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2021 Social Justice Leadership Award Winner Announced

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United Way Staff


In partnership with the 3M Open, Greater Twin Cities United Way recently presented Jessica Rogers with our Social Justice Leadership Award. Jessica is the Founder and Executive Director of Connections to Independence (C2i).

Connections to Independence (C2i) is a non-profit organization that established its 501(c)3 status in July of 2010. However, C2i began in 2002 as a program of Summit Academy OIC in North Minneapolis. Summit Academy exists to train low-income people for living-wage careers in construction and health care. Over the years, Summit added supportive educational programming that aimed to help children and young adults. Thus, the Connections Program was born.

Summit Academy created the Connections Program to address the high number of youth who were reconnecting with County services post emancipation but more so the youth of color who were in the foster care system. Summit Academy also launched the Connections Program as an attempt to improve the long-term outcomes of this population, specifically to reduce the number of foster care clients reconnecting with the system via incarceration, using homeless shelters, and having open child protection cases of their own.

Summit Academy OIC and Hennepin County collaborated to develop the Connections Program to address the lack of stability among youth placements and to prepare them for a successful transition to self-sufficiency and independent living. As a result, C2i still focuses on these original core components.
C2i is currently located in South Minneapolis in the Sabathani Community Center. Through its own establishment as a non-profit, C2i can further its mission and serve more youth in foster care.

Through Rogers’ leadership and collaboration with other nonprofits and foundations, the outcomes of the youth in the program have exceeded national outcomes. Thank you, Jessica, for being a social justice leader and community changemaker!

About the Author

Greater Twin Cities United Way unites changemakers, advocates for social good and develops solutions to address the challenges no one can solve alone to create a community where all people thrive. Together with our partners, we’re meeting immediate community needs while transforming inequitable systems in the areas of housing, food, education and jobs.

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