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“They deserve a world that will fight for them.”

MNIC students celebrating graduation (photo courtesy of MNIC’s Facebook Page)

By: Anna Schlipp, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow serving at Minnesota Internship Center – Downtown Campus

“It was a day in early June not so long after the protests that swept through the Twin Cities. Scorching sun beat down on us as we gathered together in a church parking lot in St. Paul to form our parade with a single goal in mind: to bid our graduates farewell after a long year of learning.

I came to MNIC Downtown in September unaware of the many challenges that I would face this year. From a two day long fight that left our community on edge for weeks to a pandemic forcing us all to take up distance learning to racial tensions boiling over and starting a movement that has united so much of the world behind the banner of justice. I will remember this year for many reasons, yet mainly I will remember it for this: perseverance.

My students have endured challenge after challenge after challenge fighting for their diplomas in a world that has already stacked the odds against them. They were forced to work from home as we all scrambled to get them all the technology they needed and yet they stayed on top of their work using everything available to them. They lost loved ones old and young, and yet they continued showing up. They felt the deep-seated pain of their communities as everyone cried out after the murder of an innocent man and yet they finished those last few days of work strong. These students, both those who graduated and those who remain, had endured all of this in addition to their individual challenges and they continue to fight on for their futures.

They deserve a world that will fight for them. Each of these students holds something inside them that is special. Some wear it on their sleeves while other keeps it hidden within. I know they can change the world if they’re given the chance and look forward to that world that when it comes.  Though my time with MNIC has come to an end, I have chosen to make a commitment to the kind of work that they do. Wherever I go in the future, I will help them advance their work so that all of these amazing students who are pushed away or fall through the cracks continue to have a safe space to thrive.

Getting those hugs during our parade had to be the best feeling that I’d had in a long time. I’ll miss those students, but those bright smiles as they got to have a day celebrating all that they had accomplished will stick with me for years to come. They stood on those battered streets looking like the fresh green growth pushing up through the ash of a forest fire. The fight for equality is far from over, but we’ve got some amazing allies coming into it armed to the teeth with passion and wisdom.”

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