Dear Friends,

We all hope that our children will realize their full potential and accomplish great things in life. As parents, our aspirations are limitless. And still, we know that life can derail those dreams.

The only way any of us have all been able to realize great things in our lives is through hard work and a network of people who loved, cared for and believed that we could and would succeed. Sadly, for too many NAZ scholars and families, that network is almost nonexistent.

You, therefore, have become a critical strand in the web that supports them as they pursue their dreams of academic and life success.

We are excited to report that the $25,000 challenge announced for new Friends of the Future as well as Friends who increase their commitment has been met, doubling your support.

THANK YOU for committing to the dreams of all of our children and their families.

For the Children,


Sondra Samuels
President and CEO

Featured Family: From Nearly Dropping Out to Enrolling in CollegeFeatured Family: From Nearly Dropping Out to Enrolling in College

Richard was an unmotivated student nearing the end of his senior year. Many of his friends had dropped out, and he was lagging behind. After his mother enrolled his family in NAZ, their Connector knew she had to step in to help him graduate and graduate on time. Richard is the oldest of nine children. His Connector grew up in a similar situation, and told him, “I know it can be difficult, but you can’t give up. If you drop out, then you’re telling your little sisters and your little brothers that it’s okay to drop out too.”

Before NAZ, Richard had not given a single thought to college. NAZ arranged a tour of our partner Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), which opened his eyes to the many possibilities of his future.

That was the little extra push Richard needed. Once he realized all the opportunity that lay ahead after graduation, he was determined to get his high school diploma. Richard’s Connector made sure he was doing everything he needed to do to graduate on time.

Because of Richard’s commitment to a successful future, he graduated from Plymouth Youth Center at the end of May and will begin classes at MCTC in the fall. Richard has become a great example for his younger siblings. He has also inspired his mother to get her GED. As their Connector told them, “When you succeed, we all succeed.”

Featured Friend: Mike CiresiFeatured Friend: Mike Ciresi

“My dad believed in education and he believed in contributing to the common good,” said Mike Ciresi to NAZ when we contacted him for an interview.

Most people didn’t begin hearing the Ciresi name until after the groundbreaking $6.6 billion big tobacco settlement in 1998 in which his firm was a key player. And true to form and the belief he gleaned from his father, the firm, of which he is the Chairman, donated $30 million to the Minneapolis Foundation. For 16 years the focus of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children has been to serve as a catalyst for creative, innovative, and systems-changing programs to achieve a long-term impact promoting education and equitable opportunities for all of Minnesota’s children and youth.

For an attorney who has been a part of numerous high profile cases in the last 40 years, his perspective on life still comes back to where we all come from – our parents. His father was a hard-working person with a 7th grade education who knew that his children would benefit from high educational aspirations.

“Growing up, the parents of my peers ran the gamut. They were bricklayers, masons, teachers and doctors,” said Mike. “And even though not all of us went to college, most of us have been successful in our lives.”

Mike’s focus and that of the foundation, has been on the teachers and the educational systems, yet what has become more and more clear is the ecosystem that surrounds each one of the kids – most importantly, the role of parents as primary teachers, role models and advocates on behalf of their kids.

“I believe in NAZ because it supports all legs of the stool. Parents, children and the educational experience,” continued Mike. “These kids are the future of our community, state and nation.”

You can bet that Mike’s 10 grandchildren know the value of education and you can count on partners like the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children to have their focus on creating opportunity for all children.

“We have to align our resources to make real personal and systematic change. We must have parents, funders, policymakers, and community partners at the table to ensure that our kids are succeeding and our community is strong going into the future.”

NAZ Funding Bill Approved by MN LegislatureNAZ Funding Bill Approved by MN Legislature

We’re thrilled that Promise Neighborhoods in both Minneapolis and St. Paul are two of the first in the country to partner significantly with the state. Throughout the legislative session, NAZ worked to build significant awareness of and support for our collective work. As a result, Governor Dayton signed the supplemental budget bill that provides funding to NAZ this year and identifies NAZ as a priority for future support.

