As we wrap up another school year, LeadMN is celebrating our successes from 2021 - 2022. From returning to in person events following the pandemic, to bringing students together from across the state to talk to legislators in Saint Paul and Washington D.C., it has been a successful year of growth and advocacy.

LeadMN visited 69 campuses and traveled over 4500 miles last year.
LeadMN visited 69 campuses and traveled over 4500 miles last year.

Here are some of our big wins from the past year:

1. 372 students attended LeadMN's conferences and events.

After a year and a half of all-virtual programming due to the Covid-19 pandemic, LeadMN returned to in person events for the 2021-2022 school year. Hundreds of students from across the state came together for leadership development, equity and inclusion trainings, networking, and of course - a little fun.

2. LeadMN did 69 campus visits, traveling over 4500 miles.

From Welcome Week to National Voter Registration Day to Campus Flu Clinics, LeadMN was all over talking with students about issues like college affordability, mental health and basic needs support, equity and inclusion, and more.

3. 30 campuses wrote action plans at the Minnesota Student Voter Summit.

At the Minnesota Student Voter Summit on April 22nd-23rd, 30 campuses from across the state drafted action plans to help students on their campuses get out to vote in the upcoming midterm election.

4. Over 7700 students participated in LeadMN's annual survey.

LeadMN's annual survey provides data that informs our advocacy efforts at the state capitol and in D.C. According to this year's survey, 90% students are struggling to pay for food, 42.5% have considered dropping out of school, and the top reasons students considered dropping out were emotional stress (33%), financial pressure (18%), Covid-19 (9%), and child or family care (8%).

5. LeadMN appeared in the media 51 times.

Over the past year, LeadMN appeared in the media 51 times. We were recognized for the ways we have supported students, and quoted as policy leaders and experts in the Minnesota higher education space.

6. LeadMN filed a lawsuit against Minnesota State to protect the organization's autonomy to make decisions that are in the best interest of students.

In spring 2022, LeadMN filed a lawsuit against Minnesota State, who denied students the ability to make the decision to increase their fee to fund greater resources and services from LeadMN. This was a critical step in holding the Board of Trustees accountable to those they are supposed to serve - the students.

Ali, David, and Priscilla show off food at the North Hennepin food pantry.
Ali, David, and Priscilla show off food from the North Hennepin food pantry. At each Hunger Free Campus ceremony, the team toured each campus's food pantry or distribution process.

7. Students sent 11,400 letters to elected officials in support of Free College and lowering tuition.

As part of LeadMN's advocacy efforts, students sent 11,400 letters to elected officials urging them to make college affordable. These letters led to the Minnesota House of Representatives passing a Free College Grant Program, and the federal government increasing the maximum Pell Grant.

8. LeadMN organized 18 Hunger Free Campus ceremonies.

LeadMN has led the way in Minnesota in terms of pushing for legislation that supports student basic needs and fights food insecurity. This year, we celebrated the successes of campuses who have created a food pantry or distribution process for their students.

group of students at the Martin Luther King Jr memorial in Washington D.C.
Students visited D.C. to advocate for college affordability, open educational resources, and basic needs support.

9. LeadMN distributed 81 scholarships, totaling $59,000, and awarded 50 emergency grants to students in need.

One of LeadMN's main priorities is getting financial resources directly to students to help them fund their education and cost of living. Each year, we give away tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, and offer smaller grants to students facing extenuating circumstances who need the extra funds. Our annual gala, generous donations from community members and alumni, and silent auction all help to fund these awards to students. Additionally, LeadMN Treasurer Marcelus Ifonlaja launched two new fundraising endeavors through the LeadMN hoodies and volunteering at Target Field, which have brought even more money to these critical programs.

10. Won a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant in Washington D.C.

Dozens of students traveled to Washington D.C. at the D.C. Summit to speak with Minnesota's congressional district about college affordability. This resulted in Congress passing legislation to increase the the maximum yearly Pell Grant by $400, the largest increase in over ten years.

11. Secured $11 million in expanded funding for Open Educational Resources (OERs).

After lobbying in Washington D.C. and sharing student stories about the burdensome cost of textbooks, Congress passed a spending bill that expanded funding for OERs to $11 million, a $4 million increase from last year.

12. LeadMN advocated to make student basic needs a priority of the federal government, resulting in $8 million for competitive grants to colleges.

These grants will "support programs that address the basic needs of students and report on best practices," and is part of the $76 million spending bill for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

Image of Ali with quote reading "In the last year, enrollment has significantly decreased, and college promise programs like HF 4449 have proven successful at boosting enrollment. Passing this bill would help low-income and returning students."
Ali Tomashek testified in support of HF 4449.

13. LeadMN launched a basic needs resources webpage and toolkit.

For students in need, there are several local, state, and national resources - but these can be challenging to track down. LeadMN created a centralized resource for student basic needs to help ease the process.

14. LeadMN students testified 12 times in front of committees in the Minnesota legislature.

LeadMN student leaders testified in support of free college, mental health support, basic needs resources, and more.

15. LeadMN student advocacy led to a free college grant proposal in the Minnesota House of Representatives and $1 million in student mental health support.

Though LeadMN's legislative priorities did not pass the Minnesota Senate, student testimony garnered support in the Minnesota House of Representatives and multiple bills passed.