Friend 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.