Way 10 – Invest in all-day kindergarten

Way10Amy teaches kindergarten in Janesville, Minnesota. Although it hasn’t been easy, the school district has made it a priority to fund all-day kindergarten because of the benefits they’ve seen.

“Having the extra time with kids makes a huge difference in providing the repetition needed to prepare kids for reading, writing and math,” Amy says.

Amy also sees all-day kindergarten as an important part of preparing kids for their future success emotionally and socially.

“The additional time it gives us to build relationships and have structure in our days is huge,” she says. “For example, one year I had a young girl in my class who was very quiet. Even being in school all day, it took almost half the year before she came out of her shell. But when she did it was so rewarding to see her smile, say ‘good morning,’ answer questions, and make friends. ”

Amy also knows how important these breakthroughs are to prepare students for the first grade. “First grade is a big learning year, but when they are used to coming to school all day and have had the chance to get comfortable with a teacher and their classmates, their anxiety goes down, which is critical to helping them learn.”

But not every child gets that chance. Amy worries about the gap created in Minnesota when not every child gets that same opportunity.

“We try to teach our kids about fairness,” she says, “But what are we saying if they are not all having an equal opportunity to succeed?”

With fair and adequate revenues, we can make sure all Minnesota kindergarteners get the time and attention they need to succeed.

Way 9 – Invest in Services for Homeless Youth

Way9Erich Lutz has worked with youth experiencing homelessness in Duluth for 13 years.

The young people walking through his doors at Life House don’t have any other options.

“Many come from unsafe homes and face circumstances beyond their control,” he says. “They are forced to grow up without anyone to show them how.”

Youth come to Life House’s drop-in center simply to survive — they need shelter, food and clean clothes. Along with those necessities, they also get encouragement, learn to trust and begin to heal.

“They have experienced trauma,” Erich says. “Adults in their lives have taken advantage of them or abandoned them. We teach them a lot of things: how to balance a checkbook, do laundry, and make doctor’s appointments. But most importantly, we teach them that they’re worth something and that someone cares enough to be there even if they make a mistake.”

Erich has seen youth achieve great things after receiving help. One former resident was kicked out of her home by her abusive stepfather and mentally ill mother. She crashed on couches and under bridges until she found Life House. She recalls, “I knew it was a safe place where I could get help without fearing judgment. I was ashamed of what I’d done to survive, but Life House helped me pick up the pieces. With their help, I enrolled in college, got a job and established permanent housing.”

Today she is leading a healthy, happy life and has dedicated her career to helping youth with similar experiences.

In 2012, at least 1,151 unaccompanied youth were homeless in Minnesota on a single night. But state investments in services like those provided by Life House will make sure they get the help they need to lead healthy, happy lives and contribute to their communities.