Good Afternoon, my name is Kristen Konop, I am a founding teacher of Crosswinds Middle School which is part of the East Metro Integration District (EMID).
I sit here to offer a unique perspective about the outcomes of integration and education. My students that started Crosswinds with us in 1998 are all in their mid-20’s. In recent years, they have begun to contact us at Crosswinds & tell us their stories. In doing this they have shared how the early experience of attending an integrated school, not just a diverse school, but an integrated school has affected the people they have become. Here are two of the representative stories:
One is a girl
One is a boy
One is black
One is white
One is Bobby
One is Erin.
Both are energetic.
One’s energy is driven & focused
The other’s energy frenetic, silly & often distracting in the classroom
One struggles with school success, I think might actually still owe me work.y
The other, needed work to be extended, differentiated & challenging.
By any explanation one was “going to make it” the other was trying not to “become a statistic.”
Each student spent 2 years in our program.
One graduated 8th grade in 2000 the other 2001.
It’s 2012, 13 years later:
Bobby works as an EMT, saving lives, he builds houses for Habitat for Humanity & helps to organize blood drives.
Erin currently serves as the inaugural director for the Center for Native American Youth, founded by US Senator Byron Dorgan. Prior to this she was the lead health advisor on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
I asked both of them if they thought going to an integrated school had any effect on their work/lives: Here are their responses:
Erin: Crosswinds gave me confidence at a time when most young females need it
Bobby: Crosswinds helped me figure out who I am, it helped me know myself
Erin: I felt respected and cared for by the teachers and the community.
Bobby: Knowing who I was allowed me to get to know & learn about others, no matter what they looked like. It helps me in my job as an EMT.
Erin: I am SO grateful for the time I had with a diverse group of students from all over the metro area. The student body looked like how the real world looks and… that is critically important for young people to see & understand.
I also recently spoke to Elin Lindstrom, another former student, whom is now an attorney & she said:
The biggest impact Crosswinds has (on my current job) is my ability to relate to different people …I work with clients on a daily basis and it is important that they trust me and that I can establish a relationship with them. I think Crosswinds broadened my horizons and opened my mind, enabling me to better relate to people with different cultural and socio economic backgrounds.
The work we do with integration really addresses an Empowerment Gap. We empower all kids, any kids to achieve & achieve in an environment where they learn about, make mistakes with & problem solve with one another so they can all learn. Integration is messy, uncomfortable, difficult work, but the payoff: contributing members to society who know how to achieve in any aspect of society.
In Minnesota we are sitting on the forefront of this work..we have the opportunity to lead the nation to close the Opportunity Gap. It won’t be easy, but then again, the right thing never is.