West Bank job program excites residents

Cedar-Riverside leaders hope to complete the opportunity center by this fall.

by Olivia Johnson

Starting this fall, a new job program will help connect West Bank residents to resources to help them launch careers.
The idea for the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center spurred from the neighborhood’s Youth Worker Collaborative, a team created to draw support from businesses and government, said Mohamed Ali, associate director of EMERGE Community Development, a Minneapolis employment service.
Members of the collaborative thought a new work center would be able to help the unemployed in Cedar-Riverside, which has an unemployment rate nearly twice that of Minneapolis as a whole, Ali said.
West Bank Community Coalition youth organizer Burhan Mohumed said he has lived in the area since he was 7 years old and grew up without access to these types of services.
Mohumed said it was difficult for him to find a job or learn how to build on his skills after high school. And while he said the Brian Coyle Center tried to help, they didn’t have the necessary resources or funding.
“It was pretty much a desert,” Mohumed said. “There wasn’t any sort of opportunities that presented itself.”
A lack of resources motivated Mohumed to provide for youth in the neighborhood, he said.
“Life would have been a lot easier for us,” he said. “A lot of us envision the [CROC] helping young people … build those skills.”
The new program will provide resume workshops and interview tips to for residents. Ali said the team is still raising the $3 million needed to open the center, and has asked private foundations and companies for funds on top of committed city- and county-money.
“I had my own questions about where the funding would come from,” Mohumed said. “We didn’t want any funding that would taint how it would benefit the community.”
He said he offered insight on how to keep the CROC from accepting funds connected to programs like Countering Violent Extremism, a federal move to stop terrorist recruitment in U.S. cities.
Mohumed said none of the groups currently associated with the center take money from the CVE program, which he said discriminates against Cedar-Riverside.
“We didn’t want any investment that sort of had any ties to our community being criminalized,” he said.
Mohamed Mohamed, director of the West Bank Community Coalition, said he has worked with others on the center since its start and asked for feedback from area residents throughout the process.
Ali said the WBCC, youth from the neighborhood and Cedar-Riverside’s elected politicians all came to planning meetings.
“We never had any negative from the neighborhood about anything,” he said. “They will be excited with all these new things. It will be advantageous to the neighborhood.”
Mohamed said all this involvement led them to focus the center on giving neighborhood youth a space of their own. He said he helped connect the CROC with schools like Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota for workshops and classwork.
Ali said one of them is a weeklong job readiness workshop to refresh older residents who previously held jobs. After reviewing resumes and helping with interviews, center employees will follow up with each person after getting a job.
“We teach them how to behave, how to dress, how to be very creative,” Ali said. “We will help you in whatever way.”