September 2018 Newsletter

This is the same content that was sent out in the September 2018 newsletter. Click the subheadings to expand the content.

Mayor’s Speech Features Two MicroGrants Stories

Mayor’s Speech Features Two MicroGrants Stories

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey highlighted two MicroGrants stories in his August 15 budget speech.

Keegan Jamaal Rolence received a MicroGrants education grant while attending a program at the Minneapolis Urban League. He was featured in Mayor Frey’s budget speech on August 15. Mayor Frey said, “A [Group Violence Intervention (GVI)] participant whom I’ve met with is already turning his life around. Following an initial GVI meeting, a young man sat down next to me while we were eating dinner, and he told me his story. He acknowledged his prior involvement in group violence, time spent in prison, and a host of compounding difficulties of street life. But he also knew exactly where he wanted to be. He wanted to exit the gang lifestyle and get his real estate license — and he was going to do everything possible to make that goal a reality. Just days ago, I talked with this young man again, and after staying up for multiple nights studying his tail off, he passed the first phase of real estate exams. Minneapolis, his name is Keegan Jamaal Rolence and he’s here today. Please give him a round of applause.”

After the speech, Keegan made a beeline for for Don Samuels and introduced himself. “I just had to talk to you,” Keegan said, “to say thank you for the MicroGrant.” Way to go, Keegan!

Lights On!
MicroGrants’ Lights On! program also made it into the mayor’s speech. Mayor Frey said, “All of you have heard—many of you have lived—this story before. A police officer pulls someone over for a legitimately broken tail light and hands them a ticket. That’s been the expectation. Chances are, the reason the tail light was broken is the person couldn’t afford to fix it in the first place. If they can’t afford to fix the tail light, they can’t afford to pay the ticket. And when they don’t pay the ticket, the fee goes up; paying it becomes impossible. ” Mayor Frey went on to describe a “cycle” of mounting fees and pledged Minneapolis’s help in breaking that cycle by dedicating $25,000 to assist the MPD in their expansion of the Lights On! program in Minneapolis.

Lights On! also continues to attract national attention. You can find the following stories online:

· The Washington Post’s article “Two Years after Philando Castile’s Death . . . ”

· NBC’s Nightly News video “Minnesota Police Department Trying to Repair Trust with ‘Lights On’ Program”

New People on Board

New Board Member Abou Amara

Abou Amara is a public affairs consultant and strategist. Most recently, he served as a policy co-chair to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s Transition Team. In 2015, he was named by Twin Cities Business Magazine as one of the “100 Minnesotans to Know” and listed as a “Next Generation Leader” and “Shaper of the Future” by the publication.

New Employee Linnea Peterson

Linnea Peterson is serving as MicroGrants’ Communications Manager through Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). LVC is a one-year domestic service corps that places participants in full-time roles at nonprofits throughout the Midwest and East Coast. In her role at MicroGrants, Linnea will be writing the newsletter, updating MicroGrants’ social media, creating the annual report, and editing the annual evaluation.

Summer Interns from Yale

Abhishek Srinivas and Olivia Shoemaker, rising sophomores at Yale University, served as Grant Analyst Interns for the summer. They wrote a 30-page evaluation of the MicroGrants program, complete with measures of effectiveness, comparisons to 2016, and recommendations for the future. We are grateful for their work!

Five New Partner Agencies

American Indian OIC

“The mission of the American Indian OIC is to empower American Indians to pursue career opportunities by providing individualized education, training, and employment services in a culturally rich environment.”

Pictured: Joe Hobot, President and CEO of American Indian OIC

Masjid An-Nur

Masjid An-Nur is a multi-ethnic, Islamic community in North Minneapolis. MicroGrants will support graduates of its Al-Maa’uun Family Stabilization Project, which works with individuals and families across five areas: employment, housing, health, behavioral health and community engagement. It provides coaching and case management for up to twelve months to help them meet short, medium and long term goals.”

Pictured: Makram El-Amin, Imam of Masjid An-Nur 



NEON (Northside Economic Opportunity Network) “expand[s] economic development opportunities and build wealth for entrepreneurs in North Minneapolis and surrounding communities.”

Pictured: Stephen Obayuwana, Director of Business Development at NEON

Ujamaa Place

“The mission of Ujamaa Place is to assist young African American men primarily between the ages of 18 and 30, who are economically disadvantaged and have experienced repeated cycles of failure. This mission statement is rooted in the philosophy of African American culture and empowerment – that everyone is important, valuable, worthy, and loveable.”

Pictured: Otis Zanders, President and CEO of Ujamaa Place

West Broadway Business and Area Coalition


“The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition’s mission is to create an inviting and vital West Broadway Corridor and to transform the Northside into a thriving economic community.”

Pictured: John Bueche, Executive Director of WBC

Recent and Upcoming Events

Partner Agency Summit a Success

LaKisha Jones, pictured, of Summit Academy OIC was one of 36 representatives from parner agencies who attended our annual summit on Wednesday, August 22. Each agency shared a MicroGrants success story. The event was designed as part of our continuous improvement with powerful and effective partnership with local organizations. The partner agencies and MicroGrants shared ideas for improvement and efficiency, with the goal of making the MicroGrants partnerships even stronger for 2019.

“We had a student—she’s an itty-bitty little thing, and she joined our construction program. . . . While she was in school, she ended up becoming homeless; her car broke down,” said LaKisha Jones. “She was one of the top students in the program . . . Kris ended up approving a MicroGrant for a minivan, which helped her with her kids, and then, the week after that, I was able to help her get a job for $30 an hour as a labor apprentice, so her life has completely turned around.”

To find out more about our partner agencies, visit

Lenzmeier House Party for MicroGrants

Thanks to Board Member Al Lenzmeier and his wife, Kathleen, for hosting a MicroGrants event in their beautiful condominium overlooking US Bank Stadium and the Commons! Thanks also to grantees Anthony Dahl, Twyla Whitney, and Asnat Ghebremedhin for sharing their inspiring stories. The grantees told of the transformative impacts of their MicroGrants, both in their circumstances and their outlook on life. They shared both their gratitude and the motivation that the grants had given them. More than a quarter of MicroGrants’ donor base was in attendance; new board members, new donors, and other guests also made an appearance.

First Grantee Returns to Say Thank You

Microgrants First Grantee Returns to Say Thank You

MicroGrants’ first grantee, Kruscaya Casaverde, returned to MicroGrants to thank the organization and tell her story.

“I came to the United Stated in 2004 as an exchange student. I decided to go to school for Electrical Engineering. One of the requirements for international students was to pay insurance that cost $1000 every semester, and on the top of that books, gas and living expenses. I decided to start selling jewelry from Peru.  

“I started my first day at Minneapolis Midtown . . . That day it was a slow start until Joe Selvaggio approached me, asking me why I was selling jewelry. I told him about my story; Joe started to tell me about Microgrants and he said he would like to give me a grant of $1000: just the money that I needed to pay the college insurance. . . .

“I finished school very successfully with an Electrical Engineering degree, and before graduation I had four job offers as an Electrical Engineer. I am now in Canada working as an Electrical Engineer. . . .

“If Joe Selvaggio and Microgrants were not there . . . it would not have been possible to finish my degree. It is not just about money; it is about the light you have to continue and not give up in your dreams.”