On May 31 and June 1, over 60 of Anwatin Middle School's 6th, 7th and 8th grade actors and technicians WOWED audiences with three inspiring and heartwarming performances of the musical Annie, about an optimistic 11-year-old orphan girl whose only wish is to find her parents. Students began rehearsing April 8, and continued every day for eight weeks with professional artists and quality sound, lighting, sets and costumes. The school musical is one of the key ways in which Project SUCCESS helps students build confidence, gain new experiences, and learn more about themselves and each other through the power of theater. Click here to see photos, cast lists and performance news.
Thank you to our 400+ guests for being a part of the hugely successful Project SUCCESS Dreams To Action breakfast. Generous gifts from attendees and one-to-one matches pledged by the Pohlad Family Foundation and Ellen Michelson raised nearly $270,000 to help turn kids' dreams into reality! Guests started their day with joy, inspiration, laughter and tears begnining with an energetic performance by Anwatin Middle School students starring in Annie, followed by an enthusiastic Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and stories of dreams becoming reality told by Project SUCCESS Executive Director Adrienne Diercks, 12th grader Husna Ibrahim, and Project SUCCESS alumna and volunteer Dominique Nolen. Click here to read more and see photos from the event.
Project SUCCESS was recently featured in MinnPost's education column Learning Curve, written by Beth Hawkins. Titled "Project SUCCESS celebrating its now-documented results," the article highlights key results and feedback from our most recent evaluation conducted by the University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement with our partner teachers and program alumni. Ms. Hawkins writes about our monthly workshops, "With schools under pressure to focus on core academic content over arts and social and emotional well-being, the fact that the workshops’ content is interwoven with instruction already on the schedule allows the program to reach every student, not just those who can be counted on to opt in."Click here to read the MinnPost article. Click here to see a summary of our most recent evaluation results.
On Monday, May 13, 2013, Project SUCCESS hosted its 9th annual Fielding Dreams event as we watched our Minnesota Twins defeat the Chicago White Sox in an exciting game! A huge thank you to Lifetouch, Target,BI Worldwide, RBC Wealth Management, the Minnesota Twins, and all our other sponsors for helping Project SUCCESS hit another home run for kids! Since 2005, Fielding Dreams has raised over $450,000 to support Project SUCCESS’ invaluable work and growth in the community. The event is not just in recognition of us, but in recognition of all of you! We are honored to work with such wonderful students, families, volunteers, friends, donors and communities. Click here to read more.
On Saturday, May 4, television show "Life to the Max" featured Project SUCCESS in their episode entitled "Helping Kids Dream." The show introduced audiences to Project SUCCESS and interviewed students and parents who participated in "Mad World: Voices From Middle School" over last summer and fall. Lifetouch executive and Project SUCCESS Board Member Kelvin Miller said in the feature, "Project SUCCESS helps children open up. To tell their own stories. To be able to understand who they are, and who they are within the community of the school." A big thanks to Life to the Max TV and Lifetouch Media Productions for featuring Project SUCCESS on their May 4 show and for supporting our work with kids for 20 years! Watch the video below, and click here to watch more about Mad World.
Spring College Tours began April 1 and included tours to Madison, Chicago and all over the Twin Cities metro area! Students from Edison, North, Patrick Henry, South, Southwest, and Washburn high schools in Minneapolis participated in tours of Minnesota State University - Mankato, Hennepin Technical College, North Hennepin Community College,the University of Wisconsin-Madison and five campuses in the Chicago area over Spring Break. Click here to learn more and here to see photos from our other 2012-13 tours!
From March 6 through March 15, 2015, sold-out audiences were transported to the world of Dr. Suess for the fabulous musical Seussical, presented by Project SUCCESS and Marcy Open Schools, and featuring many beloved Suess characters, such as The Cat in the Hat and Horton the Elephant. Over 60 6th, 7th and 8th graders performed in front of hundreds in the fourth-annual Project SUCCESS production. Directed by Project SUCCESS Resident Artist Jeffry Lusiak, students rehearsed for eight weeks, directly with professional artists, and quality sound, sets, lighting and costumes. They also participated in workshops led by Project SUCCESS facilitators to connect their experience in the musical with their own dreams and goals. The school musical is one of the key ways in which Project SUCCESS helps students build confidence, gain new experiences, and learn more about themselves and each other through the power of theater.
