In 1999, the Landfall Teen Center opened, quickly becoming a destination spot for youth in the community. Teens come to participate in after-school activities, like community gardening, cooking classes, job and career guidance, and biking trips. The center also offers computer stations, 3D printing, and space for music production. “They do a lot of organized biking trips and just learn different things about being a teenager,” explains Edward Shukle, City Administrator. “[The Center] also helps with homework. They’ll help mentor those that are having trouble in school.” Teens have also helped volunteer to transform the center, fostering community pride. Many teens in the area were reluctant to bring friends to their manufactured-home community, but now, many are sharing what they have built at the Teen Center with friends from neighboring communities. After school programs have impacts that range from academics to health.
The Investigation Station is the go-to place for elementary school-aged children in Landfall. Upon arrival, kids flow toward the activity spaces that offer music, games, woodworking, computers and Legos. They can read in the library and collect stars to earn books. Staff assist kids with daily homework assignments and longer-term projects. Visiting artists nurture art skills while a nutrition educator teaches youth about food groups and food preparation. Research supports that elementary school students who regularly attended the high-quality afterschool programs demonstrated significant gains in things like standardized math test scores, work habits, and social skills (Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007). The program is supported by FamilyMeans, a nonprofit agency committed to strengthening communities by strengthening families. The organization has a satellite office in the basement of Landfall city hall, offering a presence in the community.
Located below the Teen Center, the Youth Bicycle Program propels students to get fit and explore the community around them–see the health benefits of cycling. A well-equipped repair shop allows youth to learn and practice bike repair skills, ranging from fixing a flat tire to building a wheel. Weekly bike rides take cyclists to Dairy Queens, surrounding communities, and into Wisconsin. The youth cyclists and mechanics report pride in what they accomplished, becoming stronger and safer cyclists, achieving more than they expected to, and gaining skills they can use later in life. In 2017, 36 youth participated in the program, collectively riding 4,394 miles, roughly the distance from Landfall, MN to Paris, France.
Landfall is a two-time honoree of KaBOOM’s Playful City USA, a national recognition program honoring cities and towns that ensure that kids in their communities, particularly kids from low-income families, get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. The median household income in Landfall is $33,750, significantly lower than the median household income of Minneapolis, $52,611. In 2010, local teens in Landfall presented a plan to the City Council for building a skate park. It didn’t pass, but the Council allocated funds for a bus route that would take teens to an existing park nearby. “It was an ingenious solution, especially in our economic times,” said Mike Vietti, communications manager at KaBOOM. Landfall plans to apply for grants to build a skate park in the city.
Playful City USA
More than half of the city’s population identifies as Hispanic (53.2%). Racial differences in perceptions between officers and communities have been found–nine-in-ten officers (91%) say police have an excellent or good relationship with Whites in their communities; but just 56% rate the relationship between police and Blacks positively, while seven-in-ten report good relations with Hispanics. Given that crime rates in Landfall are higher than the rest of the state, to encourage healthy relationships between police officers and children at Landfall, the lake is used as an educational playground. The local police donate their time, fishing poles, and bait, and take summer afternoons to teach the kids of Landfall how to fish. This activity builds relationships with the younger residents and is an attempt to break down stereotypes between law enforcement and youth of color, beginning at young ages.
Landfall’s community center, which doubles as a storm shelter for the 300 mobile homes, acts as a gathering point for the city. “Well, officially it’s a storm shelter,” explains Edward Shukle, City Administrator. “But we don’t have as many storms as the Southern part of the United States, so generally what we see is that it’s used for parties and receptions and different events.” Residents book the community center with parties, receptions, events, cinco de mayo celebrations, baptisms, weddings, and an annual holiday party hosted by the city. City elections are also found here. The center has a full kitchen and seats up to 175 people, or about one-fourth of the city’s population.
Photo credit: Ed Shukle of City of Landfall Village
Landfall, a Promise Place, was named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance in 2008 and 2010. A Promise Place can be a school, church, community organization, business or any other place that provides all ‘Five Promises’ – caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others – to young people — acting as a hub of holistic services and resources crucial to success.