Target's Meals for Minds aims to spur learning in metro schools

7:39 AM, Nov 30, 2012   |    comments
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SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- A sea of people in red shirts unpack, label and stack books in a school gym while music blares in the background.

What could be a team building exercise for these Target employees is actually a brain-building activity for the students of The American Indian Magnet School in Saint Paul.

"Today we are unveiling a Target School Library makeover," said Reba Dominski, Director of Community Relations and Education Initiatives for Target. "And as part of that school library makeover, we are bringing to the American Indian Magnet School a Target Meals for Minds school foods pantry."

That means Target is working with local food shelves to give families 20-30 pounds of food each month, in addition to the newly renovated library.

It's all part of Target's pledge to commit a billion dollars to education by the year 2015.  To date, Target has renovated 145 libraries nationwide, more than a dozen here in the Twin Cities.  The retailer chooses schools with a high percentage of children who receive free and reduced lunch, something that uncovered a growing problem.

"We heard consistently in conversations with parents and with educators that kids are coming to school hungry, and hungry kids can't learn," said Dominski.

Target is betting that by targeting literacy and hunger, they can help schools boost student achievement.  The effort extends into the home.

"We have books that are being prepared for each child to take home today," said John Flynn with The Heart of America Foundation, which partners with Target for the library makeovers.  That means every child in the school, as well as each of their siblings will have seven new books for their own personal library.

The school library is a story in itself.

"Two-thousand brand new library books, brand new furniture, inspiration and motivational design to the library space,"  said Flynn.  There are also new iPads and an interactive white board. 

The work is a team effort with local contractors who provide materials and expertise.  Volunteers from Target work to stock the shelves, put on finishing touches, clean and prepare the space for the kids, who will tour the library with their classrooms, and their families.

It's a familiar sight to Principal Steven Couture, who's previous school in Minneapolis also got a libary makeover. 

"Our achievement scores went up," said Couture, who said the benefits of the library makeover went beyond the school walls.

"It set a positive tone for achievement, it also kind of gave us an impetus for family involvement."

Couture is grateful on behalf of his staff and students, knowing this is something that likely would not happen without those Target dollars and volunteers.

"When the corporate world and the foundations work together to do this, it's a lot easier than individual schools to kind of venture off on their own." said Couture.



(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved.)

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