mass shootings are rare but routine events. We now have the data to understand that routine and disrupt it before it’s too late.”


Get to know local organizations

Hamline Midway Elders

By Laurel

Monthly Luncheons – Second Tuesday of each month, 11:30 a.m–1p.m., at Hamline Church United Methodist (1514 Englewood Ave.). Chef Erik Hendrickson will prepare a wonderful meal, blood pressure checks will be provided, and new attendees are always welcome at our “Second Tuesday” luncheon events. Suggested donation $7.
• April 14 – Panel of area organizations: Animal Humane Society, NeighborWorks, Veterans Services, Handi Medical
Jody’s Documentary Film Series: March 25, 1 p.m. at Hamline Midway Library. Check website for film description (www.hmelders.org/events.html).
Cards & Games: Feb. 11, 1-3 p.m. (after luncheon), Hamline Church United Methodist.
Tai Chi for Health with Bruce Tyler: Mondays, March 30 – May 11, 11 a.m.–noon, Hamline Church United Methodist. Students will practice an easy-to-learn set of Tai Chi movements that can be done both seated and standing. This gentle, flowing exercise fosters mind-body connection and coordination; build strength and flexibility; improves balance and cultivates mental clarity, awareness and calm.
Gentle Exercise Class Series: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30– 2:30 p.m., March 19 – May 7, Hamline Church United Methodist. Joni leads this arthritis-friendly exercise class for older adults, utilizing her unique Irish sense of humor to create a welcoming and motivating atmosphere. New attendees are always welcome.
Knitting & Crochet Group: Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m. (ongoing) at Hamline Church United Methodist. Hamline Midway Elders provides the yarn and needles, tea and cookies.

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D.C. close up, MCJROTC retreat, teaching honor

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Como Park Senior High School
By Eric
Social studies teacher

Como AP Government students spent six days in Washington D.C. from Feb. 23-28 as participants in the national Close Up program. (Photo by Eric Erickson)

Twenty-seven seniors currently studying AP Government and AP Macroeconomics spent the last week of February 2020 in Washington D.C. The participating students were part of the national Close Up program, which promotes civics education and participation in our democracy with the capital city as a living classroom.
Como student highlights included study visits to national monuments and memorials including Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lincoln, World War II, Vietnam and Korea. There were also study visits at museums of the Smithsonian, the Supreme Court, U.S. Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, Holocaust Museum, and unique Washington neighborhoods.
Students met with Congresswoman Betty McCollum in her House of Representatives Office and also discussed policy with staff and legislative aides from Senator Smith’s and Senator Klobuchar’s Capitol Hill offices.
While observing the House of Representatives in session from the House Gallery, Como students witnessed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez present the Green New Deal Resolution. For several students who enthusiastically advocate for and support the proposed legislation, it was inspiring to see a Congresswoman they know speak passionately about the issue.
Throughout the week, Como students were engaged in policy discussions and simulations with peers from across the nation and beyond in workshop groups. A total of 150 students represented the states of California, Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, as well as Puerto Rico and Panama.
The annual adventure to Washington D.C. for Como AP Government students is made possible through student and school-sponsored fundraising activities, with generous scholarship support from individuals in the Como community. The Como Park Booster Club, Rice St. Athletic Club, and Friends of Como Athletics (FOCA) are also significant contributors.

Cadets from Como’s Marine Corps JROTC spent Feb. 21-23 at their annual Winter Cadet Leadership Camp in central Minnesota.(Photo by James Kirkland)

