Grants Archive

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Friends of the Hennepin County Library

April 20, 2023

Amount Requested$25,000.00


300 Nicollet Mall, Suite N-290
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401

Kristi Pearson

Executive Director & CEO

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  • Broaden Perspectives Through Art, Culture, Literature or Extracurricular Experiences
Proposal Information

Funds are Being Requested for:

Program Support

Mission Statement

As the library's nonprofit partner, Friends of the Hennepin County Library (FHCL) is a community of 10,000+ supporters whose mission is to raise awareness, appreciation, and financial resources for our nationally acclaimed Hennepin County library. FHCL:
• aspires to be an organization where everyone feels like they belong, and all perspectives are valued.
• is committed to creating a platform for individuals and communities to access and share stories that help them recognize and activate their power for the benefit of Hennepin County.
• strives to unlock the full diversity of human potential in Hennepin County, by partnering closely with the library to build equitable systems and ensure that every community's unique needs are met.

Hennepin County Library’s mission is to inspire, facilitate, and celebrate lifelong learning. Shaped by the information needs and aspirations of residents, we envision the library as a shared space for enrichment and connection. Library services are an important part of thriving and interconnected communities. We believe that every Hennepin County resident should have a library card and use it regularly.

Amount Requested


Program Budget


Organizational Budget


Relationship to the Olseth Family Foundation


Summarize Your Request

In response to widespread academic setbacks due to Covid—particularly for the county’s most vulnerable students—as well as intense community demand, Hennepin County Library is SIGNIFICANTLY EXPANDING HOMEWORK HELP in 2023, and the Olseth Family Foundation’s continued generous support helps make this possible.

A dynamic library system is the cornerstone of a thriving community. Hennepin County Library is creating and adapting literary collections and vital programming to the varied demographics served at each of its locations. Since 2016, the Olseth Family Foundation has broadened perspectives and helped empower our next generation through on-going support of far-reaching, community-accessible programs like HOMEWORK HELP.

In 2022, 1,000+ students met with Homework Help tutors more than 3,500 times at our 16 locations. Approximately 98% of participants were students of color, and 88% came from families whose members speak a first language other than English. The grade levels of the students we served were equally balanced, with 30% in grades K-3, 32% in grades 4-8, and 38% in high school. There is no required commitment, yet most participants come every week, and many come even more often.

In our most recent surveys, 100% of Homework Help participants said they are doing better in school because of Homework Help. A tutor at Franklin Library offers a sense of the scope of subjects covered in a typical month. “We helped students this month compare characters from a poetry memoir, roleplay as a Chinese diplomat speaking to the world about Covid policy, answer questions about the American Revolution, and learn how to name chemical compounds, and analyze Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience.”

What sets Homework Help apart is the sense of trust and community among students, parents, staff, and volunteers. Each Homework Help location relies on one or two Lead tutors employed by the library. Each Lead supervises a team of volunteers, many of whom make multi-year commitments and form deep bonds with students and parents.

This year, 26 lead tutors and more than 70 volunteers will support young people’s academic success. “I don’t think we will ever have a day that doesn’t have at least 15 students,” a lead tutor in Brooklyn Park reported last year. “We’ve built great familiarity with a steady group of students, connecting with each of them. There is a strong rapport between the students and their tutors.”

Overview of the Grant Request

Population Served

1,000+ youth; 98% BIPOC; 88% from families whose members speak a first language other than English

Geographic Area Served

Hennepin County (Minnesota)

List Three Measurable Goals That This Funding Will Help You Achieve.

GOAL 1: In the 2023-24 school year, at least 90% of Homework Help participants will report via survey that their ACHIEVEMENT IN SCHOOL has improved due to their work with library staff and program volunteers.

GOAL 2: In 2023-2024, at least 90% of participants will report via survey that they feel MORE CONFIDENT in the academic areas they work on in Homework Help.

GOAL 3: In 2023-2024, at least 90% of participants will report via survey that they feel SUPPORTED at Homework Help. At least 50% of participants will attend once a week or more.

How Will You Accomplish These Goals?

Homework Help leverages the reach and accessibility of the library system to offer free, drop-in tutoring at 16 locations, open to everyone in the community. Year after year, hundreds of students in every grade level develop profound relationships with skilled and caring tutors, leading to big results: 100% say the program has boosted their achievement in school.

“The tutors in the library make the work simple and easy,” one student writes. “They are better at explaining the subjects than the teacher.”

Homework Help has no required commitment, yet most participants come every week, and many come even more often. Last year, 98% of participants were students of color and 88% came from a family speaking a first language other than English.

Homework Help has become a key resource for members of the East African community adapting to life in America and adjusting to an unfamiliar education system. This is especially true at the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center (CROC). The Lead Tutor at CROC described several mothers who come in frequently with their elementary-school age sons. “The moms carefully watch the boys and the tutoring and seem to be learning English with the kids.”

Our community is still reckoning with the impact of Covid on student achievement. Last year, just 45% of Minnesota students tested proficient in math and 51% in reading. One study estimates Minnesota students fell behind one full year in math and half a year in reading. For Homework Help’s core participants, the challenge is even more urgent. Black Middle Schoolers in Minneapolis Public Schools are nearly two years behind in math compared with 2019.

