A nonprofit youth training wage for St. Paul

A nonprofit youth training wage for St. Paul

As leaders in the Twin Cities Nonprofit Youth Training programs, we support a thoughtful increase in the employment wage which we believe will promote economic security and an increased quality of life in our communities. We also support the certification of Youth Training Programs that provide a curriculum that includes social/emotional development, community engagement and work ready skills building. There are approximately 50 nonprofit youth programs using the “earn to learn” Youth Training model and who employ 3,000 youth per year in the Twin Cities, about half of them are in St. Paul.

We support the inclusion of a Youth Training Wage as recommended in the Citizens League Report of August 2018.

Importantly, the Study Committee understood that building career competencies, nurturing soft skills, and successfully working towards a career plan simply cannot be accomplished in 90 days. This is why the final report from the Citizens League demonstrates that this was an issue that the Study Committee took extra consideration around. At the end, 77% of the committee members supported 180 day exemption for youth in these unique programs. Additionally, 62% of committee members supported a 365 day exemption.

A St. Paul Nonprofit Training Wage for at least 180 days at 85% of the Prevailing Wage

  • For youth in St. Paul certified nonprofit training programs, we support a distinctive youth training wage. Nonprofit youth training programs commonly serve youth ages 14-24, and focus a significant portion of their paid time using an evidence-based “earn and learn” model. This model integrates work readiness, social-emotional skills, community engagement, and career mentoring. This model works well with youth who are from low-income neighborhoods and who face multiple barriers to employment.
  • Other municipal sources of revenue must be developed to  support a pipeline of talent needed by local industry. Nonprofit “earn and learn” programs will, on average,  see a 40% increase in youth wage costs by 2020. The unintended consequences of these significant cost increases will be a reduction in the number of low-income youth served.
  • The Minneapolis Ordinance that provides for a 90-day training wage for youth training programs at 85% of the prevailing wage is insufficient for long-term training programs. It does not recognize the developmental needs or environmental factors of teens employed in these non-profit youth training programs. St Paul is looking at 180-days and we support that.

It should be noted that youth who are hired as managers or youth workers are paid the prevailing wage.  

These recommendations are from the Citizens League Report of August 2018 (page 23-24) as summarized below:


Summary: The following YSE “earn and learn” cohort supports (1) Citizens League Aug 2018 recommended Scenario 2, a certification process and requirements that can be amended if needed,  (2) an exploration for replacement municipal funds to support training of these youth for local industry and entrepreneurial business ventures.

Call to Action:

Please Call St. Paul City Council Members with smiles, praise and tremendous positivity. Thank you for including the Youth Training Wage for 180 days of training or more in the pending sustainable wage. We believe that we are providing entry-level skills training in the three major areas demanded from industry: social/emotional youth development (confidence, trust and initiative), community engagement (leadership, mentoring and connections) and workforce readiness skills (working in teams, working with a supervisor, and understanding workplace requirements).  We are the foundational organizations to create pipelines of 21st century talent to propel  our regional economic growth.

Note: This statement is also available as a letter.



