Friends of the Future Newsletter: Celebrate 500 Families in NAZ!

500 Families are Now Enrolled in NAZ!500 Families are Now Enrolled in NAZ!

Five hundred Northside families have put their children on a path to college! NAZ set an audacious goal of more than doubling family enrollment by the end of 2013, and that goal was surpassed eight weeks early!

Thanks to your support, more than 1,300 Northside kids are now in a cradle to college pipeline. NAZ partners and staff did an excellent job of recruiting students who were not on a college track. Today, they are “NAZ Scholars”—and their parents have made college a top family priority.

“Each of our 500 families work harder than any of us. They are determined that against all odds, their children will succeed. NAZ and our partners are committed to backing them with a whole community of support, and won’t leave them until their children graduate from college,” said NAZ President and CEO, Sondra Samuels. “I’m thrilled we’ve reached this incredible milestone ahead of our goal. Now the real work begins.”

NAZ is working toward a long-term goal of enrolling half of the families living within our geographic zone—a total of 1,000 families with 2,500 children. “We’ll keep enrolling families who most need our partnership and support them to lead a community wide neighborhood transformation,” Samuels said.

Read news stories and watch videos from the StarTribune and Minnesota Public Radio that feature Geoffrey Canada helping NAZ make the announcement.

See more results on the NAZ mid year report.

Tickets on Sale for Nov. 16 NAZ BallTickets on Sale for Nov. 16 NAZ Ball

The tenth annual NAZ Ball will be the biggest and most exciting celebration in our organization’s history. The Ball is the largest annual fundraiser for NAZ, and is a great opportunity to treat yourself and your friends to a special night of fun and good will.

Saturday, November 16
The Depot in Downtown Minneapolis
225 3rd Avenue South

Buy tickets and tables now! Tickets are $100 and table for 10, $1,000, ($75 of each ticket and $750 of each table is tax deductible).

Highlights include Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak as emcee, the return of one of the most popular R&B bands in the Twin Cities, Soul Tight Committee, and a specialty cocktail from Target—come try your first “Targetini”!

Friends of the Future will be recognized with a special ribbon and nametag at the Ball.

Sondra Samuels Featured in Mpls. St. Paul MagazineSondra Samuels Featured in Mpls. St. Paul Magazine

NAZ President & CEO, Sondra Samuels, is honored in the October issue of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine. Read the full story.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Highlights NAZ in TED TalkHUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Highlights NAZ in TED Talk

We are thrilled that HUD Secretary Donovan recognized NAZ as an example of innovation during his recent TED Talk.

He contrasted the heartbreak of young Terrell Mayes—a three-year old who was shot when a stray bullet entered his North Minneapolis home—with the hopefulness of NAZ’s work with families. “In Terrell’s neighborhood in Minnesota, we’ve started the Northside Achievement Zone. And we’ve brought together not just the federal agencies, but 60 different organizations to try and reimagine what a kid’s life can be there … so what we now need to do is scale this approach up across the country.”

Scroll forward to 15:40 in the video to hear his remarks.

Featured Friend: Laysha WardFeatured Friend: Laysha Ward

Our Featured Friend is Laysha L. Ward, President of Community Relations for Target Corporation. Mrs. Ward speaks about her commitment to the NAZ Friends of the Future with a sense of pride and duty. Both her and her husband, Bill, are active supporters of NAZ and their partner organizations.

Q: Why did you become a Friend of the Future?

A: Through my work at Target and as a resident of the Twin Cities for 15 years, I’m familiar with the North Minneapolis neighborhood and the work of the Northside Achievement Zone. I believe an investment in our children and their future is an investment in our collective future.

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

A: It’s brought me a real sense of pride, duty and obligation. My husband Bill and I recently volunteered at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center by reading to kids. The students, parents and community members truly humbled and inspired us. We also saw young people rehearsing a production at the Capri Theatre about the true story of the Little Rock Nine. They worked alongside professional actors in the Twin Cities to hone their craft and build leadership skills. It was an amazing experience and, in the end, they gave us far more in return than we gave them.

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

A: My great, great grandmother, Hattie Mae, always said there are few things in life worth fighting for: family, friends, faith, freedom and an education. To me, being a Friend of the Future ensures that I’m carrying on her legacy while making a difference in the lives of children.

