MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 15, 2012) — On the heels of new data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showing that Minnesota has slipped in its overall ranking of the well-being of our state’s children, the Sheltering Arms Foundation announces its 2012-2013 financial support of 40 nonprofit organizations working to turn that around.
One of the recipients is Hmong American Partnership, which is opening a new Hmong Montessori Preschool in St. Paul in 2012. The new Hmong preschool is showcased as an example of exciting initiatives that can help Minnesota close the achievement gap.
One of the first new Montessori For All schools will be a dual-language Hmong preschool in St. Paul formed by the Hmong American Partnership, it is likely to be the first Hmong Montessori school in the U.S. and possibly the world.
The foundation will invest $454,000 this year in innovative programs that put the needs of Minnesota’s most vulnerable children as top priority — focusing on creating or expanding high-quality direct service programs in early childhood childcare and education, out-of-school-time programming, and family support, as well as strengthening statewide advocacy campaigns designed to improve Minnesota’s policies that impact children and their families.
“We believe Minnesota has a chance this year to make significant advances in children’s well-being through a focus on early childhood,” said Denise Mayotte, executive director of the Sheltering Arms Foundation.
“Sheltering Arms is involved on a statewide level in the Start Early Funders Coalition, which is partnering with organizations across the state in the Early Childhood ‘Access to Quality’ Campaign — a major advocacy effort at the legislature to increase Minnesota’s investment in effective early childhood care and education programs,” she added. “With early childhood infrastructure and quality reforms now in place across the state, and the 2013 budget session fast approaching, now is the time to come together and support strong policy initiatives so all our children are prepared to succeed.”
One of the new programs Sheltering Arms is supporting this year directly addresses the issue of access to quality. The Montessori Training Center of Minnesota has launched “Montessori For All,” a collaborative committed to bringing the proven Montessori approach to low-income and diverse communities by opening schools, starting with early education.
“We are very excited to launch our new initiative and to have Sheltering Arms on board,” said Molly O’Shaughnessy, executive director, MTCM. “Although the Montessori method of educating children actually started in impoverished neighborhoods in Italy, in this country it has drifted to more affluent communities. Our goal is to collaborate with community organizations at a grassroots level to make a Montessori education once again accessible to children with the least resources. Ultimately, our goal is to have enough programs and demonstrated success that we can continue to replicate the model — locally, nationally, and even internationally.”
Another important initiative with an early childhood component supported by Sheltering Arms will have national attention: The St. Paul Promise Neighborhood is a community-wide initiative based on the successful Harlem Children’s Zone.
Designated one of Minnesota’s four transformation zones through the federal Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood is a comprehensive effort to address educational and social disparities among children in a 250-block area of the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. This new initiative has the power to reshape the educational process and outcomes in this historic urban area.
Additional early childhood funding will help launch or expand a range of programs, from the Tots of Tomorrow program in Duluth for infants and toddlers of homeless families, to the YWCA of Mankato’s Ready To Learn program for the children of new immigrant families. More than half of Sheltering Arms funding this year will focus on out-of-school time, with 23 nonprofits receiving a total of $252,000 for after-school and summer programs in communities across the state.
For example, ArtStart in St. Paul operates a mobile arts lab that brings arts experiences to a large number of low-income children. Centro Guadalupano in South Minneapolis, which offers enrichment to Latino youth through cultural dance, music lessons and arts, is now expanding its nutrition education and physical activities.
Kinship Partners, Inc., in Brainerd and Pine River-Backus is extending its rural outreach to provide mentors to at-risk children in one of the most geographically isolated regions of its service area.
This year’s funding also includes $90,000 in grants to start-ups, continuing the foundation’s work to support the development of new high-quality programs that reach under-served populations. Areas served by the 40 Sheltering Arms grantees include Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato, McGregor, Moose Lake, Northfield, Proctor, Rochester, and the Twin Cities metro area.