Over the past year, there’s been an emphasis made on diversifying Robbinsdale Area Schools (Rdale) Community Education courses to make them more representative of the community.
Rdale and the seven cities that form it are diverse. According to the most recent census, 32 percent of people who call Rdale home are individuals of color. The average age is 43-years-old. Yet the make-up of people who participate in Rdale Community Education classes and events haven’t reflected that.
“The typical class participant is nearly 60-years-old, female and white,” said Ariel Gittens, Community Education’s director of community enrichment and engagement. “We definitely noticed an opportunity to provide something new, something more reflective of our community.”
Examples of new classes include cultural cooking classes, like Ethiopian/Eritrean or tantalizing Latin cuisine, and fitness classes like an afro hip-hop dance class.
“Honestly, we haven’t done a very good job of meeting the needs of the people who call Rdale home when you look at what we’ve offered previously,” Gittens said. “But we’re changing that.”
Natasha Garcia, an Rdale community member who this past winter participated in the afro hip-hop dance class, said the new class offerings are an important way to build communities that support, respect, and encourage one another.
“It creates a welcoming environment and a sense of belonging for those who can find connections within their community,” said Garcia, who identifies as Black. “It can also open the door to changing perspectives and building friendships through new experiences and understanding.”
In addition, there’s a focus by Rdale Community Education on hiring instructors who better reflect the diversity of the community – something Garcia said she found important with respect to the afro hip-hop class she took part in.
“I don't think I would have enjoyed (the class) as much without Ranita (Bellanger) as the instructor,” Garcia said. “She is an amazing, welcoming, and genuine human being who brought so much positive energy to the class!”
Moving forward, Gittens said Rdale Community Education is also planning to offer exciting new engagement opportunities, such as excursions to culturally significant places in Minnesota, which will be led by community members. There’s also a plan to re-launch the Who Are our Neighbors event-series focusing on different cultures in our community.
“Our community is already diverse, and it’s also changing,” Gittens said. “It’s important to be a reflection of the community and that the community sees themselves reflected in our spaces, classes and instructors.”
Learn more about Rdale Community Education by visiting the program’s website. Check out the spring catalog for information about offerings.