Urban Ventures and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School join the nation in mourning the death of Colin Powell. Powell was the nation's first Black chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. More than that, Powell remained a friend of our south Minneapolis neighborhood for the last 15 years.
The Colin Powell Center is the central hub of Urban Ventures' work in the city, as well as home to the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Opened in 2007, the building has become a mainstay at the intersection of East Lake Street and 4th Avenue South and provided a home base for the important work of supporting local kids as they work toward a better future.
The cause was close to Powell's heart. He often described himself as "a Black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means." In 1997 he founded America's Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting at-risk youth.
That commitment to supporting the underserved made Powell a perfect namesake for the new center in south Minneapolis. In 2000, Powell agreed to lend his name to the building, saying, "I've received lots of awards and medals in the course of my career. But what could be a better award — a better recognition — than to have your name on a place where young people will be educated and get ready to be leaders in the future?"
Powell remained a supporter and advocate for Urban Ventures' work in Minneapolis. In one of his numerous visits to the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center he remarked: "The major challenge we have in the 21st century is to make sure that every child is pointed in the right direction and given the character and competence they need to be successful in life. It begins in places like this where children come and see adults who are caring about them, and believe in them, and who give them what they need to be successful in life."
Both Urban Ventures and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School are grateful for the legacy of Colin Powell. Not only as a public figure and leader in our nation, but as an example of the great heights we believe each of our local youth are capable of no matter the challenging circumstances of their childhood.
Dave Hawn is CEO of Urban Ventures. Jeb Myers is president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.