Fifty-seven cadets from Como’s Marine Corps JROTC spent the weekend of Feb. 21-23 at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn. and Camp Shamineau in Motley, Minn. The Winter Cadet Leadership Camp included evaluations in the standards of cross-country skiing, ice wall climbing, rock wall climbing, hiking, horseback riding, winter survival skills, zip lining, broomball and even sledding.
Cadets meeting or exceeding standards in those or any of the other five activities earned a Distinguished Military Training Award (DMT). All cadets performed exceptionally well – rising to challenges and strengthening bonds. They returned to Como with great stories of adventure.
Family and Consumer Science teacher Courtney Gbolo was selected as a semifinalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award. Of 134 nominees, 36 were selected as semifinalists.
Ms. Gbolo teaches Culinary Arts and has developed an International Cuisine course that incorporates knowledge she gained from a grant to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She values the opportunity to create a classroom culture which allows students to explore and collaborate.
“Teaching CTE (Career and Technical Education) classes provide students with real-world opportunities to explore career paths,” Gbolo said. “I have former students who are thriving in fields that our programs have exposed them to, which is really rewarding.”

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Inside schooling decisions

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Get a glimpse into the lives of local families who are navigating through the many educational choices available today, and forging a path that fits their families.

The Schabert family

Maternity of Mary Saint Andrew Catholic School (MMSA)

Meet Traci Schabert, who currently sends two boys, Alex (grade 8) and Andrew (grade 2) to MMSA, and has two MMSA graduates, Jack (grade 12) and Mary (grade 10).
Why did you select this school?
We joined the school community when our oldest could, at three years old. Jack is almost 18 now. We have had a child at MMSA every year since 2005. We chose MMSA because of the love and passion we received from the teachers and staff. They all truly loved working together, were passionate about the kids and were all dedicated to helping us identify our children’s talents and help with the areas they struggled with.
What do you appreciate most?
All of our children are so different. One of our children truly struggled with some classes. The teachers went above and beyond helping by staying late, coming in early, emailing us, calling and doing what was needed to help her not only get to grade level but to exceed. She is now taking accelerated classes in high school in these subjects. We have another child who was bored at school because it was too easy for him. Mrs. Warden has been working with him and a few other students who need excellent stead math. He will be going to high school in the fall, and he will taking precalculus as a freshman.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
Skills needed are not just school subjects like math and science. Compassion, understanding, teamwork, community and understanding one another are all things that are greatly needed.
Share your school hacks or tips.
As soon as our kids could crawl I had a plastic laundry basket filled with board books in our living room. They could crawl over, pull, chew, play and look at these books. They learned to love books from this stage on. As kindergartners we made special trips to get their own library cards and made regular trips letting them pile large numbers of books in our book bags.


Yinghua Academy

Meet Starr Eggen Lim, who is married to Albert. Her daughter Lily is now in 11th grade at Highland Park High School, and daughter Magdalena is currently a ninth grader at Highland Park High School. They are at Highland because Yinghua Academy has an agreement that kids can continue their Chinese education at an appropriate level at Highland Park in St. Paul.
Why did you select this school?
Being that our children are Asian and adopted, it was a good fit as they would learn much about their birth culture as well as having Asian role models and influence.
What do you appreciate most?
Having my kids learn to read, write and speak Mandarin has so many advantages. If they ever chose to search for their birth parents, or even wanted to live or experience their birth country, having the language and cultural understanding would help to cross over so many barriers that could inhibit that from happening. I also wanted to give them the opportunity to feel at ease around other kids in college who may be international students from their birth country, whereby they could understand and feel a part of that community. Yinghua Academy not only provided this backdrop for my kids, but also having a second language like Mandarin allows so many doors to be opened for them. When learning a second language at the tender age of five, kids absorb things so much easier. Having the ability to read, write and speak can open potential careers opportunities, as well. The school’s academic expectations are quite rigorous and kids have adapted well into all kinds of high school experiences.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
As far as the most important skills for kids to learn, I would think preparing them to be global citizens is a priority. Language immersion does help to accomplish this. Critical thinking is probably one of the most important skills for kids to learn as our current administration (in my opinion) has become so harsh on scientific research, facts, and the media in general. Learning how to decipher facts from fiction and how to ask questions is critical to our society’s survival as a democracy.

