Takoda Worked for Joshua!

Takoda Works helped Joshua find a job and gain momentum for his future.
Felicia Sherrod, Recruitment & Marketing Specialist

In December 2018 Joshua A. began working with Shirleen and Samantha in the Minneapolis Youth Works program.

“I had a lot of struggle and I was tired of going through the same things over and over again.”

Shirleen and Samantha worked with Joshua to create a plan that helped Josh see how he could succeed and the steps to take to get there.

“I was set up with clothing and transportation assistance which was the biggest help, at first. Shirleen told me about Job Corps so I enrolled.”

Joshua has since earned a Data Entry and Technology certification and has gotten a job making the money that he needs to afford an apartment. Joshua will begin working on a college degree this fall at Saint Paul College where he will study Sports Science.

“What I plan to do is finish in that program and go on to work in fitness and sports medicine inspiring people to get fit and healthy. I thank Sam and Shirleen for making me feel like I have family out here.”











Jennifer’s Presentation Shares Culture and Builds Confidence

Takoda GED student, Jennifer, shared her stories and led a book discussion to volunteers at the Navigation Center

 “Aaniin niiji, Hello Friends, Nii baa wii sii ikwe, Jennifer Goggleye-Thomson, niin nindizhinikaz. Gaa-zagaskwaaji me kaag, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Cha Cha banig Inger.

I am a Pueblo/ Ojibwe from Leech Lake, a mother of 6 children and also a grandmother of 4. I have been advocating for my 6 children in different school systems including Special Education. I have been working with Amaze Works for about 4 years as a Persona Doll Producer as well as an office assistant. I am also enrolled as a student at the American Indian OIC to pursue my educational goals.”

This is how Jennifer introduced herself to an audience eager to learn about the Native perspective. Through her dedication and work with Takoda GED staff, Jennifer gained the confidence to present to a public audience.

Jennifer’s GED teacher, Sára, helped her prepare and arrange this presentation. “I arranged this speaking engagement for Jennifer to talk to the volunteers serving at the Navigation Center in order to represent the Native perspective. We prepared for weeks to give birth to her project that she presented to 20 people.  She was wonderful; she is an engaging story-teller. I am extremely proud of her as I know how difficult it was for her to talk to a non-Native audience about Native struggles of drug use, homelessness, alcoholism, and suicide. She was able to contextualize it in the framework of Ignitia Broker’s novel ‘Night Flying Woman’ as well as through the lens of genocide, ethno

cide, and ecocide that had devastated Indian Country. She addressed historical, complex trauma, racism, and ethnocentrism that Native/Indigenous people still face on a regular basis.”












Takoda GED Student Publishes Personal Essay

Fartun, a student at Takoda GED, is now a published author!

Elizabeth Bennett

Fartun enrolled in the Takoda GED program last summer.  She had already earned her high school diploma, and she wanted to keep working towards her goal of becoming a social worker.  Before enrolling in college, she needed to increase her proficiency in academic English and raise her Accuplacer test scores.  Fartun had tried other adult education programs, but she preferred Takoda GED because of the individual attention she received from the staff and volunteers.  Fartun attended our program for an impressive 400+ hours until she began courses at Saint Paul College in January.

While working in our classroom, Fartun wrote a moving essay about her personal hero, her grandmother, Faiza.   Her teacher suggested that she submit it for publication in Journeys, the Minnesota Literacy Council’s anthology of writing by adult students.  Fartun’s essay was accepted, and she is now a published author!

Fartun will read her essay at a special event at the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul on Tuesday, April 30 at 7:00 PM.  All are welcome to attend by registering here. Note that museum admission is FREE on Tuesdays after 3 PM.  Exhibits include Minnesota’s Greatest Generation, Then Now Wow, and Grainland.  The special exhibit Somalis + Minnesota is open through June 9.


More information about Journeys, including how to purchase your own copy, is available at https://mnliteracy.org/journeys.


