Neighborhood-based public work in Saint Paul

School may be out, but the learning goes on for East Side youth in Saint Paul this summer. Through the collaborative efforts of the East Side Learning Collaborative (ESLC), a network of more than 15 organizations – including libraries, nonprofits, churches, park and recreation centers, and schools, along with residents – young people in the Dayton’s Bluff and Payne Phalen neighborhoods have access to an abundance of high quality learning opportunities that keep them safe, engaged, and learning all summer long.

The ESLC holds accessibility as a top priority, and it takes several approaches to ensuring that programs are widely available and easy to connect with. Public work approaches include the creation and publication of a summer youth guide that lists all programs available for East Side youth, the operation of free circulator buses in the neighborhoods, and collaborating to plan and provide 10 weeks of free summer camps for the neighborhoods’ young people.

The free circulators anchor the ESLC’s efforts to create quality opportunities for East Side young people. The buses transport children to youth programs, libraries, and parks around the Dayton’s Bluff and Payne-Phalen neighborhoods.

One of the programs youth can reach on the circulator is Kidventure, the ESLC’s co-created summer camp for youth in grades K-7. ESLC partners, including Community Education and the East Side Arts Council, collaborated to recruit community teachers who lead children in fun and engaging workshops, with topics like Best of Recess, Art of Peace, and Circus Camp. The program has a slightly different twist for youth in grades 5-7, who work with a muralist, hip hop dance instructor, and a video producer on projects around the theme “Home, Hip Hop, and Hope." College Group Leaders and Teen Teachers (hired through a partnership with the City of Saint Paul’s Youth Job Corps program) ensure that the youth build caring relationships with older mentors.

The theory of public work and the model created by the West Side’s Neighborhood Learning Community inspired much of the ESLC’s work, including the circulator buses. The East Side and West Side hope to create a culture of learning in their communities, and to make Saint Paul the model city for neighborhood-based public work.

  • Download the East Side Youth Guide through the Saint Paul’s Web site at Click on “City Projects" on the homepage, then “Education Initiatives," and then “Second Shift Initiative/Out-of-School Time."
Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs