Guest Column: Open Scholarships Support Children and Welcoming Communities
Published Friday, September 23, 2022 at 20:45
Guest column by Tim Penny
The start of the school year in conjunction with Welcoming Week, a national series of inclusive events, has made me think of two things: how to ensure the needs of children and families are met this school year and how we can support welcoming initiatives in our empower communities. At the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), we are fortunate to be able to play a role in funding organizations that operate in both spaces. We currently have two open scholarships that we are encouraging groups in our region of 20 provinces to apply for.
The Inclusive and Equitable Communities Grant is a program that was piloted in 2021. The 10 organizations that received funding in that first round developed projects that focus on creating more welcoming environments for traditionally marginalized people.
A major focus of the grant is the creation of economic opportunities and prosperity for diverse populations. The Rice County Neighbors United group began the process of establishing a business association to empower minority-owned entrepreneurs, while the Minnesota Council of Churches in Mankato provided opportunities for refugees and immigrants to develop and start businesses. Other projects focused on creating welcoming environments. The Winona schools worked to increase staff cultural competence to better serve refugee and immigrant students, while an art group called StoryArk involved students in the Mankato area with storytelling to empower them to share their life experiences. to share.
An exciting result of this experience was that the 10 grant recipients met as a cohort over an 18-month period. They shared ideas and deepened their understanding of what it means to be inclusive and fair in our communities and in our local economies. Organizations interested in applying for this grant can find details at smifoundation.org/inclusivegrant. Applications must be submitted by October 24.
In the room for young children, we offer the Early Care and Education Grant. SMIF has awarded funding to dozens of organizations to support essential services for children from birth to age 5 in our region. In the latest round of funding, Kasson-Mantorville Schools addressed the growing need for additional mental health care for children and their families. The Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro expanded their training and development to support preschoolers. The St. Charles Schools developed a literacy program for students, teachers, and families. All of these grant recipients do a great job of ensuring the needs of the youngest children in our area are met.
Organizations interested in applying for this grant can propose projects related to mental health services, training and development, and social, emotional and physical health needs. Projects are encouraged to support disadvantaged and diverse populations. Details and application can be found at smifoundation.org/earlycaregrant. Applications must be submitted by November 7.
Tim Penny is the president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Penny represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994.