Since 2019, Change Inc. has partnered with The Cultural Wellness Center to be a part of its mission of unleashing the power of people to heal themselves and build community. Initially starting with a collaboration on building the Rites of Passage program facilitated by Change Inc.'s Director of Community Solutions, Corey Byrd, it has most recently evolved to include a 15 CEU course in supervision focused on how culture affects one's work as a supervisor.
From Race to Culture in the Supervision of Therapeutic Practice is a 15-hour class facilitated in partnership with the Cultural Wellness Center that engages participants in the process of cultural self-discovery in service to their ability to mentor and support their future supervisees in a similar approach. The course addresses contextual factors of race, ethnicity, and culture. It considers the dynamics of power and privilege that impact the therapeutic and supervisory relationship.
The Cultural Wellness Center is based in Minneapolis and has been in existence since 1996. Throughout its years, it has aided the community in recovering the culture of Black people in America and the work of standing firm in that humanity and human experiences are for everyone.
An instructor of From Race to Culture in the Supervision of Therapeutic Practice, Elder Atum Azzahir, is the founder and Executive Director of the Cultural Wellness Center. It is truly her life's work. Azzahir says, "I see myself as dedicating the work of the Cultural Wellness Center to Black people as we reclaim our heritage and culture and really push ourselves out into freedom, as opposed to waiting for freedom to be given to us."
The second instructor of the From Race to Culture in the Supervision of Therapeutic Practice course is Minkara Tezet, Griot of Psychology and Psychiatry of the Cultural Wellness Center. Minkara started his work at the Cultural Wellness Center ten years ago as a fellow due to his own need for cultural recovery and was taught by the Elders of the Cultural Wellness Center. He says his work is to learn how to tell the story of people of African heritage, the life they've been forced to develop in our society, and how it's impacted the psychology of their minds, bodies, and spirits.
Change Inc. started its partnership with the Cultural Wellness Center through its relationship with the Council for Black Male Success. A leader for Council for Black Male Success, Change Inc.'s Corey Byrd, formed a relationship with Elder Atum, and brainstorming of how the two organizations could collaborate on healing efforts began. After some time, members of both the Cultural Wellness Center and Change Inc. worked together to ponder what it meant for Change Inc. to not only be a place where culturally-specific work can happen but to actually create avenues and strategies where people could create and promote the idea of all cultural beings. According to Tezet, "All cultural people need a place where they can study themselves, study their culture, and see the impact that it's having on their work.
So, just as Change Inc.'s own Change Institute offers courses and training to community members and students, the Cultural Wellness Center aims to provide complimentary offerings. As part of certification to become a Marriage and Family Therapist or Licensed Professional Counselor, 45 hours of training in supervision are needed, with 15 of those hours dedicated to cultural competency and cultural diversity. Change Institute offers the first 30 hours, and the Cultural Wellness Center instructs the final 15 hours in cultural diversity and inclusion training.
In working with Change Inc.'s Executive Director, Jody Nelson, and Change Inc.'s Training Coordinator, Nick Krause, the Cultural Wellness Center was able to see this concept of coaching and doing their own training courses that could fit in very closely with the training and certification that Change Inc was already providing.
Because science and medicine mainly come from Western culture, one of the goals of this course is for participants to look at themselves and reflect on whether or not their past learnings have been restoring of themselves. Do they separate themselves as a therapist from their true selves? If they are divided internally, bringing a holistic approach with them will be challenging as they begin to work with other people who are also separated and looking for support.
Elder Atum says, "the feedback we have gotten on the course gives us great encouragement. I think that the concept of culture, because it's so new to many people of European heritage, they're the first to say, 'I don't have culture.' But, in these sessions, people study themselves to see where culture has actually informed everything they've done."
She says that in their sessions, they see people beginning to learn and unlearn the things that relate to culture for them. "And that, to us, is a competency. It's a skill. It's a very important foundation for the work that they're trying to do to heal others," says Elder Atum.
What's unique about this course is that this is the only course on this topic. The Cultural Wellness Center fully developed the curriculum. They have experience developing curricula for all the organizations they work with. They are undeniably a knowledge production, curriculum, research, and development organization.
Tezet and Elder Atum believe Change Inc. is the perfect partnership because the Cultural Wellness Center specializes in alternative ways of knowing, learning, and teaching. Change Inc. provides proven alternative teaching modalities and methods. Together, they can prove that the alternative is legitimate and that culture is knowledge and knowledge is power.
