Monday, September 28, 2009

It Takes a Village

Though it seems like a distant memory because of the sudden cold front that hit Minnesota this morning, I was able to soak up every minute of Saturday's gloriously perfect weather! Nine year old Dinomight participant Edward and his five year old brother Moises joined my cousin and I for a fun day at the Minnesota Zoo. The kids loved seeing the flamingos, tigers, monkeys, bears, and sea otters, but their unanimous favorites were the prairie dogs. It was so much fun to hang out and enjoy what felt like an extension of summer. At one point as we were walking around the zoo Edward was talking about how much fun he was having and he turned to me and asked:

"Why do all the coaches love us?"

He seemed genuinely curious. I think I responded with something along the lines of how all the kids were so awesome that we can't help but love them, but his comment really struck me. Sometimes working with youth can be discouraging. You are often faced with a student who is living through really rough circumstances and when solutions to their problems don't come quickly, it's easy to wonder if you are doing enough. I think Edward's question really hit the core of DinoMights' greatest success: Something we are doing is making the kids feel loved.

I would really like to emphasize the word "We" in that statement. I have been tutoring Edward for the last couple of years, but he didn't ask why "I" loved him so much. He didn't ask why Rich, Leah, Scott, Eric, or the other Leah loved him so much. He referred to us as a community of people who care about him and his teammates. The community of caring adults that DinoMights provides for its students is so incredibly valuable. A popular ratio among youth workers used to be 1-7. If you--as one mentor--had seven students in your life that you were investing time into, you were a successful youth worker. However, the Search Institute did some studies recently and decided that the ratio needs to be flipped. To make the greatest impact, the real ratio should be 7 caring adults for every 1 student. I have gotten very close to Edward over the last few years and am excited that I get to continue being a part of his life, but I also recognize that he may face things that I am unequipped to respond to. For example, there will inevitably be times when he will need a male to turn to rather than a female. Being a part of a community means that I don't have to feel like I am investing into any particular kid by myself. I am a part of a team of people with different skills, talents, backgrounds, cultures, professions and personalities, who share the same goal of loving these kids and helping them to succeed. I felt that sense of community growing up in the program and those relationships with caring adults are still very important to me today. DinoMights provides that 7-1 ratio for kids. The kids can feel the love and are learning at an early age that they are valued. That says a lot.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing Kelsey

Hey Everybody!
My name is Kelsey and I am very excited to let you all know that I will be doing an internship with DinoMights this semester. I grew up in South Minneapolis and DinoMights has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Both of my older brothers were on the very first DinoMight team back in 1995, and I joined the team shortly thereafter. Since then 4 more of my siblings have been involved, bringing the grand total to SIX Sundberg's who have proudly worn the Dinomight jersey. I have loved being a DinoMight tutor for the last three years and I can't wait to be involved in the other aspects of the program and learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at a non-profit. I am currently a full-time student at Augsburg College, majoring in Social Work and minoring in Spanish so this internship will give me the opportunity to expand my knowledge in both of those areas. I am so excited to see what these next few months will bring! :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Introducing Pa Kou

While we will miss having Leah Engelhart on staff, we are very pleased to introduce Pa Kou Yang as the new Program Assistant at DinoMights. One of the greatest assets that Pa Kou provides to youth in the Phillips, Powderhorn, and Central Neighborhoods is that she is one of them! That's right, she grew up here and still lives here. Enjoy reading what Pa Kou herself has to say about her new position at DinoMights.


I am Pa Kou Yang, the new Program Assistant at DinoMights. It’s really hard to find a work place that values the same things as you, and so I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing organization where I can do two things that I love: educate students and serve God.

A little about myself: I was raised all my life in south Minneapolis right in the Powderhorn Neighborhood. I went to Minneapolis schools throughout my Elementary and High school years, and graduated from Augsburg College in 2005 with a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. My career as an educator really started when I landed a job with Park Avenue Methodist Church as a summer counselor. I needed a job and they needed counselors. Little did I know that God would use me in such an amazing way that summer. It changed my life forever. The church was a second home where I felt safe. At the end of that summer, I realized that my calling in life is to serve kids in the city.

Living in the neighborhood and being part of organizations like DinoMights has given me opportunities to minister to kids like myself. It’s been such a blessing to see how much these kids have grown over the years. Many of them are now starting their first year or second years in college, and many of them return to DinoMights or to Park Avenue Church to serve the community. I really believe that just like myself, many of them continues to participate because they want to show these children the love that was given to them when they were younger. Therefore, I would like to thank DinoMights for giving me the opportunity to touch the lives of kids and I look forward to meeting new people as well as learning more about Hockey.


Pa Kou Yang

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thanks Leah

Last week our Program Assistant, Leah Engelhart, transitioned from being a staff member back to being a volunteer. She spent the last two years as an employee of DinoMights, and now she is beginning the next phase of her career as a Student Teacher. We are so very thankful for her great work and her friendship to the kids, volunteers, and staff. We are also thankful that, while she won’t be working for DinoMights, she will still be close by. Leah has volunteered to continue loving DinoMights kids by serving as this year’s Girls Team Coach!

To honor Leah as she moves on, I decided to include in this month’s letter an excerpt from her personal blog This entry really shows Leah’s heart for our kids and that she has truly embraced DinoMights’ philosophy of long term relationships.

Last week the DinoMights had their annual Academic Power Camp.

We had 18 new students attend the camp. Often when we recruit kids who are going into 2nd grade, if their siblings are in elementary school we invite them to join as well. One of the new kids had an older 4th grade sister who decided to join DinoMights. At Power Camp, the other 4th grade girls were not being very inclusive during game time. They all attend the same school, and this new girl does not.

I have hope for these 4th grade girls . . .

I began tutoring/mentoring Lacy when she was in 4th grade. She is now going into 7th grade. This past week at camp she asked this new 4th grade girl to play a game with her. I observed this interaction and welled up with emotion. Throughout the week she continually included this girl. Lacy has 3 younger siblings looking up to her, but also many other eyes watching and admiring her actions. She is such a beautiful girl and I am continually grateful to have her in my life.

I love that Leah points out how thankful she is to observe growth in Lacy, and at the same time she expects growth in today’s 4th graders. Leah gets it. She made a choice to love Lacy, and now she is watching Lacy love others. Not that Leah is the sole reason that Lacy made friends with a new student, it’s that love is something that you give away. And when you see someone that you love giving it away you can’t help but feel that your mission is being accomplished!