Work in Progress

Public Achievement is focused on public work – sustained, visible, serious efforts by ordinary people that create things of lasting value. Learn about our work here – democracy is always a work in progress.

Case Studies

Public Achievement Group Tackles Issue of High Cost of Insurance Premiums
International relationships develop through Public Achievement

Project Examples

Neglected Lot Becomes State of the Art Playground

ISSUE: Playground
BACKGROUND: There was no playground for the children attending St. Bernard’s School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

PROJECT STEPS – Building a playground

  • Researching costs and feasibility of playground
  • Garnering public support from the neighborhood residents – residents initially opposed it because they were fearful it would be a place for gangs to congregate
  • Public speaking before the parish council to gain support
  • Negotiating zoning changes on an empty residential lot with city officials
  • Raising $60,000 from area businesses for playground equipment and construction
  • Sustaining the Public Achievement effort over five years

RESULT: After five years of public work, the Public Achievement teams at St. Bernard’s school built the playground – providing a safe place for young people to play for years to come.

Back to top

High School lobbyists concerned about car insurance

ISSUE: Car insurance premiums
BACKGROUND: High school students at St. Bernard’s School were frustrated with the high cost of insurance premiums which some students were paying themselves.


  • Researching insurance premiums in Minnesota and other states
  • Presenting to legislators at the Senate Commerce Committee at the capitol
  • Participating in a press conference at the school about the efforts to reform Minnesota’s no-fault insurance law
  • Sending letters to legislators who voted again the repeal (several hundred letters)

RESULT: The effort to reform or repeal Minnesota’s no-fault insurance did not pass in the senate committee, but the students are not giving up. They plan to continue with their effort to push for change at the capitol.

Back to top

Peace in the face of violence

ISSUE: Peace March
BACKGROUND: There were several violent acts that took place near the perimeter of the school: a stabbing at a flower shop, a hit and run resulting in the death of a St. Bernards graduate, and a racist verbal attack on two African American women on Martin Luther King Day. The 4th, 5th and 6th grade students wanted to do something to address the situation.


  • They decided to organize a peace march with neighboring churches and local police.
  • The local police precinct was skeptical that the young people could do anything about this issue. The students were not deterred by this response and took up the issue with the police captain. He responded favorably.
  • The students attended weekly meetings with folks at neighboring churches in order to plan a peace march and memorial service at the Lutheran church. They planned and organized the peace march to go by each site of violence in the area around the school. Students also planned a soup dinner held at the end of the march at St. Bernards.

RESULT: Among the 400 people who participated in the march was the mayor of St. Paul, the police, church congregants, neighbors from the north end community, parents, public achievement friends from Kansas City and school staff.

Back to top

Education to protect urban wildlife

ISSUE: Urban wildlife
BACKGROUND: One 2nd and 3rd grade PA group at Inter-District Downtown School in Minneapolis took on the issue of making yards safe for birds and wild animals. They are concerned because animals and birds are losing habitat due to increasing development. The group came up with straightforward tips for city residents, creating a public service announcement as a means for making the information public.


  • Researched the issue
  • Created and wrote public service announcement which included tips for city residents on how to make their yards more bird and animal friendly
  • Rehearsed and practiced the public service announcement
  • Recorded the public service announcement at a local radio station

RESULT: The public service announcement was played frequently on a local radio station.

Back to top

Privacy please? Fixing locks in school bathrooms

ISSUE: Broken bathroom locks.
BACKGROUND: A group of 5th and 6th graders at Andersen Elementary were frustrated with the lack of privacy in the bathroom stalls and decided to take on the issue of locks in the bathroom. Many of the locks on the doors in the bathroom stalls were missing or broken.


  • Met with the principal to discuss their concerns
  • Arranged a meeting with the maintenance staff at the school
  • Researched costs for new door latches
  • Presented findings to school administration

RESULT: At the end of the school year, new door latches were affixed to the doors of the bathroom stalls.

Back to top

Policy change: a playground for everyone

ISSUE: Playground Access
BACKGROUND: Andersen Elementary and Andersen Open School in Minneapolis are housed together under the same roof but have two separate playgrounds. Andersen Open School has a new, extensive playground and Andersen Elementary has a small, one unit playground. A Public Achievement group at Andersen Elementary took on the issue of changing school policy so that the students of Andersen Elementary could gain access to the larger playground.


  • Conducted a survey in the school to assess interest in using the playground
  • Took photos to illustrate the inadequacy of the current playground
  • Met with the principals of both schools to discuss the issue and school policy
  • Invited journalist of the neighborhood paper to come to the school to hear about their issue, resulting in an article in the paper
  • Met again with the principals to see what changes could be made

RESULT: Andersen Elementary students gained access to the playground when the principals were able to work out a schedule allowing both schools access to the playground

Back to top

Skateboarding is not a crime

ISSUE: Skateboard Park
BACKGROUND: A group at Mankato’s Dakota Middle School is concerned about the lack of a skateboard park for residents in north Mankato. There is a skate park in southern Mankato, but it far from the school, geared toward more advanced skaters and too expensive. Working on momentum from previous PA skate groups over the years, this group is determined to build a skate park in Mankato.


  • Contacted the city council to see get on meeting agenda to propose a skate park
  • Researched and prepared presentation
  • Attended meeting and presented information to the city council, advocating for the skate park
  • Researched costs and possible funding sources
  • Invited back to city council meeting because the council wanted suggestions on park location
  • Invited press to cover issue – two articles in local paper resulted from the meetings with the city council

RESULT: It looks like the city council is seriously considering building the skate park and it wants the students and parents involved in steps along the way. The mayor of Mankato was quoted in the paper as stating, “If we’ve got a group that’s pushing it, I think it is going to succeed. I congratulate you (the PA group) about getting us excited about it.” (from the Mankato Free Press). PA groups have been pushing for the park for years. This PA group is determined to make it a reality.

Back to top

Graduates can again leave their mark

ISSUE: School mural
BACKGROUND: Eight grade students at Dakota Meadows Middle School wanted to bring back a tradition of leaving hand-prints and names along the wall of the school as the students end their year at Dakota Meadows. After initial resistance to the idea by administration, the PA group decided to propose an alternative – an eight grade mural which includes a signature quote.


  • Met with the principal to propose hand painting – the idea was turned down
  • Re-grouped and came up with an alternative idea of painting a mural with a positive quote – they presented this to the principal and were given the go-ahead to plan the mural
  • Chose site for mural – a long hall that could accommodate ten years of murals (creating a new tradition for eighth graders)
  • Invited local artist to come to the school to talk to students about ideas for the mural and logistics of painting the wall
  • Invited homerooms to vote on favorite quote
  • Painted mural

RESULT: The PA group bounced back from initial disappointment and came up with an idea that was supported by administration. They worked together with an artist from the community to plan and paint the wall. They hope to leave the school with a positive, visible message from their class that will be there for years to come and to provide space for future eighth grade class murals.

Back to top

Understanding war, Supporting troops

ISSUE: Supporting troops.
BACKGROUND: A PA group from Dakota Meadows Middle School wanted to let Minnesota troops know that they are appreciated for their service. With their coach, who has served in the Navy herself, they worked together to send a tangible “Thank you” to the troops on one fleet in the Persian Gulf.


  • Contacted Navy person on a ship in the Persian Gulf
  • Created a banner that hung in the lunchroom at the school so that students could write messages to the troops
  • Sent the banner along with digital cameras so the troops could take pictures of their environment and surroundings
  • Raised funds for care packages by contacting Hy-Vee grocery store to see if they would donate flowers that the PA group would sell at a dance – the group raised over $200.00
  • Exchanged emails with troops
  • Created list of supplies to send to troops, shopped and sent care packages to the troops

RESULT: The Support for Troops group learned a lot about local Minnesotans who are serving in the Persian Gulf. They exchanged information and sent support to the troops by sending them a large banner with personal messages and care packages. They successfully raised money by soliciting donations from the local grocery store. They hope to meet the individuals when they return.

Back to top

Campus Connector increases student safety

ISSUE: Bus transportation.
BACKGROUND: University of Minnesota students in the leadership minor wanted to expand the hours of bus transportation for students who needed to get across a long bridge after regular bus hours because students did not feel safe crossing it alone at night. This bridge connects the campus with a neighborhood where many students live.


  • Mapped stakeholders to identify who is affected and who to contact for interviews
  • Researched issue by conducting interviews, examining mission of University bus and transportation department, assessed number of students using bridge after dark, talked to other groups interested in the same issue (Minnesota Student Association), created and conducted survey which had to go through a lengthy review process (Institutional Review Board)
  • Met with the head of transportation at the University and learned about other transportation options available to students (via city buses)

RESULTS: The PA group did not get the University bus hours extended, but they did learn that there were other options for student transportation, namely, the city bus. They believe that students don’t really know or understand they can use this bus so they advocated more public advertising of this option.

Back to top