“Try to work within existing programs instead of creating new ones” was the input of city manager Rick Getschow. The reason? The city’s budget “goes mainly towards public safety and parks and recreation,” and is “severely limited in the social services area” explained the mayor. Practical as they may initially seem, those arguments, when put in context of the reality of our students’ conditions, become invalid and useless. Currently, the city is investing $1.6 million to renovate Round Lake Park outside of Eden Prairie High School and across the street from the Eden Prairie Community Center. Somali students, including the ones in Eden Prairie High, do not go to this park nor do they go to the community center. Since most Somali-American students do not live within walking distance of the park and cannot afford the transportation, they do not go there, meaning that the $1.6 million used to renovate the park does not reach them. The $40 monthly fee for the community center explains why this is another territory they do not approach as well. It’s ironic that money has to be a prerequisite to be a part of one’s own “community”. Twice a day, our students ride past the park and the community center in their school buses knowing that, due to their disadvantaged socio-economic status, they are shunned from them. Instead they play basketball at Nesbitt Park, the one close to where most of them live. It does not have water fountains. But somehow Round Lake Park is in more need of renovations, the city thinks. The Somali-American students of Eden Prairie live in the city but do not enjoy the best that it has to offer. While their peers live the splendid life associated with their city, our students, behind their school bus windows, only watch.
The city of Eden Prairie may have thought that our students were resigned to the unfair treatment they receive because of their poverty, but today at the city hall meeting, the city was proven wrong. In numbers, Somali-American students came to the meeting and sat facing the mayor and watched as she still refused to take direct action to help uplift them. The mayor did this while looking them right in the eye. And maybe they would have been less discontent about her callous dismissal of their needs had she had been more confident of which department and individual she was advising them to approach for help. If the mayor has no clue what department she is sending someone to, how can she be so adamant that this department is equipped with the appropriate resources to help that person’s cause?
Today, our students were given proof that their mayor seems to have forgotten that it is her duty to serve their needs as equal citizens of this city. When she ran for office, these kids’ parents supported her and gave her their vote. She came knocking on the door of our community and we swung it wide open and received her with welcoming arms. Yesterday and today when we went knocking on her door, we learned the hard way that what we have done for her was, in fact, in vain. As law-abiding taxpayers of the city of Eden Prairie, we at Ka Joog Nonprofit Organization will not be ignored. We will continue to fight until we receive the support we were promised as members of the Somali-American community. The mayor needs to understand that when Ka Joog came to meet with her it was not to beg for charity; we came demanding that which the children of our community deserve—her support—and which she would not give them.