“We Want You Back” is a partnership between Rochester Public Schools and the United Way of Olmsted County to re-engage students who have dropped-out and encourage them to come back to school. According to Minnesota Department of Education 2017 data, students of color graduate at a rate of 69 percent compared to 88 percent for White students. When Superintendent Michael Muñoz noticed in 2012 that almost 300 students have not finished the year, he decided to hit the streets. Volunteer community members and teachers show up at students’ doors and talk about the importance of education. “That’s been effective and it continues because sometimes people, either the parents are both working, or whatever and the kid just stays at home or feels that nobody really cares…‘I won’t be missed,’” says Mayor Brede who is also a volunteer for the program.
“We Want You Back”
Photo credit: John Danilenko-Dixon from Rochester Public Schools
Mission 21 is an “anti-trafficking service provider committed to the complete restoration of child victims of sex trafficking.” A November 2010 study found that each month in Minnesota, at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services. The average age of victims is 12-14 years old and many suffer from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. Mission 21 has been working tirelessly to provide services like food, clothing, and emergency medical services to children and women up to age 21 who are caught in trafficking.. Mayor Ardell Brede says, “You know, probably 90% of the people…here in town have no clue that [trafficking] is going on here, but it happens.” The city’s commitment to helping youth transition out of trafficking is an example of communities in which everyone can thrive.
Photo credit: Shawnna Seaquist of Mission21
Wood Lake was once a recreational lake, surrounded by homes, but in 1969, Richfield’s City Council approved the conversion of Wood Lake into a nature center. One of the first urban nature centers in the U.S., Wood Lake Nature Center features wetlands, walking paths, and an interpretive center. Bird monitoring programs that integrate conservation, ecological research, environmental education, capacity-building, and income generation have been found to be cost-effective tools in achieving the goals of community-based biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction in the developing world (Şekercioğlu, 2012). With Richfield’s median annual income being less than the US average, access to the park by K-6 Richfield Public School students, who visit three times a year, promotes environmental justice and stewardship in the community. This partnership is made possible by the annual Urban Wildland Half Marathon & 5K.