"It is time to act"

Chris Commers is a history teacher at Chaska High School in a suburban community southwest of Minneapolis. He has a master's degree in public affairs from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and wrote this post about a public work effort he and others are organizing in Chaska.

Celestino, a recent immigrant, strongly asserted what many of us were thinking: “It is time to act.?

We were gathered in the basement of Guardian Angels Catholic Church (GA) in Chaska for a public meeting called in response to desires expressed by local Latino-Hispanic families. (See Working together to support Latino student achievement).

With assistance from interpreters (Lupe Pfaff, Chaska High School cultural liaison, Maria Ochoa, Chaska High School Spanish teacher, and Eddie Rodriguez, a Chaska resident), Emily Mattran, director of Chaska High School’s Career Resource Center, and Amy Hanson, an admissions officer with Minnesota State University-Moorhead, led an informal info session for Latino-Hispanic high school students, recent graduates, and parents on planning for post-secondary education.

Having reliable information is incredibly important. But Celestino emphasized the need for the Latino-Hispanic community of GA to work together with other Chaska residents to create educational opportunities.

Carlos Torelli, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and a GA parishioner, saw a way for the church community to contribute. Carlos needed survey participants for his marketing research. Others at GA agreed to participate in Torelli’s survey and donate their $7.00 participation fee to a scholarship fund. Over the course of last spring, the fund grew to $560.00.

With another donation of $500, matched with a pledge from a donor in West St. Paul, those involved in this effort were able to award $780 scholarships to two Latino-Hispanic students last September.

Chaska.jpg Students Raul Mejiaborja and Jose Acevedo spoke at a public event where they were presented with mock checks representing their scholarships.

This achievement is a modest step to develop more educational opportunities for all local residents. We hope to leverage GA’s success to create a sustainable scholarship program accessible to more residents over time. Collaborators so far include students, teachers, Latino-Hispanic families, and church leaders. We are working to engage others as we consider narrowing the digital divide and increasing pre-school literacy.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs