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Partner Spotlight: Northside Child Development Center

Woman sits on floor, smiling, next to families.

Northside Child Development Center (NCDC) has been a partner of Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) since 2016. According to NCDC, they work to build a healthy Northside community through high-quality childhood education and supportive family programming. NAZ’s partnership with NCDC is one that stems from the deep care that both organizations share for the youngest Northsiders.

We recently had an opportunity to shine a light on NCDC and one of their incredible leaders who makes the early childhood center a Northside staple.

Walking up to NCDC, you’re immediately welcomed by the nostalgic sights and sounds of childhood. A fenced-in playground with low-hanging trees is visible from the entryway hall, and children’s voices echoing through the building greet you as you’re welcomed at the front desk.

NCDC Program Director Kim Osborn ushered us to her office, tucked away but still well within earshot of the bustling noise of the lively childcare center. Cards, notes, photos, and a blossoming plant sat atop her windowsill, collecting sunshine from the front lot as we began asking questions of beginnings: her own and NCDC’s as a whole.

“I always knew I wanted to be some kind of advocate for women and children; I didn’t know where that would bring me,” