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Heavy Hearts: The LAB Comes to a Close

This Newsletter is one that comes to you with mixed feelings.  We are celebrating our students and their work and we also have very sad news to pass on.  The LAB will not be funded for the 2015-16 school year.  It is with a heavy heart that we end a program that for the past 11 years has effectively served hundreds of special education students. We are thankful for the many social workers and teachers who support this work.  This work has been a collaborative effort bringing together artist from many arenas as well as graduate interns, volunteers and paid LAB staff to support six primary objectives for youth. These objectives include:

• School Engagement
• Youth Empowerment
• Improving pre-literacy skills
•Healthy coping strategies

• Community Building
• Social Justice
It is with great pride that I give thanks to all those who made these objectives a reality in the lives of our students. There were thousands of hours committed, to intentional work that shined a light on the promise our students hold within.   Though the students we work with are often burdened with the label “EBD” we know they are so much more.  When we look beyond the behaviors and seek to uncover what is underneath we are reminded that all behavior has a purpose.  It is often an affront to the trauma and pain experienced in their young lives, an affront to the feelings of being lost, neglected, frustrated, inferior, afraid or hopeless.

Art, Poetry, Yoga, and other forms of creative expression are the tools used for personal transformation.  We have seen that transformation over and over again as youth are seen in their strengths. These forms of creative expression lift the human spirit, provide a voice and platform for students’ stories and move them towards possibility and hope. Creative expression has been a means for EBD students to develop confidence and competence that has led to improved school engagement.  Those of us in education know that students labeled EBD already experience difficulties with engaging in school due to emotional or behavioral challenges.

The LAB views its work as an extension of all the important work Social Workers and Teachers carry out daily in Saint Paul Public Schools.  The LAB has given hundreds of students, who are often marginalized and have limited support and resources, an opportunity to tap into their creativity. Mary Tinucci founded The LAB 11 years ago.  I joined The LAB in 2008 and have been witness to the power of this work of social emotional support changing the school experience for hundreds of students. LAB staff  believe that all youth have untapped value and capacity, and that this sort of creativespace must exist within the school walls and the school day. We believe in giving students an effective therapeutic means to understand and deal with the challenges of their lives. The work of The LAB has been trauma-informed from the beginning, long before doing trauma-informed work had the label, “Trauma informed”.  This work also aligns with the district initiatives around racial equity.

Below a former LAB participant so beautifully captures the power of poetry as a tool for emotional regulation.


To write my feelings down is to relieve my stress.
To be here today I am truly blessed.
Yea I got stories to tell, stuff to confess
Instead of putting my business out there,
I write till there is nothing left
I know people with burdens so heavy it really hurts their chest
I sometimes try with all my might not to snap
But you can’t keep anger caged when it wants to take flight
Because then it turns to rage and you get in a fight
So instead I release it into a page

-T.F.  10th grade

As those in leadership make budgetary decisions we hope they invest in intentional ways to reach the heart of at-risk students in Saint Paul Public Schools.  As one of our former students wrote about the hope she had of a future where she could do her part to make the world better, that is my hope for all of us in education!


Poetry makes me feel like I’m the star
That no one is greater or lesser than me
When I write, I’m in control
My thoughts and feelings are my inspiration
Poetry makes me feel like I can achieve
Knowing in my heart that I’m doing my part
To make the world better
Never giving up on my dreams
Reaching as high as I can reach
Just going my best to keep the peace
Following my heart, and not people
Striving for the truth
Poetry makes me feel like I’m no less than you are,
I feel as equal as you
I know that when I speak I’m being heard,
Letting people know me
Poetry makes me feel like I’m on top of the world
I can go on many adventures
Anywhere Poetry takes me, I’m going to go

-C.  11th grade

To all the schools and staff that have partnered with us these 11 years a sincere, Thank You.  We know you will continue your commitment to students in Saint Paul Public Schools!

Warmest Regards,
Tess Pease, Program Coordinator, LICSW
The LAB @Saint Paul Public Schools




volunteerThings at the LAB are off to a great start as we have gotten back to our roots! In the past few weeks we’ve served 7 schools and started 11 new groups focusing on Writing, Visual Art, Theater, Experiential Wellness and Animal-Assisted Education! We hosted enrichments with guest artist and resident all-star Tina Flewellyn of HYPE dance company. We’ve seen youth take risks, find their voice, and begin a process of self expression and exploration. We are expecting great things from these incredible young people and cannot wait to show the world what they create!

And that’s not all….. in the next few weeks we’ll be reaching even more students as we hope to begin groups at 4 more schools- bringing out total to 11 schools16 groups, and a handful of mentorships! But we can’t do it without your help! We need dedicated, experienced, enthusiastic, and energetic volunteers to help is co-facilitate groups at schools across St. Paul!

If you would like to find out more about volunteering at The Lab, please join us for a VOLUNTEER INFORMATION SESSION on Thursday, October 31st from 12:00-12:45pm at Journeys Secondary School (90 Western Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55102).

Can’t make it? Join us for a second VOLUNTEER INFORMATION SESSION on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 from 9:00-9:45am At Journeys Secondary School (90 Western Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55102).

Click here for directions to Journeys Secondary School


WHAT TO EXPECT: We’ll update on you on what’s going on at The Lab this year! We’ll talk about current volunteer opportunities and opportunities that we’ll having coming up soon. We’ll also go over basic expectations for volunteers and what being a volunteer at The Lab means. We’ll walk you through the application and background check process. We’ll also have some light snacks and refreshments available.

*Right now our greatest need is for volunteers who can co-facilitate groups and can commit to a minimum of 9 weeks (1-2 hrs per week) of consistent volunteering. (an example volunteer description is attached for your reference)

WHAT TO BRING: We have opportunities starting right away, so we want to get your applications rolling! Please fill out the attached volunteer application. Please bring a current resume, your photo ID, $15 cash or check for your background check, and a good idea of what your availability is like. Additionally, please help us spread the word by sharing this with anyone you think might be interested in volunteering, and then bring a friend to the info session!

RSVP by email: or by phone: 651-207-9882. 

If you can’t make it but are interested in volunteering, please contact Erin via email or phone.


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MOBILELABIn the past few weeks we’ve served 7 schools and started 11 new groups focusing on Writing, Visual Art, Theater, Experiential Wellness and Animal-Assisted Education! We hosted enrichments with guest artist and resident all-star Tina Flewellyn of HYPE dance company. We’ve seen youth take risks, find their voice, and begin a process of self expression and exploration. We are expecting great things from these incredible young people and cannot wait to show the world what they create!

And if that isn’t enough we launched a MOBILE LAB AP to boot! Check it out on your Android or iPhone now and experience The LAB’s latest from wherever and on the go!


The Lab is thrilled to announce that our friends at Wet Paint Artist Materials and Framing, a locally owned business in St. Paul, is supporting us with a back to school donation drive!

Here’s how it works: We’ve created an art supply wish list for our supporters to donate for our visual arts programming for 2012-13. From August 17 – September 30, Wet Paint will match any donation made for The Lab. There are two ways you can help! If you’d like to buy products in person go to Wet Paint’s store at 1684 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105.

Or, you can purchase products for The Lab online! Wet Paint has created an online store for us at This Link. All you need to do is select what you’d like to purchase and Wet Paint will match your donation. We are so grateful for Wet Paint’s continued support of our work and for the opportunity to help support this great local business! Thank you Wet Paint!

The past two weeks have been filled with excitement and anticipation in The Lab’s Visual Pathway program. Last week we had the opportunity to visit the minneapolis sculpture garden at the walker art center. Students were able to see works from major artists and spend a beautiful afternoon outside.

Yesterday we had our final group exhibition at The Bindery Projects in St. Paul. Students did a phenomenal job designing their show, hanging their work, and leading guests around the gallery to show off their work. We are so proud of the hard work and dedication our students have put into this experience, and wish them all the very best this summer. We look forward to seeing some  of them next fall!

We’ve had a big week in the Visual Art Pathway! We’ve been making collaborative works inspired by Tim Rollins + K.O.S. as well as Los Angeles – Mark Bradford who makes large scale collages of maps and text. We created a collage of a map of St. PaulOur work this week has been all about building community and creating a collective voice.   Read about Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival at this link: 

Next week we will begin creating works in response to social issues the students identify and wish to talk about. and….Please enjoy these photos of our process and of the final murals we created!

