Skip to main content

Education in Focus

Conversations with Education Experts

With students once again back in school, it seems appropriate to provide a unique look into what’s being discussed in the field of education here at home and across the country. Over the last two years, Chanda has had a number of engaging and informative guests who are education experts. This episode shares powerful and enlightening clips from previous shows that tie the community to the classroom.

Listen to Our Episode

Souphak Kienitz  00:11 

You’re listening to Conversations with Chanda, a Minneapolis Foundation podcast that unpacks the community’s grittiest most vexing problems, hosted by Chanda Smith Baker. So school just started this week, or for some of you a week or two ago, over the last few years, we spoke with some leaders in education, and we’d like to highlight them here. Our first clip is from Lisa Pawelak, principal, at Lucy Craft Laney Community School in North Minneapolis. Listen in, as Chanda and Lisa discuss the challenge of schools, meeting the needs of students and families. Enjoy the show. 

Chanda Smith Baker  00:58 

We talked about, sort of, your time at Laney and just watching how things have changed, and centering youth voice and including them in what’s happening in a building is really powerful, right? Like I could feel myself like tearing up a little bit.  

Lisa Pawelak  01:02 

Me too. 

Chanda Smith Baker  01:17 

I know, I’m just like, oh, man, I need to wipe a tear. Sorry, I’m like dropping stuff, because I’m like, you know, to think about being a young person who, you know, part of feeling value is is about people hearing you. Like, you know, you’re not part of a herd. You’re not part of a there’s something that’s just so powerful about that, and I think sometimes my read on it is that there are places, I think, it’s too disruptive, we can’t meet the needs, right? That’s how I read it, that we can’t meet all the individual demands, right like that are happening in classrooms. And you know, again, you are dealing with these children who are emotionally being impacted by what’s happening. They have families that are complicated. They have families that have a lot to offer, but they’re coming to the school with some of the same challenges. And so do you feel like your school is equipped to meet, are you feeling the same demands of all the other schools and like are you equipped to meet the needs of kids, or in families, or… 

Lisa Pawelak  02:15 

I see it a little bit differently, Chanda, rhymes, with Honda. I believe that as institution, school institutions, we are one of many pillars of the community. So school is one place and space church is another place and space. Family is another place in space, neighbors, community centers are another place in space. And I don’t believe that it is, my or our responsibility to meet every need. I believe it is my and our responsibility to create a safe, warm, welcoming place where every need is acknowledged. And then to help to help connect and to walk alongside and truly be a family and be part of the village that raises but I think that for a school to take on every need, in some ways, is prideful. And it’s, and it’s also, I don’t know if paternalistic is the right word, but who am I to meet every need, we already have, and you already have everything you need as my job to create that place and that space. So that all of us can come together and be the village. 

Chanda Smith Baker  03:31 

Just even saying that we we have a responsibility to acknowledge the needs, how do you acknowledge the needs? Like what does that look like? 

Lisa Pawelak  03:39 

Something that I think, something you’ll hear often is, you know, the child who comes in, and there hasn’t been time to wash clothes, at home. We have a washer and dryer, we have some changes, so we can meet that need in the moment. But then we can also check in with the family like alright, is this a need in the moment? is there someone or some service we can connect you with so that that can be taken off of your plate? You know, so we can meet some of those needs, but acknowledging those emotional and traumatic, even, it’s just like what we were talking about with the children coming out and doing a peace rally. Did we take care of that need? Is the violence gone on the north side? Are the children no longer experiencing trauma? No, but we acknowledged it, and we created that, that space for it to come out, in a way. 

Chanda Smith Baker  04:34 

Yeah, I get it. What about the parents because you know, parents like we can be we can be fierce.  

Lisa Pawelak  04:39 

You can and that’s what I love about parents. Because that’s, I mean, these are your babies think about what other profession other than maybe the medical profession, do we have the honor of taking care of families most precious gifts and, you know, I mentioned earlier my children, Sandara and Naya were Laney babies. But I’m not the only one who counted up this year we had 17 students whose, whose parents are Lucy Laney employees. And we have some we have some staff who were staff first and became parents like myself. And then we have some staff who were parents first and became staff, and so we say that we are a family. The beauty of having so many of us who are parents and staff either present or former, it forces us to do so because you can’t have a conversation about Laney parents, or Laney kids, with the staff without having a lady parent in the room. And so yes, parents are fierce, but so am I. So are we, we have the same goal, and that’s for your child to thrive, and for your child to have the best possible school they experience, that they can have. And so I see parents as partners, not adversaries, even when we don’t agree, because our ultimate goal is the same for the children. 

