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Groundbreaking for jobs center is a boost for Somali community

Saturday, October 29, 2016
By: Editorial Board

Project shows Minnesota's commitment to helping immigrants.

It was standing room only at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the new Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center. The new workforce and education center, located in the heart of metro’s Somali-American community, is slated to open next spring. PHOTO • JILL BURCUM • STAR TRIBUNE

Friday’s groundbreaking for a new job-training center in Minneapolis’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood serves as a reminder of both Minnesota’s can-do spirit and its long history of helping new immigrants prosper.

The neighborhood of high-rise apartments is the epicenter of the state’s large — and the nation’s largest — Somali-American immigrant community. This group also has the highest rate of poverty of any ethnic group in the state and faces another tragic challenge: Its youth are targeted by recruiters for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

A workforce and education center won’t magically make these challenges disappear, but it is a practical step. That’s why the Star Tribune Editorial Board has advocated as part of an ongoing series of editorials pragmatic measures such as opening the jobs center, expanding the Brian Coyle Community Center, and bolstering state and federal funding for youth programs.

Political gridlock at the Minnesota Legislature this spring regrettably threatened to derail the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center, as it’s formally known. Funding of $400,000 was approved, but it was included in a tax bill that went unsigned because of political maneuvering over a special session. But local advocates, the state’s generous philanthropic community, and admirable support from Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis kept the project on track to reach the $950,000 goal. When the center fell short by $25,000 earlier this fall, and faced a deadline to sign a lease for the facility, a commitment from the Tom and Pat Grossman Fund of the Minneapolis Community Foundation put it over the top.

The support for this project reflects positively on the entire state, especially when anti-immigration sentiment has dominated the presidential campaign. Minnesotans rallied behind this project and, by extension, those it will serve. The center’s opening, slated for next spring, is a terrific new resource for this community and a timely sign that the state is honoring its tradition of aiding newcomers.


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