Inspiring a Legacy of Leadership

What’s in a Name?

Some of us have never met Barbara Forster but Barbara embodies the Junior League of Minneapolis’ commitment to civic engagement and advocacy. Barbara is celebrated as an outstanding member of the Junior League of Minneapolis, who has used her talents and resources to improve the social and economic conditions of others. Throughout her career, Barbara was a highly active civic leader in the Minneapolis community and beyond, leading by example and holding numerous volunteer leadership roles. Her list of roles is extensive and far-reaching, from the medical community to financial and educational systems. Visit our press release here.

Rising to the Occasion

Barbara Forster with members of her family.

How can one accomplish a level of civic engagement that we read in newspapers, on podcasts, or hear about in the news? Answer: Find Your Niche. Oh no, there’s that eye-roll worthy phrase. So, in the Minnesotan spirit, let’s say…Find Your North Star. 

With all the successful women involved in the League and in our lives, it can be challenging to find exactly where you fit in or how to even make that first step in discovering your passion. At the Legacy of Leadership awards ceremony held at the Minneapolis Club on October 2, 2019, Barbara said she took advantage of her opportunities in the League, learning “how to engage with other members, build an organization, and manage a nonprofit.” Soon, Barbara was sought after around the community for her ability, reputation, and expertise. Please view this video for more details about Barbara’s powerful engagement within the community

One of the community projects Barbara became involved in after her active years in the League was fundraising and advocating for the Center for Victims of Torture, an international nonprofit dedicated to healing survivors of torture and violent conflict. Peter Dross, Director of Development at CVT, briefly spoke about Barbara and her “full-throttle approach” to all aspects of the organization’s advocacy programs. She played a major role in collaboration within the community through fundraising and program development to raise the organization’s visibility,  making CVT one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world. In her acceptance speech, Barbara remarked that she genuinely believes everyone has the ability to engage in and contribute to their community on some level, even if they don’t think that they are capable or have something significant to offer.

In an exciting announcement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey officially made October 5th “Barbara Forster Day” in the City of Minneapolis.

Call to Action

Henry David Thoreau said “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Are we involved with things which fulfill us and that we enjoy? How can we as members of the Junior League share our knowledge and passion to make our own mark on the community and beyond, just like Barbara? The goal is to feel fulfilled in your life’s work, but more importantly, to share your knowledge and experience with those who are without and in need. Listed below are some opportunities to get started on your commitments for the year and to begin making your mark in the community through the League!

Be on the lookout for future opportunities to engage with Center for Victims of Torture.

Volunteer in the month of October in honor of Barbara’s leadership example in the Junior League October community calendar.

Back to Books

Written by Elizabeth Gill

Do you have a stack of books that you have been meaning to read? How did that pile grow, what compelled you to purchase these books? What enticed you to buy those at the bookstore? Was it the clever title or interesting cover that sparked an interest?

Back to school season is upon us and as a teacher, it is an especially poignant time for me.  I love the new starts that it brings: new colleagues, new students, new parents, and new school supplies! 

Over this past summer, I have been reflecting on all of the places that I’ve been a teacher.  I taught in struggling schools in St. Louis, Missouri before moving up here and getting to teach in a top district in the Twin Cities area.  In each and every building, the language arts teachers are passionate about books and teaching students lifelong literacy skills. The differences have been in the resources given to teachers to meet that goal. 

Textbook-Only Teaching

The linoleum floor gazed up at me in all its green and cracked glory.  I had to be careful when I went to work with Trinity because her desk was next to a spot in the floor where I could see the brown subfloor, and I didn’t want to catch my heel on it again.  Surprisingly, the textbook on Trinity’s desk was brand new. I spoke with her teacher about it and the district had purchased the whole textbook suite, including workbooks, the year before.  It was a last-ditch effort to get reading scores up. But the single-use workbooks were not for students to write in. Who knew if those would ever be purchased again? To be safe, the teacher had those stored behind her desk.  There weren’t enough for everyone anyway.  

I was impressed by the textbook.  It had well-written stories by well-known authors.  The interior had full color illustrations and deep questions at the end of each tale.  

The students didn’t read them.  

Sure, they read a few stories as a class. Yet, there was no time for students to leaf through and find a story to read on their own.  The textbooks were heavy and thick. None of the students seemed interested in trying to find anything to read there. No other books were available.  During my year there as a student teacher, it was rare for me to observe students reading anything that wasn’t in the textbook or being read to them.  

They were 7th grade students in one of the most poverty stricken schools in the region. 

Fully-Funded Teaching

“Think of this as a book spa. We have our books organized by content level, reading level, interest level. With the district budget each grade can choose between 95 and 100 books and those will all be ordered for each ELA classroom districtwide.”

The sixth grade language arts teachers met as a group for an hour and a half surrounded by newly published books, award-winning books graphic novels and high-quality picture books. We were each able to take a cart and gather a collection of books that we thought would be great for our students and would connect with our students to build their identities as readers. We debated the merits of individual books and selected books that students would want to read and could be challenged by.  

