MIGIZI Rebuilds, Provides Stable Futures for Native American Youth

Minneapolis nonprofit MIGIZI – an organization that provides educational, social, economic and cultural support for Native American youth – has persevered through turbulent years.

“The last few years have dealt us some unexpected blows," said Kelly Drummer, President of MIGIZI. The organization provides educational, social, economic and cultural support for Native American youth. “Not having a stable location for so long has affected our programming."

With a $100,000 grant from the Opus Foundation, MIGIZI closed out their capital campaign and is working on their new home in Minneapolis. 

“We are grateful to the Opus Foundation for helping us secure a new space of our own," Kelly said. 

Improving Academic Outcomes

Founded in 1977, the organization originally worked to ensure Native American people were represented accurately in the media. MIGIZI means bald eagle in Ojibwe. The name was chosen because the bird signifies communication, guardianship and high standards.

MIGIZI provides one-on-one academic and cultural support to Native youth in in Minneapolis, St. Paul and five suburban school districts. They focus on improving academic outcomes among Native youth and providing them with career education and training. Currently, only 58.5% of Native American youth in Minnesota graduate high school.

Youth learn Native American languages, arts and crafts, storytelling and ceremonies from community members and elders. They also gain hands-on experience in real-world settings through MIGIZI's career pathway programs: First Person Productions and the Green Jobs Pathway, a STEM program focused on renewable and green energy.

“There isn't another Native American-specific organization in the Twin Cities doing this work," Kelly said.

Building Towards Something Big

MIGIZI sold their former run-down building in 2015 and moved to a temporary space. After a three-year capital campaign, they purchased a facility on 27th Avenue South. In May 2020, they watched in disbelief as the building burned in the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

“For that building, we had raised almost $2 million in capital and lost a lot of it when it burned," Kelly said. “It was devastating. We had to start all over again."

They have used temporary spaces since losing their building.

Opus Foundation Grant Caps Off Capital Campaign

MIGIZI's days in temporary spaces are nearly over. This grant helped fund work on an 8,000-square-foot building on Lake Street. They will be mere blocks from Minneapolis South High School and the Little Earth housing community.

The design of the facility includes input from the students MIGIZI serves. It will feature:

  • space for outdoor programming
  • gender-neutral bathrooms
  • green features, including rooftop solar panels
  • a media center with a recording studio for radio, music, film and podcasts
“This will be a place where kids can be creative," Kelly said. “It will be a stable location that's closer to our community."

In April 2023, MIGIZI will move in.

Investing in Youth & Revitalization

Lake Street Council introduced the Opus Foundation to MIGIZI.

"We wanted to further invest in the rebuilding and revitalization of the Lake Street corridor," said Kristin Ridley, Executive Director of the Opus Foundation. "We broke from our normal grant cycle and funding criteria to support MIGIZI. We highly value the work they do in the community with Native American youth and their career pathway program."

“Opus was a brand-new relationship for MIGIZI," Kelly said. “That they invested $100,000, it's amazing. We're just really grateful."


The Opus Foundation​®​ is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families. The Foundation is committed to improving conditions that disproportionately affect historically underinvested individuals and communities by resourcing key focus areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.