BorealCorps – a digital-savvy youth group in Grand Marais MN

Blandin just got the notes on this very fun project they funded in Grand Marais and I’m excited to share the details. The community has created a youth-driven, civic, digital news service called BorealCorps for elementary and middle school children throughout Cook County. The goal was to use immersive, hands-on learning in both in-school enrichment sessions and after-school club meetings to create a child-authored and maintained web site as a means of closing the rural opportunity gap in 21st century technology and its applications.

BorealCorps results have far-surpassed the initial proposal to Blandin, and can be seen on the website. Not only have they formed a sustainable, reliable and increasingly-recognized youth group of able civic connectors and communicators, the children have made BorealCorps self-supporting — in less than one year.

They have a steady enrollment of 12-15 child staff members (~10% of the county cohort) and parental support in grades 4-8 from all school communities throughout Cook County, and have taught as many as 30 in one day of serial classes.

BorealCorps youth have proven themselves to the community to be able, helpful communication collaborators. Here are some of their projects:

  • Sawtooth Clinic turned to BorealCorps for help with health reporting key messages on youth nutrition
  • The Lions Club has invited child representatives to present a proposal for the Fisherman’s Picnic event in August 2018
  • The YMCA engages BorealCorps reporters to help publicize events
  • Great Expectations Charter School worked with BorealCorps to develop a winter-long community reading advocacy program called “A Long Winter’s Read.”
  • Oshki Ogimaag Ojibway Charter School has invited BorealCorps to coach teachers how to work with its students to author an Ojibway-language children’s book in spring 2018.

And one surprise project: In December 2017 BorealCorps was hired by the American Lung Association in Minnesota to provide 15 weeks of social media health messaging on Facebook( @borealcorps ) as a demonstration curriculum for other schools on dangers of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction to youth, who are targeted by advertisers. BorealCorps did such an impressive job that 8 members and 4 parents were sponsored by the Lung Association on March 21-22, 2018 to present in St. Paul an artistic interpretation of lung cancer. They created it from primary source photographs of lung cancer victims, and through felt sculptures of lung sections, calling it “Beautiful Lungs.” It was displayed in the Minnesota History Center. At the Capitol, BorealCorps members also lobbied Sen. Tom Back and Rep. Ron Ecklund to pass Tobacco 21 legislation to protect youth health. They have recently been hired to do even more!

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