Educational Equity

This past weekend, I attended a presentation put on by Cornerstones Center entitled Equity and Access in Education. Through this event, Cornerstones staff and speakers hoped to “initiate conversations about educational equity and barriers to access among immigrants and low-income students in Central Minnesota”.

I was asked to be a speaker at this event, both because of my #unitecloud work but also because I am on the board at Stride Academy, a Charter school in St. Cloud. Per usual, I learned so much from the student panel and the other community leaders that bravely shared their experiences. I want to share some of the information I learned with you – whether you are an educator or not – because the experience of students in our area directly affect us all. These students will someday be our employees or employers and will be the next generation of community leaders!

The student panel consisted of students that are currently attending colleges around the area, and most of them graduated from the St. Cloud school district. We need to hear and digest their experiences so we know how we can do better and what environments we should create that can lead to success for ALL students.

Mohamed Warsame – SCSU graduate student

“If we have 500 students of color graduate from high school each year, but only 15 graduate from college, we’re missing the mark.”

“I am sick of just having conversations about this. We can’t just talk about resources and change. We need to SEE the resources and the changes.”

Samera Hussein – SCSU undergraduate student

“Staff need training in different religious backgrounds and racism.”

“When it comes to bullying, most of it is online.”

Abdullahi – SCSU undergraduate student

“Many teachers at the elementary level in St. Cloud are so helpful. But, when we get to the middle and high school level, it gets much harder and there is not enough help.”

“Teachers here are not valued as they are in other countries. They can barely even make a living! That’s why we don’t see a lot of people in our community become teachers.”

Hafse Abdi – SCSU undergraduate student

“I did everything I could to not be in high school because of the environment. I don’t know why it was that way – I guess it’s just the cards I was dealt.”

“Options are endless for me at college. My parents didn’t have these options. I have a duty to explore my options because of what my parents sacrificed for me.”

Abdirizak Jama – St. John’s undergraduate student

“Being a teacher – we’re not there yet. We don’t feel safe. If I have had a bad experience in over 50% of my classrooms, why would I want to be a teacher?”

“We can have a workshop every 2 days to talk about my experience – but, if we don’t plan for equity, nothing will change.”

Lastly, I will share with you the experience of Ahmed Ali, the Executive Director of Cornerstones Center. Please reflect on his experience and the experiences of the students – especially if you are in the field of education.

“I had many good experiences at SCSU. But, I had one professor that didn’t want to help me. He said he would find resources for me, but he didn’t. When I asked him for help, he said it wasn’t his job. He also said that I was obviously going to fail his class. I was so confused – I had never failed any class before. I thought maybe I should drop out. I reached out to Shazad (the director of SCSU’S Multicultural Center) and he helped me connect to resources. Not only did I not fail that class, I got an A. But, I thought of dropping out. Imagine that. Just one experience could have changed the path of my life forever.”

About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for about a decade. She now works in an immigration law office and is the Founder and Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in St. Cloud. She is also the Vice-Chair of the Stride Academy school board, a charter school located in St. Cloud. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children.