"This will enable us to zero-in on the specific issues impacting our youth and align them with available resources and tools to be successful," said Ronald Simmons, Principal of the Minneapolis Urban League Academy in his testimony before the committee. "They'll receive guided support to increase basic skills competency, identify a career path and the soft skills needed to obtain livable wage jobs."
The Minneapolis Urban League Academy is tapped to be one of the program's pilot sites. Often the last resort for students struggling socially and academically in public schools, the Academy hopes to bridge this gap through its social enterprise and mentorship model set to launch this Summer. It currently has 132 students enrolled, including 25 middle-school students. Approximately 99% of students enrolled are African-American, 3% are homeless.
"Our youth face different barriers to successful graduation, college enrollment and completion," continues Simmons. "Unstable home life and behavioral challenges require yet another level of intervention.
In his testimony, Scott Gray, President and CEO of Minneapolis Urban League, outlined the program's core objectives and outcomes including partnerships with post-secondary institutions Dunwoody Institute and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), as additional pathways to opportunity for program participants.
"Thank you for addressing a real need," said Education Committee Chair, Senator Patricia Torres Ray (SD 63-DFL). She further applauded Senator Hayden for identifying community partners to address the education crisis. The bill passed unanimously and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for possible inclusion in the omnibus finance bill. The initiative will be presented by Representative Ray Dehn, the author of the bill in Minnesota's House of Representatives with a possible hearing next week.
The Minneapolis Urban League urges its constituents and anyone concerned with helping our young people reach their fullest potential to contact your Senator and urge their support of the 13th Grade Initiative.