Congratulations to the Marcy cast and crew, and many thanks to the to the parents and caring adults who allowed Project SUCCESS to spend so much time getting to know and work with these amazing, talented kids and who helped with the production.
Click here to see photos and more information about the production!
Project SUCCESS kicks off 20th Year with a Reunion of Staff and Board
On Monday, February 25, past and present Project SUCCESS staff and board members, friends and family, gathered to kick-off our 20th Anniversary with a celebration at the Project SUCCESS office. Each of the many individuals who have worked and volunteered over the last 20 years have played a key role in the shaping, development and growth of this important program that now serves over 11,000 students each month. Together, we turned dreams into action. This event kicks off a year of celebrations as we reflect in gratitude, celebrate our past 20 years and look forward to another 20 years of turning kids’ dreams into action. Here is a fanastic group photo from the evening:
Each month, Project SUCCESS facilitators visit each English/Language arts classroom in 16 middle and high schools to work with the nearly 12,000 students in those schools - motivating and inspiring them to dream about their futures, and helping them develop the skills, confience and support they need to get there. Over 80% of facilitators' time is spent in the schools - in the classrooms and college and career centers, and meeting with students and our 121 core English teachers one-on-one. From September 2012 through April 2013, our 10 faciltators have conducted over 3,000 workshops using a proven curriculum we have created for students from 6th through 12th grade, that builds upon each year leading up to graduation. The workshops are the fundamental delivery of our mission. When asked who assisted them in planning for their future, 89% of Minneapolis high school students rated Project SUCCESS ahead of friends, counselors and teachers and second only to parents/guardians. To learn more about the workshops, visit these links below.
Audiences Were Transported to Oz for The Wiz at Sanford
On November 30 and December 1, audiences of hundreds were transported to the Land of Oz for the fabulous musical The Wiz, presented by Project SUCCESS and Sanford Middle School. Over 60 6th, 7th and 8th graders were cast in the production and many more worked behind the scenes. Directed by Project SUCCESS Resident Artist Jeffry Lusiak, students rehearsed for eight weeks, directly with professional artists, and quality sound, sets, lighting and costumes. They also participated in workshops led by Project SUCCESS facilitators to connect their experience in the musical with their own dreams and goals. Many thanks to the family and friends who helped with the production and to the Michelson Family Foundation for their support of our program at Sanford. Click here to read more about the musical and see photos!
Donors Made a Big Difference on Give to the Max Day
A HUGE thank you to the 77 individuals who contributed to Project SUCCESS on Give to the Max Day! In just 24 hours, we received more than $10,300 in gifts to Project SUCCESS through GiveMN.org - the online giving platform for Minnesota non-profit organizations, advocates and donors. This support is vital in our work with young people and makes a profound impact on helping kids turn dreams into action, and every dollar counts. The one-day giving event was also a great way to kick-off our end-of-year giving campaign. Help us keep the momentum and build a strong foundation as we enter our 20th year!
Maiden Minnesota is an annual, socializing and charitable shopping event featuring some of the best women-owned businesses in Minnesota. On October 26, over 1,200 guests spent the night with friends mingling and shopping for the wonderful products and services that keep us stylish and in love with Minnesota! For the second year, Project SUCCESS was the charity partner of Maiden Minnesota, which helped support and raise awareness for our organization. Proceeds from ticket sales, gift bags, and an incredible silent auction all went toward supporting the work we do with kids. Exclusive sales and merchandise included fashion, jewelry, accessories, home décor, specialty food items, and more! Click on the button below for more information about the event! Thank you to Maiden Minnesota for two great years of partnership and to all the guests who supported our work at the event!
MEA College Tour Boot Camp and Iowa College Tour: 13 Schools, 3 Days!
