• Of the more than 30,000 kids growing up in poverty in Minneapolis, fewer than 3,000 are currently on a path to college.

  • Teach For America corps members and alumni are part of a growing community effort to put 15,000 low-income students on a path to college by 2020.

About Twin Cities

A Teacher’s Story

“The Right to Have a Fair Chance: Brown v. Board of Education.” “Human Rights Violations During the Rwandan Genocide.” “Segregation in South Africa: Nelson Mandela’s Story.” These titles represent a few examples of the History Day projects Justine Bjergo’s high school students presented at the second annual Metro Schools History Day competition in March.

Having trained as a social studies teacher in college, Justine joined Teach For America because she knew she wanted to teach in a low-income community and would benefit from the added support the program provides.

Last year, Justine brought History Day to Metro Schools in Minneapolis for the first time. Justine had volunteered as a Minnesota History Day judge in college and had learned how the competition opened doors of opportunity for participating students through college scholarships and exposure to valuable research skills.

She also noticed that participation in History Day seemed limited to students from more affluent communities with well-resourced International Baccalaureate programs. Metro had only 25 computers for their 170 students, and limited transportation options for students staying after school to work on projects.

But that didn’t stop Justine, who wanted her students—the majority of whom are recent immigrants and refugees from countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen—to experience the level of rigor expected of History Day scholars.

“Students are staying after school every day to prepare for regionals. They love the competitive aspect of History Day,” says Justine, who makes regular trips to the craft store to buy project supplies for her students, and has organized Saturday trips to the Minneapolis Central Library, where History Day staff and librarians help students with research.

“I wanted to give students the freedom to choose topics they are excited about, which has really increased their engagement—and confidence—in class.”

Justine is a Teach For America corps member—one of 72 dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for students growing up in low-income communities across the Twin Cities.


About the Twin Cities Region

While Minnesota ranks among the top states on a wide variety of livability measures, including overall educational attainment, student achievement results indicate that our state suffers from massive disparities in educational outcomes by race and class. In 2011, for example, Minnesota’s four-year high school graduation rate ranked 49th out of 50 states among black or African American students—and was 50th among Latino and American Indian students (U.S. Department of Education, 2012).

Our vision is that by 2020, we can ensure 15,000 more low-income students of color in the Twin Cities are in transformational classrooms that will put them on a path of expanded opportunities.  We know the critical ingredient is leadership—in classrooms, at great schools, at the school district level, and as citizens and policymakers shaping the public discussion. Corps members and nearly 500 local alumni are part of a growing movement of leaders working to ensure that all Twin Cities kids have access to a great education.

Connect With Us

401 2nd Avenue North, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Tel (612) 333-1158
Fax (612) 333-9952

Executive Director

Crystal Brakke
Crystal Brakke, a Minnesota native, began her career with Teach For America in 1999 as a corps member in Eastern North Carolina where she taught 8th grade language arts.

Crystal Brakke, a Minnesota native, began her career with Teach For America in 1999 as an 8th grade language arts teacher in rural North Carolina.

Her motivation to become a teacher stemmed from her experiences in public schools throughout the Twin Cities as a student and volunteer. As a teacher, her students earned the highest reading comprehension results in the county and she learned the importance of community and personal relationships in providing students—and also their teachers—a  network of support. Determined to ensure all students experience success and joy in school and believing teachers are a critical component of that success, she led recruitment and training programs across Teach For America from 2001 until 2012. Most recently, she was a vice president of teacher preparation, support, and development, and was responsible for the summer training for more than 3,000 new teachers across the country each year. She became the executive director of Teach For America in the Twin Cities in November 2012 out of a desire to work towards social change and educational justice here at home.

Crystal is a 1999 graduate of Colby College and received an Ed. M. in education policy and management in 2006 from Harvard University, where she was awarded one of  two Leadership in Education awards.

Regional Stats

Incoming Corps Size This Year
Data valid as of: Aug 2013