“You know as well as I do that right now, pathways to college are distributed inequitably based on factors like race and income.” -Eli Kramer, Executive Director of the Hiawatha Academies
Hiawatha Academies has a vision of permanently disrupting educational inequity by ensuring a great school for every child. “We believe in our future and know that our kids are the people who will make our world better,” said Hiawatha Collegiate Founding High School Principal, Nicole Cooley.
On October 25, 2017, Hiawatha Academies leaders, funders, Longfellow residents, and other partners came together to break ground on Hiawatha Academies’ biggest project yet toward realizing that vision: Hiawatha Collegiate High School’s new campus. Principal Cooley shared a personal experience from her time teaching at Wellstone, Missouri. “The first classroom I taught in had broken and missing windows. There were no specialty classrooms, state of the art gymnasiums or auditoriums, no computer labs…no functioning computers at all,” she remembered. “The school didn’t even have a library.”
Starting fall 2018, Hiawatha Collegiate students, the majority of whom are Latinx, will have a new facility that’s on-par with those of more well-resourced suburban schools. The new high school campus will triple the current school’s space, totaling 105,000 square feet. It will offer their scholars 25 classrooms, science labs, dance rooms, art classrooms, college lecture halls, a gymnasium double the size of the current one, stage and theater opportunities, a soccer field for their growing soccer program, and a great learning environment that reflects a lot of the aspirations of their students and families.
Over 90% of Hiawatha Academies students come from lower income families. At Hiawatha Academies, leadership and staff are focused on addressing the opportunity gap rather than the achievement gap. The opportunity gap refers to the inequitable distribution of educational resources and opportunities that leads to much different levels of success for kids of a different race, background, and socioeconomic status.
In Minnesota, the opportunity gap leads to the second-highest achievement gap between white students and students of color. Less than 1 in 10 students of color in the Twin Cities attend college.
Hiawatha Academies’ leadership is striving to change that. “Imagine Minneapolis becomes the first city in the nation to actually eliminate educational inequity,” challenged Eli Kramer, Executive Director of the Hiawatha Academies network of schools. “You know as well as I do that right now, pathways to college are distributed inequitably based on factors like race and income.”
The new building, built on the site of the former Canada Dry bottling plant, is part of a $27.3 million redevelopment of the site. Hiawatha’s first graduating class will graduate from the new facility.
Principal Cooley knows that this project is about more than just a building. “This will be the place where 100% of our students get the knowledge, character, and leadership skills to graduate from high school, then college, and then go on to serve the common good,” she said, thanking all those who made it possible, including the students.
Hiawatha Academies’ junior Uly Duval Zuniga will be in that first graduating class, and he can’t wait to set foot in the new building. As part of the Principal’s Cabinet, he had a say in what he wanted to see in his new school. “I will only be in the building for one year, but I’ll make the most of every second,” said Uly at the groundbreaking. “I owe that to myself.” Uly plays on the soccer team and currently holds a 4.54 GPA.
Propel Nonprofits was one of many partners who made this deal possible. Propel Nonprofits’ pre-development investment helped Hiawatha Academies’ Associated Building Corporation purchase the land. A large portion of the total finance was New Markets Tax Credits; this is the first charter school in Minnesota to utilize New Markets financing. “It’s quite a feat to pull in private investment to support traditionally underserved communities,” said Hiawatha Academies’ Chief Operating Officer Sean Elder.
“We have partnered with Hiawatha Academies for many years. Not only have they successfully addressed the opportunity gap in Minneapolis, they also address the issues of equity, inclusion, and justice as it relates to their students, their families and their communities,” said Propel Nonprofits’ Senior Loan Officer Phil Hatlie. “Successful students need a safe, inspiring environment, and Hiawatha Academies is committed to providing that environment.”
To learn more about Hiawatha Academies, visit their website: http://hiawathaacademies.org/.
Summer Scholars photo credit: Joe Dickie, Big World Films
Rendering, Uly Duval Zuniga photo credit: Conor Leonard, Hiawatha Academies