Chanda Smith Baker  06:10 

Yeah. So is there a high level of parent engagement at the school?  

Lisa Pawelak  06:14 

I believe so? Yes.  

Chanda Smith Baker  06:15 

Yeah. Have you had to adjust what that looks like there? 

Lisa Pawelak  06:21 

We’ve had to rethink as a staff, and we spent a couple years thinking very deeply because, you know, traditionally in the school system, parent engagement looks like you coming in during the school day, to help with something or you as the parent coming in, in the evening, or you as the parent reaching out to me. And that’s not always the case, you know, I think about my own self as a parent, once my children were not, if my children an elementary were at Laney, I would have been at Laney, during all the times that that parents were supposed to come to the school. And when they got to Franklin, I was not able to be there, and so we’ve, we’re very creative, we do home visits to go meet families. Every August we divide up into groups and then we take a day we get our new t shirts for the for the fall, and we go visit every family on the same day and just welcome them to the new school year for conferences. We’ve challenged ourselves to, to not think of it just as this one day or this one evening, but we take the whole month and meet with families in any way that we possibly can, and we have about 80% participation, which is huge, 80%. 

Chanda Smith Baker  07:32 

I would start to say to someone do that. 

Lisa Pawelak  07:35 

Right? A guy can meet me any morning at 7:30, any afternoon at 3:15. I can come to your job, you can come to me, you know, it’s just not reasonable. 

Souphak Kienitz  07:47 

And back of April this year, we had the opportunity to interview Kareem Farah, an educator and co-founder of the Modern Classrooms Project. We met with Kareem to discuss about technology in the modern classroom, and how his organization are not only helping students, but training teachers through a mentorship program. 

Chanda Smith Baker  08:10 

There’s something around sort of the advancements that you made with the modern classroom that uses technology as support and delivery. And then, kind of, the world that we’re living in now, and so it may be two different questions, one is like what is the opportunity at the moment in terms of 21st century learning, and I guess the second is really just diving a little bit more into the modern classrooms, sort of, like concretely so that our listeners understand exactly what it is that you’re doing.  

