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 by pairing Minnesota high-school students of all backgrounds with host families who identify as a part of an immigrant community for a homestay program. 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.”
“City Stay does relevant work at a time we need it most. Sharing food and stories with our actual geographical neighbors who may come from a different area of the world and may practice a different religion is nothing short of revolutionary. These boundary crossings change hearts and minds. It is peacemaking at its best. Seeing the host families and birth families share food and stories at the end of the program potluck was such a powerful testament to the work that City Stay does. It is profound in its simplicity. Sit together. Eat. Laugh. Meet your neighbor. It the work we are called to do. The youth at Bethlehem walked away from their City Stay experience with a renewed interest in the Twin Cities backed by ignited curiosity about race, culture, politics, neighborhoods and power. The relationships they built will inform the choices they make from here on out. For all of this, we are grateful that City Stay exists and are thrilled to continue to partner with them.”
Julie Knopp (Founding Board Member)
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) programs coordinator at Minneapolis Public Schools and Autism Comprehensive Educational Services in El Paso, Texas. Julie currently teaches in an elementary Spanish immersion school. She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Social Relations from Kalamazoo College and completed master’s coursework on religious dialogue at Yale University.
Andrea Breen (Director of Programming)
was born and raised in Minnesota. She is passionate about good leadership, system change, and work in equity, and social justice. Andrea has spent twenty-five years working in non-profits and experiential education with children and young adults from 3-40 years old. She has worked in many settings from direct service and program design, to directing all aspects of multi-faceted programs. Andrea has most recently been working as a consultant in a variety of teaching and program design capacities. She spent the last 15 years as the Director of a hands on outdoor education, community building program at Farm and Wilderness Foundation in Vermont. She has a B.A. in Communications from the University of MN., and recently completed a Masters of Public Affairs with a focus on Leadership, Evaluation and Inclusivity and Equity from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Andrea actively volunteers at Shir Tikvah congregation, and as a graduation coach with Achieve Minneapolis. Andrea is fluent in Spanish and has spent time living and working in Vermont, Mexico and Central America. She has been involved in the Minneapolis Public Schools for over twenty years where her husband teaches and all three of her children attend or have graduated. Andrea loves to spend time with her kids, travel, cook, cross country ski, and exercise outdoors.
James Zacchini (Board Chair)
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.
Kari Aanestad (Board Member)
is the Development Manager at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. In this role, Kari secures and stewards grant and individual donor support for MCN. She also supports the development of other fundraising professionals throughout Minnesota through various channels including in-person and online trainings, the Minnesota Grants Alert, and the Minnesota Grants Directory. Kari holds a bachelor of arts in English and Political Science from Augsburg College (’08) and a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary (’12). Most recently she served as grant writer and outcomes manager for St. David’s Center. Kari brings a holistic wealth of experience to her role including international travel to over 20 countries, hospital chaplaincy in England, and teaching and tutoring positions ranging from elementary to post-graduate levels in writing and compassionate communication.
Peter Levin (Board Member)
is a proud New Mexican and life-long youth educator in school and non-profit settings. He received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Southwest Studies with concentrations in Ecology and Spanish Language from Colorado College. He has worked with several youth leadership organizations that achieve success through cultural exchange and conservation work. Most recently, he was the Director of the Azuero, Panamá project for Amigos de las Américas (Amigos) who is a youth cultural exchange non-profit based out of Houston, Texas that conducts projects throughout the américas. Currently, Peter works at the University of Minnesota Child Development Center as an Assistant Preschool Teacher, and is applying to graduate programs in the fields of conservation and international education. Through substitute teaching in the Twin Cities metro area he became aware of the unique diversity and challenges of cities and is thrilled through City Stay, to be bringing neighbors together to form a more inclusive community.
Hannah Rosenwinkel (Board Member)
was born and raised in Minnesota and earned her B.A. in Global Studies and B.S.B. in Supply Chain and Operations Management from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her interest in cultural exchange began in high school when her family hosted an exchange student from Germany. In college, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Amman, Jordan where her passion for cultural exchange strengthened. She is passionate about public diplomacy, cultural exchange, and entrepreneurship. Hannah has experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and currently is a Supply Chain Analyst at Land O’Lakes. Prior to her current position, she has held positions at the Office of Congressman Tim Walz, Students Today Leaders Forever, Global Minnesota, and a Minnesota start-up, ASIYA. She is excited to support organizations, such as City Stay, that foster global citizenship and build bridges on a local scale.