From Race to Culture in the Supervision of Therapeutic Practice has been offered three times since its conception, with another offering of the course set for later this year.
Meet Mohammed Bati, a former GAP School student. At 23 years old, he has lived in the United States for less than five years. He and his family immigrated to America from Ethiopia in 2018. Making a new home with his family in St. Paul, Mohammed began his first two years of American schooling at Highland Park Senior High School. He then came to GAP School to complete his last two years of high school.
GAP School was able to provide a multitude of opportunities to Mohammed. He became a part of the Healthcare Career Pathway program, where he learned about the different career routes available after graduation. This program piqued his interest in pursuing nursing as a future career.
But what makes Mohammed unique is his success as a competitive runner. He began running at just eight years old when he was still living in Ethiopia. While Mohammed says he doesn’t necessarily run for fun, he loves the competitive aspect of the sport. And it shows — he came in third place in the 2021 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon while still a student at GAP School! In fact, his biggest goal is to run in the Olympics one day.
In the process of training and competing, he has developed a strong sense of discipline and self-control. His hard work paid off, and he was accepted to Augsburg College, where he is on the cross-country running team. As only a freshman, Mohammed won his first four collegiate races by more than 12 seconds each. He broke the school record at Augsburg for the 8,000-meter cross-country distance and won the MIAC Championship race. In November of last year, he placed seventh overall at the NCAA North Regional and earned a spot at the NCAA Men’s Division III National Championships in Lansing, Michigan. Mohammed was the first Auggie to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships since 2012.
About his time at GAP School, Mohammed says, “They [GAP School] supported me in a different way, in education and also with financial help, and were really encouraging for school. They supported me in a good way.” Mohammed was an exceptional student during his time at GAP School. Healthcare Pathway Manager, Erika Thurston, detailed an example of his commitment to schooling. She said that during the height of COVID, Mohammed lived in his family’s garage to avoid becoming infected by an outbreak within his family. He attended school entirely online from his car. “Mohammed didn’t have any prior formal education before coming to America. He worked so hard,” says Thurston.
GAP School also exposed Mohammed to different career pathways he could pursue after high school. Through his experience as a part of the Healthcare Career Pathway, he became interested in the medical field and helping people. He is now Pre-Nursing at Augsburg College.
Mohammed says his goal is to continue to stick to his education and to run good times in his races. Mohammed’s favorite part about running is that it is the same in every culture and is a good way to meet people. When asked about the most significant difference between high school education and college education, Mohammed said, “Going to college means, for me, knowing yourself, where you’re at, and the way you learn. Also, you get a lot of different experiences and learn about yourself. You must study hard.”
Between his full-time studies and running year-round, Mohammed certainly has a lot on his plate. On top of this, he is still relatively new to the U.S. and is learning to navigate the language and customs. We hope Mohammed’s story is an example to all our students of what is possible through hard work, passion, and determination. Through it all, he continues to succeed and make GAP School proud to call him a former student.
Carlo LaManna, 97, is a long-time donor to GAP School and Change Inc. and a proud West Sider from Saint Paul. He and his late wife, Virginia LaManna, had eleven children and were married 74 years before her passing in 2020. Together, they created The Carlo and Virginia LaManna Fund of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation to give back to their beloved West Side of Saint Paul community.
Prior to founding GAP School in St. Paul’s West Side neighborhood, Sister Giovanni taught religion classes to Mr. LaManna’s children at Archbishop Brady High School. When Sister Giovanni started Guadalupe Alternative Programs in 1967, Carlo remained connected to her and GAP School, and, in turn, Change Inc. Over the years, Mr. LaManna has given charitably to our organization. We recognize his generosity that has helped many youth and young adults through our program offerings and school services through GAP School.
Because of Mr. LaManna’s relationship with Sister Giovanni, Change Inc. continues to feel the impact of his generosity year after year, most recently during our 2022 Annual Appeal. When asked what keeps him donating to GAP School, Mr. LaManna replied that he does it for the children in need.
Thank you, Mr. LaManna, for continuing to support our mission of utilizing the power of relationships and community to create educational, training, and healing opportunities for children, youth, young adults, and families so they can achieve their highest ambition.