St. Thomas senior leads reading workshops for recent immigrants, refugees

Jennifer Lê, a student at University of St. Thomas, is conducting a workshop with recent immigrants and refugees at Lincoln International High School in Minneapolis this summer to help improve students’ reading, writing, and analytical and interview skills to better prepare them for the Minnesota Basic Standards tests.

Lê is from Shoreview and will be a senior at St. Thomas this fall. She is double majoring in advertising and sociology.

Her workshop is one of several service projects launched this summer by a group of private college students with the support of The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation.

Each year, the foundation provides $14,000 in scholarship and stipend dollars to each of six students committed to designing and implementing a Minnesota-focused service project. Although each project varies in its design and purpose, they all are selected based on their innovation and potential for creating long-term solutions to community challenges.

"We believe strongly in the Phillips Scholars Program and the valuable opportunities it provides for students to learn about the nonprofit sector and how they can make a positive difference in the lives of others," said Amy Crawford, executive director of The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation. "The tremendous lessons learned from this program prepare scholars for a lifetime of giving back to the community."

Here are the other five projects supported by the scholarship program:

  • Nhung Lê’s project, "Beautiful Cultures and Love is All Around," helps elementary school students in St. Peter establish an appreciation and awareness of different cultures through community interaction. She is an international student from Hanoi, Vietnam, and will be at senior at Gustavus Adolphus College this fall.
  • Amanda Ortega is working to create more leaders in the Hispanic community by motivating students in Minneapolis to aspire to and seek higher education. She hopes to accomplish this by informing Hispanic young adults and their families of the college entrance process and the benefits of higher education, and by providing aid and support throughout this process. Ortega is from Cottage Grove and will be a senior at the College of St. Catherine this fall.
  • Adriana Rimpel has designed an intensive photography workshop with inner-city Latino high school students in Minneapolis to generate positive emotional outlets and strengthen self-identity. To help inspire and mentor participants, established Latino artists in the community are sharing their stories and expertise. Rimpel is from West St. Paul and will be a senior at Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.
  • Lucia Wang is conducting a community-based "asset survey" to assess what resources youth find valuable and influential. The preliminary data and results collected will allow the youth center at Neighborhood House to better organize and prioritize future programming. In addition, Wang is working with the English Language Learners division of Neighborhood House to incorporate teaching materials focusing on the cultural dimension of cooking and cuisine. Wang is an international student from Auckland, New Zealand, and will be a senior at Macalester College this fall.
  • Lorena Rodriguez’s project, "My World, Your World," is a multicultural camp for children. Through educational and social experiences, camp participants celebrate their heritage by learning about each other and their families. They also explore other cultures around the world. Rodriguez is an international student from Montevideo, Uruguay, and will be a senior at College of St. Scholastica.

Although the nature of the Phillips Scholarship Program helps ensure a positive impact on the communities served by the projects, it also leaves a strong impression on the scholars themselves. Many scholars go on to professional lives in community service and social justice.

"These highly talented and motivated students have the opportunity to not only provide assistance to disadvantaged communities through their projects, but also to grow as future leaders and human beings," said David B. Laird Jr., president of the Minnesota Private College Fund. "They are answering their call to serve in unique ways."