Northside Safety NET partners reflect and look into 2023

We recently met with several of our Northside Safety NET partners to discuss the value of our partnership and what collaborative work we’re looking forward to in 2023. Northside Safety NET is an annual internship program that integrates North Minneapolis youth into local efforts to address environmental justice issues.

Why did you get involved with Northside Safety NET?

  • Michael Chaney, Project Sweetie Pie: Time waits for no man, and I want to create a pathway to the future where young people can step in and replace us. My work with Project Sweetie Pie evolved into Northside Safety NET, among many other initiatives, and all of them are part of the greening of North Minneapolis. We are investing in young people who will be our future city planners and university professors, and we’re investing in North Minneapolis.
  • Melissa Mitchell, Youthprise: Youthprise wants to provide support for young people in the three areas of our work: health & safety, learning & leadership and economic opportunity. This program addressed all three with youth-led program design, stipends, and the opportunity to learn about environmental justice and different green jobs pathways. We also wanted to create a greater impact in North Minneapolis for Indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth.

What value does this partnership provide your organization?

  • John Evans, Hennepin County: Our staff has really enjoyed the opportunity to break out of their sort of technical silo by getting out into the community and working with residents more. It’s an avenue to make connections and it leads to new ideas. Partnering with Northside Safety NET helps us think about better serving the community and assisting when asked rather than directing or developing preconceived plans.
  • Savannah Steele, University of Minnesota College of Design: Being trained in sustainability is a critical factor for the success of our design goal. Sustainability is a goal that requires community investment; people must be able to steward sustainability to achieve it. So the interns’ investment in their community and training in thinking about sustainability made them the perfect fit for how to make the studio we facilitated successful.

How does partnership with Northside Safety NET align with your organization’s missions and goals?

  • Markeeta Keyes, City of Minneapolis Health Department: The program that I manage is really focused on providing educational opportunities for BIPOC youth and other community members to gain credentials in public health. The Minneapolis Health Department wants people to have access to healthy food and a healthy environment. Northside Safety NET is reflective of those goals and gives me the opportunity to curate paths and opportunities for folks. I won’t be leaving the space like I found it; I will be bringing more diversity to my field.
  • John Evans: Hennepin County is always looking for ways that we can assist and lend our expertise to the community, and Northside Safety NET really aligns with what we want to be doing. We want our county workforce to look like the community we serve, so connecting with youth in the community is very aligned with our mission and goals.

What did you or your organization learn by working with the Northside Safety NET interns?

  • Kelly Muellman, City of Minneapolis: I learned the importance of taking the time to do things right, not quickly. It takes time to establish relationships, recruit and hire the right staff, and build the program to succeed for future cohorts. Ultimately, I learned the brilliance of the youth of North Minneapolis. I hope to see them as leaders in this work for years to come.
  • Julia Robinson, University of Minnesota College of Design: We learned a lot from the interns, it was valuable to hear young voices in our community engagement. We learned new design methods by working together that we can try out and apply in other ways.

What are you looking forward to with Northside Safety NET?

  • Michael Chaney: I want to dive deeper with the interns. I really look forward to working with them in the People’s Garden Initiative in the summer and seeing them bring their design skills and knowledge of solar lighting to the Celestial Garden. I also want to see us move forward to really think about placing some of the first cohort of interns into apprenticeships so they can get even more exposure and experience.
  • Markeeta Keyes: I am looking forward to the continuation of the program and ideally the expansion of it. I’m also excited for this current cohort to move into the world and be able to attribute their career-mindedness and where they land to what they learned and their experience.

This innovative program model (PDF) places interns at the center of a robust learning environment designed to support consistent, long-term relationships with and between youth participants and program partners. If you are interested in becoming a Northside Safety NET financial or program partner, please contact Jaycie Thomsen for more information.