Four Auggies and a Nonprofit

In her birthplace of Cartagena, Colombia, Eloisa Echavez (BS ’94, MAE ’98) started teaching elementary students when she was only 19. Soon after, she joined five others to establish an elementary school in a low-income area there, and her leadership skills became evident. When she began her studies at Augsburg in 1990, having been in the U.S. for only two years, she approached then-President Charles S. Anderson about the need for a Eloisa Echavezstudent support program for Latino students. He agreed and asked her to create and direct it since “it was [her] idea.” She did so for six years, while also serving as the teachers-of-color program coordinator and multicultural recruitment coordinator for the admissions office. After completing her MAE, she and her husband were also busy raising their boy, now 19.

In 1998, she was approached by the board president of Minneapolis-based La Oportunidad to serve as the nonprofit’s director. Though she “absolutely loves Augsburg,” she knew it was the right decision to leave Augsburg and accept the offer to serve a broader Latino population. She has served as executive director for 15 years.

Since its inception in 1987, when the organization’s focus was on domestic abuse, La Oportunidad has continued to broaden the range of programs it offers, responding to identified needs in the community and assisting low-income Latinos of all ages to achieve educational success, improve financial stability, and maintain supportive, peaceful families. Four core programs are the Children’s Program, the Youth and Young Professionals Programs, the Parenting Program, and the Domestic Violence Program (which helped over 1,000 Latinos in 2013). Their cable TV program “En Familia” (“In the Family”) has reached over 20,000 individuals.

The organization partners on a variety of projects with the Minneapolis Public Schools, community agencies, media organizations, and other nonprofits. It has collaborated for five years with Augsburg’s Latino Student Services program, which hosts La Oportunidad’s Latino Youth Peace & Leadership Conference, an annual all-day event held at Augsburg that helps Latino middle and high school students learn to share peace through leadership. Most recently, it has also been collaborating with Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Citizenship & Learning, as well as other college departments, to recruit and place volunteers and interns at La Oportunidad.

In addition to Echavez, La Oportunidad has been blessed with the service of three other Auggies, all serving on the board: Alex Gonzalez, Brian Grande, and Maria (Ramirez) Johnson.

GonzalezAlex Gonzalez ’90, a native of South Minneapolis, currently serves as an advisory board member, after having served from 2005 to 2013 as a regular board member. He owns a financial planning practice with Thrivent Financial in Bloomington, Minn., along with two business partners, one of whom is Auggie Mark Morton ’89. In addition to his work on La Oportunidad’s board, Gonzalez also serves on the Augsburg Board of Regents (since 2008), and has assisted several other nonprofits, either by volunteering or by helping them manage their endowments. He and his wife Simone (whom he met at Augsburg) have three sons: Jake, Karsten (who just toured Augsburg), and Joshua.

Brian GrandeBrian Grande ’11, a data analyst associate for the Community Health Department at Fairview Health Services, moved with his family to Minnesota from El Salvador in 1997. His first involvement with La Oportunidad was at age eight, when he attended the El Camino children’s after-school program. That program not only eased his transition into a new culture, but taught him the importance of obtaining an education and maintaining family values and traditions. His first-hand experience of El Camino provides useful insight in the discussions at monthly board meetings. Grande grew up in North and South Minneapolis and graduated from Roosevelt High. A volunteer in his community, he recently assisted at La Oportunidad’s 2014 Latino Youth Peace and Leadership Conference.

Maria (Ramirez) Johnson ’94 has served on La Oportunidad’s board for 15 years. As an Augsburg student, she helped establish and was actively involved in Augsburg’s Latino Student Association, which was part of the Latino Student Services program Echavez created in 1992. After earning her elementary education degree at Augsburg, Maria JohnsonJohnson taught in the Minneapolis Public Schools for many years, retiring as a bilingual (English/Spanish) teacher. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren.

Johnson, Gonzalez, and Echavez have all served as mentors in Augsburg’s Scholastic Connections program, designed to assist high-achieving undergraduate students of color to succeed in completing their undergraduate degree and prepare them to be engaged, successful citizens of the world.

As La Oportunidad continues to fulfill its vision of creating a community in which Latinos (whether long-term residents or new arrivals) thrive and contribute to the strength of the greater community, the greatest challenge it faces is funding, and the search for potential funding sources and individual donations is ongoing. To learn more, or to find avenues for involvement, visit www.oportunidad.org.