While they were out of school for MEA weekend, over 285 Minneapolis students from North, Edison, Patrick Henry, South, Southwest and Washburn high schools participated in Project SUCCESS' three-day immersive college tour boot camp packed with admission information, campus tours, workshops, food and fun. Students had several tour options, including to St. Olaf, Carleton, Macalester, and Augsburg colleges, Hamline University, the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and Duluth campuses, and Metropolitan State. In addition to the boot camp, we brought 50 students on a trip to tour Iowa campuses including Drake University, Iowa State, the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and Grinnell College. Within just three days, students were able to visit a variety of schools, think critically about what they want from their college experience, and develop the skills and insight to choose the best college for their individual needs. Click here to learn more about our college tours.
Experts Identify Project SUCCESS as a Top Nonprofit
In September 2012, we were honored to learn that a group of 123 experts identified Project SUCCESS as one of eighteen high-impact nonprofits working in the field of access to arts and culture in Minnesota. We are thrilled to be counted among many of our theater partners and other distinguished organizations on Philanthropedia, and to have earned an Exchange Seal — demonstrating our commitment to transparency — on its parent company site, Guidestar. One expert, a Nonprofit Senior Staff leader, said "They work with youth to realize their potential. Taking students and their families to the arts, is an important strategy to their program. They even provide transportation." Another expert said, "The organization and leadership of Project SUCCESS have indeed made it successful. They introduce the arts to populations that cannot afford to attend events and often open their eyes to events that they would normally not consider attending." To read more Expert Reviews about Project SUCCESS and other information about this recognition, visit our organization profile on Philanthropedia.
Project SUCCESS Presents at Performing the World 2012 International Conference in New York!
Project SUCCESS was selected to present a session at the international Performing the World 2012 conference on October 5 in New York City! Performing the World 2012 brought over 500 people from dozens of countries – scholars, educators, therapists, youth workers, performing artists, social activists, doctors, business leaders, philanthropists and more –to answer the question “Can Performance Save the World?” Our session included a facilitated discussion led by Adrienne Diercks, Project SUCCESS Founder and Executive Director, about our methodology of using art and personal storytelling for social change. Seven Project SUCCESS middle school students came with us and performed their original show Mad World: Voices from Middle School. Directed by Project SUCCESS Resident Artist Jeffry Lusiak with musical direction by Anita Ruth, these students created the piece (originally for the Minnesota Superintendents’ Back-to-School 2012 Conference) to answer the question “What stands in the way of our success?” The show illuminates the challenges and victories of today’s youth through personal storytelling and song. The students also talked about the impact of the performing arts on their lives during the facilitated discussion. A big thanks to RBC Wealth Management for sponsoring our session at the conference. In celebration of this recognition of our work over the past 20 years and the opportunity to share our story on a national stage, we gathered our Minnesota and east coast friends for a reception and viewing of Mad World on the evening of October 4, generously hosted by long-time Project SUCCESS supporters Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.
On October 2, Project SUCCESS presented the closing session at the Midwest Instructional Leadership Council’s Summit about improving practice for better student performance. Adrienne Diercks and Project SUCCESS staff led a facilitated discussion about the impact of the performing arts on students’ lives and our methodology of using theater as a springboard for discussion and a tool for students to learn about goal-setting and making choices. This presentation included a live performance of Mad World: Voices from Middle School. Project SUCCESS and seven of our middle school students created this piece to illuminate the challenges and victories of today’s youth through personal storytelling and song. They answered the question “What stands in the way of our success?” through an inspiring and hopeful performance filled with their own very personal and compelling stories of life in middle school. Midwest Instructional Leadership Council (MILC) is a multi-state (MN, WI, IA) non-profit organization that provides resources and support to build and sustain capacity for educational improvement for all kids. They strive to provide professional development, training, support, and tools for the effective and sustainable implementation of evidence-based practices and programs by bridging the practice-to-research and research-to-practice gap.
