Last week was our 24th Annual Foundation Celebration Luncheon, which included recognition of this year’s HERBIE award winners. I am so pleased to celebrate this year’s winners: Antonio Espinoza, of Art from the Inside; and Hiway Credit Union.
Each year your Charitable Foundation celebrates an individual and an organization who demonstrate qualities evident in leadership by awarding two HERBIEs. This award was named to honor Herb Brooks, a St. Paul native and legendary coach of the 1980 Olympic gold medal hockey team. The HERBIE is awarded based on these traits: humanitarianism; enterprising; resilient; bold; inspirational; ethical. The legacy of impressive leaders is long, and you can find previous winners here. I’d like to tell you a little more about this year’s honorees.
Antonio Espinoza: Antonio worked as a correctional officer at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater when his good friend and colleague was killed by an inmate. This inspired him to find a way to change things in the system to better serve inmates for healing and better outcomes when they are released to be part of the community. Instead of turning down a dark road, Antonio decided to be part of the solution. Antonio decided to take the route of art. Art from the Inside gives inmates the tools and opportunities to express themselves through various visual art forms. When the inmate’s art is shared with the public, the viewers have the opportunity to write notes to the artist on note cards that are eventually taken to the artist to read; it is a way to share their humanity with the wider community. It provides a way of communicating that is therapeutic and motivating to both the viewer and the artist. To see this kind of talent coming from incarcerated individuals is eye-opening and transforming.
And Hiway: headquartered on St. Paul’s East Side, Hiway Credit Union is genuinely committed to making a positive difference in its neighborhood and fostering strong, long-lasting relationships throughout the East Metro. The leaders and associates at Hiway live their values, sponsoring numerous free community events, organizing ways for employees to give back through projects like meal packaging, gardening or serving the community through 12 paid volunteer hours per year. Hiway also supports many financial education and youth-focused efforts, including the City of Saint Paul’s Right Track internship program, Junior Achievement, Best Prep, and Cookie Cart. Hiway also partnered with the Saint Paul School District to launch financial education programs to help guide and inform students on various financial topics. In the past three years, Hiway has given 56 classroom presentations and reached over 1000 youth. They also offer a teacher externship to help guide teachers on how to prepare their students for careers in the financial sector, and operate four student-run branches in St. Paul high schools. Hiway has been recognized for its numerous DEI initiatives and is a frequent honoree of the Star Tribune’s Top Workplace designation.
Why do I celebrate them here today? Because what they do matters. Civic engagement involves working to make a difference in the life of our community. Theodore Roosevelt has famously charged us to “be actors, and not merely critics of others.” That’s civic engagement. And there’s room for you too!
Don't forget to view more photos of our 24th Annual Foundation Celebration Luncheon! I'll be taking a break from the blog next week for the 4th of July holiday. Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable holiday week ahead!
See you in the trenches,
A key American historical event finally received federal recognition in recent years: June 19, 1865—the day all people living in the United States, including the formerly enslaved, were officially granted freedom. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law making the day known as Juneteenth a national holiday. What can we do to invest in this promise? Acknowledge, learn more, and spend with Black-owned businesses.
This day is important to all of us. We should regularly consider the evolution of the meaning of freedom as we look at moments in our nation’s past and present. Juneteenth is always relevant in our continuous quest and fight for freedom and equality for all people. And this day places Black people at the center of the conversation about freedom, its meaning, and its manifestation moving forward.
A primary purpose of chambers of commerce is to build networks between individuals and businesses. Use it to your advantage with this lens!
See you in the trenches,
So I know I’m a slow learner….. but as I wrap up 6 years on the job, I’ve figured out one thing for sure: partnerships are everything. Our Career Connect Day, scheduled for October 17 at the RiverCentre, is one event that is blossoming specifically through partnerships. You see, we’ve been building on a vision: introduce high school sophomores to a wide variety of career paths, so they can make more informed decisions about what they’d like to do after graduation. 2022 was our first Career Connect Day, successful beyond our wildest imaginations due to partnerships from the “coalition of the willing”: St. Paul Public Schools, the TriDistrict, Ramsey County, Junior Achievement, Boys and Girls Clubs, and various employers who continue to serve on our planning committee. 26 schools participated, all due to individual outreach and trusted partners. 2023 will be bigger, will focus on all 3 east metro counties, and will be open to any company interested in participating. Registration to participate is now open and we invite you to join us. To learn more, click here.
The learning for me: how to continue to invite partnerships with other school districts, cities, counties, business organizations, and chambers as we make this opportunity widely available. Some communities within the metro are ahead of us, I think. Great work in this space already is being done. My hope is that this region-wide event, though we are jump-starting it, will belong to all of us. Across the region and, ultimately, the state. If any student – or adult – wants to explore current or future career opportunities, if any company is interested in introducing them, we want to bring them together.
As far back as my own high school days and continuing today, high school juniors attend the perennial “College Day” at the Minneapolis Convention Center, during which we are introduced to various colleges and universities. I picked my alma mater, the College of St. Benedict, at my College Day back in 1980. I spoke to a very nice young woman, they had horses on the campus….. and I was sold. LOL. My career path ideas didn’t extend much past the careers of adults around me. Which is one of the reasons I joined the military….
With that model in mind, this Career Connect Day can introduce students and adults alike to good people who look like them, who are doing cool things they enjoy learning about. Most importantly, the Day can expand minds, introduce new possibilities, help the students be more informed when they go to College Day the following year. The two should tie together.
So if you’re interested in partnering, attending, volunteering, being an exhibitor, or even sponsoring, please contact us! Registrations already are open; we’ll begin promoting the event soon. I simply wanted to start with an invitation: please join us. Companies large and small show up, and we hope you will too.
Career Connect Day is an opportunity for students to interact with employers – and explore future career paths. New this year, we’re also adding a job fair for the last part of the day, during which businesses can connect with job seekers for their current hiring needs.
Students and adults will have the opportunity to meet and talk with people who work in the real world, in a wide array of career areas, and even try interactive activities related to those careers and find out what it takes to move toward their dream job. Join us for an inspiring day! Last year nearly 100 organizations and over 1,000 students attended. This year, we plan to grow even bigger, and already have nearly 2,000 students committed to attending!
See you in the trenches,
I hope you were able to get out to Grand Old Day this past Sunday. What a day! I spent the afternoon strolling the avenue, listening to some great music, talking to vendors, and just watching the people. So many people! I saw old and young, parents and kids, fabulous vendors, I saw some of you(!), I listened to some great music… and everyone I spoke to said, “We’re SO glad it’s back. Great day to be here!”
Grand Old Day is the largest free festival in the Midwest, and the primary source of funding for the Grand Avenue Business Association. After a hiatus for the previous 3 years, it feels terrific to have it back. A bright spot this summer, particularly since not all festivals have been able to come back yet. And your Chamber was fortunate to play a key role in that. GABA initially hired us last year to assist with organizing the volunteer task force to bring back the event. That role grew, bringing in partners like our friends at Minnesota Public Radio and The Current to curate a fantastic musical lineup as well as event organization and logistics. We wanted to help make it happen. And our team was terrific! From marketing and social media, to vendors, to musicians, to sponsors and partners, to scheduling, our team played a part in all of it.
The Grand Avenue Business Association Board had a vision for the day, and your team at the St. Paul Area Chamber helped them make that happen. Special thanks go to Megan Ryan, Alyssa Binsfeld, Madisen Rogers, and Kim O’Brien. They truly went above and beyond. I couldn’t be more proud.
Be sure to check out some of the photos we captured here.
Grand Old Day is back!
See you in the trenches,