University Relations

Community Engagement Scholars Program:

Integrative Community Engagement Project (ICEP)

Joe Praska

Graduated: August 2012
Major: Sociology

Joe's Project: Joe put together a Tenant's Rights workshop for Minnesota's Somali community, specifically the Cedar Riverside community. He received help from HOME Line, Volunteers of America and the Confederation of the Somali Community of Minnesota.

Importance of Project: Joe explained that as a new immigrant group, Somalis are mostly confined to the rental market. Paying interest is against the Islamic belief system and mortgages are out of the question. Being in low income brackets, many of the immigrants lack the basic knowledge to seek out their rights as tenants.

Most Rewarding Part: The most rewarding part of Joe's work was at first the most disappointing. Only four people came to the workshop. However, after Joe began writing about the event, he felt truly thankful that he could reach those four individuals. He hopes they can bring what they learned to their family and friends as well.

Long Term Effect: HOME Line interns have continued the project and held a similar workshop, using Joe's model as a precedent while adding their own ideas as well.

Joe's Words of Wisdom: "Always recognize your opportunities and have the resilience to inspire others to recognize theirs as well."

Work he's doing now: Currently, Joe is working for a medical transportation company, but he is also applying to grad school and other organizations. He just had his final interview from Teach for America and waiting to see if he is accepted. The Scholar's Program influenced Joe's decision to continue doing service work. The educational work Joe did on his project helped inspire him to pursue a future in education.