Youth-centered organizations join forces to build community across divides

Minnesota’s schools face extraordinary challenges, most notably its persistent education achievement gaps, only magnified by the impacts of the pandemic. And yet, educational communities find themselves amid increasingly charged divisions rife with a loss in civil discourse. 

Three Minnesota-based nonprofits are partnering to unite Minnesotans to work across differences for the sake of Minnesota’s education system. Bridgemakers, World Savvy, and Youthprise are joining forces to facilitate youth-led constructive discourse throughout the state.

The collaboration is funded by a two-year $400,000 “Healing Starts Here” grant from the New Pluralists, a national funding collaborative focused on cultivating connections and creating solutions across America’s divisions. 

The three organizations plan to host youth-led listening sessions around the state to engage stakeholders across generational, geographic, and racial/ethnic difference. Those sessions will culminate with insights into World Savvy’s “Knowledge to Action” process where students and adults will come together to design solutions.

“The Knowledge to Action process builds understanding of the complexity of the problem, and supports the creation of informed solutions designed to tackle the root causes of the issue.” said Dana Mortenson, World Savvy CEO and co-founder. “This process engages students in relevant and important issues that impact their communities. We believe students’ lived experiences and perspectives are assets that can be leveraged in learning and incorporated into designing real solutions.”

World Savvy has facilitated thousands of Knowledge to Action processes with schools across the country. The process is a microcosm of the systematic work done with schools to build more relevant, student-centered, and future-focused learning environments and models what World Savvy supports schools to build up to across an entire learning community. 

“Youth are our future, and we can’t expect future generations to pick up the torch and lead if we can’t even engage them democratically about policies that directly affect them. This is why Bridgemakers has been dedicated to the motto of ‘no decision about us without us’ since our inception. That is also at the heart of this partnership,” said Walter Cortina, executive director of Bridgemakers.

“We are thrilled to announce our new partnership with Youthprise and World Savvy to develop and execute a youth-led dialogue initiative aimed at bridging differences across the state of Minnesota. This innovative partnership will address some of the most pressing challenges in education today. By empowering young people to engage in meaningful discussions and create positive change, we are confident this initiative will have a significant impact on our community. We can’t wait to see the positive effects this program will have on the bright futures of our students” added Cortina.

“We are excited to partner with Bridgemakers and World Savvy in creating authentic spaces for young people to lead in reimagining education statewide. As Minnesota continues to become more diverse, this type of transformative work is necessary for our state to thrive,” said Marcus Pope, Youthprise president

“At World Savvy, we envision a future where all people, young and old, are empathetic, civic-minded, engaged global citizens. Where they can collaborate across cultures, communicate across differences, and solve complex problems,” said Mortenson. “We are thrilled to have received this grant from New Pluralists and the opportunity to empower more young leaders to address complex, real-world challenges in this way.”

Learn more about these organizations: bridgemakersmn.org, worldsavvy.org & youthprise.org

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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Equity & Access - Issue 27

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