MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Susan Breedlove is an educator by profession with a masters in multi-cultural education. At Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis, she finds an outlet for all three.
"My mission in this building is to make it connected to the community, and connected to the students' experiences," said Breedlove.
She walks through the building pointing to displays she's created in every hallway featuring her work, and the work of students in the building.
"A lot of my ideas come in my sleep," said Breedlove. "I'll be dreaming, and I'll go, 'Okay, this would be a good idea.'"
Like the project involving some sixty students that covers a ten foot section of wall near the school's entrance.
Breedlove worked with teachers to ask students to look into an issue connected to their culture. Breedlove spent hours interviewing the students and presented their work in a mural for the entire school to see.
"We have some students here that were talking about the role that the Hmong people played during the Viet Nam War, and that came out of their personal experience," Breedlove explained.
Personal is exactly what Breedlove is going for. Connecting students through their culture and by doing that, helping them understand the facts on the text books come from people who look just like them.
"Oftentimes that's a springboard for them to get interested in a topic," said Breedlove.
Patrick Henry is rich in diversity. Breedlove draws on that to make sure every aspect of that diversity is represented in her displays, from Asian-inspired art on the walls to the work of a prominent Native American author, and a display featuring pop icons who have both African American and Native American roots.
"I noticed a schism between African American and Native American Indian students here that they weren't realizing," said Breedlove, who wanted to create something that would help students appreciate the contributions of both cultures.
Breedlove also makes sure she includes community news in her displays.
"The community is so important, but often times the schools are separated from their community," said Breedlove. "I look at all the community newspapers I can and put stuff in there, to make that constant connection with the community."
Making human connections is part of Breedlove's mission for the school's curriculum as well. Breedlove is a former Patrick Henry teacher, and still substitutes for other teachers in the building. She noticed that many of the students' textbooks contained facts, but no human story behind them.
That's why one of her projects involved students researching and developing displays that feature prominent people of diverse backgrounds who made contributions in science, engineering and other technical fields.
Senior Franck Tene was drawn to Mae Jemison, a NASA astronaut who also happens to be a physician. Her story is exactly what Breedlove is looking for when it comes to inspiring students.
"I think that no matter what the obstacles are, if you truly believe that you can be something, and if you do what is necessary to be able to accomplish it, then you will get there," said Tene.
In addition to bringing history to life for students at Patrick Henry High School, Breedlove shares her knowledge with the community at large, with periodic tours of north Minneapolis neighborhoods.
For more information, contact Tom Murray at 612-668-1932.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved.)