Community learning modules get a boost with donation of office space from Allina Health

To make distance learning more equitable, Allina Health is partnering with two Twin Cities organizations to help students.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – To make distance learning more equitable, some Twin Cities organizations have created learning modules for students. Now, Allina Health is partnering with two of them, donating office space that will help up to 80 students.

“It’s really good,” said Ava Young, a seventh-year student at Farnsworth Aerospace. “I just think it’s really cool to have that, to have your own workspace.”

Young is one of 20 students who started distance learning from Allina Health headquarters in south Minneapolis this week.

Almost all of the Allina Health employees based at Allina Commons in the Midtown Exchange building are currently working virtually. The nonprofit Health System donated the additional workspace to The Real Minneapolis and the North Star Network, in conjunction with the BUOY Foundation.

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“Many families in our community have told us that they are having difficulty with distance learning. Many of them potentially do not have stable Wi-Fi and / or their parents are essential workers and cannot be fully there for them, “said Dr. Penny Wheeler, President and CEO of Allina Health.

Real Minneapolis has already moved some of their students to space. Valerie Quintana and Mary Claire Francois are co-directors of the non-profit association. They started the collective following civil unrest after the death of George Floyd.

“We wanted to provide people with opportunities and resources that would give them hope and lasting hope,” François said.

Their projects were centered on the needs of the community with an emphasis on the young people of the city. Through community grants and donations, The Real Minneapolis has been able to provide paid summer jobs to South Minneapolis BIPOC teens. This summer, they created a youth vegetable garden in southern Minneapolis, right across from where they now help distance education students.

RELATED: How ‘The Real Minneapolis’ Plants Hope in City After The Troubles

Originally, their fair learning module was based in Phelps Park. But with the onset of winter, Quintana said it was struggling to secure an indoor space.

“There was really no one who would allow us to move in, even to rent a space due to fears around the pandemic,” Quintana recalled.

Then Allina Health donated her space.

“The cuteness and abundance are just unreal. It’s unreal Minneapolis,” Quintana said with a laugh.

Quintana and François call the space the “Hope Youth Center”. The couple dream of one day opening a permanent youth center in the community.

COVID-19 security measures have been put in place, including specific badge-controlled entrances that were created only for students and separate from the entrance used by employees.

In the space, students will have access to high-speed internet, educational support and adult supervision Monday through Friday from 7.45 am to 4.00 pm. In addition to cabins, the area has a relaxation area where students can relax.

Real Minneapolis already has 20 students in space, but they expect to accommodate up to 50. They accept all students, ages 10 and up. You can register by contacting them through their website. Real Minneapolis is also looking for corporate donors to help them continue their work.

The North Star Network will begin inviting students in Grades 1-8 to the education space on December 7th.

“I’m getting more help here because there are more people who can help me,” said Young, who started coming to space on Tuesday with his twin brother.

Quintana said: “We all deserve to be loved; we all deserve to have dreams and we deserve to have equal access to these resources.


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