Peace Day Kicks Off School Year at Washington Tech
On Tuesday, September 4, Project SUCCESS helped Saint Paul’s Washington Technology Magnet School kick-off the school year with the second-annual Peace Day, aimed at helping incoming 9th grade students build more meaningful connections that they can develop and strengthen through high school, and the tools they need to foster a respectful, safe, nurturing and equitable learning environment. Designed and executed by Project SUCCESS Facilitator AsaleSol Young, Peace Day was set up like a conference with over a dozen workshops for students throughout the day led by Project SUCCESS Facilitators and special guest artists. Peace Day enhanced the community building work that students had been doing in Project SUCCESS workshops as 7th and 8th graders, and provided them a space of understanding around the differences embedded in their school community. The workshops gave them tools to respectfully navigate those differences and respond to conflict that may arise out of those differences. Peace Day also helped Washington set a tone of mutual respect and support among students and staff and promote the value of a strong community where individuals are free to be themselves and choose their own future paths.
Project SUCCESS Completes Expansion to All MPS High Schools
Three years ago, we set out to complete our goal of expanding our program to all core Minneapolis High Schools. We are proud to announce that as of the beginning of this school year, we have succeeded! Thanks to the generous support of lead donors Ellen Michelson, Blanche and Thane Hawkins, and others; the Minneapolis Public Schools at the direction of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson; and the additional support of many other loyal and generous donors, Project SUCCESS expanded into Edison High School in 2011 and Roosevelt High School in 2012. Project SUCCESS began in 1994 serving 200 seniors at founding partner North Community High School. Today, we are excited to now motivate and inspire over 7,500 Minneapolis 9th-12th graders to dream about their futures and give them the tools they need to set and achieve their goals for the future. Many, many thanks to our generous donors and advocates who helped to make this dream a reality for Minneapolis kids!
Project SUCCESS High School Partners are now Edison High, North High Academy of Arts and Communications, North Senior Academy, Roosevelt High, South High, Southwest High, and Washburn High Schools. We also serve each student at Anwatin, Jefferson, Marcy Open, Northeast, Olson, Sanford, and Anne Sullivan Middle Schools in Minneapolis and Battle Creek Middle and Humboldt Junior High Schools in Saint Paul. Click here to see more about our partnerships.
Adrienne Diercks on TheAchievement Gap in METRO Magazine
Project SUCCESS Founder and Executive Director Adrienne Diercks was interviewed for the September (and final) issue of Twin Cities METRO Magazine. The article, entitled Gap Year(s), How Minnesota’s educational achievement gap will plague our future, addressed the importance of investing more resources toward solving Minnesota’s well-documented achievement gap (the difference in educational success between Caucasian students and students of color, and between high- and low-income students), which is one of the largest in the country. “Someone really has to believe that kids can succeed,” Adrienne says. “It sounds lofty, or maybe even hard to figure out, but you see it in [educators’] actions and words. Do they go up and talk to the kids? What’s their body language? Do they look like they’re listening? Do you really believe an F student can turn themselves around and get A’s?” While many factors contribute to the achievement gap, Adrienne goes on to say "We also have to look at the stories of kids overcoming obstacles [in order] to go higher." She shares that too many students only hear the negative stories, which leads to a sense of immenent failure, and to lowered expectations - a precursor to the achievement gap.
This summer, Project SUCCESS was busy recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training five new members of our professional team. We are excited to welcome new Facilitators Kurt Blomberg and Marc Bromaghim-Oropeza, Program Coordinator Paul Fling, and Theater Coordinators Sai Chang and Elise Ogden (pictured above left to right). Kurt works with students at Northeast Middle, Patrick Henry High School and North High Academy of Arts and Communications. Marc works with students at Anne Sullivan Communication Center, and South and Roosevelt High Schools. Paul coordinates College Tours and other program activities. Sai and Elise coordinate all of our wonderful theater opportunities for students and their families among other program activities. We also are excited to share that Marc, Sai and Elise, all alumni of Project SUCCESS, have returned to the program as staff! You can read more about them all on our Staff page in the Who We Are section.
