Storytelling, Health, Wellness & Partnering

Micco Sampson, Minneapolis educator and hoop dancer, demonstrated his skills for ThreeSixty Journalism students at the University of St. Thomas.

By Lee Egerstrom

This past summer was filled with opportunities for Native American and other young people to develop storytelling skills while focusing on various health, fitness, wellness and cultural lessons with help from a variety of partnering organizations.

One prominent program was the 2019 TV Broadcast Camp for diverse ThreeSixtyJournalism program students at the University of St. Thomas. It used professional communicators to teach ways to produce television broadcasts about various communities.

Other programs with similar objectives involved a film making and social media program at Migizi Communications, in partnership with compatible organizations; and summer cultural and community programs offered by tribes. One was the annual language and culture camp at Red Lake Nation.

Partners in the ThreeSixtyJournalism program included St. Thomas; the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; Padilla, the Minneapolis-based communications company; University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Communications, and broadcast and production talent from KARE 11, KSTP, WCCO TV, TPT, Fox 9 and BMA Cable Networks.

How these groups come together is another life lesson for young people to learn about partnering for common purposes.

“Blue Cross cannot succeed in its commitment to closing health inequities in Minnesota without changing the narrative about health and our diverse communities,” Blue Cross vice president Kirstie Foster said in explaining her health insurance organization’s support for the program.

“We’re thrilled to work with such talented young journalists to illuminate how culturally-relevant community work can positively impact health while giving them the experiences to lead the next generation in equitable storytelling.”

An example was a broadcast on the Sampson brothers hoop dancers and teachers, prepared by students Blessing Kasongoma and Jacqueline Martinez. They had coaching help from BMA Cable News and Padilla staff.

Micco Sampson, from the Cattaraugus Reservation near Buffalo, N.Y. and part of the Seneca Nation, is a Minneapolis teacher and a hoop dancing instructor at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.

“This was a lot of fun,” he said of his being featured in the students’ video broadcast (links provided below). It will also make more people aware of hoop dancing, he said, which is a goal in being a teacher.

Kasongoma graduated from Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis this past spring and is now starting journalism studies at Augsburg University. Martinez has returned to studies at Harding High School in St. Paul.

Another example from the ThreeSixtyJournalism project was a broadcast video on John Hunter and Twin Cities Native Lacrosse, entitled “Twin Cities Native Americans Reclaim Lacrosse Sport.”

This broadcast report was prepared by Safiya Mohamed, a senior at St. Paul Central High School, and Datelle Straub, a senior at Patrick Henry High School. They were coached by KMSP-TV (Fox 9) staff.

Bao Vang, associate director of the ThreeSixty Journalism program at St. Thomas, said the three-year-old broadcast camp started when Padilla, on behalf of Blue Cross and its Center for Prevention, approached St. Thomas and asked “if our organization and high school students would like an opportunity to work together to help tell stories about the Center-funded programs.

“We said yes and the rest is history,” Vang said. Blue Cross helps come up with story ideas and ThreeSixty Journalism hand-picks eight to nine students each summer to teach them the process of putting together a video story, she said.

This merging of interests helps the institutions as well as the summer students, Vang said. For St. Thomas, it became an opportunity for ThreeSixty to widen program offerings with the addition of a TV journalism camp. And, she added, it converges the interest of Blue Cross with the students by allowing them “to explore the complex and compelling topic of health equity.”

This experience closely tracks with a summer film and social media program at Migizi Communications in Minneapolis.

Films involving storytelling themes produced by student interns will be unveiled at a Grand Opening reception Sept. 12 at Migizi’s new headquarters building, 3017 27th Ave. S., in Minneapolis, said Kelly Drummer, Migizi president. The reception is from 4 to 8 p.m. Contact Migizi to make reservations.

Those films were produced by students and interns in Migizi’s First Person Production program. One looks at a salsa-making project at Centro Tyrone Guzman – the oldest and largest Latino organization in Minneapolis that is a neighbor to Native American organizations along Franklin Avenue. Another project is a video on Spark-Y’s aquaponics system and gardens.

This partnership of complementary educational and training nonprofit organizations also work with Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Drummer said. Interns working on the videos were enrolled in a five-week social media course at Minneapolis College, as the school is commonly called, and will receive a social media certificate when projects are complete.

At the time of this writing, the City of Minneapolis was planning an event to honor Migizi for its internship programs that also include its Green Jobs Pathway programs. Drummer said more than 40 students had summer internships with First Person and Green Jobs programs.

Founded in 1974, Centro Tyrone Guzman focuses on providing services centered on education, health and wellness, and community engagement. Like its Native nonprofit neighbors, and like the Blue Cross and St. Thomas efforts, Centro’s website explains it works to “address health and educational disparities” and partners with other groups “to help change systems, structures, and mindsets that perpetuate disparities and generational poverty.”

For individual students, however, participation in these projects becomes important “resume building,” Drummer said.

Cultural strengths and wellness was the teaching aim of several tribal programs during the summer months.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa, for one, brought adults and youth together for learning and sharing at the seventh annual Gabeshiwin, its Ojibwe language and culture camp. It was hosted by Red Lake Chemical Health Programs and Red Lake Economic Development and Planning Department.

Michael Meuers, at Red Lake media relations, said the August camp featured eating traditional foods, playing lacrosse, tobacco pouch making, and learning traditional Anishinaabe teachings.

For more information on these programs: