New publication: Friends of the Future Newsletter

Sondra SamuelsDear Friends,

Today we’re excited to introduce a quarterly newsletter designed to keep you connected to each other and to our work together.

Each Friend of the Future plays a vital role in the NAZ community and you are ‘leaning in’ to support our work in incredible ways. With your generosity, NAZ is now supporting 390 North Minneapolis families with 1030 children!

There has truly never been a more exciting time to work in North Minneapolis!

With gratitude,

Sondra Samuels
President and CEO

Sondra Samuels, RT Rybak, Bernadeia Johnson, and Geoffrey CanadaGeoffrey Canada Visits NAZ

The leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Geoffrey Canada, visited Minneapolis on behalf of NAZ April 19. Canada regularly shares insight on a range of topics impacting America on CNN, Ted Talks and in the New York Times. He’s also been named among Time Magazine’s most influential people for his groundbreaking work in education.

Canada spoke with groups of CEOs and philanthropic leaders about closing the achievement gap and the importance of focusing on programs that follow evidence-based practices.

Canada said, “When I talk around the country about successful implementations of [the Harlem Children’s Zone] model, I talk about the Northside Achievement Zone. What is going on there is really quite remarkable.”

He spoke about the groundbreaking work that NAZ and its partners are leading to build a replicable continuum of evidence-based practices that support families from cradle to career. Each NAZ strategy is designed to deliver measurable progress toward the goal of eradicating educational and social disparities—thereby spurring economic growth for the entire region.

Musical artist DessaMusic Powerhouse Dessa Gives Exclusive Friends of the Future Concert

Musical artist Dessa and the Walker Art Center hosted a NAZ “Party for a Purpose” on May 29 for more than 100 guests. Two of the state’s most influential leaders spoke on behalf of NAZ: Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. It was the Senator’s birthday and we are incredibly honored that she spent it with us!

A highlight of the event was introducing Dessa to NAZ. She’s become a force on music scene, receiving an avalanche of critical acclaim. Having her sing “Happy Birthday” to you is now on MN Monthly Magazine’s Ultimate Bucket List. We’re honored that the event inspired her to visit to NAZ as soon as her Parts of Speech tour ends!

The concert supported growth of our amazing Friends community by introducing NAZ to a new audience. DJs from 89.3 The Current helped to get the NAZ message out and also joined us at the event.

Friends of the Future member Dania Toscano Miwa summed up the evening best, “The Dessa concert was the best event I’ve been to all year. It was really inspiring to see people of all ages coming to support NAZ and learn more about the vitally important work.”

Enjoy event pictures, many taken by junior Friend of the Future, Norah Mortenson.

Strong Families Support Academic Success – Equeshia’s StoryStrong Families Support Academic Success – Equeshia’s Story

When 22 year-old Equeshia first connected with NAZ, she was homeless, frustrated, and living in chaos as she struggled to care for her three year-old-daughter Malaisza. Through a free developmental assessment from NAZ, she found that Malaisza missed key milestones in her development and was not on track for kindergarten – which is the beginning of the achievement gap we see in too many low-income, urban African American children.

Equeshia joined NAZ and encouraged her boyfriend Nate to join too. Their NAZ Connector “family coach” worked with our partner Urban Homeworks to list the family as high priority to receive subsidized housing from our partner Project for Pride in Living. Their connector also helped them to find stable jobs.

They got married on a Saturday, moved into their home on Sunday, and on Monday Nate started his new job. Together, the family graduated from the eight-week NAZ Family Academy parent empowerment training. Completing classes like this and staying actively involved with NAZ is an amazing accomplishment for the family, because parents like Equeshia and Nate represent the hardest families to reach, and do not traditionally connect with these services.

Their daughter was once passed from relative to relative during the day. Today, she attends a high-quality early education program and her parents have the tools they need to support her development at home. She’s made amazing progress and is now on track to be ready for kindergarten.

Equeshia and Nate continue to live in stable housing and are preparing for the birth of their second child by attending a NAZ Family Academy class focused on infant development.

Friend Q&A: Elizabeth Larsen and Walter SchleismanFriend Q&A: Elizabeth Larsen and Walter Schleisman

Because Friends of the Future provide inspiration to each other, we will highlight a member of our community in each newsletter.