Takoda GED is Open to All Adult Learners

Did you know that Takoda GED offers educational opportunities for adults who already have a high school diploma or GED?

Here are some ways that we could help you…yes, YOU!

Prepare for postsecondary training.

Takoda Institute (as well as many other postsecondary programs) requires all students to take the TABE test in reading and math. Some programs have minimum required scores for enrollment. We can help you review or relearn skills so you can raise your scores and enroll in the program of your choice.

Study for the Accuplacer.

All Minnesota State colleges and universities administer the Accuplacer placement test to incoming students. Higher scores on the Accuplacer can help you save time and money by allowing you to “test out” of lower-level reading, writing, or math courses. Our teachers and tutors will work with you to develop a stronger foundation in literacy and math concepts so you can feel truly ready to begin college.

Explore careers and get ready for employment.

Takoda GED offers a no-cost employment readiness workshop every Monday. Workshop topics include setting goals, getting organized, identifying your transferable skills, crafting resumes and cover letters, handling stress, and managing money. We have a full-time academic and career Navigator on staff to help you find your path to professional success. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ll help you learn about careers that interest you.

Get computer-savvy.

Forgot your email password? Can’t type with more than two fingers? Don’t know the difference between a Word doc and a spreadsheet? You are not alone! We will meet you where you are and help you gain confidence performing everyday tasks with computers. We also offer the opportunity to earn Northstar Digital Literacy certificates in areas such as Windows, Microsoft Word and Excel, Social Media, and Information Literacy.

Help your kids with their homework.

Maybe “new math” gives you a headache, reading aloud to your kids is a struggle, or you’re stumped by their science or social studies questions. All three Takoda GED teachers are licensed K-12 educators who are happy to help with homework issues. As an extra bonus, we can provide coupons for discounted admission to the Science Museum of Minnesota!

Become more involved with your community.

We regularly read about and discuss current events that affect you and your community. Learn how you can make a difference on issues that matter to you.

To learn more about Takoda GED and enroll, contact Sára Kaiser at sarak@takoda.org or 612-341-3358 x153.

Jennifer’s GED Goals Inspire Multiple Generations

Jennifer enrolled in Takoda GED to advance her career and inspire her children and grandchildren to do the same.

Ivy Estenson

Jennifer, an Ojibwe and Pueblo student from New Mexico enrolled in Takoda GED after her husband passed away. She decided that she no longer wanted to live in depression after mourning the loss of her husband, who was the leader and motivator of her family of six.

Jennifer was working part time as an Administrative Assistant and was working with an employment counselor who kept telling her, “have you gone to check out Takoda yet?”

“One day I just woke up after putting it off for three months and asked myself, ‘what am I going to do today?’ I must be a productive role model for my grandbabies and kids, so that they can see me doing something,” says Jennifer.

Here, we are family and we are connected because we all want the same thing – growth, knowledge and to be able to provide for our families.

That day, Jennifer enrolled in Takoda GED and attends at least 40 hours a week, when she’s not working or sick. What’s helped her stick with it, she says, is the support she receives from the staff and the Native elders who work at Takoda. “With the staff, it’s not just about school and the programs. They really care about you and do what they can to support you. The Native elders that I see around here make me feel like I am at home. All communities need our elders to guide us. To see them working here is something that you don’t see in a lot of places.” Jennifer said.

According to Jennifer, what makes Takoda special is how it ties Native cultural practices while simultaneously welcoming people from all backgrounds. “We don’t shy away from our cultural practices like smudging. Burning sage is spiritual and helps a lot of people get through tough days and times. Now I see all different kinds of people coming in here smudging. I love that we are really a community that welcomes everyone. I have been to other organizations where you know that you are only allowed in so far. Here, we are family and we are connected because we all want the same thing – growth, knowledge and to be able to provide for our families.”

Why Takoda GED?

It’s true that many Metro-area schools and organizations offer no-cost GED preparation, but Takoda GED is unique.
We’re flexible.

