Reporting in North Minneapolis never looks the same, day-to-day. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an event at New Rules, the Phillips Foundation had hosted an event with Patrick Henry High School to celebrate their new project-based learning program.
Education reporting can be a difficult job, but I believe — and I am biased — that the task is too important to ignore. Because of my academic and professional work, I get to spend my days in schools and classrooms. I see how hard our teachers and administrators work and I have an intimate understanding of how much red tape exists in our schools and school districts. But at the end of the day many of the struggles that our classrooms and schools and districts face come down to sustainability and the opportunity to innovate.
The Phillips-Henry event at New Rules was phenomenal. I was asked to attend, not as a reporter, but as a community member (though I am not a Northsider) invested in North Minneapolis. It was an amazing opportunity to further connect with the Henry community and a real joy to sit in conversations with other community members to discuss what our schools and students need and what we are going to do to make that happen.
North News also joined Henry at their back-to-school barbeque, where we had the chance to connect with dozens of family members, educators, and students. Many were familiar with the journalism class at North High taught by North News editor & publisher Kenzie O’Keefe and so many asked me about how they could get themselves or their teenagers involved in the paper.
Side Note: I was joined at the event by Henry student and North News intern, Blessing Kasongoma. I had worked with Blessing earlier in the summer at Family Day where I helped introduce her to live event reporting. Blessing had commented that because of her North News experience she had a new commitment and connection to North Minneapolis. I also hung out with Blessing on Primary Day. We were joined by another North News intern, Daija Triplett. I introduced them to the polling place and how polls run in Minnesota and helped Daija register to vote. I consider myself very fortunate that I have the type of job that allows me to spend that time and do that type of work with our young people.
I take the responsibility of education reporting seriously, but I have to balance that reporting with my small-business coverage and my limited capacity. And unfortunately, the nature of reporting is that concerns and challenges rise to the top faster than successes. The Phillips-Henry event was amazing to me because it reminded me — right when I needed reminding — that we all have the capacity to invest in our schools and that our schools have the opportunity to do good things for our students if educators, administrators, and parents have the opportunity work together and the funding they need to make things happen. It inspired us to take a different tack with our Educator Spotlight this past month as part of our annual back-to-school package.
We’ve spotlighted four Northside educators this month. You’ll be able to find the extended spotlights online soon , but we published excerpts from each interview in the print paper. For that print edition we had asked each teacher what they needed from the community in order to have a successful year. The answer: our presence. Be present at the schools, at events; volunteer; check in with your children; be aware. There is no money, in my opinion, that can make up for the simple gift of being present.
Regardless of whether or not we have children, we have a responsibility to our schools. That responsibility can take any form, but education is a village and it requires us all to step up to bat. At North News it is done by educating young people (at North High and through internships) and through our reporting: by being present where we can be to tell stories about Northside schools and students that nobody else is telling. It may take a different form for you, but I urge you to contact your local school and be present!