Audrey Lensmire, director of Augsburg College’s East African Student to Teacher (EAST) program, and program participant Salah Ali ’17 were interviewed by MinnPost for a report on Minnesota’s growing number of Somali-Americans working toward careers in education. The article notes that the number of Somalis resettling in the state has more than tripled in recent years, which has caused an influx of Somali students and created a need for teachers, counselors, and socials workers with a deep understanding of Somali culture.
The EAST program is funded by the state’s Collaborative Urban Educator program and seeks to graduate and license K-12 teachers of East African origin. In the article, Lensmire is quoted as saying, “Typically, becoming a professional teacher has been available only to people who have money and the means to get the license.” The EAST program offers financial assistance by providing students with full tuition scholarships as they seek licensure.
Augsburg’s program is one of several made possible by the CUE program. In the article, Ali notes that he knows many Somali students in similar programs at Hamline University and the University of Minnesota. “A lot of us are in the education field right now. Many are doing social studies and ESL programs and counseling licenses,” he said.
Read: More young Somali-Americans are choosing careers in education on the MinnPost site.
Minnesota Public Radio’s Tim Post profiled Augsburg College’s East African Student to Teacher (EAST) program, which works to recruit and train teachers of East African descent in an effort to help close the K-12 achievement gap.
The program, directed by Audrey Lensmire, assistant professor of education, told Post that by “having more teachers of color in our K-12 system, their professional voice will be shared by their colleagues.”
Post spoke with two current EAST scholars, Abdiasis Hirsi and Asma Ibrahim. Hirsi, who teaches at Wellstone International High School, was born in Somalia and raised in Kenya. He shared with Post that when he was only 19, Hirsi helped start a school in Nairobi to teach English to Somali refugees. Ibrahim, who shared with Post that she was born in Pakistan to Somali refugees, said she had a difficult time as a student in connecting with her teachers in Owatonna. She hopes to become a teacher to help students who are like her become comfortable enough to learn.
EAST is funded by the Collaborative Urban Educator Program and received $390,000 for two school years including 2013-14 to 2014-15. Additional funding is now being sought from the Minnesota State Legislature. State Sen. Kari Dziedzic has introduced a bill to nearly double funding over the next two years.
Listen or read “East African teachers connect with younger versions of themselves” on the website of MPR News. Learn more about the EAST program.