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Whittier School Community Education Coordinator Leads Learning for Neighborhood Kids

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A student at the Whittier School in Minneapolis, Jessica Morales is a veteran of the school and park’s summer programs. Along with other elementary school students, she regularly connects with teen and young adult mentors, hikes, bikes, and canoes to lakes around town, plants trees, grows vegetables, and pollinates to save water. I’m making a mediator’s garden.

“I enjoy learning about nature with my friends,” said 12-year-old Morales.

Learning from “Nacho” is especially fun — mastermind Jeff “Nacho” Carlson, Whittier’s community education coordinator, doesn’t limit his work to the building.

“I have been in this program with Nacho since I was six years old,” said Morales, who loves cycling and gardening.

“I want to be a ‘teen leader.’ Earn money, go to college, maybe become a teacher.”

Carlson coordinates after-school programs in myriad subjects for community members, as well as Art Buddies, which pairs Whittier students with professionals from the art, design, and business worlds.

We have also partnered with staff, foresters, nonprofits and businesses from adjacent Whittier Parks to educate more than 150 Whittier children on school grounds, adjacent Whittier Parks, Minnehaha Parks, the Mississippi River and more. We are here to help you have an unforgettable summer. They hike, cycle, and plant, connecting water to environmental stewardship, nutrition, and public health.

“It’s amazing how children learn about water outside of the classroom, how to swim and canoe, how to plant vegetables and trees, and how to responsibly water their coolers and wagon ‘bucket brigade’. ‘ said Carlson.

“They understand how rain gardens store water and save water. They also know what storm drains are and how to keep drains clean.”

Carlson sees her job as a fun community calling. He lives in the multicultural Whittier neighborhood with his family, which includes his two daughters, who graduated from Whittier School, and his wife Monica, who is from Colombia and is an administrator at a nearby church. . He speaks a little Swedish and Somali and is fluent in Spanish.

Growing up in Minnetonka in the 1980s, Carlson, 45, became interested in Minnetonka through his grandfather, a Lutheran minister in the Elliott Park area. St. He’s Olaf A young Carlson, an alumnus of his college, came to be called Nacho when he was working as a Spanish tutor at Concordia Language Village during his college summer break.

He joined the Whittier School 10 years ago after attending Wellstone International High School for English Learners for several years.

“Nacho is obsessed with improving the Whittier Neighborhood,” said Rebecca Lewis, director of Whittier Park. “He works with Parks Board staff on the programming, and he’s incredibly involved with the community and its young people.

“Nacho knows a lot of people and offers field trips, plants, and discounts on used bikes and parts. The more we work together, the better the results.”

Carlson’s work week usually extends into the weekend, including fixing bikes in the garage shop. He leaves tire repair tools in his pouch.

“A lot of people have hobbies like doing yoga or going to the gym,” Carlson said. “If you’re doing volunteer work on the weekends by bike or gardening… that’s my hobby too. I enjoy it and exercise. If a kid comes to the porch with a flat tire… it’s fun to teach.” Witty.”

Carlson’s family avoids cars and prefers to walk, bike and use public transportation.

“It’s easier to say hello to people on the sidewalk or notice a bumblebee on a flower because you don’t have to see the world through the windshield of your car,” Carlson said.

According to Whittier teacher Denise Malmgren, Carlson is building meaningful relationships and successfully connecting families, volunteers, nonprofits and businesses both inside and outside the school building.

“The juniors are looking forward to the day they can be mentors,” she said.

A 20-year-old nursing student at St. Paul’s Concordia College, Fartoon Ali has worked in Carlson’s summer program for several years. She loves seeing children connect with their environment. Good health includes clean air, water and nutrition.

Whittier Park employee Daniella Valero, 25, agreed. Her Valero, a graduate of the Whittier program, said: She said, “Kids are here to ride bikes, swim, plant and grow. They enjoy it. They also learn and remember.”

One August morning, Carlson saw the children tending a thriving perennial rain garden at Whittier School. Cardinal flowers, great blue lobelias, docile plants bloomed, and bees buzzed in the previously neglected patches of weeds that the children had transformed.

“I learn more from campers, staff and families,” Carlson said. “Whittier is a beautiful community with emerging young leaders.”

Some of Whittier’s children are plagued by poverty, single-parent families and crime. But Carlson believes that positive connections with schools and communities can help children overcome challenges and establish visions and roots for a better future.

“There’s a lot of talent, and it’s a pleasure,” he said.

“Like plants and trees, you have to nurture them.”