Joan Linck, Director of Strategic Development

651-292-3203, joan@compas.org


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

Melissa Cuff, Director of Development, Marketing

And Communications




Cookie Cart

Matt Halley, Executive Director

(612) 843-1946 or mhalley@cookiecart.org

Dream of Wild Health

Diane Wilson, Executive Director

612-874-4200, diane@dreamofwildhealth.org

Elpis Enterprises

Paul Ramsour, Executive Director

651-644-5080, paul@elpisenterprises.org



Mike Wynne, Executive Director

612-529-9237, wynnem@emerge-mn.org


Keystone Community Services

Randy Treichel, Enterprise Director

(651) 659-0613 Ext. 5, randy@exbike.org  

Keystone Community Services

Chris Ohland, Director of Youth Services

(651) 659-0613 ext.3, cohland@keystoneservices.org

Lakes Center for Youth and Families

Matt Howard, Executive Director

651-464-3685, Matt.Howard@lc4yf.org


McNeely Foundation

Maggie Arzdorf-Schubbe


Zachary Robinson, Executive Director

612-821-6390, zach@spark-y.org


Sundance Family Foundation

Peg Thomas, Executive Director

(612) 822-8580 or info@sundancefamilyfoundation.org

The Sanneh Foundation

Aron Taylor, Camps and Athletic Director

(651) 501-6343 or ataylor@thesannehfoundation.org


Tree Trust

Kim Lawler, Director of Development & Communications

(952) 767-3881 or Kim.lawler@treetrust.org


Urban Arts Academy

Tamar Ghidalia, Executive Director

612-827-1641, tghidalia@urbanartsacademy.org


Urban Boatbuilders

Mark Hosmer, Executive Director

651-644=9224 marc@urbanboatbuilders.org


Urban Roots

Lori Arnold, Executive Director

(651) 228-7073 or larnold@urbanrootsmn.org

Urban Strategies

Elana Dahlberg, Associate Project Manager-

Green Garden Bakery



Wilderness Inquiry

Greg Lais, Executive Director



July’s Wunderkammer: A Recap


July’s Wunderkammer: A Recap

July was a busy month for the Sundance Family Foundation. There were vendors to call, youth to invite, buses to coordinate, and public officials to notify. Once all that was finished, there were posters to make, flyers to print, and one giant hall at the Maplewood Community Center and YMCA to be set up. Why all this commotion? A Wunderkammer, of course!

Before anybody arrives, the space is just a bunch of empty tables waiting to be filled; each is a blank slate where the possibilities are endless. The only rule? Whatever the vendors decide to do with their tables, it must be interactive. The concept of the Wunderkammer comes from the cabinets of interesting curiosities from the Renaissance period in Europe. Therefore, curiosity and exploration are the main priorities.

Before the youth arrive, representatives from Amidon graphics hauled in bright cans of printing ink and a heavy paper jogging machine that aligns paper with vibration. The folks from Dunwoody set up a welding station outside, complete with all the safety gear required to weld on site. McGough Construction brought a wood frame for nail-hammering competitions, while Dayton Rogers brought a specially designed stamping machine to demonstrate their process. There was plenty to get ready.

But once it’s up and running, all the effort that went into planning the Wunderkammer was clearly worth it. The first way to tell is the sound; when walking into the Wunderkammer for the first time, hundreds of visitors were greeted with the sounds of laughter, chatter, and–of course—hammering. Youth encouraged each other as they stacked boxes, worked with small machines, and practiced electrical wiring. They clustered around the photo booth, too, where they got the chance to take group photos themed with and  paired to the Twin Cities tech & training vendors de jour.

Beyond the commotion of encouragement and exploration, youth were asking questions, too. The Wunderkammer is not a typical job fair, it’s the fair job fair. At these events, questions are encouraged and vendor/youth engagement is a must do.  No one expects youth to know about jobs or fields before they’ve arrived. Though all vendors involved brought information about their fields and finding a job or training with their company or post secondary program their primary job was simply to share possibilities. Many of the vendors represented fields that many people aren’t aware of, at least not in our day-to-day lives. We do not necessarily see welding in action, or witness metal stamping, or watch the business cards and pamphlets we use be printed. And yet, each of these industries creates items that become a part of our world.

With the Wunderkammer, Sundance is bridging a knowledge gap by making many of these fascinating career paths more visible, and therefore more possible. We are also bridging the hiring gap, by introducing employers to young, talented workforce- ready youth of color whom manufacturers and industry specialists may not have had the privilege of meeting at previous job fairs.

The Wunderkammer was well-attended by over 200 youth representing YSE organizations, schools, and community groups ; Maplewood’s Mayor, Nora Slawik, and a representative from Senator Tina Smith’s office attended for a walkthrough along with several other community and business representatives Further, the city of Maplewood sent a film crew, and produced a striking video about the event which you can watch below.

