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BCHS graduates work with local initiative ReConnect Rondo

Class of 2024 graduates Moises and Erica lend their voices and work to Reconnect Rondo!

When the I-94 highway was built starting in 1958, it tore through the historic and once-bustling Rondo community in Saint Paul. While 80% of Saint Paul’s Black community once lived in Rondo, the construction of I-94 demolished 700 family homes and 300 neighborhood businesses, with inadequate compensation, which led to further racial inequities in the Twin Cities. ReConnect Rondo is a local initiative that aims to address issues stemming from this environmental racism and create a place where the Rondo community, and the greater surrounding communities, can thrive. The mission is to “lead the effort to revitalize the Rondo community with a land bridge that reconnects Rondo and reignites a vibrant African American cultural enterprise district in Saint Paul.” The goals of the initiative include neighborhood reconnection, affordable housing, equitable development, public health and a green space, and community leadership. 

Brooklyn Center High School class of 2024 graduates Moises Soto Puente and Erica Lee have been interning with ReConnect Rondo. The now-alumns are part of the ReConnect Rondo Youth Council, a coalition of local students whose biggest output is a podcast that discusses the historical context and goals of the initiative. 

“In February of last year, I was approached by Mr. Parks, my former geography teacher, about this internship based in Rondo St. Paul looking for high-achieving young people in the greater Twin Cities area,” said Soto Puente. “Later that day, I received a text from Principal Fraser asking me to confirm if I was interested. With heavy thinking, I responded two days later with interest.”

Since February 2023, Soto Puente has been working on the project, and his internship will come to an end in late summer 2024. He and Lee work on the Voices of Rondo podcast as podcast hosts, researchers, and script writers, and Soto Puente also works as a video editor.

“This project is bigger than myself, and it's a real tool that can be used to improve people's lives and address injustices that were done in the past,” said Soto Puente. “Being a part of a restorative justice organization, my job is to tell the history and be in the community to further restorative justice from ideas to real life.”

Follow Moises and Erica’s work on Instagram at @reconnectrondoyouthcouncil. Learn more about ReConnect Rondo.