City Stay is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that sparks unlikely connections across the dividing lines of our community through experiential education. City Stay applies an innovative approach to education and community building. It brings the concept of study abroad to the local level by allowing Minnesotans of all colors and creeds to live with a new Minnesotan family from a different culture. Participants can continue building on their cross-cultural relationships and their language skills after the program ends. More broadly, the relationships City Stay facilitates reduce community mistrust and social inequality in the Twin Cities. These connections serve as an ongoing tool to build a more informed and connected community that fosters intercultural understanding in an increasingly diverse world.
Our primary program lasts one week and is available to high school students, college students, and adult professionals. During the day, participants engage in dynamic dialogues with a wide range of presenters from the immigrant communities of Minnesota. Topics include urban studies, immigration and the cultures of the Twin Cities. In the evening, participants live with a local family from another culture. The heart of this program is the homestay component. Participants of all backgrounds build meaningful and informative relationships with carefully-matched local families in the Latino, Somali, or Hmong communities.
In addition to the primary program, City Stay also offers workshops that help enhance cultural competency around the largest immigrant populations in Minnesota. In this capacity, we primarily serve educators, social service and healthcare professionals, religious leaders, and students.
City Stay provides experiential education that breaks down barriers and sparks unlikely connections between the diverse cultural communities of the Twin Cities.
- Foster meaningful and lasting relationships between people of diverse backgrounds
- Prepare the next generation to live and lead in a multi-cultural world
- Share the cultural richness of the newest Minnesotans with a wide audience
- Reduce community mistrust and social inequality by facilitating dialogue, study, and action
“Definitely much more than I expected! So well planned, so many connections with new community leaders and other resources. This has refocused both my personal and professional life.”
“[City Stay] opened me up to new cultures like never before. I was outside my comfort zone for nearly the whole time, and it introduced me to new ways of life, culture, and religion. My most valuable experience was staying with a Somali family. It showed me how similar and different we all are. I’m so glad I participated in City Stay, it opened my eyes, gave me great experiences, and introduced me to wonderful people.”
“[City Stay] is very refreshing and unique. I like how it pushes you out of your comfort zone by placing you directly with groups of people you would not normally talk to… My Hmong family is extremely caring and generous. They are really willing to share their experience and knowledge with me. I would love to have a long-term relationship with them… [City Stay] is one of my most memorable experiences. For an international student like me, it is a cultural experience within a cultural experience. I gained more knowledge of the people of Minnesota in this one week than in the year and a half I had already spent in Minnesota. It raised my attention to the uniqueness of every single one of the cultures, including my own.”
“I previously had little to no interaction with people of these cultures we learned from. I was previously completely ignorant of the cultural makeup of the Twin Cities and I now have a greater understanding of who lives here and a desire to connect with my neighbors of a different culture. Thank you for deepening my cultural understanding of the Twin Cities. I see this experience as a launching pad for me.”
“I appreciated the variety of experiences. It whet my appetite to learn more. [The program] taught me to ask questions. It’s something I do in other parts of my life all the time, but not of other cultures. I always thought me questioning would show ignorance or be offensive. It was such a valuable experience!”
“The experimental nature of the program was so rich and kept us so engaged. The structure of the program was broad, deep, and made sense. [The program connected us with] resources out there for immigrants, and created the possibility for real connections this week and ongoing with the Twin Cities’ diverse cultures. The visits to the Somali and Hmong malls were like stepping into their worlds. Unforgettable. I’m leaving this class much more aware of the histories of my Mexican, Somali and Hmong students, parents and neighbors.”
“[The program presented] an opportunity to connect with people of different cultures that I would not have on a daily basis. It was really well done. Thanks for helping me out of my comfort zone and inspiring me to learn and experience more.”
