Classroom Community at Metro State

When Brett Buckner from OneMN.org and I arrived at the Metropolitan State University Issues and Actions in Family Policy classroom, about 30 students sat in rows watching a TED Talk about what it means to be a global citizen. After the video ended we introduced ourselves, gave a quick overview of the Thriving by Design initiative, and passed out Equity Blueprint Springboards for discussion.

Students numbered off one to eight and formed small group circles to discuss ideas and their perspectives related to the Equity Blueprint Springboard. At first, conversations took a little time to warm up, but when we transitioned from each question to another, everyone was still busy and engaged in their groups. As I floated around the room, introducing myself and taking notes, the energy in the room was palpable. Similar to other community meetings, participants were excited to share their ideas, experiences, and feedback related to the Equity Blueprint and future visions for Minnesota.

The conversations touched on renting inequities as a person of color, recent changes to public school transportation access in Saint Paul, and cultural aging care concerns. Eventually, members came back together to share with the larger group. Groups shared sentiments that tapped into the heart of building bridges, and the commonality we all share across communities: a similar desire for our families, friends, and community to thrive. Students shared the importance of living wages for all, equal rights to basic needs, healthcare, and universal paid leave. Several students brought perspectives related to immigrant experiences and there were several mentions about the importance of measuring immigrants’ economic impact within Minnesota.

Towards the end of the meeting, participants turned in their springboard and notes, while a few decided to keep their springboard for future reference and email feedback pictures to organizers. Students were exuberant before they left, and spoke one-to-one with Brett and me about the Thriving by Design process. Upon leaving, they were already emailing us stating they wanted to stay further involved in the Thriving by Design process and were hungry for more.

INSPIRATION: What ideas on the Blueprint inspired or stood out to you?

  • We all share the same desires
  • We all want the best for our family
  • Bring living wage jobs to households
  • Income stability for elders and seniors
  • Equal right to food, shelter, and clothing – social justice
  • Healthcare and access to universal paid leave
  • School transportation and school buses need to be addressed
  • Criminal justice- reduce stop and search
  • Affordable housing
  • Free 2 year college education
  • Immigrants’ impact on the economy

CONCERN: What ideas on the Blueprint concerned you?

  • Retaining wealth in the community it was created in – why wouldn’t we share resources?

MISSING: What are new or missing ideas from the Blueprint Springboard?

  • Looking at policies that increase access to free student lunches statewide

IDEA: Scaling up farm to school programs statewide: One day of the week- using produce in school districts that is locally sourced and bought by the state. Example: Program between Breaking Bread and North Minneapolis schools.

  • Improving access to after-school programs (specifically for Somali youth in the city)
  • Tax Reform: Addressing where our tax investments as a state go: schools versus prisons

Agriculture

  • Small farms are less expensive to run than larger farms
  • Farmer’s markets are cheaper for customers and the produce is fresher/tastes better

Arts

  • Focus funding for underserved groups in arts participation

Economic Development

IDEA: Create a state bank to address issues such as student loan debt. Example of North Dakota State Bank loan programs

Education

“I don’t think anyone can actually pay college tuition.”

  • Provide statewide high-quality education for kids
  • Access to free 2-year community college
  • Free lunch for kids- paying at least $50 a week for school lunches
  • Programs after school for inner-city kids (specifically black and Somali children)
  • Everybody should be educated- provide more support specifically for immigrants, refugees, and low-income individuals
  • A bachelor’s degree can help you get a good wage, but it is hard to get.
  • Student loans for college students in MN- have programs to help graduating students pay off their student debt
  • Student transportation- for example, buses changing times and kids expected to ride the city bus to school in St. Paul- parents worry for their kid’s safety
  • Paying for school lunches- Spends over $50 on kids’ lunches every week- expand reduced/free lunches

Employment/Jobs

“The minimum wage does not match the cost of living.”

  • Need a minimum wage increase and equal employment opportunity
  • How are communities treating employees? For example- wage theft

Environment

  • Local climate change- need help to clean our waters

Healthcare

“We should have universal paid family and medical leave.”

  • Provide paid leave for families during birth
  • More gun control in Minnesota and regulations for those owning guns
  • Major for everyone- the Affordable Care Act works for poor people and not so much for rich people- it helps provide insurance to those who can’t afford it.
  • In some cultures, family members are afraid to take aging parents to the nursing home
  • Senior care needs to be culturally competent
  • Affordability of rooms- people can’t afford single rooms at nursing homes and have to switch to a double room – lack of dignity and privacy

Housing

“People aren’t getting the affordable housing that they need.”

  • Affordable housing for all people in MN because in MN there is less housing than there is population
  • Public housing is more affordable
  • Need more opportunities for lower/middle class to buy a home

IDEA: Revise public housing policy to be more accessible

  • Not many resources in the community for family housing- people of color aren’t getting equal access to housing- some people are being denied housing because of their race
  • Addressing rent increases – tenant rights

Immigration

“People would be lost if immigrants didn’t work for a day.”

  • Major issue- immigration policy had a more open-door approach before the change in federal administration
  • Unfair policies
  • Family separation is a federal issue that affects Minnesotans (is there a statewide policy that can circumvent it?)
  • Immigrants and refugees have to find co-signers for renting, which can be difficult
  • Students can’t get financial aid and parents can’t afford to pay
  • Show the impact of immigrants in the community, workforce, and economy– for example, the action “Day Without Immigrants” displays the gap left in several communities when immigrant workers do not come in for a day.

Income Mobility/Poverty

  • Living wage for low-income households and protecting snap/healthcare and MN Family Investment Program (MFIP)
  • Money is the issue- need to increase funding to prevent poverty
  • Protect food stamps which can help individuals
  • Change in how money is spent on some resources such as food stamps- for example, food stamps are being sold but no workers care who gets what- need more food shelves instead of food stamps
  • Foster care after a person turns 18 years old- who helps them transition? Support adults leaving the foster care system.

Public Safety/Criminal Justice

“A person’s past criminal history shouldn’t affect their right to equal opportunity.”

  • Reduce disparities in contact (stop and search) arrest, charging, and sentencing

Urban-Rural Relationships

  • Shared communities but are culturally divided based on race/skin color

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