Mentoring for the Future

University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) student Mohamed Addani is passionate about introducing Somali youth to opportunities that provide inspiration for meaningful careers.

As part of his academic experience with UMR’s Community Collaboratory – called Co-Lab for short— Addani worked with Rochester’s Somali Rebuild Organization (SRO) to develop after-school programs designed to open doors to higher education opportunities. Along the way, Addani became a mentor, won a major award, and has found direction for his own post-student life.

A required course for all juniors, Co-Lab connects students, faculty, and community partners in a semester-long project. The course matches small groups of students with a community liaison and faculty advisor.

For Addani, Co-Lab has opened doors for a lasting partnership. He plans to continue working with SRO to create more opportunities for Somali youth. “We’re currently developing projects like Visit to College, Science Fair, and Career Exploration to connect Rochester Public Schools students with college opportunities,” he says.

Addani, who was recently recognized with Minnesota Campus Compact’s Student Leadership Award, has gone above and beyond the requirements of his undergraduate curriculum—but he’s not alone in appreciating the benefits of Co-Lab as part of the student experience.

“Co-Lab is about taking responsibility for the quality of life of community members, and gaining valuable experience on a range of issues,” said Assistant Professor Gemma Punti, who oversees the course. “Our students are using their knowledge and skills to support community organizations in problem-solving, creative thinking, and hands-on experiences.”