Take Action to urge student engagement

The initiative would encourage students to volunteer in campus neighborhoods.

McKenna Ewen

Minneapolis is working to provide community members with more meaningful service opportunities, and a program could soon make its way to the University campus.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak partnered with Hands On Twin Cities to create the Take Action initiative, a series of four forums to increase community engagement.

on the web

For more information about Hands On Twin Cities, go to: www.handsontwincities.org

Rybak said he is seriously considering a hands-on event at the University this fall to encourage more students to volunteer in the neighborhoods surrounding the University.

“Students live and walk through that neighborhood everyday, but they often don’t feel a sense of ownership,” Rybak said.

“If we took all the volunteer energy from the University and really focused it on the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods, we could change a lot,” he said.

Environmental science senior David Bell attended the first forum Tuesday night on neighborhoods and urban landscape at the Capri Theater in Minneapolis.

“Personally, that kind of project would be something I would be much more interested in because I live in that neighborhood,” Bell said. “I like that we’re reaching out to the community and pulling everybody in.”

The close location would make volunteering easier for busy students, he said.

Melissa Bean, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association executive director, was excited about the program’s potential.

Bean said the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood is looking at several different programs to improve housing, but resources are limited. Support from the Take Action initiative could help make significant progress.

She said she would like to be able to document the quality of housing in the neighborhood and focus on those that would benefit most from work.

Hands On Twin Cities has three more public forums planned, each addressing a different issue facing the city: how to make Minneapolis a safer place to live, how to make the economy work for everyone and how to prepare the next generation for its future.

Instead of working as individual volunteers, the Take Action initiative aims to bring community members together to address local problems as a group.

Mark Hiemenz, University alumnus and Hands On Twin Cities executive director, helped organize each of the forums.

Hiemenz said the initiative is unlike other opportunities because it emphasizes service learning to make the experience more rewarding.

“You can learn about an issue and yourself every time you volunteer,” he said.

If somebody is determined to become involved with an issue, there are ways to create that opportunity with the help of a larger organization, Hiemenz said.