Kareem Farah  08:42 

Yeah, well, I actually think it might help if I explain the model, and then how we think it’s an opportunity if that’s okay. So the core idea is simple, and the best way I can describe the Modern Classrooms Project is, I’ll never forget one of the students that I’m, still to this day, text almost every day, I remember watching her come into one of my classrooms when I was still teaching traditionally, and I’m standing at the front of the room, and when the bell rings, like every teacher, a teacher traditionally is usually like, alright, show time, like we need to get everyone in order, and then we’ve got to start the lesson. And I remember watching this student walk into my classroom, and she clearly was experiencing an enormous amount of distress, enormous amount of distress. I later found out it was traumatic. And I remember finding her distress to be a frustrating thing because I wanted to maintain control. And it was at that moment in time where I realized my student’s trauma was bothering me that I had to deeply rethink classroom instruction, because if my desire to control turns me into an educator that doesn’t actually want to engage deeply in the trauma and struggles that my kids are facing, then I’m doing something terribly wrong as an educator. So from there, we thought innovatively about what are the core structures and traditional practices that don’t work? So the first step was the lecture. The lecture is this inherently inequitable exercise where if you’re not there and you miss it, this live information disappears. It’s also a really inefficient use of a teacher’s class time. Like, why am I standing at the front of the room and sharing a mass amount of information, when I could be scaling this in a more effective way and using my time effectively, and I always talk about it as a bottleneck from the business perspective, like bottlenecks are terrible, right? They create like incredible inefficiency, that’s what a lecture was. So in our model, educators eliminate lectures by building their own instructional videos, and this is a core element and differentiator. We train teachers to actually be their own instructional video creators, because they’re personal, they’re creative, and they can infuse whatever curriculum is built at the school or the district. So we built our own instructional videos, from there, that unleashed the capacity to let students work at their own pace. The belief that some students are on less than two hours, others in less than three hours, while others are in less than four. So instead of relying on live, deliver information, it’s all on a learning management system, like a google classroom or a canvas or kids can actually work at their own pace within each unit of study, and that unleash the final frontier, the final goal, which that we actually measure students based on mastery. So a student does not go to lesson two to lesson three, because it’s Tuesday and not Monday, but instead because they’ve actually shown mastery. And you can’t do that unless you have self pacing, right? Without an element of self pacing, how do I keep some kids on one lesson without them moving forward to the next one. So that’s the model, we train teachers through a free course that has 22,000 educators in it, and a Virtual Mentorship Program, which is how we partner with schools and districts, and we have a big summer institute coming. Now, with COVID this was so fascinating. COVID, broke, and started to close schools and all of our teachers who were already doing our model said, Kareem, we’re fine. We know exactly what to do. We can pivot to the remote space, the hybrid space, our model works really well. Our colleagues don’t know what to do, can you help us so we built a really strong free online course, and that’s when 22,000 educators chimed in. And what we realized was, educators had a deep demand for our approach and some of the tools and resources but what it also spoke to was the fact that over the course of last 10 months, educators have never been this good at education technology. For years, there was technology in the buildings, there were tools and resources, that weren’t great frameworks for how educators could use them, which means there was real implementation gap issue, like some educators would be good at technology, some wouldn’t. So the first opportunity here is that educators are actually really strong at some really powerful tools they weren’t before, because they’ve been leveraging them throughout the last 10 months or so. The second thing is, folks started to realize during COVID-19, how ineffective, sort of, your traditional lecture style approach to teaching was because they had to execute it in one of the most uninspiring environments over something like a zoom call. We can all imagine how boring and dry it is to sit on a 45 minute zoom call, where teachers just going to share all this information from start to finish. So you saw two things happen, you got educators, now getting significantly more fluent in all the powerful tools that exists, and also deciding which ones are actually really bad and useless, and which ones are really powerful, and actually can improve student learning, which is an important exercise. There’s a lot of bad tech out there, a lot of great tech out there. But teachers have now been so deeply immersed in it, they can understand the difference at scale. The second piece is understanding the value of what we call a synchronous versus asynchronous instruction, the value of that work time we give to students where they’re in the driver’s seat where they’re not compliantly, listening to live lectures, and the need for when you do bring the whole group together. So now educators are starting to think, wait a minute, I can think about time in teaching and learning differently, and doesn’t need to meet me at the front of the room delivering information. And then finally, an enormous need, a need that existed before, but wasn’t actually addressed all that effectively, which is the diversity of academic and social emotional needs of students. This has always been the case, right? We’ve always known this that a fourth grader in one community can look very different than a fourth grader in another community and those two students can walk into the same classroom and have very different needs. COVID-19 totally exacerbate this right? Where you have kids who literally can’t make it to the lecture because of access issues, and simultaneously other kids thriving in the remote and hybrid learning environment. And that built this intense desire to say how do I meet this needs of a student who lost a family member and doesn’t have access and simultaneously meet the needs of someone who is actually thriving. And that requires a sort of more novel personalized approach to supporting students. So at the Modern Classrooms Project, what we’re basically seeing is teachers have never been more prepared to think innovatively about teaching and learning. They’ve never been better skilled at education technology. And there’s never been a greater need for innovation at the classroom level to meet the diversity of learning levels and social emotional needs. So I do think this is an opportunity for education to really accelerate and get much stronger, particularly In our ability to be responsive to the needs of kids and communities, and I’m excited about that it’s frankly, a silver lining of this extremely challenging time. 

Chanda Smith Baker  15:09 

And the way that the modern classroom works is that teachers sign up to become part of that network and get access and tools, you don’t focus on a district signing up. Is that right? 

