Have you ever heard the story about the boy and his grandfather who were strolling on the beach when the tide was out? They discovered a multitude of starfish drying out in the sun. The Grandfather started throwing starfish back into the sea. The boy protested, "Grandpa! What are you doing? Do you see how many starfish are on the beach? You can't make a dent in the number even if you stood here all day. What your doing doesn't make a difference."
The Grandpa looked at the starfish in his hand and said to the boy, "It makes a difference to this one."
It really can feel that our efforts don't make a difference when we consider the broad list of needs and causes in our world today. So when we give to something we really want to know that it makes a difference for the people the organization serves. We want to know, at least, if the ones we are supporting are getting back into the water, so to speak.
So we want to let you know that DinoMights does make a difference. We can't measure every intangible that makes "Hockey in the Hood" really great, but there are a few important things we can point to as indicators of success.
The mission of DinoMights is to equip our urban youth to develop Physical, Academic, Social and Spiritual Excellence. So let's take a look at each area to see how DinoMights is making a difference.
Playing ice hockey teaches kids many things, and it also helps them to be physically healthy. 32% of US children and teens are overweight or obese. That is a staggering statistic. Meanwhile, there are currently no parks with recreational ice hockey rinks in Phillips, Powderhorn, and Central neighborhoods. Moreover, we hear quite often from parents that they don't feel completely safe about their kids going to the park to play. So DinoMights is providing the opportunity to stay active during the winter for kids in South Minneapolis.
We can point to the success of this effort in several ways. First we do a hockey skills test at the beginning and end of each season. Roughly 90-92% of DinoMights improve their skills on a yearly basis. This shows that participants are getting stronger and improving as athletes. They are bucking the trend of obesity by staying active throughout the winter.
Also, quite a few of our students have been able to play at higher levels. Over 30 DinoMights have participated in High School hockey, which is very competitive in the State of Minnesota. Many more have participated in other high school sports such as Track and Field, Football, and Cross Country.
The high school graduation rate for DinoMights is 85%. That is significantly higher than the Minnesota Department of Education report in 2005 that stated the rate for Minneapolis Public Schools is 55%. Again, that is staggering. A 30% difference is a significant statement in favor of DinoMights' academic success.
We provide tutoring mainly to our youngest students with the intention of getting them to read on grade level by the end of 3rd Grade. Reading on Grade level by the end of 3rd grade is a major predictor of future academic success. We perform yearly reading assessments on the tutoring students both to provide them with level appropriate materials and to see their improvement. Each year in the last decade, 100% of tutoring students have improved one reading grade level or more. In other words, 0% of DinoMights tutoring students have fallen further behind in reading for over 10 years.
Phillips, Central and Powderhorn are on the news far too often for violent acts of crime. In order to stay out of the news urban youth need positive places for peer interaction. One of the most common things students say on their yearly evaluations is that DinoMights helped them make friends.
Recently, one of the original DinoMights got married and he had another original DinoMight as his best man. Our intern Kelsey grew up in DinoMights and it is amazing to hear her perspective on how DinoMights influenced her childhood peer group. She is a junior in college and still spends time with her DinoMights teammates.
In addition, the youth growing up in the program learn the value of service. Each year DinoMights engages in the Greg Carroll Learn 2 Skate Program. Our coaches and students teach the first graders at Green Central Elementary and Andersen Elementary how to ice skate. It is a major self-esteem booster for the first graders. Our kids see that and it makes them want to serve more.
15% of our volunteers are former students. Many grown DinoMights have served on the Park Ave. Church Summer Staff. Many more are involved in service careers and service with their churches.
It can be hard to measure spiritual impact. However, the students that have gotten the most out of DinoMights over the years are the ones that have learned that the Gospel, or Good News, to urban kids is a team sport that helps them stay physically healthy, academic support in the face of low performing schools, a great place to make friends, and the knowledge that Jesus loves them.
We don't force any of our students to become Christian. We also don't tell them what church to go to, how to be baptized, or how to take communion. We do however follow the command of God to love thy neighbor as thyself. We also take heed to Jesus' words that the Kingdom belongs to the children.
Many of the students value this part of DinoMights very much. One student put it this way on his yearly evaluation in response to what he values most about DinoMights, "That we beat the stereotype that all hockey players are white and that we do it through Jesus Christ."
In conclusion, your support makes a difference. It allows DinoMights to equip urban youth to develop Physical, Academic, Social and Spiritual Excellence. When you look into the sea of needs and feel that your efforts don't matter, think of the DinoMights youth and know that it matters for these ones.