Career Pathways

Meet Kelina Morgan, whose daughter Nasi is in ninth grade at Career Pathways.
Why did you select this school?
I chose Career Pathways for her because it was close to my employer, and it offered a non-traditional way of learning, with small class sizes.
What do you appreciate most?
Career Pathways also is a welcoming place with diversity of race, culture, religion, and sexual orientation. It’s a place where my daughter feels a sense of belonging. We’ve lived in various cities, including Vadnais Heights and Somerset, Wis. It was important to me that she attended a school where the staff and students welcome diversity.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
I believe that acceptance and appreciation for differences is a valuable skill to learn, as well as life skills needed to find and maintain a career if college is not the choice.
Share your school hacks or tips.
Because education is important to us and can open many doors, our family hacks on how to help kids learn are 1) read to kids early and daily, 2) require they read at least 20 minutes five days a week, and 3) purchase workbooks for their next grade level that they complete over the summer breaks to continue learning.

Como Park Senior High

Angela Rein is mother to Como Park Senior High School students Eloise (senior), Nicholas, (junior), and teven (freman); and 2018 graduate Maureen. Lucille is a seventh grader at Murray Middle School.
Why did you select this school?
All five children attended Crossroads Elementary, Montessori and then Murray Middle School. We chose Murray and Como because their father, Mark, is an alum. All of the children thus far have benefited from the AP classes offered at Como Park Senior High. I would like to add, that as a parent of five children, all three schools did a fantastic job of recognizing each Rein child as a their own individual. The staff never compared the younger ones to the older ones.
What do you appreciate most?
I love the sense of community at both Murray Middle School and at Como Park High School. Como Park High School has so much diversity. I feel that is so important in learning how to work with people in the adult world. I’ve always liked the leadership at both Murray and Como, along with the dedication of the teachers. The teachers have always been available to work with the kids either before or after school. Communication with the parents has been fantastic at both schools. Crossroads was great with communicating with parents, too.
What are the challenges?
Funding is always an issue with public schools. Class sizes can be quite large at times, although it is better this year.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
Time management; responsibilities for one’s actions; to feel comfortable to ask for help when needed; how to navigate the internet for reliable sources; and respect for “Everyone.”
Share your school hacks:
My kids need to be self-sufficient. I guide them when asked for help. I receive notifications of missing assignments, but it is up the student to do the work and turn it in. Turning it in seems to be the difficult part for some. You cannot force a child to study, but you can help them understand the end result. Each child is unique and has their own destiny. I cannot determine that, only the child has control over that. Each child has their own pathway. It is important for parents to understand that the pathway belongs to the child, not the parent. I find that to be the hardest thing in regards to parenting.