Kareem Farah  15:22 

So what we do is teachers can sign up individually from across the country in the world, we’re actually in 110 countries and 50 states, which is exciting. They can do that in the free course or the paid experience, which is basically $500, a teacher to get our full training experience. The majority of teachers we train, through the paid experience do come through school and district contracts, or foundations and funders and funding educators in a local community. So if you’re in San Francisco, and a funder says I want 100 teachers to go through the Modern Classrooms Program in San Francisco, here’s funding for that, guy recruited educators and take them through a journey we say great. The other way is schools and districts say, hey, we’d like to infuse the Modern Classroom practices in our community, but what we say is, we’re an opt in model. So we will only train the teachers who want to be trained. So if a school district comes to us and says, We want teachers trained, we say wonderful, we’re happy to support you get us on the calendar in front of your teachers will present to them, they’ll tell us if they want to be a part of the program, and then you pay for all the teachers who want to be a part of it. So we have about 35 school and district partnerships, it’s only accelerating we’re going to train about 1000 teachers this summer, and some of them are coming through philanthropy funded experiences where a philanthropist is funding a group of teachers in a region or in the country. And the majority are schools and districts who are seeking our support and infusing innovative teaching and learning. And we say great, we just need to train the teachers who want to be a part of it, because we believe in honoring sort of the customization and needs of educators, and that’s the approach we take. So it’s a virtual mentorship program and the way that we train teachers in our paid programming, where educators are paired with a mentor, that mentor does the model already get one on one support and guidance as they’re building the instructional materials they need to implement the model in their classroom. 

Souphak Kienitz  17:03 

Up next we have Dr. Ibram X Kendi, the award winning author, anti-racist scholar, professor, and much, much more. We spoke about the role of the education system has in debunking or addressing race and racism, along with the understanding of the historical context. 

Chanda Smith Baker  17:21 

What role do you think our educational system has right in terms of debunking or addressing, sort of, these issues of race and racism, and really understanding better the historical context? 

Dr. Ibram X Kendi  17:40 

I mean, if you look at the two most destructive an murderous, white supremacist domestic terrorist of the last five years, of course, Carl Woodhouse and the very young white man who shot up those nine people who were, who were praying, you know, in Charleston cert, they were both extremely young. They were both only years out of high school, you know, who knows what they were taught, or what they weren’t more so not taught in their high schools? Who knows if they would have had a course on African American History, if they would have had a section on racism? What type of impact that would have had in their lives, but we have to systematically, you know, teach our young people like we’re doing our adults, that the problem aren’t those other people, because if they’re taught that the problem are those other people, or they’re not taught that the problem is not those other people, then what do you think they’re going to grow up believing? And when they have, you know, when they have AR 15s and AK 47s  and they have a crisis, what do you think they’re going to end up doing? We’re literally by not teaching our children to be anti racist, we are radicalizing young white men all over this country. 

Souphak Kienitz  19:19 

Back in January of 2021, we interviewed Dr. Christopher Emdin, an Associate Professor of Science Education at Teachers College in Columbia University, and an author of a New York Times bestseller, Chanda and Dr. Emdin spoke with us about young people leaving for school away from their community, and the seven rights that all students should have in a classroom. 

Chanda Smith Baker  19:45 

So I think about the young people that envision going off to school away from their community, and their families say just go get your generals at the local community college because, you know, we just want to make sure you’re safe. That’s too far away, you’re going to be by yourself, like you’re going to come back and not, you’re not gonna be like us no more. 