When we went to scan the books and order them, we had enough money to go back and choose another book to add to our list.  Each sixth grade reading classroom in three different middle schools was going to receive 97 brand new, never-been-read-before books.  Each seventh and eighth grade classroom was going to receive their own stack. Oh, and a teacher that teaches seventh and eighth grade? She would receive almost 200 new books without ever having to buy anything herself. 

Book Access and the Opportunity Gap

You know that phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?” 

Young students DO judge based on what a book looks like. Certain characteristics are more important to students than adults, particularly the age of a book, the pictures on its cover, and the summary on the back. These all work together to entice a student to read or, horribly, prejudice a student against a book.  Effective literacy programs embed choice reading, so more books that students want to read translates well into increased skills and abilities in reading. For school districts that have a budget tightened by poverty, teachers are the ones building the libraries out of their own funds. Direct donations of books and grants for buying books go a long way towards impacting the opportunity gap.  

As we think about the fresh beginnings that come with the back to school season, think about what you can do to freshen a child’s classroom library.  

Call to Action

Help encourage a child to read: The Junior League of Minneapolis will be helping all children enjoy the excitement of the Scholastic Book Fair by sponsoring the whole 3rd grade class of Partnership Academy, the school that HOMES partners with on science activities. At the September GMM we would love you to write encouraging words on book plates that will go into the front pages of these books. Due to the large Spanish speaking population in the school, our focus will be to include books in Spanish and about science. Kids will be able to choose their own books which is just as much fun as you remember!

Watch a documentary on the Opportunity Gap in Minneapolis: Love Them First – Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary is a Kare 11 News Channel Originals Screening about a school in North Minneapolis. There will be a screening at Riverview Theater on 9/5 and on television on 9/12. Join the JLM at the screening on the 5th

Elise Sarvas, Advocate for Children’s Oral Health

Elise (second from right) with her pediatric dental residents in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

How are you an advocate?

I am the Public Policy Advocate (PPA) for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. You can read more about the position here. Basically, I serve as the representative for the AAPD on the state level to promote children’s oral health in state policies. Every state has their own unique needs for their PPA. In Minnesota, I am concerned with raising the reimbursement rate for children’s oral health services. We like to think of Minnesota as a progressive state when it comes to taking care of our children, but the reality is that we rank dead last in paying for dental services for kids. This means that children who are on state insurance like Medicaid or Medical Assistance programs can’t get the care they need because the dentists get paid too low to see them. So while they “have dental insurance” they can’t use it because the dentists can’t pay for staff, supplies, and time to see them. We are the worst in the country – it’s really shameful. 

How did you learn to be an advocate?

I’ve learned on the job! There is no one way to do advocacy and how I approach it changes on the day and who I’m speaking with. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to investigate who all the stakeholders are. Once you understand their perspective, you can start to make some ground. There are so many issues that seem like they have easy solutions, but if they were that easy to solve, I’d like to think we would have already done it. Once you understand who all is involved, you can reach out to them in a personalized way. 

What are skills that would be good to know?

I was at first a reluctant advocate. It’s outside my comfort zone to talk to people I don’t know. But whatever squeamishness I have is far outweighed by the chance to do good for someone who can’t speak for themselves. And that’s my trick – I’m not asking for something for me, I’m asking for someone else who needs it. It gets me outside my head and that’s the only skill you really need. That and some persistence 🙂

Every year Elise takes her pediatric dental residents to DC to learn how to talk to lawmakers. Here she is with her team and with Representative Betty McCollum (District IV – DFL, Minn).

Ready to make an impact? Be an advocate.

Today a record 127 women were sworn into Congress. Media headlines are proclaiming that 2018 was the year of the woman in politics. Have you been feeling motivated to get involved and step up but not sure where to start?

Luckily we don’t all have to jump in and run for office, (but if you want to, please do!) there are many ways we can make an impact in our own backyard. In the next several months we’ll be profiling other Junior Leaguers that are advocates in our community. We hope their stories will inspire your path to advocacy as well.

Laura Monn Ginsburg

Laura working on Jacob Frey’s campaign, arranging his press gaggle for his acceptance speech.

How are you an advocate?

Professionally, I own a public affairs firm where I get to advocate for clients like environmental organizations, transportation equity organizations, and disability organizations. My company was founded as a General Benefit Corporation which means we’re a mission-based organization. Our mission is to promote social justice and equity and environmental sustainability.

Personally, I advocate through a bunch of nonprofits. I’ve worked to find groups that reflect my values and principles and then join their advocacy efforts which include things like rallies at the Capitol, meeting with legislators, and being invested in how my government represents me.

I’ve also volunteered to work on campaigns of people and issues I believe in. This has given me the opportunity to door-knock, network, phone bank, write postcards, drop signs/literature, and learn more about the political process and how things really work and change. You find out what you like to do and just do more of it!

How did you learn to be an advocate?

