For the next several issues of Northern Light, we’ll profile organizations that have received grants from Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and detail how they are using them to increase awareness about problem gambling. Our first feature focuses on the Minneapolis Neighborhood Youth Academy.

The Minneapolis Neighborhood Youth Academy (MNYA) is taking a three-pronged approach to their efforts to raise awareness about gambling to youth of color in North Minneapolis.

The first part is the creation of a video, released on Memorial Day weekend, that focuses on the concept of risk and making good choices. The video is viewable on and was produced in collaboration with Danami, Russell Herder, Minnesota Prep Academy and the Minnesota DHS.

The second phase involves distributing the video through social media so that it reaches youth in the way they access information using their devices — everything from TikTok to Facebook. In addition to raising awareness, the goal is to start a conversation about gambling and related choices.

The third phase of the work will be the creation of a curriculum that goes with the video and for MNYA to become the entity that connects people to the help they need. This is in response to the fact that many websites detail problem gambling from an adult perspective rather than a youth perspective. This will include a youth-led focus group so that more information can be gained about what youth are doing with sports betting. The perspective will not be just with casinos, shooting dice, dominos, etc., but will also include how youth are accessing sites such as FanDuel.

“The grant has been wonderful for us as a starter,” says Donnell Bratton, founder and executive director of Minnesota Preparatory Academy. (The Minnesota Preparatory Academy is partnering with the Minneapolis Neighborhood Youth Academy.) It’s really allowed us to raise awareness about gambling to youth of color in North Minneapolis.

An unexpected benefit has been that the work has helped educate adults about what young people are experiencing. “We didn’t know it would turn out like this, so we’re really excited. This has given us a much deeper appreciation for how gambling can affect young people for the future,” says Donnell. “We heard so many stories we didn’t really expect, such as some kids thinking about gambling to provide money for their mother.”

One important eye-opener for youth was learning that they jeopardize sports scholarships if they participate in sports betting. Some can also lose jobs if they are caught gambling.

In partnership with other community organizations, the information learned from MNYA’s gambling awareness efforts is also being communicated to other at-risk groups, including Asian Americans through Asia Media Access.

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