What is Advocacy?

This is after all an Advocacy blog? Let’s take a step back to make sure we’re on the same page.

Advocacy is the act of pleading for, supporting, or making recommendations to influence change. People tend to associate advocacy with lobbying or politics – and it can be – but individuals can advocate for themselves or others too. Can you remember a time when you  spoke up for someone who wasn’t present or defended a friend? Advocacy just means “speaking up” and giving voice to our passions and principles.

The JLM Advocacy committee is working to define advocacy for its membership, engage members in a non-partisan way, and educate membership on the issues surrounding the achievement gap. It’s important that we raise our collective voice in favor of programs and policies which support our vision of decreasing the achievement gap.

WAYS TO ADVOCATE                                                                                                            

  • Creating public awareness through education – sharing data and stories to persuade
  • Blogging
  • Communicating with your elected officials and encouraging others to do the same
  • Writing a letter to the editor

TOOLS TO GET YOUR MESSAGE OUT

  • Social media
  • Promotional materials
  • Letters to the editor
  • Opinion Editorials

Attend the Advocacy event “Coffee & Conversation with Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff” on Saturday, March 21st from 9:00am-12:00pm to take a deeper dive into the world of advocacy, understand how you can become civically engaged and hear from  Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff on her journey and current priorities. See the JLM website for more information and registration.

Additionally, please post comments on the articles and links you see. Nothing educates people more than a great conversation!

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.

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2015 Children and Issues Briefing

The Children and Issues Briefing is an annual event preceding the legislative session.  Key leaders and experts from across the state inform and engage participants in discussion on policy to improve outcomes for children in Minnesota.  This year’s event featured speakers from Governor Mark Dayton, the Minnesota Children’s Cabinet and a youth panel, among others.

One of our own JLM members was in attendance and shared these key takeaways :

  • Early Childhood is a priority for legislatures and policy.  Four years ago Early Childhood funding was nonexistent and the proposal for this year is at $100M.  There is still a need to grow though.
  • In order to make progress, legislators need to focus on outcomes rather than specific programs.  This requires both political sides to find common ground.
  • Children are looking for Equity.  Everyone should have the opportunity to be successful, as all kids have potential.  This was a common comment from experts and children on the panel.
  • One of the most impactful quotes – “It is unacceptable that a whole life can be written in just the first chapter”.  This amps up the importance of intervention early in life.

Videos of that day’s presentations were just release and can be viewed here.  I encourage you to view a few segments and consider how you can get involved.  One presenter commented that letters, emails and visits to the Capitol make a difference.  What resources would you need to send a letter or email?

Feeding Hungry Students: One New Mexico Teacher Making a Difference

The day’s lesson isn’t the first thing on Marvin Callahan’s mind after the first school bell rings. Instead, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, teacher wonders whether his students have eaten. His routine begins by asking each one of his first-grade pupils what her or she ate for breakfast that morning.

“I have kids that come to school every day and they’re hungry,” Callahan said. “They can’t come in here and be at their best.”

Every day, the 20-year veteran teacher spends a chunk of his own salary to feed hungry kids in his classroom. For the kid who came to school on an empty stomach, Callahan either sends the child to the cafeteria or simply walks over to the supply closet behind his desk for some food. Many teachers at Comanche Elementary School use their own cash to buy supplemental food for their hungry students. More than 60 percent of the kids at Comanche qualify for the federal free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Callahan said that the school lunch is the last meal of the day for many students. He began to think about what his kids were facing after Friday’s dismissal bell. So Callahan and the school counselor, Karin Medina, started a backpack program for the Comanche students who need the most help on the weekend. Every Friday, kids from 25 families get meals and two snacks to take home, enough to fight their hunger pangs until Monday arrives.

The Comanche backpack program is not an official nonprofit, nor does it have any outside funding. The program doesn’t even have a name. However, even without a name, it serves as an example of community generosity, which has others aiding it. A local business brings by boxes of food weekly, and a Boy Scout troop has donated money twice this year.

Teachers feeding their students isn’t uncommon in our nation’s schools. In fact, 73 percent of teachers have hungry students in their classes, according to a report issued in 2013 by the advocacy group No Kid Hungry.

(Taken from a collection of articles and interviews from the fall of 2014. Google Marvin Callahan for more information.)

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.

