Like hallways in a school

On Friday, May 8, people interested in youth and education in St. Paul, Minn., gathered at City Hall for a presentation and discussion about circulator buses to connect youth to learning opportunities in their neighborhood.

Graduate students at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs presented their assessment of the public value of the West Side (St. Paul) circulator, and the St. Paul Citywide Circulator Taskforce gave recommendations for moving the circulator model forward in St. Paul.

Mayor Chris Coleman likened circulators to hallways in a school, saying they have proven to be key infrastructure in engaging youth in meaningful learning opportunities.

He emphasized that there is a delicate balance between community buy-in to initiate and support neighborhood circulators and city support of neighborhoods to implement them, but concluded with an enthusiastic pledge to partner with neighborhoods to build a St. Paul circulator system.

In their analysis of the public value of circulators, the gradate students identified five points that interact dynamically to provide an overall benefit. They found that circulators: increase youth access to learning opportunities; address safety concerns about youth accessing learning opportunities; foster innovation among providers of youth learning opportunities; build a sense of community for youth and adults; and promote broad collaboration around topics related to youth and the neighborhood as a whole.

The St. Paul Citywide Circulator Taskforce recommendations were presented by Nan Skelton, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and Vanne Owens-Hayes, another taskforce member. Those recommendations include coordinating circulators with the public school bus system, seeking reduced fares for youth who ride Metro Transit buses, expanding the circulator to include young children and their care providers, and having City Hall give an annual status report on the expansion of the circulator model in St. Paul.

The taskforce was co-chaired by Nan Skelton and Vallay Varro, education director for the City of Saint Paul. The group met over a nine-month period and included a wide array of stakeholders from such organizations as the Metropolitan Council, Saint Paul Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, the Saint Paul Second Shift Commission, Metro Transit, community foundations, neighborhood collaboratives, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, Saint Paul City Council, the Office of Senator Mee Moua, and Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development.

Read a Minnesota Public Radio story about circulators

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs