Columbia Heights resident named 2017 Bush Fellow

Abdirashid Abdi aims to close achievement gap, help all students reach their full potential
By Sarah Burghardt
Sun Focus Newspapers



Longtime educator Abdirashid Abdi is committed to helping all students reach their full potential. With years of experience serving students across different cultures, Abdi knows the effectiveness of recognizing and understanding students’ differences and backgrounds to help them succeed. Abdi was recently named a recipient of the 2017 Bush Fellowship, a program that provides leaders with up to $100,000 to pursue learning experiences to make an even bigger impact on the community.

Abdirashid Abdi (Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation)
Abdirashid Abdi (Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation)

For over 60 years, the Bush Foundation has been awarding grants like this to up to 24 deserving individuals residing across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

Longtime executive of what is now known as 3M, Archibald Bush and his wife Edyth established the Bush Foundation in 1953.

“Innovation and leadership are at the core of the foundation,” Bush Foundation representative Anita Patel said. “Part of Archie’s belief was that by working on our own leadership development, we can have community impact that is far greater than what we ever imagined.”

During his time as a teacher and administrator at Heritage Academy of Science and Technology, Abdi noticed an achievement gap. The school, located in Minneapolis, nurtures cultural values, traditions and language as its study body is made up of many diverse students.

“There is a gap between the well intention of teachers who are trying to really teach students and students with potential who are very interested in learning,” Abdi said.

By recognizing this disconnect, Abdi wants to further look into how students’ cultural backgrounds shape their learning styles.

“As educators, when we know more about our students and their learning styles, we can provide learning experiences that meets their needs and help them reach their true potential,” Abdi said.
For many students, English may not be the main language that is spoken at home. This factor, as well as other cultural differences, can play a role in how students learn.

“This can really help with the achievement gap that is widening. I think we’re all trying to find a solution for that,” Abdi said. “The goal is to create a framework to help teachers better understand their students’ cultural assets to incorporate into the learning process.”

Out of 639 applicants, Abdi was selected to pursue his goal.

Many Bush Fellows pursue education to further their knowledge and enhance their ability to help their community, although the program is distinctively flexible. Many others use the funds to travel and meet other leaders to explore ideas that are taking place around the world and learn how to apply them in their own communities. The flexibility allows applicants to articulate what he or she needs to become a better leader.

The organization also helps applicants to narrow their focus and maximize their own true potential.

“[Abdi] was truly clear about how he needs to grow as a leader and by doing that, he’s going to make a difference for an entire way of thinking and operating,” Patel said. In addition, Patel said Abdi was willing to stretch himself beyond his comfort zone as he reflected on feedback and ideas.

“The Bush Fellowship is really designed to help you as a leader,” Abdi said. “Through the process, I felt that I was able to narrow down my focus and see my own potential, more than I have before.”

Abdi, currently a science teacher at Minneapolis Academy, will be pursuing a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Minnesota.

Abdi said he has always been passionate about learning, teaching and working with young students.

“This is a natural next step for me,” Abdi said. “I’ve always wanted to build my capacity as a leader. Based on my experience, I can help to find solutions to meet the needs of all ELL students.”
Grateful for the opportunity, he said he is very thankful that the region has an organization like the Bush Foundation.

“I’m very glad that we have an organization that is committed to supporting and investing in leaders that will continue working and serving our community,” Abdi said. “I believe that the Bush Foundation is vital for the future of our region, and I hope that I will meet their expectations and make an impact on our community.”



Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]