Take Action: Tips for Contacting Elected Officials

A simple and effective way to voice your opinion on an issue is to contact your elected officials via email, mail or social media.  Individualized communications with a specific request are best as they will likely receive higher priority over a form letter.  Social media also works! In the last half-decade, officials have leveraged social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to gauge their constitutes views and opinions.

In a poll by the Congressional Management Foundation, 64% of the social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions. (source)

Which constituent types who leveraged social media are most influential with elected officials?

  • 77%: multiple constituents commenting within a group
  • 75%: leaders of a group or organization
  • 69%: a single constituent self-identifying with a group
  • 58%: a single constituent on his or her own

Ready to start?  

Below is a call-to action from Think Small, a MinneMinds coalition member, to educate local elected officials on the importance of early learning investments.  A form letter is provided that will also enable you to revise the pre-populated content and then mail or email to your officials.

From Think Small – Leaders in Early Learning: Speak Out For Children

Additional Resources

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

USA.gov

How Children Succeed Praise

A couple weeks ago Renee Evansted blogged on a wonderful book, How Children Succeed. This week, I would like to take the opportunity to tag onto Renee’s post and point out a few of the ways that the Junior League of Minneapolis is furthering some of the ideals laid out in the book, and also point out a few areas where we have the opportunity to get involved. You can read the previous blog post for more context on the book, and it also linked to an article that summarizes the book:

http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21569680-new-research-how-close-achievement-gap-stay-focused

  • One of the things that is important for children to be able to succeed as adults is self-control. The Economist article (above) summarizes, “children who grow up in abusive or dysfunctional environments generally find it harder to concentrate, sit still and rebound from disappointments. The part of the brain most affected by early stress is the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for regulating thoughts and mediating behaviour.” This characteristic begins in very early childhood. The JLM makes a significant difference in this space with the Crisis Nursery, founded by the JLM and community partners. The Crisis Nursery provides a safe place for the children of distressed, and oftentimes disadvantaged, families.
  • The H.O.M.E.S. project, a newer one for JLM, focuses on equipping parents with ways to continue Math, Engineering and Science actives through hands-on projects in their homes. One charter school that the book spends a lot of time on, KIPP, is having a lot of success in closing the achievement gap with its students. KIPP cites “Choice & Commitment” as one of their five pilars, or operating principles. A key componenet of this pillar is commitment and involvement from parents. The H.O.M.E.S. project focuses on exactly that.
  • As JLM members, you know and have participated in numerous other ways the league makes a difference toward our chosen issue. However, this book, and the KIPP model in particular, illustrate additional things that are having a profound impact on children’s success. I’ll outline a few of them as food for thought in the new year.  How can the JLM, or you as an individual, advocate and work toward closing the achievement gap by focusing on some of these things:
    • High Expectations – KIPP has high expectations for academic achievement and accepts no excuses based on a student’s background.  Who are the right partners for the league and what are the right projects in this space, if any?
    • More Time – KIPP has an extended school day, week and year, allowing more time for learning. How does the JLM provide this outside the classroom, or how could/should we?
    • Choice and Commitment – I mentioned this one above but it’s worth thinking about since it has been well researched that higher parental involvement and higher academic achievement are correlated. Parental involvement can be thought about in the context of the league or also personally for those who have children, nieces, nephews, etc. The involvement and commitment piece for KIPP also extends to teachers and students. Are there things we can do in the league to driver ownership and commitment within one or many of these groups?

I will echo Renee’s recommendation – How Children Succeed  is a worthwhile read, and it’s inspiring to recognize that the JLM is already involved in many of the critical components that put children on the path to success.

Post contributed by Kacie DeWolf.

Opportunities To Give Back During The Thanksgiving Holiday

This week, Thanksgiving is upon us and many of us are preparing to leave town to enjoy the holiday with family, while others may be putting the finishing touches on their menus in anticipation of hosting the feast for the first (or fifth) time. Between curling up and watching football, and braving the crowds to score a Black Friday deal, we will pause to recognize all we have to be thankful for.