A Trip to Design Ready Controls (DRC)

A Trip To Design Ready Controls (DRC)

On a sunny Monday morning, the Sundance team gathered with youth from several YSE organizations at the sunny offices of 800 West Broadway. 800 West Broadway is a nonprofit that offers, among other services, a workforce center that supports and trains job seekers. As the team boarded a bright yellow school bus bound for Brooklyn Park, the group chatted about all the things to consider when looking for a job. How do you apply? What skills should you highlight if interviewed? If you get the position, how much will it pay? And when it comes time to go to work every morning, how will you get there?

This question was on the minds of many as they made the trip outthey had time to consider the distance during the 20 minute bus ride from middle of North Minneapolis.

The destination? Design Ready Controls (DRC), a control panel  and wiring harness manufacturer headquartered in Brooklyn Park. The facilities are large and modern, and the DRC campus includes a main building and a warehouse that sit at the cloverleaf interchange of two highways 169 and 610.

When driving up to DRC, the large campus rises out of the background of prairie-like land, taking up 110,000 square feet on the otherwise flat background. Though DRC recently moved to this large site built in 2015, they’re already filling the space completely and continuing to grow. DRC now has manufacturing facilities across North America in Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia.

At their Minnesota offices, the grounds are landscaped minimalistically and are filled with native grasses and  plants that require little upkeep, making them a good choice on both environmental and efficiency levels. This philosophy is carried into the inside. The facilities are paperless, which helps cut down on waste, and for a factory, the space is surprisingly bright, well-organized, and energy efficient.  

For many on the tour, this was their first visit to a manufacturer. Though not all who visited intend to pursue a career in manufacturing, the trip let them see the inside of an expanding field that usually exists only out of both sight and mind. DRC and many manufacturers like them have entry level jobs they’re seeking to fill, but often have trouble finding workers. Enterprise Minnesota’s “The State of Manufacturing” suggests that “The workforce shortage—for skilled and unskilled employees—looms large as a likely impediment to future growth to manufacturers across the board.”

In other words, the jobs exist. It’s finding people to do the work that presents the problem—a problem that companies like DRC are trying to fix before a crisis hits. This is where Sundance and 800 West Broadway came together; it seems an obvious solution to introduce manufacturers in need of workers to people seeking employment.

There is one-size-fits-all solution, of course. Though it makes sense for DRC to be headquartered where there is room to expand, transportation is an issue for some potential workers. Folks on both sides of the worker/employer equation understand that paradox. Still, solutions are on the horizon. Leaders at DRC are in talks with the city of Brooklyn Park about expanding bus service out to their campus.

DRC also makes taking steps towards employment easy. Today’s youth are often highly computer literate, a skill which makes them great candidates for the job, even right out of high school. Further, for anyone with engineering or other technical ambitions, DRC offers paths towards taking college classes.

A Commercial Kitchen for Green Garden Bakery

A Commercial Kitchen for Green Garden Bakery

by Rachel Busse

The story of Green Garden Bakery begins in the kitchen.This may seem an obvious starting place for a group selling muffins and scones, but Green Garden Bakery’s roots are anything but conventional. Rather than in culinary school or even a professional kitchen, the founders of Green Garden Bakery got their start in a cooking class for kids in North Minneapolis’ Heritage Park area.

Heritage Park is a neighborhood, but it’s also a community based around a grouping of apartment buildings and townhomes. The area sits just north of downtown Minneapolis, but it’s tucked behind a knot of highways that make it feel cloistered. At least as far as food goes, this isolated feeling is warranted. Heritage Park is a federally designated food desert. But it’s a packed neighborhood, too, and the area is home to 700 kids who need ways to stay busy and healthy after school and over the summer. Elana Dahlberg, the adviser for Green Garden Bakery and a project manager for the nonprofit Urban Strategies, explains that healthy food access is a particularly hard challenge in the summer. For a lot of kids, she says, dinner means snacks from the vending machines.