In this issue, we meet Elizabeth Larsen and Walter Schleisman. They live in south Minneapolis and have three children in third, sixth and ninth grade. Walter is the principal at Lake Harriett Upper School. Elizabeth is a journalist specialized in family issues and education. She is also the author of Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun.

Q: What brought you to becoming a Friend of the Future?

A: Elizabeth—We were familiar with the Harlem Children’s Zone, which inspired NAZ. We believe that having a strong Northside makes the whole city strong—but the thing we care about the most is that all children deserve to have the same opportunities. We were really drawn to NAZ’s message of providing support from cradle to college. We were both energized and excited by the opportunity to support that work.

Q: What’s the value for you in being a Friend of the Future?

A: Elizabeth—It provides an expression of our commitment to our city and to the city’s children. Being a Friend of the Future is a gift for us. NAZ has been really flexible in letting us pay in installments. We felt strongly that it was important to do.

Q: What does it mean to be a Friend of the Future?

A: Elizabeth—I look forward to seeing some of the children I saw in the [Family Academy] baby class graduate from high school and be ready to go to college. As a Friend of the Future, we feel connected to NAZ’s progress and the things that are going on. We remain aware of the challenges. Our hope is that NAZ moves the needle.

Q: What impact do you hope to make from being a Friend of the Future?

A: Elizabeth—In the short term, we hope that with more financial support, NAZ can reach out and support more children and families. And hopefully through our support, more people will get invested in helping more children and families succeed through NAZ’s approach.

A: Walter—I’m hoping families who have not had access to career and educational opportunities that lead to a middle-class life will have those opportunities. That’s the big overall goal. We need to deliver systematically and sustainably what’s needed. The wrap-around services that NAZ offers – not only the educational opportunities but the medical services, psychological services, transportation, and stable housing – all those pieces that middle-class students take for granted that offer the best hope for moving out of poverty.

Q: What would you say to others who are considering becoming Friends of the Future?

A: Walter—It is a tangible good that you can offer. You can get involved in solving this problem directly instead of talking about it and wishing that someone else would do something about it. It’s a problem in your own city, your own backyard—and you can make a difference. You can move from feeling helpless to grabbing one piece that you control.

Annual Report Available

Our 2012 annual report highlights progress made during our first year as a federal Promise Neighborhood. Thanks to your support and the hard work of our collaborative partners, NAZ moved at turbo speed to enroll more families and increase the breadth of programs to support their success. See the amazing growth of Friends of the Future on pages 20 and 21.

Highlights of the report:

  • Family enrollment increased by 40%
  • Early childhood education expanded with Race to the Top scholarships that support kindergarten readiness
  • After school and summer programs launched—and youth made significant leaps forward in reading and math proficiency
  • Families secured safe and stable housing
  • Our rigorous quality assurance and evaluation process rolled out

NAZ Receives Charities Review Council SealNAZ Receives Charities Review Council Seal

We are pleased to announce that NAZ was evaluated by the Charities Review Council in 2012 and officially received their seal in 2013.

Achieving the seal was imperative to NAZ leadership and our Board of Directors, as it assures donors they are supporting an organization committed to ethical and proper stewardship of contributions. The seal is an immediate way to let donors know that NAZ meets the Council’s 27 standards, which address performance in four critical areas: public disclosure, governance, financial activity, and fundraising.

Look for NAZ listed on the Council’s Smart Giver Network at

See the New NAZ Video

See the New NAZ Video

Upcoming Events

Please join us in September for a Brown Bag Lunch event. The topic is pathways to college that are being created to support NAZ youth.

Preparing for College Success Brown Bag Lunch
Wednesday, September 25, noon-1:30 p.m.
NAZ office: 2123 W. Broadway Ave. #100, Minneapolis, MN 55411
RSVP to Mindy Plewacki or call (612) 594-8311

Renew Your Commitment Today!

If your annual Friends of the Future renewal is due, or you would like to make an additional donation to NAZ, please follow this link.

Friends of the Future Newsletter
2123 W. Broadway #100 | Minneapolis, MN 55411 | 612-521-4405 |