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Minnesota Twins Introduce Somali Youth to Baseball

Article by Claudia Kittock, photos by Rick Kittock

Most of you know about Webster Elementary, the first public elementary school for the downtown attendance area. How many of you know about another school that was here far earlier? The Cedar Riverside Community School, the 5th charter school in the country, is in its 23rd year.

Beginning in 1986, a large scale housing development project in much of the neighborhood brought a large population of families with young children to the neighborhood. As many of the units in this development were scheduled for Section Eight Housing, the number of children remained large in the immediate future. Approximately half the Cedar Riverside neighborhood resided in the Riverside Plaza Housing Project and the large number of Section Eight units guaranteed a continued population of children.

In 1989, the West Bank Community Development Corporation (CDC) developed a network of day-care houses, using community resources in housing opportunities to respond to the needs of the families. Local service agencies, the Currie Center and the People’s Center, had also increased their programming for children. In the winter of 1991, parents and school teachers in the community began discussing the need for a local school. In May of 1991, the West Bank CDC continued its history of supporting family services and agreed to act as the fiscal agent for the proposed school. With CDC backing, a series of community meetings had been held to access the needs of neighborhood families in regards to a school, and a proposal for a charter school was written.

Cedar Riverside Community School began in 1993. It is located in the heart of the Cedar Riverside Plaza housing complex. This location has had a powerful impact upon the school’s evolution. The school serves a population overwhelmingly from immigrant families who come from homes where English is not the first language. Some of the more prevalent issues many of the students have to overcome in addition to learning English when they come to CRCS include interrupted schooling, immigration, culture shock, separation from family members, poverty, and trauma caused by war. These are significant obstacles to students, families, and staff when providing for each child’s education and growth.

I learned about the school and its powerful mission from Jennifer Wigchers Weber, the school outreach director. Jennifer is also the originator and coach for the sports program. I found out about the Sports Check It Out program from Jennifer, and learned that while she has successfully launched many sports programs, baseball was still difficult. So, I contacted my favorite member of the Minnesota Twins organization, my husband, Rick.

The Minnesota Twins are an interesting organization, and while fielding a competitive team is the central theme of their business, there is much more that goes on at the field. Did you know there is a tour department and a Learning Through Baseball education department? The Twins give tours throughout the ballpark, and offer classes to students about the science of baseball, the language of baseball, the history of baseball, and many more.

This week, a group of students from the Cedar Riverside Community School were given a tour of Target Field by Rick. Baseball is not a familiar sport for people from Somalia. With the generous support of Josh Ortiz of Community Programs, along with Forrest Brandt of the Tour Department, the students were taken to the Target Station. The tour guides taught the children baseball fundamentals using wiffle ball equipment donated by the Twins. As you can see from the pictures, it didn’t take long before they were playing with all the zest of kids everywhere.

This group took that equipment back to the Community School and to the Sports Check It Out library so that a whole new generation of neighborhood kids can learn and play together. It was an amazing day!

What can you do? Read the following invitation, and if interested in being part of it, please RSVP to Jennifer Weber (Coach Weber) at

         We are starting a new tradition this year at Cedar Riverside Community School by hosting a Back To School Kick Off with all our students, families, staff, community members and partners.
        Our first day of school is Monday, August 28th and our kick off celebration will begin at 7:00 am with a meet and greet as all our students gather on the plaza.
        At 7:30 am our students and teachers will be be off to class for day one of the 2017-18 school year. Our hope is to fill the plaza with cheers, posters, hand shakes, high fives and hugs as they take the first steps towards the amazing year of learning that awaits them at CRCS.
        Our school will be hosting a breakfast and community gathering in our lunchroom starting at 7:45 am. As a community school we look forward to hosting this event for everyone that has invested time, talents and care into our school and students. We hope that it will be a big step towards creating dialogue between the parents, community members and partners that all mean so much to our day to day work.
        We look forward to sharing this time and experience with you and sincerely hope you can attend.

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Claudia can be reached at

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