Takoda GED is a drop-in program.  We don’t have traditionally scheduled classes with mandatory attendance.  This means that YOU are in charge of when you study.  We understand that you have a lot going on in your life and that your schedule might be different each week—even each day!  As long as the building is open (almost all weekdays from 9 am to 4:30 pm), you are welcome in our classroom.  We strongly encourage our students to set a regular schedule, but we also know that life happens.  If you have to take time off, we will be happy to see you when you return.

We’re small.

Takoda GED is a “one-room schoolhouse” within American Indian OIC.  You won’t have to walk into a huge building, go up flights of stairs, or search for the right room in a maze of hallways.  You won’t have a different teacher or need to worry about different expectations for each class.  All of our students work on all subjects at all levels together in one classroom.  You won’t get lost here!

We welcome everybody.

Though Takoda is based in a Native organization, all are welcome to receive education, training, and employment services. Takoda GED is no different. In fact, many non-Native students tell staff they enjoy learning about Native culture and traditions, and Native students enjoy experiencing the various cultures of their fellow classmates.

We get to know you.

Takoda GED staff and volunteers almost always work with students one-on-one.  We know that all students and their circumstances are unique, so we don’t expect everyone to work towards their GED the same way.  When you enroll in our program, we take the time to talk with you and learn about your past experiences and future goals.  We use what you tell us to create a study plan that is personalized just for you.

We care about your opinions.

What do you think?  Your ideas matter here.  Our teachers work to find information and create assignments that are interesting and meaningful to you.  A few of the issues we’ve covered lately include opioid use, the Navigation Center for residents of the Franklin Hiawatha Encampment, the importance of voting and the Minneapolis 2040 plan.  If there’s a topic you want to learn about, let us know!

We help you with academic content as well as other issues that get in the way.

Reading, writing, and math probably aren’t the only challenges you’ve ever faced.  We know that our students also want to enter living-wage employment, pursue higher education, care for their children and families, use computers with confidence, have safe and stable housing, manage their money effectively, and achieve good physical and mental health.  Although our staff and volunteers aren’t experts in all of these areas, we will work with you to look for resources and solutions.  Sometimes you might just need some food or a little caffeine…so we provide free coffee and snacks!

We help you figure out where to go next… and give you the individual support you need to actually get there.

Earning your GED is important, but it won’t be the end of your journey.  We work with many students who already have a GED or high school diploma to help them prepare for their next steps.  We can connect you to other programs within American Indian OIC, like employment services and training for in-demand careers at the Takoda Institute.  We’re also happy to help you figure out how to apply to college, prepare for tests like the Accuplacer, or explore other options that will meet your education or employment plan.

In short, if you’re ready to commit to working towards your goals, Takoda GED is committed to helping you reach them.  Contact our Navigator, Sára Kaiser, at sarak@takoda.org or 612-341-3358 to enroll now.

GED “Lunch and Learn” gives students a broader learning experience

GED develop useful soft skills as they discuss pressing topics with classmates

In addition to regular class time and tutoring hours, Takoda GED offers a “Lunch and Learn” session three times a week where students form a talking circle and discuss topics regarding current events and curriculum.  

This is a way to incorporate Native teaching practices as well as allow students to explore and discuss topics that interest them. So far, some topics discussed have been:  

Current events: 

  • Controversial Halloween costumes 
  • Reasons people don’t or can’t vote 
  • Voter ID requirements 
  • Violence against Native women 
  • California wildfires 
  • Changes to Metro Transit routes 
  • Navigation Center for Hiawatha encampment 
  • Harm reduction models for helping opioid users 


  • Reading infographics 
  • Using algebraic expressions to describe patterns 
  • Mosaic art with fractions, decimals, and percentages 

 Takoda GED’s Lunch and Learn sessions have helped students develop soft skills like critical thinking, discussion, and conflict resolution, as well as relationship development. 