Christopher Emdin  20:08 

You know, as trauma man, trauma is manifested in various ways. Listen, no adult should rob young person of the opportunity to activate their imagination. If your vision sees you beyond the local space, our job is to equip them with the tools to be successful in those space concurrently with a preparedness of what’s to come. The big part of the challenge is this, like, you know, a lot of our babies dream of going away, but they have this false notion of what going away looks like. And they don’t have folks in their circle to make them aware of what they should be prepared for, like the traps. Like sometimes you go away, is a setup, for example, young folks going away to school, get a credit card, some catches predators right on campus, but think of a black and brown bodies would be no assault on our finances as a cheap piece of how we can never get 100 is like, you know, your mama got a building a name, your poor. So these are things that our communities are dealing with, you go, no one told you this. So you go, you get your credit card, you went up your credit card, you’re ruining your credit, then you’re gonna got a job, like nine, you’ll get this job on campus. I’m gonna get this on, I’m going to take out this loan, because they’re gonna take care of that, and catch, when they loan money back. You go into the space, you have imposter syndrome, you feel like you’re not prepared for this, then I guess self doubt inhibits you from being successful in the school. Like, who can I hang out with, I’m just gonna do social clubs, you get to social now. So they’re the dream of going away, it’s a beautiful dream, if you’re prepared for what the landscape is of where you’re dreaming to go, you know, I mean, and I think that we have to inform you on both now. On the other hand, I’m gonna say something that I don’t know if you all agree with says, but I’m gonna say it. If I stay local, and I got the playbook, I can also change the game. Like, look, I go to community college, for example, I ball out or a smash it because it’s local was close. Now you I’m not close to I could be close to my folks at home. I am close because I’m playing the long game. The long game is I stay at the crib, I can stay with my mom’s and I got to get much tuition. The tuition here is damn low, work, paid that off. No student loans are smashed this up, but he’s two years and get this associates, they pay for my bachelor’s, boom, I go a little further away, for these bachelors. Now the ivy leagues is calling me to pay for my masters. So it’s like, my thing is that let’s not, it’s important for us to tell young folks that there are multiple options. But if you if you get the playbook for both, you can find success rather than romanticize one over the other, and then you ended up broken anyway.  

Chanda Smith Baker  22:42 

Yeah, no I mean, I totally agree with you, and I think my point was more to the family members that are like raining on the drain, right? Like, like not figuring out in partnership with their young person, how we can get you there and get you prepared, but they’re afraid of what going away would mean to their relationship, right like that imposter syndrome of like, they’re going to go away and get a degree and I don’t have one and all that other sort of trauma that shows that was really more my point. Because I’m on the north side of Minneapolis, I’m sitting about eight blocks from where I grew up. My husband is what three blocks from where he grew up, we both went to school, right in the neighborhood. So I think that you know, and I think that’s the other thing is that, you know, I’m from 55411, the zip code that gets most discussed in terms of problems to solve in schools to fix and students to prepare. And there are so many people from this neighborhood that are doing amazing things including press. I keep practice, like across the street from my house, and Andre Simone and a lot of bright brilliance and community brilliance that have that have risen from the concrete, if you will. And I just think that we have, we have collectively described our neighborhood as hopeless, and then we need some charitable action to come in, to like, fix it. 

Christopher Emdin  24:08 

And all we need is ourselves. And all we need is an articulation of the stories of those who’ve been successful and like, the reason about you when you talk about your husband like I like this is one of my quotes that that a reasonable folks, but it’s a, to me, it’s like a mantra is that education is not is not a tool for leaving your neighborhood, right, like education is about being able to get the information to help to improve it. Like it’s not a way out. And if everybody’s making their way out the hood, who going through the hood, are you’re going through this right now. If everybody’s making their way out the hood, all it does is less than a value so other folks come by it. Are you sitting around like yo how they give him my neighborhood and they bought the whole thing out. And so it’s about reinvesting in our communities and reinvesting our communities, not just in like sort of financial sector or real estate or reinvesting in the young folks to say Yo get what you get to come back and make this better, so that we can all live better collectively and that, you know, it’s you know, it’s the it’s the afrocentric idea of lift as you climb. At the end of the day, those premises don’t lose us, like Sankofa is real. And if we learn Sankofa in fourth grade, we think of ourselves differently. 

Chanda Smith Baker  25:13 

Yeah, if, if so, you know, so now we’re gonna talk about schools a little bit, and we’ve talked, we’ve talked about it, but you have, you know, I was, I was talking to your Twitter a little bit. And so you, someone talked to you about hearing your seven rights that all students should have in the classroom as something that was completely brilliant, and I’m wondering if you might be willing to share that with us? 