Research has shown that students’ experiences in 9th grade often determine their success throughout high school and beyond. To that end, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) and Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) hired Project SUCCESS to design and execute free, voluntary summer events that help 8th graders feel confident, comfortable and excited about entering 9th grade. Class of 2016 SPPS students were invited to "Step to SUCCESS" on August 16 and 17 and MPS students were invited to the 5th annual "Freshman Orientation" August 21-23. The activities took place throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul, all events were voluntary, and at NO COST to students and families, thanks to SPPS and the McNeely Foundation for "Step to SUCCESS" and MPS for "Freshman Orientation." Students participated in workshops and team-building activities during a conference day at Saint Paul College for SPPS students and TCF Bank Stadium for over 800 MPS students, and both SPPS and MPS students paddled down the Mississippi River in a 24-foot Voyageur canoe — experiencing the Twin Cities in a way few people do. MPS students also spent an orientation day at their new high school. These experiences were all designed to answer students' questions and help them connect with other students, get oriented to their school, learn to overcome obstacles and manage stress, and approach their transition with a healthy sense of exploration, adventure and discovery. Click on the links above for more information about each event and view the Fox 9 News and KARE 11 Sunrise interviews to hear more.
Project SUCCESS is so grateful for the help and support of the teachers, administrators and staff who allow us into their English/Language Arts classrooms every month, give us space for special projects and enthusiastically work with us to help their students at each of our schools. In 1994, Project SUCCESS partnered with the Guthrie Theater to provide students the opportunity to experience the power of theater and, through that experience, to inspire students to recognize and take action on their dreams. Using the original model with the Guthrie, we now have 32 local theater partners who provide thought-provoking theatrical experiences to augment the work we do in our classroom workshops. As we usher in another great year, Project SUCCESS and the Guthrie Theater celebrated the synergy of our work together. Teachers, administrators and staff at our schools were invited for an exciting night of theater, friendship and good food with a reception at the Mill City Museum, and a performance of The Sunshine Boys thanks to the generosity of the Guthrie Theater.
Project SUCCESS works with over 150 amazing volunteers each year, many of whom play a critical role in allowing us fullfill our promise of live theater to students and families who need transportation. Volunteer drivers pick them up at their homes and drop them off after the show. In between, our volunteers join with our Project SUCCESS families to experience an evening of theater together. Additionally, since 1994, Project SUCCESS has worked with over 100,000 students — that's a lot of alumni! We are always looking for ways to connect with our alumni and for them to connect with each other. On August 15, we brought volunteers and alumni together for an evening of celebration, gratitude, connection, and good food and theater with a reception at the Mill City Museum, and a performance of The Sunshine Boys thanks to the generosity of the Guthrie Theater.
Students Perform Original Mad World for Minnesota Superintendents
For the second year in a row, Project SUCCESS kicked off the Minnesota Department of Education Back-to-School Superintendent's Conference on August 7 with a student performance! The conference, called "2012 School Leadership Summit: Minnesota on the Move" was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA), and held to inform and inspire Minnesota's statewide leaders in education including superintendents, principals, and central office administrators as they anticipate the new year. This year the performance, sponsored by Target and MASA, was created by seven talented Sanford, Marcy and Anwatin middle school students to address the achievement gap as seen through their eyes. They entitled it Mad World: Voices from Middle School, and worked with Project SUCCESS Resident Artist Jeffry Lusiak to incorporate their personal stories and experiences. Many thanks to Jeffry (Director), Anita Ruth (musical direction), Trudy Monette (choreography), and the amazing parents and loved ones of the performers who supported and guided them through this month-long experience. Check out our YouTube channel to watch their creative process and check back for the full performance!
Since April, Project SUCCESS has welcomed two new members to the Board of Directors. Ann P. Ruschy brings more than 25 years of experience in leadership coaching, human resources, sales, staffing and consulting as a Managing Director at Oberon. As Corporate Vice President of Communications at our Founding Partner, Lifetouch Inc., Kelvin P. Miller brings tremendous experience in communications and marketing and a passion for our mission. In the last year, Project SUCCESS has also welcomed board members Greg Schlafer, current Vice President of Bakeries & Foodservice at General Mills and Dr. Michael Peterman, a retired anesthesiologist from a private practice at North Memorial Medical Center.