Augsburg Alumni City Service Day, September 2nd

Save the date for the inaugural, global Augsburg Alumni Day of Service, which will be held on Tuesday, September 2, 2014. This day is one of a number of service opportunities for Augsburg alumni to lead by sharing their time and talents to make a difference.

Many Auggie alumni give back by working in the nonprofit sector, sitting on boards of foundations and organizations, serving at the highest levels of government, becoming elected officials, volunteering for Augsburg, and sharing time, experience and energy with volunteer community projects. And the Day of Service is a chance for alumni around the world to come together on one day to celebrate this tradition of service. On the Augsburg Alumni Day of Service, alumni and their families and friends work side by side to make communities better because Augsburg alumni live there. The Augsburg Day of Service is a wonderful way for members of the Augsburg community to meet and reconnect with alumni who share this commitment to giving back. And for many alumni, the program provides the opportunity to share this value with their children (and grandchildren) through example – and fun! – as they work together on projects where they live.

Register for Augsburg Alumni City Service Day

Want to add a project to the Day of Service? Contact us at alumni@augsburg.edu for more information.

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Alumna Receives Award for Excellence in Teaching

In July, alumna Amy Vatne Bintliff ’01 was the recipient of the Teaching Tolerance Excellence in Teaching award. Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which aims to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences for children. The project also provides free educational resources to teachers and school practitioners to support its mission.

Amy is an accomplished educator and author. In 2011, she released a book on the topic of social justice teaching; Re-engaging Disconnected Youth: Transformative Learning through Restorative and Social Justice Education (2011).

Alumna Runs for Judge

Augsburg College alumna Beverly “Bev” Benson ’81 announced this summer that she will be running for Judge in the 4th Judicial District of Hennepin County. Supporting her in the campaign are many other Augsburg alumni, including Kristine Johnson ’81.

 

Official Announcement to Augsburg College

Bev BensonBev Benson, Augsburg Class of 1981, has announced she is running in November, to fill an open Judicial Seat on the Hennepin County Bench.  This means that there is no incumbent.   Former Augsburg graduate Kristine Johnson, Class of 1981, is a member of her campaign staff.   She has numerous other Augsburg graduates supporting her campaign.

Ms. Benson has been a prosecutor for 28 years, 25 years in Hennepin County, and 3 years in Stearns County.  She has specialized in the prosecution of domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and homicides.

She has been a presenter and trainer at the national and state levels.  She has also been a member of groups funded by the US State Department to do training for judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and police in two of provinces, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

She has 15 years of experience moderating League of Women Voter candidate forums, as well as being a former President of her local Wayzata/Plymouth League of Women Voters.   Other personal volunteer service activities include presenting trainings on domestic violence at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Center and the Rape and Sexual Assault Center.  She has volunteered as a reader to second graders at the Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School.  She volunteered her time and energy toward various projects at Oak View Elementary School and Cedar Island Elementary School in the Osseo-Maple Grove School District.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact her by way of this email address:  bevbensonforjudge.@gmail.com and on Facebook at:  “Bev Benson For Hennepin County Judge”.

 

 

“Claim Your Trophy” to Be Broadcast on Fox

SwansonAAt a very young age, Nick Swanson ’09 BA, ’12 MBA took a keen interest in hunting, fishing, and the outdoors in general—an interest he shared with the most influential person in his life, his grandfather, Richard Hoffmann. Even last year, the two sat in the woods together for a full day during Wisconsin deer hunting season, in hopes of harvesting a good-sized buck. They were not disappointed—plus, the “great buck event” was all captured on film!

Swanson, who spends his workweek as supervisor of business services at the Hastings (Minn.) Medical Clinic, Allina Health, has long been interested in traveling and a variety of outdoor adventures, and spends most evenings and weekends in that world. But, over the years, his difficulty in finding good, reputable resources to assist him in his planning has usually left him frustrated. Finally, he decided to create a website (www.claimyourtrophy.com) and produce/host a TV show to do just that. His hunting/fishing outfitter directory helps you find reliable guides and outfitters for that once-in-a-lifetime event—to enjoy hunting (deer, elk, moose, bear, turkey, caribou, birds, antelope, sheep) or fishing (bass, musky, northern pike, salmon, salt water, trout, walleye).

