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Sanneh Foundation mentoring program could receive ongoing state funding

The Sanneh Foundation has received accolades for its holistic approach to mentoring students while also developing coaches and teachers.

Much of the organization’s efforts have been focused on the Twin Cities metro area and St. Cloud. In an effort to expand its reach, HF1422 would appropriate $4 million to the Sanneh Foundation during the 2022-23 biennium for its youth mentoring program. It would also make funding for the organization part of the base budget for future years.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), was held over by the House Education Finance Committee Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF790, awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Zach Duckworth (R-Lakeville) is the sponsor.

The Sanneh Foundation offers a variety of programs that serve the developmental needs of low-performing and chronically absent students. One way it does this is through the Dreamline program, which embeds coaches or mentors into public schools to provide all-day, in-school and after-school academic and a behavioral interventions, focusing on students of color and students from low-income families.

“This works, bottom line,” Mariani said. “It’s about strengthening our public school delivery system as much as it is about strengthening the outcomes for students, and, in fact, the two really should always be one.”

The program has continually received bipartisan support, as well as funding from the 2016 and 2017 Legislatures to the tune of $2.5 million to expand the number of sites where the program is offered. However, funding was not extended during the 2020-21 budget cycle.

Founder and CEO Tony Sanneh said the $4 million investment and ongoing appropriation would allow the program to scale up and serve more students in outstate Minnesota.

“We have a track record, we’re good stewards of money and we think that it’s a safe, smart investment for the state to develop a partnership with us,” he said.

It would also allow the foundation to grow its pathway program, which helps create a pipeline of future educators from historically underrepresented populations. These individuals are hired as Dreamline coaches and provided with the incentives and the means to pursue professional education and education licensing credentials while working as coaches.

Academic coursework and teacher preparation is done through Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, while the Sanneh Foundation provides intensive social-emotional training and works with school districts to place the mentors. The pathway includes two intensive summers of teacher licensure prep work and the opportunity to earn a master’s degree.

Members expressed support for the program and proposal, including Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea), saying she particularly appreciations the data-driven approach the organization uses. She is championing a bill that would require all recipients of legislative grants to demonstrate their program is evidence informed.

“I really appreciate how this program is data based, it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I use your program … as one of the examples of how evidence-based data works to show how a program is functioning, and yours really does well.” 

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