This is a sign that our local leaders recognize that something special is happening in North Minneapolis that can and should be replicated in other parts of our state:

  • NAZ scholars are more likely to be ready for kindergarten (59% vs. 35% for our entire Zone).
  • NAZ scholars significantly improved their reading and math proficiency.
  • NAZ reduced housing instability for enrolled families by 1/3.

We’re excited to partner in such a significant way with our state. We look forward to reporting on the progress NAZ scholars and their families make over time.

Thanks to our many supporters who contacted legislators on our behalf.

Groundbreaking Summer Expanded Learning Partnership with Teach for AmericaGroundbreaking Summer Expanded Learning Partnership with Teach for America

A groundbreaking partnership—years in the making—between Teach for America (TFA), the University of Minnesota, and NAZ means two hundred NAZ scholars will spend the summer in high-quality learning environments.

Teach for America will be hosting its training institute in North Minneapolis this summer and will use the 21stCentury Academy (hosted by NAZ Anchor Partner Kwanzaa) and Beacons Academy at City View (hosted by NAZ Anchor Partner Nellie Stone Johnson Beacons) as their training classrooms. This program is the first alternative teaching licensure program to be approved in the state of Minnesota.

For NAZ scholars this means intensive high-energy academic instruction with a very low teacher to student ratio, partnered with robust programming by the host programs.

NAZ President and CEO Sondra Samuels emphasized the value of this new partnership: “Teach for America offers a creative way to efficiently expand the pool of talented and unrelenting teachers into the classroom.”

NAZ Education Director Jaimee Bohning told program staff, “Our work over the summer will be community changing. It will alter the trajectory of our scholars in North Minneapolis.”

Hopes and expectations are high for both the new partnership and for the scholars and families involved. Scholar progress will be tracked throughout the summer.

Jewish Heritage on the Northside

On April 28, Friends of the Future hosted a Jewish Heritage Bus Tour for Jewish community leaders. The tour – conducted by Sondra Samuels and Katherine Tane, the long-time Executive Director of the Jewish Historical Society – highlighted the historical significance of the Zone to the Jewish community and illuminated the current challenges and opportunities unfolding.

The group discussed next steps for broadening NAZ awareness and support within the Jewish community, and the Phillips Family Foundation generously offered a Challenge Grant to match contributions from this group to NAZ up to $20,000.

NAZ Future: Engaging the Rising StarsNAZ Future: Engaging the Rising Stars

Kate Mortenson and Dania Toscano Miwa from Friends of the Future along with Sondra Samuels and Ryan Petersen from NAZ have teamed up to create NAZ Future. NAZ Future is a group of rising stars within our most well known companies around the Twin Cities. The group is just beginning to find its vision with the intent of generating innovative and progressive change within the next generation of leaders and the organizations they represent.

Contact Ryan Petersen at or 612.594.8310 if you know someone who may be interested in joining the fall event to learn more about joining this group.

Visit the New Friends of the Future WebsiteVisit the New Friends of the Future Website

NAZ recently launched a new website and it features a Friends of the Future “site within a site” that can be found under Join Us > Friends of the Future. Please use this as your base camp to find out more about our community, including:

  • Registration for upcoming member events and photos from events
  • A full list of Friends and member profiles
  • The latest NAZ results
  • Stories of NAZ families
  • Newsletter archives

We’d love to include your photos from Friends events. Please email them to Mindy at

Thanks to Deyo Designs for their outstanding work on the site.

Upcoming Events

Family Academy Graduation
Saturday, July 12
1 to 2:15 p.m., reception to follow
Capri Theater
2027 W Broadway Ave
Reserve your Seat
Lunchtime Series
Wednesday, Sept. 24
High Touch Support for Every Student—the key to eradicating the achievement gap
NAZ Central
2123 W Broadway Ave
RSVP Required
NAZ Ball
Saturday, November 1
Marriott City Center
Minneapolis MN

Thank you to Target Corporation for once again being the Ball’s Premier Sponsor.

Ending Multigenerational Poverty Together – Join Us!Ending Multigenerational Poverty Together – Join Us!

Each of us has a part to play in the transformation of the Zone. You can take action today to support families and children on their path to success in school and in life.

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