Four to look forward to in 2024

The following column originally appeared in a number of APG of East Central Minnesota suburban and rural newspapers during January, 2024

Four to look forward to in 2024

So much to look forward to in 2024. Here are four (of many) things that are coming in the new year:

  1. Free public college and university tuition will become available for thousands of Minnesota students beginning in the fall.To help individual students and families, as well as to help strengthen the state’s economy, the Minnesota Legislature (meaning we, taxpayers) is offering something new and powerful. Minnesotans whose adjusted gross family income is less than $80,000, who also meet a few other criteria, will receive free tuition at all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and the University of Minnesota campuses.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has an array of helpful information in English and several other languages here: https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/sPages/northstarpromise.cfm If you have questions, please send an email here: NorthStarPromise.OHE@state.mn.us.

  1. Increased assistance will be offered to help young people, families and educators build a more environmentally friendly community, state, country and world. Terry Gips, who lives in St. Louis Park, is president and co-founder of a national group called the Alliance for Sustainability (https://afors.org/). The Alliance documents the value of youth being actively involved in these efforts and offers opportunities to do this.

Their board includes businesspeople, students, and educators from all over the country. They have free materials available here: https://afors.org/programs/our-programs/akepa-youth-school-program/.

  1. Speaking of involved youth, Jaiden Leary, a junior at St. Louis Park High School, is one of about 65 young people from all over the state — including Deer River, Duluth, Eagan, Edina, Hinckley, Hopkins, Hutchinson, Spring Lake Park, the Twin Cities and Wayzata — who met at the Minnesota House of Representatives on Nov. 11.They’re developing research-based legislative priorities in education equity, environmental awareness, juvenile justice and mental health and wellness. They’ve planning to continue this work in 2024 and have been meeting with members of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet and state legislators.

Leary told me: “As politics and policy has always been something I have been passionate about, being able to work hands-on with creating a policy for the MN legislature has not only been fascinating but educational. Specifically, working with the Governor’s staff has been profound. I’ve learned a lot about how policy making works and the nuances to it. Overall I love what I have been doing and have learned a lot about my topic.”

The students have made several suggestions. For example, they’ve asked the state to enforce the existing Postsecondary Enrollment Options law, distribute funds already allocated for after-school programs, ensure that holistic views of Native Americans about the environment are included in school discussions on this issue, and ensuring that healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables are available to all Minnesotans. Groups including the Minnesota Youth Council, Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs, Bridgemakers, Good Trouble, People for PSEO, and Center for School Change, where I work, collaborated to convene the young people.

  1. Finally, we’ll be able to read and enjoy new books being published in 2024.One of those book is by national award-winning Minnesota author Kao Kalia Yang. She’s been honored both for children’s and adult books. Her new books include one for children that will help put their lives in perspective: “The Rock in My Throat.” It describes her experiences as an elementary school student. A second book, “Where Rivers Part,” is about the courage of her mother.

Kao Kalia Yang

Thanks to many of you who share your reactions, concerns, questions and suggestions. I hope that at least some of the opportunities described above and future columns will help you gain, and give, in 2024.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, co-directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.