December Newsletter: We Had a Whale of a Year 🐳

Letter from the Executive Director


Recently, one of the board members of MOI introduced me to the concept of a “mission moment.” This is a moment in which the mission of our organization is illuminated and exemplified. MOI just went through a process of revising our mission statement, so I thought this would be a good time to share our new mission, and the moments in which that mission is lived out every day in our organization. MOI’s new mission statement is:

MOI is a nonprofit organization that empowers underserved K–12 students to think creatively, write effectively, and succeed academically alongside a community of caring volunteers.

Coming to a consensus on a mission statement is hard—but incredibly important—work. This statement will guide and ground us as we make some major transitions over the next year and move our center, expand our programs, and grow our staff and volunteer base.

And as we wind down our programs for the semester, our mission is very much alive.

I witnessed our mission in action last week at our chapbook release party, when students from After-School Homework Help read their writing from the semester. Students were empowered to read their creative works such as “Bat Cat Alien” and were met with a captive audience of families and volunteers. I witnessed it at a Storytelling & Bookmaking Field Trip earlier today in which 3rd-grade students giggled in delight as they were met with positive praise from our (usually grumpy) Captain for writing effectively. I witnessed our students succeeding academically earlier this semester when a 4th grader mastered multiplication with a tutor, then went on to write, “confidence smells like victory in my mouth.”

Finally, I witnessed our mission thriving when volunteer author Danez Smith delivered a poetry workshop to our Young Authors’ Book Project 5th graders earlier this week. Slowly, all the side chatter stopped as students saw a poet speak their experience back to them in a way that was raw, real, and sometimes hilarious. A caring adult from the community had taken the time to invest in the students’ development as writers and to answer questions about their love for Beyoncé. (Danez says they have never missed a show.)

Do you have a mission moment you’ve experienced at MOI recently? If so, share it—with us, on your social media, or with your friends and family this holiday season. These moments are the wind in our sails as we move into the new year, mission-driven and ready for 2018.

Wishing you joyous holidays and a happy new year,

Porthole into Programming

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The best thing about being a part of the MOI crew is not what we get to teach, but what we earn the privilege to learn from our students. Below is a short reflection on one day in the Young Authors’ Book Project classroom from our Program Director, Cross:

“A student I get to work with, who happens to be a selective mute, spoke to me. Out loud. In sentences. Very softly at first, like a breathy whisper of someone trying not to irritate their laryngitis. But then, as I nodded and treated it like the perfectly normal conversation it was, he started to get a little louder. His diaphragm pushed his opinions up and out of his mouth calmly and confidently. He stopped looking around for who might be listening and started talking to a person who absolutely was.

He told me all about how tiger cubs deserve to be free. That these ‘little, striped babies’ need their own tiger mothers to grow into real hunting tigers. That no human can ever raise a tiger the way it was born to be raised because we ‘can't even hold them right.’

‘So, you see Cross,’ he says to me, ‘zoos are unethical because once you are inside one you can never be with your mother again. You can never be free.’

I think that I have to stop going to zoos now because of his 5th grade persuasive letter. I wonder what he'll teach me next week.”

As MOI prepares to close out the first semester of our programming year, we wonder: What have our students taught you? Our staff would love to hear your anecdotes! We also hope to host our first-ever series of focus group conversations this January and would love to hear your reflections and feedback as we trim the sails and chart a course for next semester!

In the News

Join Us!

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As you may know, MOI is made possible by all the people who dedicate their time and resources to helping us thrive. We want to take some time today to thank our board. In particular, our board chair, Kathy Thomforde, was recently named a Nonprofit Board Member of the Year finalist for the Minnesota Business Magazine’s 2018 Community Impact Awards. Kathy works tirelessly for MOI and is one of our strongest advocates.

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“MOI gives kids the chance (and thespace) to tell their stories, and telling a story can change the course of a life.” —author Kate DiCamillo

As a literary organization, MOI is always pleased to receive praise from authors. This year, we've worked with and received support from many authors, including Kate DiCamillo, Marlon James, and Jon Scieszka. Together, they've contributed over $10,000 to MOI. Help match their enthusiasm with your own support today.

Student Spotlight

"Untitled" by Rihanna

I have a bow
The snow is really low
I go and play in the snow
My toes feel like freezing cold
I towed my car
I am a co
The wind blows really heavy.

Thankful Turtles!

Thanks for your kelp! This November, MOI participated in Give to the Max Day, Minnesota's largest day of giving. With the help of our generous donors, we raised over $22,000! We'd like to thank the following oceanographers for their support: