A quick 40-minute drive from the downtown hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities, and you’ll be surrounded by rolling hills, farm land, and vibrant,growing communities that work together for the health and wellness of the locals.
The cities of St. Michael and Albertville are thriving on the northern ring of the Twin Cities suburbs. With a model school district and close-knit collaborative communities, these are the types of places where you’d want your kids to grow up.
The farmers market, Reading in the Park, and open street events are just a few of the many opportunities that bring these communities together. The success is no accident.
The two cities, the school district, and the Family Youth Community Connections (FYCC) program share an origin story and a story of rising above challenges, to realize the success they have today.
The story begins with trickle-down funds from the Feds.
Just over twenty years ago, the federal government had excess medical assistance dollars that were passed along to state governments.Minnesota then distributed those funds to counties across the state, to establish family-youth collaboratives. Funds landed with the Wright County Service Collaborative (WCFSC), and the Family Youth Community Connections program(FYCC) was born.
In 1999, Sandy Greninger applied for a part-time position with theSTMA School District and the cities of St. Michael and Albertville to over seethe management and allocation of funds from the WCFSC. The funds were tied to one stipulation: they needed to be spent promoting health and wellness within their community. Sandy said, “challenge accepted” and began developing and piloting programs within the schools and throughout the communities.
The programs were wildly successful, which presented challenges o fits own. “I need help,” Sandy said, “this thing is really taking off.”
She reached out to the Initiative Foundation for financial assistance to hire another employee and was awarded $25,000 as long as Sandy ensured the continued collaboration of the two cities and school district.
Sandy and FYCC’s role within the communities continued to grow.Eventually, FYCC took over the responsibility of managing and scheduling all of the outdoor facilities for the two cities and the school district --essentially acting like a parks and recreation department. As the years passed,FYCC became a staple within the community with both of the cities and school district relying heavily on their services. FYCC also relied on the support and guidance from the cities and school district.
When the Money Runs Out
After ten years of being primarily funded by grant dollars from the Federal Government, funding for FYCC was cut. The reality was the grant money was “soft” money, meaning it could be cut off and redistributed at anytime.
“It looked like we were going to have to close our doors,” Sandy recalls. But communities that play together stay together. The cities, school district and FYCC pooled resources as they always had and found a solution to keep FYCC open.
Today, funding for FYCC comes through contributions from the two cities, funds from the programs hosted by FYCC, and county grant dollars. The STMA school district acts as FYCC’s fiscal agent, and the City of Albertville leases FYCC the building they operate out of for one dollar a year.
“These days there just isn’t a lot of money to go around,” said Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault, STMA School District Superintendent. “It’s important for us to work together and share services for our community members. That way we don’t have that redundancy and expend resources that are so important to us.”
Ann-Marie noted the school district wouldn’t be able to offer the same type of opportunities without hiring someone, and STMA School District is one of the lowest funded districts in Minnesota. “If we didn’t have FYCC it would inevitably hurt our kids,” she said. “We would have to adjust our budget to hire someone, taking money out of the classroom.”
Adam Nafstad, City Administrator for the City of Albertville says, “Our partnership has created opportunities for our community, when you take a look at the big picture. Sandy and her staff are doing a tremendous amount of work efficiently on a staff of two.”
20 Years Strong
Celebrating its 20-year anniversary in October, FYCC is its own non-profit entity. Although operating on its own, FYCC still works closely with its community partners to ensure program development and fund allocation are meeting real needs.
“FYCC has always focused on filling gaps within our community and supplementing work that is being done by the cities or the school district,” Adam said.
Ann-Marie talked about how connections are built and sustained at events and programs hosted by FYCC. “We know that when kids feel connections and have those positive relationships, they perform better in school,” she said. “The kids do better in school, they do better at home, and really it is a win-win for all of us.”
With the wide variety of programs and events hosted by FYCC there is something for all ages. Whether that be bringing your little ones to Reading in the Park or taking the whole family to a Family Bingo Night, FYCC has programs running throughout the year.
The impact of this collaboration is far reaching.
As Sandy puts it, “There isn’t a child that has gone through the STMA school district that hasn’t been touched by FYCC.”
For more information about FYCC, you can visit their website or call at (763) 496-6820