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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday May 19th 2024

“Poverty NOT a barrier to success.” Banyan in East Phillips produces college-bound scholars

by Lauretta Dawolo Towns, Community Coordinator

There”'s a big reason to celebrate in East Phillips! Four high school seniors from the Banyan Community in South Minneapolis are going to college. So far, they have received a total of 16 college acceptance letters. The University of Minnesota, Yale University, Swarthmore, and Marquette University are just some of the colleges waiting to hear from these scholars. Although many Twin Cities students are preparing to enroll into college this fall, these students don”'t fit the conventional profile for success.

Abby Mohammed, Seng Ye Xiong, Nathanael McNair, and Tyler Moore are graduating seniors at DeLaSalle High School through the Banyan”'s Higher Ground scholarship program. They”'ve made a commitment to their education and used the 4-year scholarship as a stepping stone to higher education. These students come from neighborhoods where low educational outcomes are commonplace. They were not expected to graduate from high school, much less attend competitive colleges and universities. Mohammed explains it best in her college entrance essay, “Minneapolis is a city of arts and diversity. However, my neighborhood is one of the less savory sections of this metropolis. People here are born into a caste in which they will stay from birth to death. They are trapped in their class”¦and remain relatively uneducated throughout their lives.”

Although the social realities of their neighborhoods are challenging, Banyan students are beating the odds with school success. “I am seeking emancipation through education,” Mohammed continues. The Banyan is breaking down barriers that exist within low income communities while creating a path of success for K-12 students through their innovative community youth development programming. Banyan youth are graduating from high school at an astonishing rate of 100 percent. This pattern directly challenges the Minneapolis Public Schools”' 4-year high school graduation rate which is below 49 percent. ( Low-income students of color continue to fall through Minnesota”'s notorious achievement gap, yet these high school seniors have written a new story for themselves and their families.

On March 20th, Banyan staff, students, parents, community and city leaders joined together to celebrate the accomplishments of these young scholars at the 1st Annual College Acceptance Party. Younger Banyan students witnessed hard evidence of their peers”' accomplishments, parents expressed pride in a job well done, and stakeholders recognized the results of the Banyan”'s hard work and high expectations for each youth. Every college acceptance letter received represents real possibilities and more options for the future.

“I realize college is both a challenging opportunity and a great privilege and I am prepared to fight for my education. I will do whatever it takes to escape poverty and to overcome the challenges life will hurl at me. I want to prove to myself, to the community, and to the world that poverty does not have to be a barrier to success,” writes Mohammed.

For more information about the Banyan Community, contact Lori Nissen at (612) 865-6527 or

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