Dr. Padmini Udupa, Principal of Longfellow Alternative High School, has been chosen to receive the 2019 AchieveMpls Excellence Award for her vision and leadership in the development of a customized internship experience for parenting students in the Step Up Youth Employment Program. Dr. Udupa will be recognized at our October 10 Evening of Excellence dinner, which will be held at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center from 5-8:30 p.m.
“AchieveMpls is honored to recognize Dr. Udupa’s life-changing work with parenting students, which furthers our mission of inspiring and equipping students for careers, college and life,” says Danielle Grant, President and CEO. “Her leadership in convening partners to create a system of support for parenting students increased their access to Step Up work readiness training, on-the-job experience, professional mentoring and new career networks.”
Dr. Udupa has served as principal at Longfellow since 2013, providing inspired leadership for this Minneapolis Public Schools high school that supports pregnant and parenting teens. Longfellow offers a personalized education model, an Early Learning Center with childcare and preschool and other services that help students stay in school and create post-graduation plans they’re invested in and excited about.
Dr. Udupa recognized that many of her students were unable to participate in Step Up because of scheduling conflicts due to child care and other family obligations. She believed that with proper support, they could greatly benefit from the kind of career education that Step Up provides, and in turn, bring important skills and life experience to their internships.
Determined to eliminate barriers to Step Up participation, Dr. Udupa collaborated with Longfellow and Minneapolis Public Schools staff, City of Minneapolis and AchieveMpls Step Up teams, Hennepin County, Project for Pride in Living and the Minneapolis Foundation to develop a customized training and internship experience that honored these students’ specific life circumstances. Together they fashioned a new pathway which included work readiness training and mock interviews during regular school hours at Longfellow, summer school morning classes to earn academic credit, afternoon Step Up internships, and wrap-around support that included on-site childcare, transportation, breakfast and lunch, and other services. Thanks to this powerful community collaboration, 41 parenting students completed Step Up work readiness training, 39 were matched with an internship employer, and 26 successfully completed their internships.
“My passion is removing barriers for students and providing opportunities to experience what’s available out in the world,” says Dr. Udupa. “Step Up offers a starting point for developing confidence and work experience, making the connection between careers and their education, and creating a brighter future for themselves and their kids. Parenting interns also bring so much life experience, resilience and determination to make a difference and provide for their families.”
Dr. Udupa came to the Twin Cities from India in 1984 with a master’s degree in science, and completed her second master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Minnesota in educational psychology and special education. She began her long career in Minneapolis Public Schools at Washburn High School, where she served for 10 years as a dual-licensed teacher in science and special education. She went on to serve as Assistant Principal at Northeast Middle School, Assistant Principal at Nellie Stone Johnson, and Principal at Northeast Middle School before moving to Longfellow Alternative High School. In 2005, she received the Assistant Principal of the Year Award from the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals.
The annual Evening of Excellence dinner gathers over 350 business, education and civic leaders to celebrate Twin Cities young people and support AchieveMpls career and college readiness programs, including 15 Career & College Centers and the Step Up Youth Employment Program in partnership with the City of Minneapolis.