Not everyone in the Twin Cities is fortunate enough to have an abundance of food, or food at all, this holiday season, but for those of us who do, it’s a great time to give back. There are an abundance of volunteer opportunities available.  One of the ways the Junior League of Minneapolis works to address the achievement gap is by providing food to children through the Backpack Buddies program, since it is easier to focus on learning when not focusing on being hungry.  If you are still looking for a way to give back this week, and help families in the process, the options below are just a sampling of opportunities available to help provide food for families in need:

Neighbors, Inc. Holiday Volunteers

Neighbors, Inc. provides emergency assistance programs to low-income families in and around St. Paul. They have a list of food items you can donate, and are also looking for volunteers for holiday-related tasks.

NorthPoint Health and Wellness Thanksgiving Food Delivery, Minneapolis

NorthPoint is seeking volunteers to help distribute frozen turkeys and side dishes to families in north Minneapolis.

If you would like to negate a few of those Thanksgiving calories, here are some charitable races that focus on collecting food for people in need:

Turkey Day 5K – Lifetime

Participants in this downtown Minneapolis 5k are asked to bring as many non-perishable items as they can carry to help stock local food pantries.

Fast Before the Feast Race

Run the 5K, 10K or Fun Run (1/2 mile) in White Bear Lake to help them meet their goal of raising 10,000 lbs of food for the community this year.

Happy Holidays!

JLM wants YOU to vote on Election Day!

It’s hard to believe we’re less than one week out from next Tuesday’s (Nov 4th) Midterm Elections.  This is a super important day for us to cash in on one of our rights and make an impact in our local, state and national government.

Some of you have been following the local and national coverage of this year’s election and know exactly who you’ll be voting for – to those, I salute you for your diligent preparation!  For others that have been changing the channel every time a campaign ad comes on the TV (and quite frankly that could be all of us), fear not! There is still time to learn about the candidates and issues to make an informed decision.

To help you out, below are some of the hot topics and big candidate races (nonpartisan, of course).  theSkimm (a fun and easy to understand news source) has a Midterm Election Guide and it’s geared toward those who aren’t in “the know”.

Hot Topics

  • The Senate.  The Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2006.  That plus Obama has its benefits, but the Republican party (also known as the Grand Old Party, i.e. GOP) has had enough.  If the Republicans gain control they will own both the Senate and Congress.
  • National topics haven’t changed much.  The state of our economy, immigration laws and foreign policy continue to be top of mind as voters head to the polls.
  • Minneapolis specific City Amendments:
    • Filing Fee for City Elected Offices.  Some city council members want to increase the price of entry to run for positions like mayor.  Remember when we had 20+ candidates running for mayor in 2013 including Captain Jack Sparrow? Yeah, some people don’t want that again.
    • 70/30 Liquor Licensing Requirement. Have you ever ordered a glass of wine in a South Minneapolis restaurant and been forced to also order food?  That’s because many restaurants are required under law to gross at least 70% of their sales from food.  Many believe this law is antiquated and stifles the growing restaurant scene in our neighborhoods (it also forces restaurants to increase their food prices).  Opponents say we need to keep our neighborhoods clean & quiet.

Minnesota Gubernatorial

  • Currently being held by Mark Dayton (D).
  • Who is running?
    • Mark Dayton (D) – The guy basically runs Minneapolis (think Borough, Askov Finlayson and old school Dayton-Hudson’s).  He wants to come back.
    • Jeff Johnson (R) – Not so fast Dayton! Jeff has is a former State Representative and current Hennepin County Commissioner.
    • Chris Holbrook (Libertarian)
    • Hannah Nicollet (Independent)
    • Chris Wright (Grassroots)

Minnesota Senate

  • Currently being held by Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken (D).  Al Franken’s seat is currently up for election.
  • Who is running?
    • Al Franken (D) – Wants a re-election.
    • Mike McFadden (R) – Franken’s biggest threat to the seat.  He has worked in the financial sector prior to this campaign.
    • Steve Carlson (Independent)
    • Heather Johnson (Libertarian)

Minnesota Congress

  • Minnesota has 8 congressional districts and each district elects a representative to the House for a two-year term.
  • There are several districts that cover the Greater Twin Cities area given the dense population.  District 5 covers the majority of Minneapolis but depending on your home address you may be in District 2,3 or 4.

Other races include Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Representative, County Commissioner, County Attorney, Sheriff, School Board Director, Supreme Court Justice, Court of Appeals Judge and District Court Judge.  Phew, that was a lot.

You can also find more information by visiting the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get involved and I hope this does the trick. Our only ask – get out there and VOTE!