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VAN Forum

North Minneapolis: Empowering a Neighborhood

September 14, 2010
10:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Andre Dukes, Engagement Director, PEACE Foundation
Taronda Richardson, Bakery and Employment Director, Cookie Cart
Sister Jean Thuerauf, Mercy Missionaries of Minneapolis

Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center
Room 105
2001 Plymouth Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411



On Tuesday, September 10, 2010 approximately 40 people gathered to engage in conversation about intergenerational leadership in the neighborhood. Presenters included Sister Jean Thearauf, Mercy Missionaries; Taronda Richardson, Cookie Cart; and Andre Dukes, Northside Achievement Zone and PEACE Foundation. A highlight of their presentations is provided below.

Sister Jean shared her personal story of leadership. She has been residing in Minneapolis for 32 years and embarked on her journey of ministry in North Minneapolis. She said her vision all started when there were 2 teens hanging around her home, and she invited them in for some applesauce. From that moment on, teens kept coming into her home to socialize. She quickly realized that she wanted to engage these teens so they started baking cookies. Through this, she says, they were “Learning not just how to eat, but how to bake em.” Today, Sister Jean’s vision has turned into the Cookie Cart where teens learn leadership and employment skills all while baking cookies. Sister Jean’s advice for leaders includes:

  • Stepping out of comfort zones to meet people and make friends.
  • Think of everyone as a potential friend, not a stranger.
  • Employ an attitude of “you help me, I’ll help you” to build community.
  • Meet people where they are.
  • Have stories to keep you going
  • The necessity of having a sense of humor.

Following Sister Jean’s presentation, Taronda Richardson of the Cookie Cart discussed how the Cookie Cart is developing young leaders. Approximately 120 teens a year work at the Cookie Cart and for many of them it is their first paid job. The Cookie Cart teaches youth necessary employment skills. To work at the Cookie Cart youth must live in North Minneapolis, be responsible, energetic, have academic achievement, interpersonal skills, and dedication. Taronda believes that leaders need to listen, be flexible, and work to plant a lot of seeds.

Andre Dukes was the final presenter and talked about the Northside Achievement Zone, which is modeled after the Harlem project. He said that North Minneapolis has the 2nd highest rate achievement gap in the country, and 50% of youth live in poverty. The Northside Achievement Zone is working to promote education, family engagement, and outreach into the community. He believes that people need support systems to be successful, and that is what he is trying to build on the northside.

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