By doing 🙂 Honestly, the best way to learn to be an advocate is to show up. You don’t need to do anything fancy, you don’t need to know anything specific, and you don’t have to worry that you aren’t prepared — being you, a constituent, a feeling person, a thoughtful citizen who knows what she cares about — you are ready just as you are.

Ask questions, ask to meet your representatives (they work for YOU — don’t forget it!), and ask yourself what matters most to you. If you see someone around you who is active in a way that interests you, ask them how they got involved and how you can, too.

What are skills that would be good to know?

Being a good communicator who is clear in what she thinks and feels is your best asset. Whether you’re at a planning meeting, you’re showing up at an event or rally, or you’re meeting with a representative, having a clear, concise message that’s authentic and personal is the biggest skill you need.

Having good handwriting for signs is also helpful.

Laura at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Thanks Laura!
Are you an advocate and want to share your story?
Please contact Kelly Ptacek to post your profile.

General Post – SPECIAL FEATURE Marta Haynes – Defining Sisterhood

Sisterhood: Fostering an enviroment of authencitcy, empowerment and success

Last week, I attended the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.  My leadership chain (all men) nominated me to attend and provided sponsorship.  To be totally honest, I felt both honored and nervous.  I am 100% caucasian, and I didn’t know how I would be received by fellow conference attendees.  Nonetheless, I was excited to attend and firmly committed to listen with big, wide-open ears; afterall, how many times do I as a white person get a chance to be “in the minority”?

The moment I set foot on the conference site, I could feel the amped up energy.  Once I put on my conference badge, I was approached by many conference attendees – greeting me, asking me where I was from, welcoming me… I was actually feeling quite sheepish and shy!  This all felt like a lot to take in, and I wanted to retreat into a protective shell.

As I attended sessions, I noticed the distinct themes of authenticity, personal integrity, and sisterhood.  The importance of being seen for who you really are.  I actually felt quite envious as I heard story after story of woman helping woman.  How can I find a group like THAT?  I would love to have some of what they have!  Why have I never truly experienced this? Do I REALLY feel seen?  Am I REALLY comfortable with expressing my authenticity?

About a day and a half into the conference, I had my big “aha” moment:  the discomfort and self-consciousness I was feeling was not the result of any experience I have EVER had with any community of women who were different from me.  All of the insecurity I was feeling came as a result of my experience with interacting with groups of caucasian females – women just like me!  Tears immediately sprang to my eyes and I turned to the ladies sitting next to me, and with all the raw vulnerability I was experiencing in that moment – I shared my heart.  And you know what happened next?  My heart was unabashedly received.  The lady sitting next to me grabbed my hands and leaned forward and thanked me – “do you promise to come back next year and bring other people who think like you, too?  This conference is for everyone – and now that you know our struggle, now that you hear our voice, you are in a better position to help us.”  I asked the three caucasian ladies in my work group (total conference attendees = 1,500), and they too shared stories of competition, woundedness, judgment and rejection, all from predominantly caucasian groups of women.

Ladies – of COURSE I thought about the JLM.  We want to stay true to our mission and foster an environment that truly empowers women.  We want to continue to attract and retain a diverse base of members – so that a broad range of women’s voices will be represented.  The following list summarizes some key learnings from the conference… If you think this sounds remotely interesting, I encourage you to consider attending the conference next year!  I will be.

 

  • Individuals who are being truly authentic foster supportive environments. When we show up as individuals – honoring our unique abilities, physical attritbutes, and ways that we bring value, we create an environment that gives others permission to do the same.  Individuals are inspired to action in these environments.  Teams achieve goals in these environments.  It is perfectly acceptable to take risks, set big goals – and even fail – in these environments.
  • When one lady wins, we all win! This entire concept of celebrating others’ successes as if they were are own was discussed frequently throughout the conference.  It really boils down to a worldview of abundance versus scarcity.  What do I mean by that?  I celebrate others’ successes as much as my own because I realize that there are abundant opportunities for me to win/contribute.  I do not live in a “zero-sum game” kind of world.  A world view of scarcity comes from deeply rooted fear and insecurity: “when she wins, I lose”, “there is not enough for me and her”, “I will not have enough”.  This does not foster an environment of sisterhood, much less an environment of high-performance.
  • Support your sisters publicly, protect the “inner circle”. This concept basically highlights the importance of presenting a unified front to the world.  What does this look like?  It means presenting a unified image to our JLM community partners, it means discussing conflict 1:1 in a private setting with the indivdual(s) directly involved, it means refusing to engage in gossip or discussion that reduces another in the eyes of others.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us…. Love is what we are born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  ~~ Marianne Williamson

JLM Advocacy: Providing Education to inspire action

DO Something about it: Action to Advocacy

Policy Action Center, their homepage states: keeps you informed on important education issues, helps you find and track legislation, connects you with Congress and gives you the tools you need to be a successful education advocate.

Here is the Education Minnesota’s main site: http://www.educationminnesota.org/advocacy

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action