Project SUCCESS receives $100k grant from Super Bowl committee

Minneapolis students plate a tamale dish Aug. 15 during a cooking seminar in Project SUCCESS' new student learning center. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Project SUCCESS on Aug. 15 received a $100,000 grant from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee for its new student learning center.

The youth-development organization will use the space to provide students with the ability to complete courses and earn school credit, develop technology skills and earn certifications in subjects such as health, wellness and physical education.

The new space features a kitchen, multiple breakout rooms and technology such as smart TVs, computers and 3D printers provided by Best Buy. It will allow students to meet community influencers, build personal and professional networks and gain understanding of emerging trends, technologies and health and wellness programs, according to a news release.

“This is such an incredible combination of technology (and) health and wellness in this gorgeous new space,” said Dana Nelson, vice president of legacy and community partnerships with the host committee’s Legacy Fund. “We could not be more proud to be standing here.”

Project SUCCESS expects to serve students from 27 schools in Minneapolis with the new space. Founder and Executive Director Adrienne Diercks said the grant will help students earn class credit and critical life skills and experiences. Diercks said the credit-recovery efforts in physical education and health will lead to increased graduation rates.

“It’s a continuation of what we do with students and families,” she said. “It’s wanting to continue to be a good partner to (Minneapolis Public Schools) and serve (students) where they are.”

Project SUCCESS, the host committee and Best Buy hosted a cooking seminar in the learning center on Aug. 15. About a dozen students learned about Native American foods and food systems from Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef, a nonprofit aimed at revitalizing Native American cuisine. Sherman had the students plate their own tamale dishes made with ingredients native to North America. Students also received Fitbits from Best Buy.

The host committee’s grant was part of its 52 Weeks of Giving campaign, a yearlong effort to improve the health and wellness of young people in Minnesota. The committee is awarding one grant a week in the 52 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The committee is focused on health and wellness and has funded projects such as bike fleets and playgrounds in other communities, said Wendy Nelson, chair of the host committee’s Legacy Advisory Board.

“We really want these projects to be transformational,” Nelson said.

She said the program began when the host committee expressed a desire to make the Super Bowl “more than a game.” At the same time, she said, committee members heard that children born today have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Project SUCCESS represented week 28 in the grant program. Dana Nelson said the committee would hit $2 million distributed with the following week’s grant and was looking at distributing just over $4 million over the program’s life.

The program is privately funded and includes $1 million from the NFL Foundation, the nonprofit representing all 32 NFL teams.

Project SUCCESS aims to motivate students to set goals, plan for their futures and pursue their dreams. It holds monthly workshops in schools and takes students to professional theater performances, on college tours, on trips to the Boundary Waters and even abroad on global experiences.

The organization is approaching its 25th year.

“Project SUCCESS knows how to work with the whole child and make them blossom,” said Elia Bruggeman, a special assistant to Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

Patrick Henry High School 12th-grader Shaadia Munye traveled to France with Project SUCCESS this past May. She said the trip helped her realize there is no barrier big enough from stopping people from accomplishing their dreams.

“I always had dreams and goals,” Munye said, “but Project SUCCESS helped me to think of more ideas (and) narrow down details in terms of what I was interested in.”

Munye said she hopes to first travel to Somalia to visit her family and then become a pediatric surgeon. She would at some point like to work for Project SUCCESS, she said.

She said her experiences with the organization taught her to appreciate everything and everyone in life.

“I learned that the world is bigger than what we are exposed to,” Munye said. “Therefore our dreams and our goals can be far beyond what we may think we are capable of.”