 Annessia Swann, Director of Takoda GED

Takoda GED featured on Minnesota Public Radio

Excerpts and images from Minnesota Public Radio.
Brandt Williams, Reporting
Caroline Yang, Photographs

High school dropouts try to get back in the game

For many, GED certificates are the ticket into the workforce or higher education that they didn’t punch in high school. …Minnesota ranks near the bottom of states when it comes to the on-time graduation rates for students of color.

Most high school dropouts in the state are white, reflecting the makeup of the state’s student population, but the trends among students of color are especially troubling when compared to their peers throughout the nation. By one measure, they didn’t get much help. MPR News found Minnesota ranks dead last in the portion of education money that schools spend on counselors and other support staff who can intervene in the lives of failing students.


Young people likely to drop out often show signs of trouble before reaching high school, said researcher Robert Balfanz, a leading scholar on graduation rates at Johns Hop

kins University.

They might miss school or get in trouble in class or fail a course, he said. “Initially maybe it’s one course, and soon it’s a couple courses.”

Balfanz said school staff should measure what he calls the ABCs: attendance, behavior and course failure. Schools can improve graduation rates by focusing on freshmen whose middle school records raise red flags in these areas, he said.

And while students of color, who are more likely to be poor, have a weaker record of graduating on time than white students, Balfanz said focusing only on race and poverty is not the answer.

The bottom line, he said, is that all students need to earn enough credits to graduate.

“And to earn credits, you have to pass your classes,” Balfanz said. “And to pass your classes you have to be there. And you have to get your work done. And by focusing on those mechanisms we’re focusing on the mechanisms that most directly impact whether you graduate or not.”

…In 2009, researchers at Northeastern University in Boston dropped this statistical bombshell: 16- to 24-year-old male dropouts were getting locked up at a rate 63 times higher than the rate for young men with college degrees. The study also found that, on any given day, nearly a quarter of all young black male high school dropouts in that same age group are in jails, prisons or juvenile detention facilities. That is more than three times the rate for Asian, Hispanic and white dropouts.


That’s expensive. A 2013 report from the Council on Black Minnesotans found that state taxpayers spend more than $48,000 per prison inmate per year, just less than a year of tuition at Carleton College, the highest tuition in the state.





Alyssa’s Story


Alyssa Graves’ path to the GED program at the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center in Minneapolis started at Roosevelt High School and wound through several years of heroin use, school-hopping and homelessness.

The classes at Roosevelt felt too big to Graves. The school had counselors available, but Graves said she wasn’t in the right frame of mind to concentrate on school. She soon fell behind. “It was just too much with the big classrooms,” she said. “Once you missed one class, you fall behind. That’s pretty much where it was. When you miss a day, you have to keep going. That’s where my struggle was.”

During her sophomore year, Graves left Roosevelt and started attending the American Indian OIC’s alternative high school, Takoda Prep. She liked it and was doing well there because the classes were small and she got more individual attention. But Graves’ family moved to another part of the city and she was forced to change schools — twice.

“I wish I would have stayed at OIC,” she said. “I probably would have finished.”

Graves dropped out of that last high school. Her heroin habit turned into a full-fledged addiction. Soon, she was also homeless.

She stopped using drugs three years ago, when she found out she was pregnant. After her son, Aden, was born, Graves decided it was time to go back to school and get her diploma. At 23, she’s taking classes and studying for the GED tests.

Graves’ parents never finished high school. Her mom got pregnant with her at 15. Graves’ father was 18. He dropped out of school in order to find work and support the family; Graves is the oldest of four kids.

“Just like I’d seen my dad struggle with us, I don’t want to have to go through that,” said Graves. “I want to finish school, get a good job, so I can support my son. So he can have a good life.”

After she gets her GED certificate, Graves wants to get a degree and work as a drug counselor. She wants to help young people who are experiencing the same problems she went through as a teenager.

“I want to be able to be a drug counselor because I know how it is. I know how it feels. I know it’s hard,” she said. “The first few times it’s about getting high, but you get to the point where you need it to be normal. That’s what it got to me for. And I’m just thankful I found out I was pregnant. He changed my life.”

Read and listen to the complete MPR story here.