Carrie Pomeroy is mom to Bridger, grade 11, who has been homeschooled his entire education and is now attending the University of Minnesota for PSEO; and Cassidy, grade 8, who was homeschooled for part of her education and is now attends Edvisions Off-Campus, an online, project-based charter school.
Why did you select these options?
Before I had children, I taught homeschooled students through the Loft Literary Center back in the mid ‘90s and early 2000s. I got to know several families very well over the course of almost a decade of work with them, and I was just really inspired by the freedom and flexibility these families had to learn at their own pace, as well as their freedom to pursue learning in a way that seemed very effective and enjoyable for their kids. I remembered feeling so often when I was in school that I was just watching the clock and counting down the days until the weekend or until vacation, and what I noticed about these homeschooled kids I was working with was that they seemed so happy and engaged in what they were doing; there was a feeling of flow in their endeavors and a self-directedness that was pretty exciting and infectious. I talked to my husband about it, and we both thought homeschooling was worth a try. We asked our kids every year if they wanted to check out school, but my son never did. My daughter’s work at Edvisions Off-Campus for the last two years has been a natural extension of homeschooling. As she hit her middle-school years, she wanted more accountability and structure for her learning, but she didn’t want that accountability from me. She also knew that I’m not that great at providing structure. Now, with input from her EdVisions advisors, she creates projects to learn about subjects that interest her and decides how she’ll demonstrate her learning, whether through a research paper, a slideshow, a timeline, or whatever she and her advisors decide would help her grow in her learning. She also has to manage her own time and make sure she’s putting in the work to get her projects done in a timely way and earn credits in a variety of subjects. It’s a really good fit for her learning style and personality.
What do you appreciate most?
When I waited until they were ready to learn something and genuinely interested, they seemed to retain so much more of what they learned than when I forced learning because of some artificial, imposed timeline for when they “should” learn something.
I especially appreciated that after years of being read out loud to many hours a day, both my kids taught themselves to read using Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield comic books. That was so empowering and pain-free! They learned to read “late” by school standards, around age seven, but went from being pre-readers to fluent readers very, very quickly, and they are now avid, voracious readers and curious, thoughtful writers.
Now that my son is attending college classes at the U for PSEO, my daughter is attending EdVisions, and they are both thriving, I wish I could go back and reassure my past self that things were going to work out OK. There was a lot of anxiety for me about choosing this path, so it feels really good to be on this side of our homeschooling journey rather than just starting out. .
What are the challenges?
Many people think that a drawback of homeschooling is a lack of socialization, but that really hasn’t been a problem for us in the ways that many might think it would be. Both my kids have been able to make friends both in the homeschooling community and outside of it, with people of many different ages. My daughter has learned to work as part of a group as an Irish dancer, a martial artist, and by acting in plays, as well as doing volunteer work in our community. My son has also volunteered locally, something I think is really important.
Share your school hacks or tips.
The biggest one for me is being attentive, noticing what interests my kids, and finding ways to help them learn more, find mentors and resources, and go more deeply into that interest, while also knowing when it’s time to back off and not lean too hard into making everything a teachable moment.
Another really important thing for me has been being aware that sometimes even when they don’t seem like they’re really learning or doing something educational, they may actually be doing something really valuable to their growth. For instance, my son has always loved video games. When he was younger, he got pretty involved on online gaming forums discussing gaming techniques and strategies and helping mediate disputes among other gamers. That really built his writing skills, even though that kind of writing wasn’t a traditionally academic pursuit. Eventually, he also started writing game-inspired fiction. Now, I really think his experiences with writing about video games for an audience of other interested gamers have profoundly shaped his abilities as a writer. He understood from an early age that writing needed to be clear, concise, organized, and interesting to capture and hold other people’s attention; I don’t think we always learn those things from more abstract academic writing assignments that we just do for a grade.

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Advanced Placement awards, girls’ soccer wins city title

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Eric Erickson

The Como Park Cougars girls’ soccer team captured the St. Paul City Conference Championship with an undefeated 6-0 conference record. They clinched the title with a victory on Senior Night, held at Como on Sept. 25. (Photo by Eric Erickson)

The National Advanced Placement (AP) Exam results administered by the College Board in 2019 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 College Board also released 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, Edward Bie, Amira Boler, Ian Brudnak-Voss, Roan Buck, Bridger Carlson, Chiamaka Chijioke, Bruce Deal, Adina DeGaetano, Raef Eddins, Thomas Freberg, Alexandra Harris, Hannah Hausman, Olivia Helmin, Willow Hollister-LaPointe, Kiersten Howatt, Nicholas Jacobsen, Harrison Kerr, Reagan Kerr, Zach Konkol, Aditi Kulkarni, Stella LaCroix-Dalluhn, Abigail Levin, Theo Lucy, Khyri Lueben, Carter Moorman, Claire Olson, Emilie Pagel, Janey Post, Serena Raths, Jack Schumacher, Isak Stillwell-Jardine, Sawyer Wall, Audrey Westerberg, and Justine Wulff.
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: Sunniva Berg, Carter Brown, William Farley, Elijah Frese, Naddi Jillo, Joseph Newman, Lila Seeba, Mira Seeba, and Emma Wolters.
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: Aiyanna Aeikens, Henrie Friesen, William Gray, Chloe Hollister-Lapointe, Jackson Lee, Celia Olson, Eloise Rein, Mason Salverda, Peter Schik, Antero Sivula, and Marco Tabacman.
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 are Isaac Harker and Alistair Pattison.
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.

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