The Northland Foundation established the KIDS PLUS Program in 1990 in order to take a more proactive role in improving the well-being of children and youth. Thanks to cooperation among caring adults, energetic youth, and engaged communities throughout the region, northeastern Minnesota has become a state and national leader in valuing and nurturing our future generations.
2009-2010 board members Annie and Sam review a grant proposal as adult representative Kelli Millslagle looks on.
The story of KIDS PLUS Youth in Philanthropy is written by the young people whose lives it has touched. Angela Johnson is one of them. Angie was a tenth-grade student from the small town of McGregor when she joined the very first Youth In Philanthropy Board in 1999.
“I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve on the Board. High school is really a critical time for a young person. Youth in Philanthropy reinforced for me the kind of person I wanted to be, and probably helped me make decisions that shaped me into that person,” Angie explains.
It is exactly what the Northland Foundation hoped the program would accomplish: that 8th through 12th graders in rural northeastern Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, could hone their leadership skills, experience the rewards and responsibilities of grant-making, and be empowered to be change-agents in the community.
During the past decade, more than 50 students like Angie Johnson have awarded in excess of $200,000 to support 206 different projects carried out by youth organizations, community volunteers, school groups, and youth-serving nonprofits all across the region. The most important outcomes, however, can’t be measured in numbers.
“Whatever work I undertake in the future will involve 'doing good' for others, or I won't be fulfilled. I think a lot of that conviction has to do with my years in Youth In Philanthropy,” Angie concludes.
KIDS PLUS has evolved into a diverse array of initiatives that galvanize communities around the needs of children and young people, from infancy to adulthood.
KIDS PLUS Communities The first initiative of the KIDS PLUS Program has grown to 26 northeastern Minnesota communities that have committed to actively keep young people at the forefront of community conversation and to be intentional about valuing young people, viewing them as resources, and developing locally-driven programs for youth ages 10 to 18 years.
Twin Ports Youth Leadership Academy This unique leadership and service learning program engages ninth grade students and volunteer adult mentors from the neighboring communities of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. A series of interactive sessions over a ten-month period helps young participants develop valuable leadership, teamwork, and communication skills.
Youth in Philanthropy A grantmaking board of 8th-12th grade students from throughout the region is given the opportunity and responsibility to review and deliberate grant proposals, and award grant requests up to $1,000 each for youth-led service projects. Students gain firsthand experience with the art of giving, communication, group dynamics, and the value of community service.
Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative Established in 2003, this statewide collaboration of the Northland Foundation and the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations works at the community, regional, and state levels to improve early care and education. Their common goal is to ensure that all children have a healthy life of learning, achieving, and succeeding. Currently there are 12 Early Childhood Coalitions in northeastern Minnesota and 86 throughout rural Minnesota.
Minnesota Thrive Initiative This groundbreaking pilot program is focused on helping communities and families in rural Minnesota to better address the healthy social and emotional development of children birth to age five. Among its goals are building public awareness about infant and early childhood mental health; improving service access; and advocating for the mental health needs of young children and their families.
KIDS PLUS Institute Building on its years of experience in delivering training and networking opportunities in the region, the foundation created the KIDS PLUS Institute as a formal venue to deliver meetings, training sessions, conferences, and presentations focused on child and youth development topics. National and international experts share their insights with a regional audience.
AGE to age: bringing generations together An intergenerational program that promotes understanding and brings together youth and older adults to design grassroots solutions to meet community needs. Among the many intriguing projects being implemented in the 10 participating AGE to age sites, which include three Indian reservations, are fitness and recreation programs, teaching and preserving cultural traditions, beautification projects, and community gatherings.
The ten AGE to age sites are Bois Forte Reservation, Chisholm, Cloquet, Floodwood, Fond du Lac Reservation, Grand Portage Reservation, Itasca Area, McGregor, Moose Lake, and Proctor.