The 13th Grade Initiative, authored by the Minneapolis Urban League was adopted by the Minnesota Senate last week at the State Capitol. Co-sponsored and presented by Senator Jeff Hayden (D-SD 62), the bill was unanimously adopted by the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday. The 13th Grade initiative is a twelve month, non-residential college and career-readiness program focused on the academic, technical, and soft skill competency-building of disconnected young adults who are unemployed, not enrolled in college or have yet to identify a career. Co-sponsored by Senator Bobby Champion (D-SD 59) and Representative Ray Dehn (D-HD 59b) the measure could potentially impact over 3,000 young adults ages 18-26, placing them on college and career pathways by 2015.
“This will enable us to zero-in on the specific issues impacting our youth and align them with available resources and tools to be successful,” said Ronald Simmons, Principal of the Minneapolis Urban League Academy in his testimony before the committee. “They’ll receive guided support to increase basic skills competency, identify a career path and the soft skills needed to obtain livable wage jobs.”
The Minneapolis Urban League Academy is tapped to be one of the program’s pilot sites. Often the last resort for students struggling socially and academically in public schools, the Academy hopes to bridge this gap through its social enterprise and mentorship model set to launch this Summer. It currently has 132 students enrolled, including 25 middle-school students. Approximately 99% of students enrolled are African-American, 3% are homeless.
“Our youth face different barriers to successful graduation, college enrollment and completion,” continues Simmons. “Unstable home life and behavioral challenges require yet another level of intervention.
In his testimony, Scott Gray, President and CEO of Minneapolis Urban League, outlined the program’s core objectives and outcomes including partnerships with post-secondary institutions Dunwoody Institute and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), as additional pathways to opportunity for program participants.
“Thank you for addressing a real need,” said Education Committee Chair, Senator Patricia Torres Ray (SD 63-DFL). She further applauded Senator Hayden for identifying community partners to address the education crisis. The bill passed unanimously and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for possible inclusion in the omnibus finance bill. The initiative will be presented by Representative Ray Dehn, the author of the bill in Minnesota’s House of Representatives with a possible hearing next week.
The Minneapolis Urban League urges its constituents and anyone concerned with helping our young people reach their fullest potential to contact your Senator and urge their support of the 13th Grade Initiative.