Jenny Collins2017 Rising Alumni

Jenny Collinse

Jenny Collins, a member of the Alumni Society Board, has had a long career in youth development with the Minneapolis Beacons Network and the University YMCA. Jenny is committed to empowering young people to create equitable schools and communities. In particular, she works to engage students from low-income communities, underperforming schools, and those who are first in their family to attend college.


Executive Director, University YMCA and Beacons Network Network, Y of the Greater Twin Cities

CEHD Degree

M.Ed., Youth Leadership Development, 2010

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

Nearly 20 years leadership with the Minneapolis Beacons Network, a partnership between the Minneapolis Public Schools and youth development organizations that engages youth as leaders and learners to create equitable schools and communities.

Four years as Executive Director with the University YMCA, partnering with University of Minnesota college student leaders to transform individuals and communities.

Seven summers as a camp counselor leading youth and staff through transformational group experiences in a wilderness setting.

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

Member of U of MN Educational Equity Taskforce

CEHD Alumni Society Board Member

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

Afterschool Alliance Minnesota Ambassador, 2004

Evaluation Fellows Participant, 2007-08

Youthwork Practitioner Writing Project Participant, 2011

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Participating in the HECUA Program (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs), which connected me to an internship focused on social change and youth development in the then emerging Minneapolis replication of the Beacons model from New York City.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Youth in the World, Michael Baizerman

Experiential Education and Spirituality in Youthwork, Lisa Kimball

History of Youth Organizations, Joyce Walker

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

My experiences with Youth Studies and YDL taught me to approach programs, policies, and relationships with young people through a lens that takes into account the lived daily reality of youth and the historical and current cultural context that shapes our approach to young people.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

Youthworkers. Network Weavers. Bridge Builders. The people who can navigate between worlds to create more connected and coherent communities.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

In today's constantly changing environment, the noise and information and possibilities are infinite, but we are finite. Emerging professionals have to know how to sustain themselves and their work by setting priorities, striving for balance, and carving out a space for critical reflection.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

When I am not at work I hang out with my husband and our daughters Helen (6 years old) and Clara (2 years old). If they are in bed we mostly watch bad TV to avoid doing housework. Lately I have been researching travelling to Ireland, hoping to someday go there with my mom and my sister to explore our ancestry.

How do others describe you?

Depending on the person they might say organized, disorganized, creative, fun, serious, strategic, random, inspiring, or tired.

How do you describe yourself?

I am very passionate about my family and my work and I do my best each day to keep it all together. Some days go better than others.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

I just started Our Kids by Robert Putnam, which is really good so far.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Probably Beyoncé. Or Gisela Konopka. Or Jane Addams.

What gets you excited about work?

Seeing people grow and develop. Seeing systems and organizations become more responsive and better at serving people, particularly when this closes gaps in equity and access.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. Or a business woman with a corner office.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I seek out informal mentors and people I respect and grow through my conversations and relationships with these people.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I love to interpret people's dreams and tell them what they mean. I have no training or skills that qualify me in any way to do this.