Stars, Friends, and New Experiences: Summer Camp
Sammy, Banyan Youth, DeLaSalle '19
I started going to summer camp with Banyan in 3rd grade and have been going ever since! My mom was very nervous to let me go that first year, but the Banyan staff explained to her that I would be in good hands. I was nervous too since it was my first time away from my family. Facing my fears at camp was easier than I thought. I had the support from my friends, the counselors, and people who I trusted and cared for me.
There are many activities to do at camp - zip lining, horseback riding, tubing, canoeing, pitching tents, cooking over a fire, and many more. There are so many activities that a week is not enough to do them all. One of the things I like best about camp is living with my friends, it feels like we were having a sleepover for a week. I get to see them at their best, and worst.
I really enjoy how the stars and moon provided light to our campsite. I never knew how many stars there were until I went to camp. Stars are hard to see in the city. It is nice to leave the city and experience nature and its beauty.
Asset-Based Community Development
(Part 1 of 4)
Tim Essenburg, Co-Founder of Banyan Community and Professor of Economics, Bethel University
Joani and I were raised in the middle and upper-middle socioeconomic class. Because of this, the overwhelming impression after year one of living in East Phillips was that “everything is broken”— windows, cars, homes, streets, sidewalks, relationships, schools, employment, furniture, attitudes, policing. We were overwhelmed with the liabilities we saw, so much so that we could not see all the assets (mind you, East Phillips would have been the Twin Cities “poster child” for dysfunctional neighborhoods in the 1990’s). We were unable to see much good.
Asset-Based Community Development is linked to the scholarship of John Kretzmann and John McKnight, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets  and Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). An asset approach is an “insider” approach. And we had yet to become insiders. You can imagine that focusing on liabilities does not build a better future and does not lend itself to happiness and meaningfulness, neither for us nor our neighbors. And so we began to migrate to an asset perspective, giving it more weight than a liability perspective. For us, this took no less than a “conversion” of sorts, a process of moving our allegiances from the people and systems of our upbringing to the people and systems of East Phillips. To outsiders, we became “traitors”.
Next time, I will write about the idea of “community development.”
Banyan Family Celebration
End of School Year Wrap Up
At the end of May, the Banyan building was transformed into a large carnival to celebrate the end of the school year. It is a great time to reward the hard work and accomplishments of youth during the school year, and connect with friends and neighbors.
Banyan hosts four Gatherings every year to build relationships. They are an opportunity for people in the neighborhood to get to know each other and build relationships. Banyan youth say they like knowing the adults in their community, feeling the support and encouragement of people who live near them.
National Night Out
Inspector Mike Sullivan, MPD- 3rd Precinct
Banyan currently has 32 organized block clubs, and they are all planning parties for National Night Out. The neighborhood will be a buzz on August 2nd!
Inspector Sullivan reflects on the benefit of Banyan in the community, "Banyan is a neighborhood growth agent in their block club organizing efforts and their Lighthouse Network program. Banyan is also an outstanding supporter of the local community and it’s residents by providing such in-depth youth programing, including homework assistance and mentoring."
Block Leaders and Banyan are creating transformation!
School's Cool Reflection
Denise Didier, School's Cool Chairperson, parishioner of St. Bart's Catholic Church
For 17 years, St. Bart’s parishioners have been working together to support the Banyan Community as part of our social justice outreach.
Through generous donations, School’s Cool provides backpacks, school supplies and uniform items to every student supported by Banyan Community, which has grown from about a dozen in the early years, to 135 last year! This is vital because each year the kids are blessed by this generous gift and walk into school the first day ready to go. It’s fantastic.
Why am I involved? My family was blue collar. My Dad worked on the line at John Deere for over 30 years. All of my uncles worked at the packing plant, drove trucks or farmed. These were good, hard-working dads who wanted to give their kids a better life. My parents sacrificed to put my sisters and me through Catholic school. And I see this replayed at Banyan, they are hard-working people, engaged in the lives of their children. Families want more opportunities for their kids, and through Banyan they are finding them. They are beset by economic challenges. Many have language and cultural barriers. The neighborhood has a high crime rate where drugs and gangs are present. But these families have found Banyan. The Banyan works with the parents to advocate for their kids. Banyan provides tutoring and educational support every day after school. Banyan is not a community center, it is a community. Families have each other’s backs. They know each other. They have organized by blocks within their neighborhoods to watch out for each other and protect each other. It is amazing.
Middle School at Work
Exploring Careers and Education
Every summer middle school youth ‘go to work’ to learn about career opportunities and the education needed to get there. Banyan is intentional about helping youth discover career interests and building educational maps to achieve their goals.
Site visits are a wonderful ‘hands on’ look at what it means to be an engineer, a banker, a lawyer, or work in the medical device field, or plan the building of a sports arena, etc.
So far this summer, we’ve been to The CW23 to practice being a host for a local TV station. There are a few youth that are naturals on camera and the green screen! We toured the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and learned about how they interact with local banks, and monitor the demand for currency in the 9th district (with a look at the robots moving the money in the Cash Services Division). We also tested flight simulators at Aerosim! The future pilots stayed very calm during a variety of emergencies thrown at them and safely landed planes!
If you are interested in hosting us at your workplace, let us know!
Cool Off Days - Coming Back & Giving Back
Abigail Mohammed, Banyan Alum and Field Experience College Intern, St. Catherine University
St. Kate’s requires a certain amount of credit hours (as an internship) to graduate. I chose to return to Banyan to gain experience working with children and give back to the community that gave me so much growing up.
Some of my best childhood memories were made over the summer at Banyan. Honestly, my favorite memory of Banyan was just knowing I had a secure place within a safe community other than my mother’s house. Kick-the-Can was my favorite game to play at Banyan during the summer. It didn’t require much besides a tin can and a fierce desire to win.
The games we play now involve more sophisticated equipment, but the kids still have great competitive streaks. I have seen them band together and strategize about the best way to capture the flag. I have seen them leave each other in the dust, trying to stay away from whoever’s It. I have seen them smile and laugh during Water Days and pout and get frustrated during challenging relay races.
At the end of every day, the kids sing “G-double O-D J-O-B, good job good job!”. Then share all the good that they’ve noticed in each other for that day. We help each other see just how much kindness can do, how much we can trust each other, and how much we are family.
I am reminded of how important Banyan is to the families of East Phillips and how fortunate I am to be back, even if it’s just for the summer.
Summer Reading and Writing Club
Dr. Roy Kay, English, DeLaSalle High School
Banyan’s reading and writing club has come to a close. Five DeLaSalle educators, Banyan staff, and fifteen Banyan students came together to read, write, and talk about literature and the English language. The five-week program met weekly to correct common writing problems and to inspire a love for the written word.
DeLaSalle, as a college prep high school, and the university are temples of the written word. Reading critically and writing effectively are skills necessary to succeed in the temple. The goal is for these skills to become habit so one can think, communicate, imagine, and live as an ethical and a responsible citizen.
Moreover, the summer program facilitates the development of personal relationships between DeLaSalle educators and Banyan students. I had the pleasure to work and get to know Banyan youth before I taught them at DeLaSalle. Furthermore, these Banyan students had an opportunity to get to know me as a person instead of as “Dr. Kay.” I am confident that we have forged relationships that will continue and grow in the coming school year.
Banyan parents, your children’s education is important to my colleagues and me. We work hard to prepare your children to be successful in the temple of the written word and in life. Thank you for entrusting your children to DeLaSalle and Banyan.