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U of M Extension receives grant to continue poverty reduction work in communities

Media Contact: Julie Christensen, U of M Extension, (612) 626-4077,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/29/2010) —University of Minnesota Extension has been chosen by the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) to bolster poverty reduction strategies across the state, focusing on financial literacy education, leadership development, public policy engagement, and building awareness of poverty.

Seven universities nationwide will receive grants totaling $1.9 million to expand the work of Horizons, an 18-month leadership development program for rural towns with populations of 5,000 or fewer and poverty rates of at least 10 percent. The grants were announced this week.

Extension will use the funding to continue ongoing work in up to 25 communities already taking part in Horizons. The work will extend through July 2011, emphasizing education, long-term capacity-building and tangible results. "Horizons communities have valuable knowledge and civic engagement experiences to share with each other and with a broader statewide audience," said Dick Senese, Extension associate dean for community vitality. "This grant will provide a platform for that teaching and learning."

The grant will also fund collaborative efforts with Extension partners to help needy families access financial management training and tax preparation services. A new initiative will train local citizens to participate in public forums and communicate the concerns of small communities to public policymakers. Another program will encourage University graduate students to examine issues of poverty within the context of their fields.

Adding to the NWAF grant, Minnesota communities have leveraged more than $1.5 million in funding for local projects through prior Horizons program participation, according to Senese.

"I am a huge cheerleader of Extension and the Horizons program," said Greg Warner, Horizons community leader in Mountain Lake and Jackson "The resources they offer are exactly what our community needs to develop leaders and increase prosperity."

Established in 1934 by Louis W. Hill, the son of Great Northern Railway founder James J. Hill, the NWAF supports efforts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity across the eight states served by the railroad: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

For more information on University of Minnesota Extension's Horizon's program, visit

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