Recognizing that the youth we serve will need more support to make up academic ground, the library is expanding Homework Help to provide more resources than ever before. HH recently added 3 new sites and hiring 10 additional Leads, for a total of 26 Lead Tutors at 16 sites. Additional staff will provide more 1-1 services for students, offer back-up to prevent cancellation due to tutor illness, and support helping high school students get back on track academically. Ten of our 16 sites now have 2 Lead Tutors.

Numerous stories from our libraries reveal the unexpected learning opportunities created by our diverse cohort of tutors. One evening at Franklin Library, two students came in with an assignment to optimize a paper airplane’s flight using objects like paper clips. One of that day’s tutors had a background in aeronautic design and was glad to help them conduct their research, throwing the planes several times himself. Later, he advised another tutor who was helping a physics student working on air occlusion and pressure.

At Brookdale Library, a tutor tells the story of working with a student to calculate volume: “She tried to apply the formula to complex shapes and it did not work. She and I were able to break them into simple shapes and then apply the volume formula. After a few practice problems, she understood the concept and said, ‘I get it now!’ It is always so great to see a student have that ‘a-ha’ moment where the concept clicks, and they suddenly feel way more confident than when they first arrived.”

Looking Forward, How Will You Measure These Goals?

Homework Help leaders measure program effectiveness using surveys of students, monthly Lead Tutor reports, and attendance data. We issue approximately 500 surveys annually to help meet student needs and measure impact in key metrics of achievement. We gather quantitative data by tracking unique student attendance across all locations. Lead tutors regularly document stories of success and program learnings.

In 2022:

100% of Homework Help survey respondents said they are doing better in school because of Homework Help.

Tutors at Brookdale Library described one student working on an immigration project for her human geography class. She chose to research immigrants from Somalia because her family is originally from there. She came for three evenings to do the research and put together the project. “It was a nice experience to support her in learning about where her family came from and what it has been like for many Somali immigrants.”

99% of respondents said Homework Help has given them more confidence in the academic subject they worked on.

“I worked with one enthusiastic student on AP statistics, going over concepts he wasn’t clear on,” writes a Lead Tutor from Franklin Library. “He learned to combine variances, use a calculator to compute variance and standard deviation, and apply the binomial theorem. We even used my laminate normal curve!”

99% of respondents said they feel welcomed and supported by Homework Help tutors. This attitude is supported by attendance statistics: 83% of participants report coming once a week or more!

“There are a lot of helpful, nice, kindhearted tutors that are here to help,” one student writes.

“The typical busy month,” reported a tutor at Roosevelt in November. “There was a day where we had students born on 5 different continents getting Homework Help at the same time.”

A report from Augsburg Park Library reveals the profound and unique role libraries play in our community: “A parent who had just moved from out of state shared with staff that through searching for a program like ours, their family had discovered the library was exactly the place they needed for all of their individual needs. One parent can use a computer and printers to job seek and the other parent can complete coursework for their master’s degree – while their children use the library for their individual needs. One student visits HWH every session for the entire period to gain support for spelling memorization, reading, and writing. The other student studies independently but finds that the library is the perfect space to focus as their home provides a lot of distraction that prevents them from doing their best. The family enjoys their routine at the library, and they are getting to know the staff and local community well—especially the children, who are making friends in the children’s area and through programming on weekends. As a one-stop-shop, they use the library to access music and movies, books for school and work, the internet, and resources that are helping them all grow and learn, together and individually, including our excellent HWH tutors and staff.”

Implementation Plan

Start Date


End Date


Describe Most Significant Collaborations With Other Organizations And Efforts.

Most Homework Help libraries’ closest partnerships are with the schools in their area. For instance, Roosevelt Library collaborates with Roosevelt High School across the street. After school ends at 3pm, this small library sees 40-50 teens in their space until closing, many looking for Homework Help, which is offered three nights a week (Tues, Wed, Thurs) due to the high demand.

Minneapolis Public Schools features Homework Help on their website as the #1 resource for students and families seeking homework help and tutoring support: Homework Help (

The Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center (CROC) location is just blocks from the University of Minnesota and collaborates often with students and staff. In one monthly report, CROC’s lead tutor described two U of M freshmen who began working as volunteer tutors because they needed twenty hours of volunteer credits. They decided to keep volunteering even after they completed their requirements because they enjoyed it so much. One student is a neuroscience major who speaks Somali to the students and parents. The other is a psychology major and wants to become a teacher.

Homework Help also hosted Lead Tutor hiring events at two colleges: MCTC and North Hennepin Technical College. From those events, we were able to hire 1 lead tutor.

What Is The Projected Timeline For The Proposed Activities?

Homework Help locations are open throughout the school year. Most libraries offer services 2-3 evenings per week. Many students attend sessions at multiples libraries. Homework Help is being offered in 16 library locations as of January 2023, due to the number of requests from families in those service areas.

Supplemental Information

Current Year Organizational Budget


Program Budget For Proposed Funding Period


Audited Financials (if applicable)


Other Entries
Approval Status