Julie Knopp (Director)
brings diverse professional experiences in education and community outreach to City Stay. For five years, she served as a coordinator and developer for Peace House, a Minneapolis house of hospitality that encourages constructive public dialogues. She has also worked as a bilingual (Spanish-English) educator at Minneapolis Public Schools and Autism Comprehensive Educational Services in El Paso, Texas. She currently runs extended learning programming at Lake Nokomis Community Schools, serving approximately 200 children and offering dozens of academic and enrichment classes on a daily basis. Julie also serves as an international consultant for Ivy League Consulting, a Tokyo-based company assisting foreign students applying to American high schools, colleges, and graduate schools. Julie earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Social Relations from Kalamazoo College and completed master’s coursework on religious dialogue at Yale University.
Rory Collins (Treasurer of the Board)
earned a bachelor's degree in history from Carleton College in 2010. While at Carleton, Rory studied abroad in Germany and interned with Breakthrough Saint Paul, where he developed and taught social studies curriculum addressing the immigrant experience in the Twin Cities. Rory graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Law in 2015 and is currently an attorney in Minneapolis.
Cynthia Bronson Sweigert (Board Member)
is a Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota. She is an Episcopal priest who has divided her professional life between the administration of interfaith and intergroup programs and parish ministry. Currently she is Interfaith/Multi-faith Program Associate at the Minnesota Council of Churches where she is particularly involved in strengthening Christian-Muslim relationships. Cynthia is helping to develop a pilot educational program for use in St. Cloud and other communities throughout Minnesota where such relationships have been most difficult. She is excited to be a part of City Stay where people understand the great value of intentionally reaching out to build bridges between peoples.
Jessica Cline (Chair of the Board)
is a Twin Cities native with a B.S. in International Business from the University of Minnesota and an MBA in International Finance from the University of Saint Thomas. During her undergraduate studies, she studied and worked in Germany and London while also participating in the University of Minnesota’s Student Project for Amity Among Nations (SPAN) program in 1993. Since graduating in 1996 with her undergraduate degree and in 2001 with her MBA, Jessica has worked extensively around the world – most notably in Russia, China, and most European countries. She has worked for many locally-based Fortune 500 companies in various international-related positions, and currently works in the insurance industry as an Internal Audit Director. Jessica has a passion for supporting multicultural education and believes strongly that Twin Cities citizens should actively strive to build communication, understanding, and respect for other cultures.
Alsa Bruno (Board Member)
is a native of Texas. He is a youthworker with a passion for art and a penchant for comedy. A 2012 graduate of Carleton College, Alsa is an enthusiastic advocate of human rights and expanding intercultural dialogue beyond the philosophies of higher education to the daily details of Minnesotan life. Alsa has joined the City Stay board to create a more distinct culture of intercultural connection in Minnesota, believing that the work done in this organization is worth spreading the world over. Alsa lives his life with the fervent belief that everyone has a story and that story is worth hearing. His background in community service, his engagement in theater, and his passion for youthwork make City Stay a perfect fit for Alsa's predeliction for deconstructing xenophobia at its core, replacing it with intentional constitutional dialogue.
James Zacchini (Board Member)
was born in Boston and raised in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He currently serves as the Senior Implementation Associate for World Savvy, a 501(c)(3) which educates and engages youth to learn, work, and thrive as responsible global citizens in the 21st century. Most recently Jim served as the Project Manager for the Global Competence Certificate Program (GCC), a first-of-its-kind, graduate-level certificate program in global competence education designed for in-service teachers and administrators which was developed by World Savvy in partnership with Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Asia Society. Prior to working with World Savvy, Jim was the Assistant Program Director at the Minnesota Humanities Center, and focused on cultural programming throughout the state’s diverse communities. Jim holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and American Studies from Providence College, a Masters in History and American Foreign Policy in Asia from Marquette University, and is in the final stages of completing an Ed.D. in Organizational Development and Leadership at the University of St. Thomas.
John Lukach (Secretary of the Board)
is from New York State and holds a bachelor’s of social work from Nazareth College of Rochester. John has a wide array of experience working with diverse youth and is currently employed as a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter with Kindred Family Focus. In this role, he works alongside youth in foster care who have had a hard time finding a permanent family. Seeing the lack of positive cultural exchange and understanding in many aspects of child welfare has positioned John to seek ways to increase connection between those of different backgrounds on a macro level. As part of the City Stay board, John hopes to nurture understanding between residents of the Twin Cities.