This Week in the Poetry Pathway

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It has been another exciting week in the Poetry Pathway!! The student and their writing have been deep and focused. As a result, the songs and poems being written are getting better and better. The students are feeling extremely confident and eagerly await the last two hours of the day, when the class takes place, to work on and practice new pieces while polishing up old ones. The community that these youth are creating is so important.  They are supporting eachother, collaborating in their writing and recording, and practicing their stage presence and performance skills. 

This week, they had a chance to perform again at the Advocates for Achievement (AFA), an African/ African-American Employee Resource Group in Saint Paul Public Schools.  They had selected Glo to be honored for his contributions to SPPS and the African/African-American community.  He was recognized at their 3rd Annual Employee Recognition Program at Rondo Education Center on  Thursday, May 17, 2012.  It was very exciting & special for the students to be there to perform and support Glo!

On Wednesday, Master Gardener Lynda Anderson joined us and we tested various types of soil from different areas. We looked at the amount of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and the pH of the soil and talked about what is necessary for growing healthy plants. We also talked about what you can do to improve the health of soil for growing great plants! We’re looking forward to working with Lynda more over the next few weeks to keep learning about gardening as we move towards planting our own garden next fall.

This week, students were able to hear from two fantastic guest speakers- Annie Vann and Lynda Anderson. On Tuesday, Annie Vann joined us Tuesday from the Ramsey County Extension Office to talk about nutrition and physical activity. After getting a few minutes of physical activity in, Annie taught us about the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, the importance of getting 30-60 minutes of exercise each day, and gave us some easy ways to remember these key concepts. She also taught us how to make a quick fruit and yogurt parfait using plain yogurt mixed with a small amount of sugar free instant vanilla pudding mix (we all agreed it tasted like cake batter but was much, much healthier for us- and you can use almost any kind of pudding mix you like!). We added frozen strawberries that were slightly thawed and added in some low fat granola. It was a great treat for our class and a good example of how easy it can be to make a nutritious breakfast you can easily take with you on your way out the door.

And…..Coming Soon…..
Students in the Wellness Lab Pathway are busy brainstorming and planning for a service-learning project that will take place on TUESDAY, JUNE 5 from 12pm-2pm at Journeys Secondary School. The project will feature a fundraiser basketball tournament in which players will pay to enter and play. There will also be food for sale. Proceeds raised at the event will benefit an organization that works to bring an end to gun violence. Students are researching possible agencies who work on this issue.   Students in the wellness pathway collectively decided that the main purpose of the project was to raise awareness and money for such an organization because they want to bring an end to gun violence, and want to help an organization that has a strong mission t0 do this. We are looking forward to seeing how this project unfolds over the coming weeks and hope to see you at the event! 

On Monday, the Wellness LAB went on a field trip to Base Camp ( at Fort Snelling. Three boys were able to attend the trip and it was a great time for them to be able to bond and challenge themselves as a group. They started the trip with rock climbing on the outdoor rock climbing wall. All three boys (plus our amazing para, Ms. V!) were able to climb to the top of the wall! Our awesome intern Brady was also able to challenge himself and try out the climbing wall. After that challenge, the boys decided that they wanted to try something a little harder, so they gave the high ropes course a try. The high ropes course is 32 feet above ground and consists of tight ropes, a cargo net, and other obstacles one must face to go from one end to the other. This was much more of a challenge for them all, but we were proud of the boys who did give it a shot and were able to make it most or all of the way through the course. All of the boys really pushed themselves to try something they didn’t think that they would like or be able to do. It was a great team building experience as well as an experience in facing challenges and obstacles and finding ways to overcome them. As an extra added bonus, the day was absolutely beautiful weather, the boys got some great views of Fort Snelling, and we were able to get them t-shirts to remember the experience. Check out the pictures of the course! 

We’ve been working hard this week in the Visual Lab! We’ve been learning about making art in collectives or groups and how that process can change the world we live in. This week we learned about Tim Rollins + K.O.S., a youth artist collective out of New York City that made history. We’ve been working on a mural together combining drawings we made while listening to the words of Bell Hooks, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. On wednesday we had the opportunity to visit High Point Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis and make our very own Mono Prints! We worked with master printmakers and saw cool art being made.

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