Particularly pleased about having captured “the great buck event” on film, Swanson looks forward to sharing the footage with millions this fall on his television show. Recently picked up by Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Wisconsin, “Claim Your Trophy” will run for 13 weeks, on Sundays and Thursdays at 8:00 a.m., beginning on August 24. It will also be found on YouTube (www.youtube.com/claimyourtrophy). “Having traveled across North America hunting and fishing with some close friends and capturing it all on film has been a dream come true,” says Swanson, “not to mention having our adventures shown on TV—well, that’s just icing on the cake!”

After majoring in Economics and earning an MBA at Augsburg (experiences which he says brought clarity to his vocation and helped shape him as a person), and doing additional studySwansonB at University College Cork, Swanson pursued medical school, even enjoying a stint as a Mayo Clinic Scholar in 2011-12. However, with his other foot in the business world as a broker, consultant, and marketing manager, it soon became obvious that his vocation was in the business side of health care. He now says that wearing the “health care administrator hat” on weekdays overlaps nicely with his evenings and weekends, when he switches over to the “outdoors hat.”

Swanson, who lives in Prescott, Wis., also finds time to serve on Augsburg’s Alumni Board—involvement that he enjoys. “I’m not sure they’ll ever get rid of me,” he says.

Auggie Strikes a Pose

We want to see Traveling Auggie at home, work, and at play!

Print and cut out Traveling Auggie and take him with you wherever you go-snapping photos of him along the way in funny, creative, or just everyday situations. Then, share your adventures on social media with #TravelingAuggie. Download Traveling Auggie now!

Simply…
1. Print
2. Cut
3. Photograph
4. Share with #TravelingAuggie

Happy Traveling!

Auggies Show Their Auggie Pride at Twin Cities Pride Festival

The 42nd Annual Pride Festival was held this past weekend, June 28-29, 2014. This year, Augsburg College hosted a booth at the festival, current students, alumni, parents, and friends of the College were all encouraged to stop by the table to learn about Augsburg College and life in the city. Those who stopped by the booth received a pair of Augsburg College sunglasses in addition to other Auggie “swag”.

 

50th Annual Clair Strommen A-Club Golf Tournament

Yesterday, the Augsburg College A-Club hosted the 50th annual Clair Strommen A-Club golf tournament at the Oak Glen Country Club located in Stillwater, Minnesota. Over 125 Auggies showed up in support of Augsburg College student athletes and the A-Club.

Support Minnesota Urban Debate League – Tournament Volunteers

The Minnesota Urban Debate League serves young people in Minneapolis and St. Paul through academic competitive debate. The Mission of MNUDL is to empower students through competitive academic debate to become engaged learners, critical thinkers, and active citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities. Students deeply engage with the annual topic through in-depth research, analyzing data, and defend different policy options.  This process increases their critical thinking, reading comprehension and public speaking skills exponentially. MNUDL currently serves 600 students at 30 high school and middle school sites in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  Participating in debate has a great impact on students’ long-term goals. Ninety-nine percent of MNUDL debaters attend college, and Augsburg College is welcoming the second cohort of MNUDL program graduates this fall.

Urban DebateAs a Greeter, Judge, Lounge Staffer, Assistant Coach, Team Volunteer, or Ballot Runner, you’ll help to diversify the pipeline of future leaders in business, law and the community, and meet other leaders in the field who are committed to their community! If you are interested in volunteering, please contact: Mai Yer Vang, Community Outreach Coordinator, at vangmy@augsburg.edu, or 612-330-1730.

Groups interested in getting involved with Minnesota Urban Debate League, please contact Amanda Scherer at corporate and foundation relations at 612-330-1720, or scherera@augsburg.edu.

Volunteer at The Great Minnesota Get-Together

Volunteering at Augsburg College’s booth at the Minnesota State Fair is a great way to meet others in the community, and to promote Augsburg College. Past volunteers find the experience rewarding-so much so that teams of Auggies have developed over the years.

All alumni, students, parents, faculty, and staff are welcome to volunteer, and each volunteer will receive one admission ticket.

This year’s fair runs Thursday, Aug. 21, through Labor Day. Shifts at the booth last four hours with each bloc staffed by two volunteers.

If you would like to volunteer, contact us at volunteer@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1525.