Christopher Emdin  25:39 

Yeah, man, I love the premise behind those rights. These are not rights that Chris Emdin made up, right? These are, here’s the thing I want everybody to understand, and particularly for those who are listening, who may be in the academic community. There’s nothing that you are creating, there’s nothing that you’re making, that’s going to save black and brown bodies, that does not exist in the imaginations, the hearts and souls of those populations already, period. Let me add a teaser to preview. You know what I mean, like, and so if anyone hears something from me that they feel as a Jew, is because I got that from the hood. And I have the platform to articulate what I’ve heard in the hood or heard in the world. And so this framework is a little complex, and it’s ever evolving, because everything is always evolving, that includes the seven C’s of a concept called reality pedagogy that match up with the seven rights of the body as even articulated in Buddhist tradition, and the merging of the seven C’s of reality pedagogy and the seven rights of the body restores rights to young folks and communities that then folds into practices that should be implemented in classrooms. The seven C’s of reality pedagogy, are co gender dialogues, conversations and educators must be having with young folks having more communities about how they’re doing, and meeting the needs of those communities. You cannot be teaching nobody, if they can’t tell you like, I don’t like that lesson. This ain’t working for me. So cool, generating conversation with communities with young folks, so they can share with us what their perspectives are, and so we can co-construct things to do to make the next experience better, not the world better, not next year better. Like tomorrow, the boom, you all have that lesson, did I kill that, was that trash, did I hurt your feelings? Did you like it? Did you not? Word us how you felt? What are we gonna do about it, we’ll come up with something together, we both could do it. We’ll do it tomorrow, like an immediate feedback loop. So called gender dialogues, co-teaching, recognizing that those who teach are not those who are credentialed, alone. That those who teach or those who’ve been called to teach and those who’ve been called to teach may not have a teaching license, may not have gone to college, but you hear them talk and get their sage wisdom, and you understand that they’ve been called to teach and so allow those who have been called to teach to teach the credentialed about how to teach, and I mean, so reaching out in that hood, in that community to understand who the folks are. There’s that one cat on the block up there all night long, because he hustling, but he has an ability to connect to young folks in a way that nobody else understands. Do not write that person off. Do not identify that person as being the worst in the community, that person may be doing what they doing because they ain’t got no other options. But if you gave them the platform, not saving them, the platform to utilize their gift to help young folks beatified, they will do that. And so co-teaching is allowing the hood to teach us, allowing the babies to teach us about how to teach. Cosmopolitanism, creating and constructing community. Having schools feel like extensions of community, the extent to which a school is successful is the extent to which that school replicates the social structures of a community that school is embedded in. If the school is that place separate from we’re going to save them from that community, if they have the same language, the same discourse, the same spot to hang out at the teachers don’t go to the same pizza shop, the kids go, if there’s a separate sadness about the institution that is not embedded in the social fabric and dynamic of the community, that school is useless. Yeah, I said it is useless. Now, this does not mean that you don’t hold young folks to loftier goals, it doesn’t mean that you’re not open up possibilities, but you can do those things without being disparaging the community where you’re physically located. You know what I mean? 

Chanda Smith Baker  29:29 

Imagine schools that are disparaging the community, the people they’re trying to serve and the people that support the schools that are supposed to support the kids that doctype them as though they’re an asset and not a problem to solve. Can you imagine that? 

Christopher Emdin  29:43 

Yeah, you know I might be able to get through all these C’s, because if I did, like because you and I could just talk on that. And here’s the thing, why does it take the activation of the radical imagination, to do what is right to do. Like sometimes, My heart hurts that I have to sit at Columbia and talk about cosmopolitanism, as articulated through the framework of Kwame Apia as an extension of John Dewey’s notion of entering the child’s mind. When all I really want to say is, get the fuck out the building and go talk to the hood. The hood knows how to make this better caught my language, and it’s like it, it hurts. It hurts and it hurts to be perceived as radical to do what is right to do. There has to be ostracized by the intellectual community, for knowing what is the globally apparent and so I don’t know, man, like I just I, my hope, my prayer is that this moment, socio politically, where we are, with this voice to the articulation of the concept of Black Lives mattering, where there’s an understanding that those who have been called or chosen to help us be safe, make us feel unsafe, that those who hold political power our children, masked by title that our children could not even stoop that low to be like, in a world where the cloak is being pulled to reveal the hypocrisy in our society, that what you and I articulating becomes more clear, it’s my only hope and prayer. 

Souphak Kienitz  31:43 

And lastly, we have Larry McKenzie, an author, speaker and six time High School Championship Basketball Coach in North Minneapolis. Chanda and Larry talked about the academic climate and psyche of students, the challenge of supporting both and achieving relationships and the creed Larry lives by. 

