Growing North Minneapolis: Fostering Youth Leadership and Critical Mentorship Through Intergenerational Work and Community-University Partnerships

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Growing North Minneapolis: Fostering Youth Leadership and Critical Mentorship Through Intergenerational Work and Community-University Partnerships

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Communities of color and low-socioeconomic status are disproportionately impacted by food, energy, and water insecurity (Hoff, 2011). Additionally, these communities have been historically left out of environmental movements and policy making. Thus, it is particularly important to involve youth of marginalized identities in these issues. However, school learning is often disconnected from students’ sociocultural and sociohistorical backgrounds and experiences (Buxton, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2014; Paris & Alim, 2014). Community-based education (CBE) is one way to provide learning experiences contextualized in real-world issues, that happen in socioculturally relevant ways, and that support young people in contributing meaningfully to their lives and communities. In three distinct, but connected studies, this dissertation explores the opportunities and challenges in community-based education; in preparing university mentors for this work, and in developing and sustaining a community-university partnership. The research in this dissertation is situated within the context of Growing North Minneapolis (GNM) - a partnership between the North Minneapolis community and the University of Minnesota (UMN) that runs an urban environmental and agriculture internship program for youth of marginalized identities. First, an explanatory, single embedded case design was used to examine the ways in which community-based education through internships can support youth who are marginalized in traditional educational environments. The experiences of youth in four different garden groups are explored at length. This study highlights the holistic educational opportunities found in community-based environments, particularly bringing attention to the value of intergenerational mentoring and work, diversity in learning communities, and the value of work-based learning. Second, the focus transitions from the youth to the university mentors. Specifically, an explanatory, single case study design was employed to examine the growth in critical mentoring capacity of the university mentors during their community-based mentoring experience and to consider how university mentors can be prepared to work with communities and youth of marginalized identities in socioculturally relevant ways. Findings from this study outline themes in the knowledge and dispositions that university mentors developed during their preparation course and their internship experience. Key recommendations are offered to prepare mentors of dominant and privileged identities for mentoring work with youth and community of marginalized identities. Third, the evolution of the program partnership between the community and the university is explored. A design-based research (DBR) approach was utilized to examine the ways in which community and university knowledge, skills, and perspectives coevolved, clashed and coexisted over the first three years of the partnership. This study details three design iterations, focusing on the interplay of community and university knowledge and skills, challenges, and growth. This study brings attention to the importance of leveraging diverse community and university perspectives, epistemologies, knowledge, skills, resources, and types of capital in harmony to support communities and young people who have been historically underserved and systemically marginalized. Collectively, the three studies featured in this dissertation have important implications for community-based learning for youth of marginalized identities; preparing university mentors of dominant identities for this work; and the opportunities in community-university partnerships to strengthen this work.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2020. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Gillian Roehrig. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 219 pages.

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Livstrom, Illana. (2020). Growing North Minneapolis: Fostering Youth Leadership and Critical Mentorship Through Intergenerational Work and Community-University Partnerships. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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