So Heritage Park began offering cooking classes as a part of their youth programing. The kids met in a community room and kitchen attached to the main leasing office, and they often practiced their cooking skills with ingredients grown in nearby community gardens. These classes offered one solution to the problem of healthy foods access, but it also increased awareness and excitement about healthy cooking, too.

Photo courtesy of GGB

That excitement grew. Soon, the youth created their first signature dessert: the green tomato cake, which Dahlberg says set the tone and values for their bakery. They sold this dessert for the first time in 2014, before they were officially a business. At the time, they were just kids having a bake sale for a friend in need of support after an accident. Still, from the start, they had a clear vision of what they valued–they wanted to be green in multiple ways. The youth decided it was important that they not only sell healthy desserts, but that they do it in an eco-conscious manner, packaging their treats in compostable packaging decorated with plant-based inks.

Today, they continue to run their business with a strong sense of community-oriented values. GGB uses a third of their profits to pay the staff, a third to invest in their business, and devotes the final third to donating back to their community.

Since their first sale, they’ve added a variety of vegetable-based desserts that incorporate vegetables in fun, creative ways that motivate youth to try new, healthy foods. GGB now serves beet brownies, jalapeno chocolate chip cookies, carrot pumpkin cakes, lavender-blueberry scones, and other youth-inspired creations. In blending gardening, baking, eco-consciousness, leadership, and empowerment, GGB has grown into a successful business that prioritizes engaging more youth as they grow. There are currently 150 youth involved; some are just in kindergarten and they help decorate the compostable packaging that houses the desserts made by older youth.

In their meeting room, the brightly colored packaging is stacked all around to dry on tables. As it is, this area is useful for cooking classes and personal development for the younger kids involved. But they lack a commercial kitchen in their community. For the older ones who bake the treats they sell, the youth must  take a 45 minute bus ride to South Minneapolis to bake in a full commercial kitchen. This impacts the older kids the most, and it has been limiting their capacity to expand.

Limitation has never stopped these young leaders. They received an anonymous gift of $150,000 toward a commercial kitchen which was capped with a gift of $50,000 from the Sundance Foundation. The Green Garden Bakery team has crowdfunded over $17,000, which they will use to buy kitchen appliances and mobile bike carts to help them get around town to make deliveries and to support pop-up sales at events.

The Green Garden Bakery leadership team–all made up of teens connected to the Heritage Park neighborhood–has now met with architects, bidded with contractors, and have submitted plans to the city for approval. They plan to have a finished kitchen by the end of the year. Once the kitchen is complete, they intend to open it up to adults in the community who are interested in starting their own catering or cooking businesses.

As Dahlberg sees it, the success of Green Garden Bakery has to do with the youth taking the lead. “There is no blueprint for what they’re doing,” she says, and their projects, “aren’t developed by adults for kids but instead for kids, by kids.” Beyond the renovation, they’re taking the lead on a variety of other projects, too. The new kitchen will give them more space to freeze ingredients for the winter, but they’re also planning high tunnels and an eventual greenhouse to extend their growing season. They plan to get a passenger van to make transportation easier. On the more distant horizon, the Light Rail will come through the neighborhood by 2021, and the team hopes to have an established storefront by then. Until then, there is plenty to be excited about.  The team is in talks with the culinary director for Minneapolis Public Schools about the possibility of serving their desserts in school lunches.


But at the core of all this excitement and innovation is a commitment to community. As Dahlberg explains, the team works together like a family, seeing each other through hardships of all kinds. The donation from Sundance Family Foundation, then, means a lot to the team, especially because it was made in honor of founder Nancy Jacobs’ mother, Helen. As a way of thanking Sundance Family Foundation, the Green Garden Bakery team created the lemon lavender blueberry scone in commemoration. With their brand new kitchen, Green Garden Bakery surely has many delicious, community-supporting desserts in their future.