Chanda Smith Baker  32:04 

Or sitting in a climate in academic climate, a climate of discussion of disparities, and what are we going to do with these underperforming students, these marginalized communities? You know, and I’ve always been challenged by that language and what it does to the psyche of the young people in the communities that we’re trying to support? How are you able, number one is do you see that as a challenge, and then number two, you know, just, it’s just striking the importance of these more intimate relationships and helping to cut through that noise that says that you’re not anything and you’re from a place that’s not about nothing? 

Larry McKenzie  32:48 

Well, you know, one of the things that is interesting you say that, because I always tell the young men and Rylan, I’ll probably share this with you, you know, one of the things that we talked about as our retreat, you know, my grandmother, who God bless her soul, she lived to be 104 years old, and, you know, at the time, I just thought this whole lady was, you know, just voice she’s just get on my nerves, right. And as I got older, I discovered how smart and rich she was in wisdom, and so she would often say, there’s nothing new under the sun. So one of the discussions that I have with all of my young men, and what you just said, is very real, I mean, around the negativity and all the all of that kind of narrative that they have to hear, but I always tell them that they’re not the first or the last. And so no matter what your situation is, you won’t be the first kid that did not know their father, you won’t be the first kid that grew up on public assistance, and none of those things and so then you have to now make a choice. And honestly, I just say, you know, so out of those excuses that you’ve been making, I want you to go over in the corner, cry, get it out of your system, come back, and then let’s get a plan about how we’re going to change it. Because I just believe, again, it’s a one, you know, we talk about our creed, and with my creed, what I’m, you know, the essence of that is that, let’s stop making excuses and take control over your life. It’s not about it’s not about who don’t like you. It’s not about, you know, what teachers are saying or any of that kind of stuff. Here, you know, you can be the first one in your family to graduate from college. You can be the one to get a high school diploma, no matter what that thing of it is, is possible. Is it going to be easy, as a African American man, I can tell you, probably not, but it’s not impossible. And one of the stories that I really use now is that I mean, if you take a Barack Obama, I mean, didn’t know his father, raised by his grandmother, raised on welfare, had all of the excuses in the world, right? But he didn’t let that prohibit him from going on to become the most powerful man in the world, and he looked like us. And so those are the kind of things that I’m sharing with our young men, and again, I think I mean, it’s funny, because all of those folks that are other experts and educators, I mean, we’re constantly hearing this talk, and it’s funny, just got off a call. I mean, you think about when we label schools as low performing schools, and you know, the achievement gap, and all of those are the kinds of things that kids have to listen to. And I guess I’m just wanting to say, oh, we’re not going to believe it, and we’re going to prove it. And I’ve been blessed through my, through the efforts and the support of people like yourself, and others in the community, to put kids in a position to disprove that. And I think we’ve done that, I mean, when you look at, you know, our kids, and, you know, people talk about African American boys, and I tell people when I first got into coaching, and I inherited my first team at Minneapolis, Patrick Henry, I had more kids that was headed to prison and headed to college. But I can tell people in 21 years, we’ve had 100% graduation, 100% of our kids gone on to a two year or four year school. One of the things that we want to help you do in this program is learn to set goals. And sometimes, I mean, you’re gonna come into roadblocks, but that won’t keep you from achieving those goals. So that’s a lot of what the creed is about is something that we’re constantly reminding the kids. When my former players that you asked about when they call and they have some challenges in their life. That’s the first thing I tell them. Let’s go back to the creek who’s in control. What’s your part in this? So let’s start with you, and then we’ll figure the rest of it out, but that’s the essence of the creed. 

Souphak Kienitz  37:11 

And there you have it. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a review wherever you listen to your podcast. And you can always reach out to us on our website or social media channels at MPLS Foundation or to reach Chanda @chandasbaker. Thank you to Sarah Gillund, John Cuoco, Darlynn, Benjamin and our host Chanda Smith Baker. This is Souphak Kienitz from the Minneapolis Foundation, thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you soon 

Close Transcript -
This episode includes clips from our episodes featuring Christopher Emdin, Kareem Farah, Ibram X. Kendi, Larry McKenzie, and Lisa Pawelak.