Let’s start with my apologies for the absence of my blog last week. I was out of town Wednesday and when I got back there was a lot going on and I just never got to even a belated version or word there wouldn’t be a blog. Consider it a mid-winter break…if you noticed. If you didn’t, skip to the next paragraph.

Remember those pinings for a good old-fashioned cold snap? I wasn’t up at 4 am or whenever it was we hit our coldest temp this morning, but I know it was below zero and that this isn’t the first below zero weather we’ve had this year. I’d describe it as a snap. At least there’s snow on the ground, so the skiers are happy. 

There’s a lot to talk about after 2 weeks, so let’s leave the small talk and get into it. 

D12 – there are two big events coming up tomorrow night (Thurs. Feb. 21) sponsored by the community council. The first is another Transition Town conversation from 7-9pm at Luther Seminary’s Northwestern Hall. The first brought people together to talk about future energy trends and how we can/should deal with them at a community level. Unfortunately, I could not be there, but heard it was a wonderful and interesting discussion. For example, a concept new to me was brought forward by Tom Fisher, neighbor and Dean of the U of M Design School - energy refugees. If I understand it correctly, these would be people moving to regions where energy/resources are more available, from other states or countries where they are more expensive or limited, causing sharp increases in our population. Makes sense, so add that to the diminishing oil and water, plus the myriad and significant changes we going through due to natural disasters. It’s past time to talk about solutions large and small. This meeting will be an opportunity to gather with others and find ways to implement actions.   

The other event, Give & Take – is the second in a series of events taking place in, and showcasing, the Creative Enterprise Zone, our developing neighborhood along University Ave in SSA. There will be several reps from community orgs who will share their stories.  The featured presenters are:
+ Jeff Nelson of Play From Scratch, a CEZ business that uses recycled materials to inspire creative kids
+ Julie Kearns, founder and finder of Junket: Tossed & Found, a business that sells affordable, quality upcycled clothing & other goods
+ Dr. Henry Larmie, President of ChRi Laboratories, entrepreneur and scientist working with pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and medical devices

Every Give & Take happens in a different part of the neighborhood. This event is at University Enterprise Laboratories, a collaborative research center providing lab and office space to early-stage bioscience companies. The events are dynamic, intriguing, surprising and informative, so check this one out. There’s a lot going on in the CEZ and it touches all of us in D12…Speaking of which, there are groups from the CEZ and Prospect Park who have met to figure out ways to join forces in the midcities area for mutual benefit. 

Raymond Ave is going to see some enhancements this spring from University to Hampden which will mean a little construction plus some patience and creativity to get around it. The end result will be a safer, smoother transitway. Stay tuned to the D12 website for more about an April informational meeting…And last but certainly not least, there is a Creative Enterprise Zone website! Here is a link visit it and see what’s going on in the Zone! 

I visited Como High yesterday to talk to Social Studies teacher, Eric Erickson, who also happens to lead the Close-Up program which takes students to Washington D.C. every year to learn about our government and political process “up close” and personal. It’s a great program that Como has offered for years, available to all seniors who are interested and willing to do a little fundraising to come up with the transportation money. They provide scholarships for those who need the extra help and so we talked about how the Foundation could be a part of the funding solution. While there, I also saw the first student-run credit union branch office in the Twin Cities metro area created through a partnership with the St. Paul Federal Credit Union. A very neat space right out in front of their cafeteria which helps to teach students about financial literacy and gives those working in it some real world skills they can use for employment. There’s a lot of cool things going on at Como, it’s worth checking their website out. 

Murray has begun the new environmental science class created by science teacher, Tim Chase, in partnership with the Wolfridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. There are close to 20 students involved in the inaugural trimester and the early test results are showing the positive effects of the innovative curriculum. The Foundation was able to help find some faithful Murray alums who were willing to provide matching support to ensure the program’s first 3-4 years. It’s a way for kids who traditionally come into Jr. High on a non-AP science track to accelerate into the AP track by the time they get to high school, something that was nearly impossible prior to this class. I think it could serve as a template for classes to help close the achievement gap by generating excitement among some very talented and diverse students around the critical field of environmental science. 

There’s a great pictorial in the St. Paul Pioneer Press website showing St. Anthony Park Elementary School students exploring Africa through a 35-by-26-foot map laid out on the gym floor as part of National African American Parent Involvement Day. Schools throughout the school district offered activities such as drumming, dancing, singing, theater performances, storytelling and science experiment demonstrations. 

Anna Gambucci, who has been organizing community conversations around peaceful neighborhoods reported on her most recent meeting to find ways to prevent gun violence. It sounds like it was very successful and there will be more. Many neighborhood leaders were on hand to hear from members of the community who shared concerns and ideas…congratulations to neighbor, Susan Warde on Grantham for her Blooming St. Paul Award. The eighth annual ceremony handed out twenty awards celebrating gardens in the public realm, landmark trees, and public art volunteers. Susan won a Silver Award in the residential category. If you have ever walked up Grantham from Doswell, you know how talented Susan is. If you haven't, wait a few months and enjoy…there are some really interesting and meaningful events around Black History month. You can check them out by visiting this City of St. Paul link

Our local Satori photography (in Milton Square) has a great looking newsletter you can sign up for by visiting their website which also contains some lovely examples of their work…the little wine shoppe is having a free wine-tasting tomorrow form 4:30-7:30pm. Stop by and warm your nose up with some lovely bouquets. Then buy some to take home and warm the rest of your body… 

I think that’s it and that’s plenty. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.