One of the most anticipated and important days on the calendar for Minnesota School of Business (MSB) staff and students is the annual We Care Day of community engagement and service. It is a day dedicated each year to the needs of others and provides a meaningful way to connect to each other.
This year, MSB volunteers helped prepare for the opening of Supportive Housing for Youth (SHY) House, a new transitional housing option for central Minnesota homeless youth. The experience presented a unique opportunity for volunteers to understand the difficulties and barriers many young people struggle with in the community.
Veterinary Technology Instructor Jessica Ostendorf said, “It was very eye-opening and sad to learn how many homeless youth we have in the area.” However, as a result of the experience, she added, “Now we know of new ways that we can help!”
Stacy Pederson, program manager for Catholic Charities’ SHY, gave volunteers a tour of the home and detailed the program’s history.
The SHY program services youth 16-24 years old who are considered vulnerable adults for any number of reasons, including violence, sexual abuse, drug, and/or alcohol addiction. Virtually all of the clients are without a support system, so at a time when these young people should be finishing high school or starting college or a job, they are instead worrying about a place to sleep.
The newly installed SHY House will help at least a few of them at time gain some stability and find direction for a period of (up to) 24 months. The house itself has been renovated and painted, but the MSB volunteers came to ready the grounds and clean up the exterior. They raked, cleaned gutters and window wells, and washed windows.
Associate Dean Jessica Denne said the experience moved her on many levels—and has inspired her to volunteer beyond this single project.
“SHY House seems to be addressing kids who fall through the cracks. [At some point] they will need college prep. They will need to learn about financial aid. Things they can’t focus on when they are looking for a place to stay the night,” Denne said.
In her role at MSB, Denne says she has seen many students in a similar situation, who just keep facing setbacks.
Pederson told volunteers that once the house opens, its first occupant will be a high school student who moves in after school lets out for the day; the girl didn’t want to come until classes were finished. That kind of determination in a student impresses Denne, and is a big reason why she wants to continue to help SHY.
Veterinary technology student Anne Gohmann also has committed to do future volunteering with the program.
“I talked to Stacy [Pederson] about coming back and teaching the youth how to cook simple one-person meals. I am even bringing my child because I want him to understand others’ needs and teach him that it’s not all about him.”
As another part of the “We Care” efforts, faculty and staff hosted a free Professional Day on campus open to the public. Workshops including Microsoft Office, cyber-bullying, massage techniques, team building and customer service were offered throughout the day.
Career Services Director Shannon Templin presented a session and recruited two subject matter experts to talk on social media and sales. He reflected on the day, “It was nice to see how eager and excited many of the participants were to learn new strategies and techniques to help make their business or nonprofit run more efficiently.”
Jayne Greeney Schill is the Career and Tech Ed Coordinator for School District 742 and found the sessions “phenomenal.” She attended Campus Director Jim Beck’s presentation on “The Energy Bus,” a motivational strategy for organizations, and gave it rave reviews.
“It was so positive,” she said. “I hope to bring it back for our staff and counselors.”
In addition, she was impressed with the cyber-bullying workshop and loved the opportunity to network with others at lunch.
Across town, Business Program Chair Wendy Topp and a team of Collegiate DECA students also volunteered on We Care Day for the city of Waite Park. The student-led project is an ongoing partnership with the city during warm weather months to clean up medians and walkways. Students take pride in the work and in their networking efforts with local government.
In total, 100 MSB faculty, staff, students and community members participated in We Care Day events. A “this feels good” vibe followed every one of them home.
Click here to view photo albums of We Care Day.