This year’s Missing Voices: Equity in Education Summit at Saint Mary’s will focus on educational equity — with special emphasis on native, immigrant, and refugee voices by embracing the idea that “We Are All Related (Mitakuye Oyasin).”

Several regional leaders in educational inclusion will be honored for their work, including Tony Sanneh, former professional soccer player and founder of The Sanneh Foundation.

This annual day-long summit uniquely brings together Minnesota youth, parents, educators, and community leaders to engage in dialogue and creative problem solving surrounding the inequities and gaps in the educational system.

The conference — to be held 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, on Saint Mary’s Twin Cities Campus — strives to bring multiple people and perspectives to the table to share wisdom and lived experiences in an effort to improve the future of education.

The summit will feature several presenters:

  • Jim Knutson-Kolodzne, in his presentation, “We are all Related,” will provide information on the 11 Minnesota tribal nations and will provide educators with the knowledge they need to increase their sensitivity and awareness of Minnesota American Indian history, language, and culture.
  • Wing Young Huie, an award-winning Twin Cities photographer, will showcase photos and facilitate a group discussion. For 30 years Huie has worked to capture the complex cultural realities in America.
  • Ron Leith, a native elder of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, will perform a blessing.
  • The Red Tree Singers, a drum group from Morton, Minn., will perform, including both Ojibwe and Dakota singers.
  • Shegitu Kebede, a celebrated author and advocate for refugees, will give a first-hand account of what it means to be a refugee and to immigrate to the United States. After fleeing war-torn Ethiopia for Kenya, Kebede came to the United States in the early ’90s.
  • Two youth authors from Green Card Voices will share their immigration experiences.

This year’s conference will center around the phrase “Mitakuye Oyasin,” translated from the Lakota language as “We Are All Related.” “The essence of this concept is that our lives are truly and profoundly connected to others and the world around us,” said Knutson-Kolodzne. In this time of division and polarization, we must recognize ourselves in the faces of others, particularly historically marginalized groups.

Awards will be presented to individuals who have made a difference in working toward equality in education:

  • The Community Advocate for Change will be presented to Tony Sanneh, former professional U.S. soccer player and founder of The Sanneh Foundation. Sanneh’s work with the Conway Community Center in St. Paul, the Dreamline coaching program, and the Haitian Initiative have made a significant local and global impact, particularly on disadvantaged youth.
  • The Culturally Responsive Leader awards will be presented to Michael Rogers, president of Risen Christ School, the first language immersion school in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and Kathryn Haave, a second-grade teacher and literacy coach at Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts and Sciences. Rogers has demonstrated an impact on educational equity as he works to serve low-income students from a variety of backgrounds. Haave helped her district develop and design units of study that are inclusive and selected texts that are free from bias. She then partnered with Native American community experts to develop and pilot these units and texts in her classroom while providing feedback and progress reports to the Native community.
  • The Youth Equity Solutions (YES!) award will be presented to Hambdi Kelil, a student leader at Wellstone International High School. Kelil has worked to advocate for his native Oromia, an area within Ethiopia that has been targeted and unrecognized by the Ethiopian government. After being jailed for joining an organized protest and then released, Kelil made his way to the United States.

Since 2012, Saint Mary’s Missing Voices summit has brought together educators and administrators, students, families, and community members in order to move from discussion to action. This conference is hosted by Saint Mary’s Graduate School of Education.

General registration is $125. Youth and family members may attend for free, but advanced registration is required. Check-in and continental breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. The conference will be held at the Saint Mary’s University Center, located on Park Avenue, Minneapolis. Registration and more information is available online at smumn.edu/missingvoices. Questions can be directed to missingvoices@smumn.edu.

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