Despite pandemic health issues over the summer, MIGIZI students were able to attend classes, like this HVAC course offered by the Minneapolis Community & Technical College, but another recent upsurge of coronavirus has pushed all programming online.  Photo courtesy MIGIZI
MIGIZI rebounding from double whammy
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Only eight months after the grand opening of their recently renovated building, staff members at the Native youth center MIGIZI watched as fast-moving flames, spread during the May protests in Minneapolis, destroyed it. Now, staff, students and volunteers are looking ahead to another new beginning with the upcoming purchase of a different facility.

The MIGIZI board approved the buy and plans to finalize in the next couple weeks, according to Kelly Drummer, president of the non-profit that offers job training, academic tutoring and cultural connection to American Indian youth.

The bulk of the money for the new building came from an incredible wave of donations following the fire – more than 30,000 contributions totaling about $2 million. 

If the purchase and renovations of the new building go according to plan, Drummer says, they will move in next summer. While hopeful about the future for MIGIZI, Drummer said the staff’s focus now is meeting the immediate needs of students, as the fire, coupled with the continued rise of Covid-19, has made 2020 an especially challenging year for them. 

“For us, it’s been doubly difficult,” echoed Michelle Olson, director of Partnerships and Operations. “Nobody expected the loss of a building and a pandemic to coincide.” 

Drummer said one of the biggest concerns for the staff members now is the academic well-being of their pupils. Like so many students across the world, most in Minneapolis public schools are strictly distance learning. Drummer says this has had a negative impact on the academic success of some of the MIGIZI community. 

“We just received statistics from Minneapolis Public Schools about where kids are at mid-quarter, and it’s not looking good at all,” Drummer said. Citing the report, she said 34 percent of Minneapolis American Indian 10th graders are on track to graduate and 52 percent are failing at least one core course.

Only 27 percent of 11th graders are on track to graduate, with 41 percent failing at least one core course. According to Minneapolis Public Schools, 45 percent of American Indian seniors graduated in 2019. 

“So, we’re asking ourselves, ‘How do we support our students right now with whatever they need,’ whether it’s academic support, tutoring, mental health support,” Drummer said. “What is it they need to help motivate themselves to get their work done?”

Fostering academic success in students always has been a core part of MIGIZI’s programming, Drummer said. She said while they currently don’t have after-school tutoring programs running because of the pandemic, she’s hoping they will be able to start that again after Thanksgiving.


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