Return to Headlines

What is an 'IZI'?

IZI events promote intentional cross-cultural interaction

It is a weeknight in March. School is out for the afternoon but there is still a buzz of student voices throughout Edgewood Middle School. Edgewood’s principal, Penny Howard, says that it is not uncommon to find students in the library, hallways and classrooms before and after school. With a number of co-curricular offerings to choose from, most students find a program, club or sport that brings them to school early or keeps them there late. She says these co-curricular connections are important and have an impact on how students feel about their school, and their overall success.

Seventh-grader Ignatius Ejofor is among the group of students still at school on this particular March afternoon. Ignatius participates in the school band and the STRIPES program. He is also on the basketball, track, soccer and floor hockey teams.

When Principal Howard says connectedness impacts students’ overall success, she points to students like Ignatius. “Not only is Ignatius involved in sports and enrichment programs, he is also an academic excellence and honor roll student. He is a shining example of a connected kid who boasts academic success.”

Breaking down barriers

Xavier Reed, associate principal at Edgewood Middle School, sees how connectedness impacts student success and wants to extend the sense of connectedness beyond the school walls. He enlisted Ignatius, along with other students and staff, to help organize and host “We are all Edgewood” in March.

After experiencing Intentional Social Interaction events (IZI — pronounced “izzy”) at Marnita’s Table, Xavier was determined to bring that model to Edgewood. An organization based on human-centered values, Marnita’s Table brings people together for a meal and intentional crosscultural interaction. With the goal of breaking down barriers and making everyone feel comfortable to participate, these events are known to help facilitate important conversations about education and other topics. “If we invite everyone to the table and expand our stakeholder reach, we’ll be better equipped for success,” says Xavier. “Both the school and the community will benefit.”

The first school-hosted “IZI” in the District drew a crowd of more than 130 community members including business owners, former and current families, and community and church groups. Attendees gathered around tables to share dinner and participate in organized conversation-starting activities.

According to Tai Celestine-Lloyd, the Edgewood event was a success. Tai, who has three students at schools throughout the District, said “Many times you see everyone sitting around and keeping to themselves at events.” Here, “the organized activities brought everyone together.” She said that the games and activities helped people start conversations and connect in a way that they may not have otherwise connected. According to Tai, all schools could benefit from events like this.

“Turns out when you bring people together for good food, conversations naturally begin,” says Penny Howard. “It was fun to see our students facilitating conversations and helping to ensure everyone felt comfortable and engaged.” “IZI” events are a costeffective human-centered way to bring together a community of varied cultures and productively plan and problem-solve.

Edgewood and other schools throughout the District will also host similar events.


MVSEF Your investment in the Intentional Social Interaction Meetings supports equity - impacting our student’s lives. Thank you for your support of the Mounds View Schools Education Foundation.

In alignment with the district’s Equity Promise, the MVSEF looks to support initiatives that connect with the families of all students. The best approach identified to engage traditionally underrepresented families is through the use of Intentional Social Interaction events. These events bring people together and are focused on intentionally creating the conditions to improve connectedness and address social equity gaps.

Click here to hear Bontu describe her experience at IZIs.