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

A: We’ve all seen the statistics on the achievement gap and dropout rates. Too many children, especially African American and Latino children, are being left behind. Yet behind every number is a child with a story, with hopes and dreams of his or her own. I hope that by supporting NAZ both through financial support and volunteering, that I can impact the life of a child; helping to create a pathway out of poverty and into economic opportunity.

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

A: I benefited from participating in the early childhood education program Head Start in rural Indiana and was the first in my family to graduate from college. I was able to achieve that by leaning on the strong shoulders of my parents, teachers, members of the faith community and other role models. Everyone had high expectations for me, and as a result, I worked hard to meet and exceed those expectations. Great schools and supportive services provided a network that wouldn’t let me fail. Thanks to my parents, I was confident yet humble, resilient, and believed that regardless of our meager circumstances, I was worthy. Now, it’s my turn to extend a hand and help the next generation reach their goals. Providing a quality education to all children regardless of race or socioeconomic status is one of the most important issues of our generation. It’s my hope that we will answer the call.

NAZ Partner Spotlight: Plymouth Christian Youth CenterNAZ Partner Spotlight: Plymouth Christian Youth Center

Children living in the NAZ Zone are often two and three grade levels behind, and NAZ summer and after school programs at Plymouth Christian Youth Center (PCYC) are closing this egregious achievement gap. PCYC is a long-time NAZ partner, and the programmatic foundation for NAZ’s academic Out-of-School solution. During the summer of 2012, PCYC began expanding their 60-student program into a NAZ-supported effort with the capacity to enroll over 130 NAZ scholars.

The results to date have been incredible. During that first session, PCYC was able to stop summer learning loss. “PCYC is 100% committed to academic improvement of NAZ scholars”, said Michelle Martin, NAZ COO. “Every student is tested in reading and math proficiency at the beginning and end of each program. By using data and a coordinated effort to drive scholar success, the outcomes have been quite remarkable,” she said.

NAZ 2013 summer result: 64% of the scholars who completed the pre- and post-assessment gained a half a grade level in reading or more in just three months!

“PCYC is committed to preparing our young people for greater academic and life success—and that led to a natural partnership with the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ),” said PCYC Executive Director Anne Long. “One of the toughest challenges we’re working hard to address is the low academic achievement of students, particularly among students of color and those from low income families. We’re working in a learning community with NAZ, the University of Minnesota, and six other nonprofit partners to strengthen outcomes for scholars and North Minneapolis.”

More help is needed to support NAZ’s goal to provide extended learning programming to 500 youth by the end of 2014. Today, NAZ is working to close a $500,000 budget gap to reach this goal.

Family Spotlight: Jaquan Gets a Team of SupportFamily Spotlight: Jaquan Gets a Team of Support

Eight year old Jaquan was placed in Level 4 special education and suspended from his NAZ after school program due to behavior.

NAZ pulled an entire team together to support him, called “Team Jaquan”. The team quickly identified behavioral health as a barrier to his learning. Through behavioral health counseling, it was discovered that anxiety is the cause of his problems at school.

With Team Jaquan supporting him, he has moved up to a Level 1 special education program, returned to his after school program, and set his own academic goals.

After a really hard day at school, his Academic Navigator asked if anything positive happened. He said, “Well, I found out today that I love to learn”.

Informative Friends Panel Discussion Oct. 24Informative Friends Panel Discussion Oct. 24

Our year-end member gathering at Jax Café featured an informative panel discussion that delved deeply into the issues that are inherent in urban poverty, and the importance of the NAZ cradle to career support to break the cycle of multigenerational poverty.

More than 60 attendees came out. All Friends received a special gift – the iconic NAZ scholar graduation shirt that features the year that our youngest children will graduate from a four-year college!

A special thanks to Annie Gillette Cleveland, Sondra Samuels, our moderator Tom Weber of MPR, and our panelists: Judge Tanya Bransford, President of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber Todd Klingel, and Harvest Prep Founder and CEO Eric Mahmoud.

At the conclusion of the event, one special guest pledged a $50,000 foundation gift!

Renew Your Commitment Today

Renew Your Commitment Today!Since the beginning, 119 individuals, families, corporations or foundations have signed on to be NAZ Friends of the Future, supporting the success of Northside scholars and families. HAVE YOU RENEWED? Please stay with our community and be part of history making in North Minneapolis. Renew your annual financial support with Friends of the Future by making a minimum $1,000 membership donation today at Not sure of your status? Contact Mindy at to find out.

Friends of the Future Newsletter
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