Generation Next’s 10-Year Anniversary Event: Reflections


Generation Next held our 10-year anniversary event on Thursday, March 23, 2023 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis. We were extremely honored to be joined by several special guests, including Jennifer Blatz, president and CEO of StriveTogether, who served as our keynote speaker for the event. 

The event began with a data walk, where updated data for Generation Next goal areas was visualized on posters for attendees. Generation Next Right Track intern Kue Mu Say, a Saint Paul Public Schools and Saint Paul College student, provided original art that brought the boards to life.

Amy Trombley, Vice President of Education at United Way of Central Minnesota and a fellow member of the Minnesota Education Partnerships Coalition (EPC), said about the data walk: 

“I took pictures of all of the posters as the visualizations of the data were powerful and will provide opportunities for us to consider how we can better share our data in our local communities. On more than one occasion, I have shared these pictures with people in our community to inspire conversations.”

Dr. Rose Wan-Mui Chu of Plum Blossom Strategy and a partner in our Teacher Diversity work opened the start of the event with a centering/healing space.

Dr. Joe Gothard, Superintendent of Saint Paul Public Schools and Generation Next’s Leadership Council co-chair, then gave remarks on the state of education today. 

Dr. Gothard reflected on the importance of partnership across all sectors in education. Dr. Gothard said:

“The price of not focusing on (early) learning from birth (and doing it well) impacts all of us across all sectors. This partnership dance that we’ve worked on should not be one that is easy–where we just come to the table. We should absolutely interrogate what we’ve done in the past, the data that we have at present, and the work we need to do in the future. I’m tired of symbolic partnership. I want to see change for the children in this community.” 

“It’s time to get to work. It’s time to put children at the center, and it’s time to do great work in service of children. That’s why I’m excited about Generation Next and all of you being here today.”

Joe Munnich, Managing Director of Generation Next, gave his remarks about Generation Next: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. 

Joe said: “This work [of educational equity] has been going on for a long time. We’re here today because of the commitment of a group of cross-sector leaders who came together 10 years ago and said, ‘We have to do something differently, we have to hold each other accountable, and we have to stick with it.’ 

“Today, we are here to celebrate that we have stuck with this [vision] for 10 years and will continue to stick with it until we reach our goal of every child achieving at a high level across our communities in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.” 

Attendees then participated in an activity where they reviewed the Generation Next 10-Year timeline (available in our Annual Report HERE, starting on page 9) and put themselves into the timeline and shared story of Generation Next, and worked to envision where we will go together in the future. 

A panel discussion moderated by Jeremiah Ellis, Director of Outreach & Partnerships, followed the remarks by Joe Munnich. This panel discussion topic was Intergenerational Perspectives on Educational Equity, and the panelists included Trumanue Lindsey Jr., Vice President of Equity & Inclusion, Minneapolis College; Deidra Peaslee, President, St. Paul College; Micah Coatie, student, St. Paul College; and Bryan Vincente, student, Minneapolis College. 

As the panel discussed the importance of teacher diversity, Micah shared his memories of Mr. Shepard, his 7th grade math teacher at Battle Creek Middle School in Saint Paul.

“There was an interesting, mutual connection between me and him when it came to math,” said Micah. “I really loved numbers, and he just really loved teaching me. To see a BIPOC male teaching you and giving you as much as possible is really rewarding.” Vice President Lindsey, who also went to Battle Creek Middle School, spoke of our coalition’s need to “walk alongside” our young people in our shared effort “to get them through—not just to, but through [postsecondary].”

Mandy Arden, Executive Director of RiseUp Red Wing, another fellow member of the EPC, shared about the panel discussion: I loved that you had Micah and Bryan there. It was so impactful to hear about their experiences….because it’s all about the kids! I think the program highlighted how policy, practice, and procedural changes really do impact one kid at a time!” 

Jennifer Blatz of StriveTogether then gave her keynote speech, centering on the topic of Collective Impact: Neighborhood to National. Reflecting on Generation Next’s 10-year anniversary and our longtime StriveTogether participation, Jennifer shared how “it’s almost like [StriveTogether and Generation Next] have grown up together.” Referencing Dr. Gothard’s opening remarks, she noted that “this is our moment” to create systems change by centering racial equity, systems-level indicators, place-based partnerships, and more.

After Jennifer’s keynote speech, she was joined onstage by Sondra Samuels, president & CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, and Tiffany Scott Knox, Director of Saint Paul Promise. Both Promise Neighborhood leaders are active members of the Generation Next Leadership Council, as well as EPC.  Jennifer asked Sondra and Tiffany, “What are you seeing at your organizations in terms of challenges and opportunities coming out of COVID?” 

Sondra Samuels said: “Mental health has just been a huge issue since COVID, since George Floyd. The impact on our children and families. A national study found that 57% of girls said they had a severe sense of hopelessness; a local Minnesota study found the same, as well as feeling unsafe in school. It’s hard to learn if you don’t feel safe.

What gives me hope is that at NAZ, we have a three-year strategic plan, going deeper, going wider and expanding our influence …. the time is now! We want to double the number of children and families we work with and we want to go deeper into what we know works – that’s early childhood supports. We are leaning into our schools in all the ways they say they need us to lean in and are expanding our influence at the legislature.” 

Tiffany Scott Knox said: “At Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, we have three big buckets: health and wellness (mental health is, of course, number one), economic mobility and household stability, and education. We did a survey at the beginning of the year to see what the needs are for our families, and transportation is number one–followed by housing, navigating domestic violence, child care assistance, professional clothing, internet access, employment for youth and adults, and more. That’s some of the things we are working on. What gives me hope is the promise we provide [to the community].”

The event was closed out by Jackie Statum Allen, Leadership Council co-chair and Grantmaking Director at the Bush Foundation. Jackie said to attendees: “We are grateful for your continued and enduring commitment to young people in our community. More importantly, we have been at the table because we believe in the power of collective impact. Generation Next is such a unique and powerful model because all of the people–that nested infrastructure–are at the table and centered on our students. No other committee has both superintendents, the colleges–as well as philanthropy, nonprofits, the corporate sector, and advocates.” 

Thank you to all who made the 10 year event a success – and for all you have done and continue to do to realize our shared vision of equitable outcomes for all children in Minneapolis and Saint Paul!