Twin Cities Companies Donate $1M to Support Innovative Approach to Distance Learning for Black and Minority Students



Several hundred young Black and minority students will receive distance learning support at ‘learning pods’ through the North Star Network, an initiative of the African American Community Response Team and Summit Academy. The learning pods are located at local churches and community centers and will feature tutoring, enrichment experiences and other support to make distance learning more effective in a school year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


“The corporate leadership on this issue is amazing. They have stepped up to ensure that more children have access to the educational supports needed to become productive adults,” said Louis King, CEO, Summit Academy and coordinator of the learning pod effort. “The research shows that children who are out of class for extended periods of time lose productivity and earning power over their entire lifetime. This effort demonstrates the commitment to ensuring they grow up to become productive workers, parents and citizens.”


The learning pods will include Chromebooks, Internet access, and instruction for up to 50 students at each location. Tutors will be available to provide instruction in math and reading and other subjects, and quiet areas will be available for silent, sustained reading. Free meals, outdoor activities, enrichment experiences and mental health support will be provided to supplement study time.


Andersen Corporate Foundation, Securian Financial, U.S. Bank and Xcel Energy are providing the more than $1 million initial funding for the pods. North Star Network hopes to raise $2 million to expand the program.  The YMCA of the North is fiscal sponsor and operating partner.


Andersen Windows/Andersen Corporate Foundation

“As schools do everything they can to adapt programming to safely educate students, we know many students will need additional support to succeed,” said Jay Lund, chairman and CEO of Andersen Corporation and Andersen Corporate Foundation board member. “The North Star Network will provide essential technology, resources and tutoring to students in communities already impacted by deep-rooted educational and economic disparities. By investing in these community-led efforts, we will help create an innovative learning ecosystem to nurture young learners and tackle systemic inequity.”


Securian Financial

“We are committed to helping bring down barriers to equitable education in our communities,” said Chris Hilger, Chairman, President and CEO, Securian Financial. “Too many parents are unable to pay for additional educational assistance for their children. These learning pods can help fill the gap, and we are proud to help support this effort.”


U.S. Bank

“We have a responsibility in our community to address social and economic inequities before the gap becomes too wide to bridge,” said Andy Cecere, chairman, president and CEO of U.S. Bank. “This investment with the North Star Network will help create educational opportunity, which is the foundation of a strong, healthy economy. We are proud to support the effort.”


Xcel Energy

“As we work in Minnesota and across the nation to promote racial equity and offer greater opportunities for African American communities, we’re proud to support the North Star Network learning pods,” said Ben Fowke, Chairman and CEO, Xcel Energy. “Providing this environment for students is a way we can begin to narrow the achievement gap in Minnesota and to build a strong educational foundation for all students in our state.”


YMCA of the North

“Our YMCA is committed to eliminating barriers and systems of injustice,” said Glen Gunderson, president and CEO of the YMCA of the North.  “The pandemic has exacerbated inequities that must be addressed with key partners from all sectors.  Our education system must enable all young people to thrive and we are proud to play a part in this unique community learning pod model.”


Each pod will serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade and COVID-19 protocols based on the guidance of state health and education officials and Center for Disease Control will be followed, including wearing masks, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning.


About the Andersen Corporate Foundation

The Andersen Corporate Foundation was established in 1941 with the mission to improve lives and strengthen communities, primarily where Andersen employees live and work. Since then, the foundation has donated more than $60 million to worthy causes. The foundation is an endowed fund that is a separate legal entity from the company. 


About Securian Financial

At Securian Financial, we’re here for family. And we’re here because of it. We’re guided by our purpose: helping customers build secure tomorrows. Since 1880, we’ve been building a uniquely diversified company that has outlasted economic ups and downs while staying true to our customers. We’re committed to the markets we serve, providing insurance, investment and retirement solutions that give families the confidence to focus on what’s truly valuable: banking memories with those who matter most.


About U.S. Bank

U.S. Bancorp, with more than 70,000 employees and $547 billion in assets as of June 30, 2020, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States. The Minneapolis-based bank blends its relationship teams, branches and ATM network with mobile and online tools that allow customers to bank how, when and where they prefer. U.S. Bank is committed to serving its millions of retail, business, wealth management, payment, commercial and corporate, and investment services customers across the country and around the world as a trusted financial partner, a commitment recognized by the Ethisphere Institute naming the bank one of the 2020 World’s Most Ethical Companies. Visit U.S. Bank at or follow on social media to stay up to date with company news.


About Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy (NASDAQ: XEL) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


About the YMCA of the North

The YMCA of the North is a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Established 164 years ago, the Ys provide life-strengthening services across 12 counties of the greater Twin Cities metro region, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin communities. The 28 Y locations and program sites, seven overnight camps, 10 day camps, and more than 90 child care sites engage more than 370,000 men, women and children of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. To learn more about the Y’s mission and work, visit

Posted: September 23, 2020