Mankato-North Mankato, Minnesota

The Mankato-North Mankato community, a four time winner of 100 Best, has a history of collaborating on youth issues. Local programming fosters literacy and healthy development from prenatal through high school graduation. It is based on developing innovative partnerships to direct resources, evaluate impact, use data and focus the community on the well being of youth. Through the years, challenges have varied but the process is the same: the community names the challenge, verifies it using data, develops a response using partnerships and evaluates the impact of that response.

Mankato Area Healthy Youth (MAHY) keeps a focus on youth involvement and is a conduit of information. Youth Serving and other organizations use data to target budgets and services it needs and document results and changes in the environment. Youth were involved in Envision 2020, a year-long, community-wide strategic planning process that set 10 year community priorities and a plan for reaching them. Five local governments in the Mankato area have an Intergovernmental Youth Asset Committee that involves youth in budgeting and decision making.

The community has many active partnerships addressing its youth. MAHY and Mankato State University completed a study of the impact of funding cuts on the spectrum of youth services in the community. Based on this data, many organizations took new action. United Way stepped into a huge funding gap left by reduced government funding and redirected funds to Connecting Kids, whose partners include county services, community education, and youth organizations. Community Education provides English Language classes, early learning, afterschool and recreational programs. Community Ed and the YWCA provide outreach to immigrant families. The YWCA provides college access education to immigrant high school girls. Service Clubs target youth by funding parks, scholarships, activities and involving youth in service.

The colleges are promoting service learning and this combination has worked well- resulting in 7,700 college students engaged in service learning in local organizations. Community organizations have also begun implementing less adult-intensive programs, such as group mentoring instead of one- to -one mentoring. The YWCA Girls on the Run Program relies on trained college student mentors working with groups of girls. The YMCA Brother Sister Program started mentoring groups when need for mentors outpaced volunteers.

The Mankato community offers many programs designed to enhance a child’s education from preschool to college. The Early Childhood Education School Readiness Program serves children experiencing risk factors which impede their being ready to learn. 4-Kids Preschool is an application based preschool designed to help four –year- olds gain school readiness. A partnership between the Schools and Greater Mankato Growth, a local nonprofit collaborative, focuses on curriculum that aligns classroom learning with industry needs and provides multiple career exploration activities. Students access industry during career days, job shadows, and internships. Lutheran Social Services’ On My Own program helps youth live independently and prepare for college. YWCA Brighter Future works with immigrant girls to plan for and access college and careers.