One-of-a-kind program aims to become national model

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (December 2010) — Numerous mentoring programs around the country regularly match businesses with kids. The varied programs are critically important and often show positive results. But few, if any, of these initiatives involve the head of the company in a year-long effort to broaden the horizons of at-risk students through the world of business. In an ambitious effort to prepare vulnerable children for rewarding careers in the future, Risen Christ School (RCS), a 325-student, K-8 grade school located in the Powderhorn Park area of Minneapolis, has created an innovative program, Imagine the Possibilities.

One-of-a-kind program aims to become national model

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (December 2010) — Numerous mentoring programs around the country regularly match businesses with kids. The varied programs are critically important and often show positive results. But few, if any, of these initiatives involve the head of the company in a year-long effort to broaden the horizons of at-risk students through the world of business. In an ambitious effort to prepare vulnerable children for rewarding careers in the future, Risen Christ School (RCS), a 325-student, K-8 grade school located in the Powderhorn Park area of Minneapolis, has created an innovative program, Imagine the Possibilities.

More than 90 percent of RCS's students come from families who are living either at or below the poverty line. Many of these students will become first-generation high school graduates.  Because these students have limited contact with the world of business, the school believes they would benefit from personal interactions with business leaders. Imagine the Possibilities program will pair the top executives from over a dozen companies with 8th-grade students. The business leaders/mentors would expressly design a project related to their field to be presented over the course of the school year to their group of students. 

 

Yvonne Cheung Ho, president and CEO of Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA), is taking the project one step further. "I simply want my lesson plan to include other Twin Cities corporate executives and entrepreneurs of color in an interactive series of sessions with students," she said. "By showcasing successful entrepreneurs of color, I want the students to 'imagine the possibilities' these business men and women now have because of their hard work and success."

 

Cheung Ho has already scheduled three events for the students, introducing them to the entrepreneurs of color and allowing them to ask questions, and learn about the challenges and possibilities of entrepreneurship and business. 

 

  • The first event held last month, featured a dialogue with Tony Williamson, a successful African American entrepreneur who started an IT consulting company with his wife in 1995.  The company currently has revenues of US$35 million. 
  • The second event will include a presentation on January 7, 2011 by Cathy Cruz Gooch, a third generation Mexican American woman, whose family owns Catallia Mexican Foods, a tortilla manufacturing company. 
  • The third event is a luncheon on February 10, 2011 hosted by Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. At this event, students can interact with Powell as well as MEDA clients, who are entrepreneurs of color. 

Student participation can include field trips to the business, focus group research and other ideas to help youth understand the importance of their education in preparation for future careers. Funded in part by an inner-city education grant from the GHR Foundation, RCS's (www.risenchristschool.org) Imagine the Possibilities will result in a myriad of benefits to both students and their mentors.

 

"The approach is both innovative and creative. Because the students are the focus of the campaign, they will bring back to the classroom insights and knowledge that will also influence, inform and enlighten other students," said Fran Rusciano Murnane, RCS's director of advancement and program manager. "Imagine the Possibilities will allow us to expand our academic capital and give our students a broader educational experience."

 

About MEDA

Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) is a nonprofit organization that provides training, financing, consulting and other assistance to minority-owned and minority-managed companies. MEDA (www.MEDA.net) works to narrow the gap between majority and minority entrepreneurs with its business development programs. The organization's services help invigorate minority communities, local and national economies and help create great business leaders in Minnesota.

 

 

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