The next generation: Twin Cities youth organizations aim to lift up future leaders


Ask any adult about the success they’ve achieved and they’re bound to cite the importance of mentorship when they were younger. Could be a parent. Could be a teacher. Could be a coach or volunteer. If they’re lucky, it was all of the above.

True, we all need advice and guidance in our lives, but perhaps no time is more important for personal and professional development than the teenage years. It’s why in choosing a theme for this year’s Intermediate Camp, ThreeSixty Journalism chose to highlight local organizations who are doing amazing, important work with young people.

These articles were produced by 12 area high school students who participated in ThreeSixty’s residential camp from June 15 to 27. Their stories are centered on organizations that are cultivating “the next generation” of leaders.

Students are, top row (from left): Gabriel Blackburn. St. Paul Conservatory For Performing Artists, Patrick Commers, St. Paul Academy and Summit School. Middle row: Elena Renken, St. Paul Central, Sagal Abdirahman, St. Louis Park High School, Katie Braman, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, Ubah Salad, Ubah Medical Academy, Dillan DeGross, FAIR School Minneapolis. Bottom row: Daniela Garcia, Edina High School, Kayla Song, Maple Grove High School, Isabelle Loisel, Edison HIgh School, Shay Radhakrishnan, Math and Science Academy, Danielle Wong, Eastview High School

Special thanks to the following organizations and mentors for helping our students in the field and on deadline throughout camp: Fred Melo of the Pioneer Press, Alejandra Matos of the Star Tribune, Jocelina Joiner of Internet Broadcasting, Maggie LaMaack of Bellmont Partners Public Relations, Theresa Malloy of ECM Publications/The Laker-Pioneer, Brandt Williams of Minnesota Public Radio, Jerry Holt of the Star Tribune and retired photographer John Doman.

Bolder Options: Former Gopher gets kids moving toward better health

Darrell Thompson has few doubts that he’s running one of the best youth mentoring programs in the United States. Now, he wants to make it better.

BrandLab: Opening up the marketing industry to fresh views

Wa Yang showed zero interest in anything related to school. The 16-year-old from Harding High School often skipped class, drawing the attention of truancy officers. Then came BrandLab.

Breakthrough Twin Cities: For those who commit, a leg up toward college

Decorated lockers and floors, sparkling with glitter, greet visitors to Breakthrough Twin Cities. Newcomers instantly feel welcome.

Brotherhood Inc: Between troubled pasts and brighter future, a little coffee

Located in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, Brotherhood Inc. gives African American men a chance to change the direction of their lives. And there’s always something brewing — namely, coffee.

Cookie Cart: Program puts the cart before the career

Unless you’ve attempted to crack three eggs without dropping a piece of eggshell, you may not see baking as inherently strategic. But it requires precise steps to reach a goal.

Family Tree Clinic: Talking about sex? They're making it easier

Sex is an awkward subject. True, the dreaded “talk” is something neither a parent nor child wants to deal with. But it’s a whole lot easier to discuss with a friend.

Genesys Works: Discovering the crucial first steps on a career path

Technology is at the center of Genesys Works, a program that serves Twin Cities high school students—primarily from minority backgrounds and families with a history of financial troubles—who need an extra push to succeed in the job market.

Keystone Youth Services: A first job that's more than taking orders

Want to run your own business someday? Youth Express makes it possible by operating on two social enterprises: Express Bike Shop and Express Yourself Clothing.

Penumbra Theatre: Making an artistic statement with style

By teaching kids to speak out, and moving those who listen, Summer Institute at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul shapes teens to be fearless and strong. In essence, they are creating the next generation of performance activists.

Project Sweetie Pie: Community support learned at grass roots

Through Project Sweetie Pie, Michael Chaney and his volunteers hope to create a gathering space for their neighborhood while giving kids the opportunity to work on a life skills project.

TreeHouse Youth: Providing a safe place to go for teenagers

TreeHouse, a faith-based nonprofit program that encourages teens to confide in adults and other teenagers, began with a simple observation. Teenagers suffer from too much low self-esteem.

Urban Boatbuilders: Rockin' the boat to discover new skills

The smell of sawdust lingers in the air of a room with the skeleton of a canoe lying in the middle. Hidden in the Midway area of St. Paul, in a storefront converted into a workshop, large pieces of wood hang from the ceiling on chains.