This article is part of a series featuring ways in which mayors are working to meet the specific goals and targets set for the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families. Through the challenge, more than 100 mayors have committed to establish measurable goals to ensure that every child has opportunities to learn and grow, a safe neighborhood to call home, a healthy lifestyle and environment and a financially fit family in which to thrive.
Four years ago, Mayor R.T. Rybak made a promise to Minneapolis students: stay in school, and they will have access to the tools and resources needed to succeed upon graduation.
Since then, Mayor Rybak has made progress toward fulfilling his goals for the Minneapolis Promise - an innovative cluster of coordinated programs designed to eliminate barriers to college and career success. This effort highlights several ways in which mayors and other city leaders can improve education even when they do not control the school system.
The Minneapolis Promise initiative has three main components: offering college and career counseling to help youth plan for their future after high school; providing students with the financial assistance needed to complete postsecondary education; and expanding access to quality summer jobs so that youth ages 14-21 can gain valuable work experience. The mayor's leadership roles range from championing a citywide vision for education and focusing the community's attention on clear measures of progress to providing city funding for summer jobs and serving as a visible fundraiser for each of the initiative's components.
Ready for College and Careers
In all seven of Minneapolis' comprehensive high schools and several alternative schools, students can now go to an AchieveMpls Career and College Center, where school counselors and volunteers help them develop a postsecondary "My Life Plan." As one of the co-conveners who helped broker the partnership between the nonprofit AchieveMpls, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), foundations and other key business, education and civic leaders, Mayor Rybak visits each high school with alumni to urge ninth graders to use these resource centers. The AchieveMpls Career and College Initiative stabilizes funding for the centers - even when school budgets are tight - and has set a goal of having at least 80 percent of all 2010 MPS graduates leave high school with postsecondary plans.
The city is also working with local universities and colleges to ensure that tuition does not pose a barrier to higher education. Since 2006, the Power of YOU program has covered two years or up to 72 credits of full tuition and fees for 640 low-income students at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Saint Paul College or Metropolitan State University. A similar program called "Promise U" has helped more than 350 low-income students attend the University of Minnesota. Recently, Augsburg College, a private, four-year college located in Minneapolis, asked to be included as a Minneapolis Promise partner since they offer a four-year scholarship program as well.
STEP-UP, the third plank of the Minneapolis Promise initiative, exceeded its goals last year by increasing the total number of youth participating in city summer jobs programs. In 2009, nearly 2,300 youth gained exposure to career paths in fields such as health care, construction and green industries.
In addition to supporting city hiring of youth, Mayor Rybak has used the "bully pulpit" to obtain substantial commitments from the business community, foundations and area colleges for all three Minneapolis Promise strategies.
Throughout the past decade, educational outcomes in Minneapolis have been steadily moving in a positive direction. The public high school graduation rate - as measured by the Minnesota Department of Education - rose from 53 percent in 2004 to 76 percent in 2009, and the proportion of MPS seniors applying to at least one college jumped from 69 percent in the 2007-2008 school year to 86 percent the following school year. The enrollment of MPS comprehensive high school graduates in Minnesota institutions of higher education went from 46 percent in the 2005-2006 school year to 58 percent in the 2007-2008 school year.
Early Efforts to Raise College Awareness
As one of the key founders of the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families, Mayor Rybak has also set measurable goals to put children on the path to educational success from an early age. He regularly speaks at local public schools during the annual "I Know I Can College Awareness Day," which engages nearly 200 volunteers in making college attendance an aspiration for more than 2,700 third graders. The city's "500 Under 5" program works with low-income families in North Minneapolis neighborhoods to ensure their children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
"Minneapolis has shown that when quality government invests in people, you get quality results," said Rybak, connecting the Minneapolis Promise to his city's overall economic prospects. "When you don't invest, there are consequences. The core of the city's economic plan begins with people, starting with our youngest residents."
Details: For more information on the Minneapolis Promise, visitwww.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/cped/EdResources_students.asp. Other examples of city efforts to expand college access can be found in NLC's report on The State of City Leadership for Children and Families. To join the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families, visitwww.mayorsforkids.org or contact Michael Karpman at (202) 626-3072 or email@example.com.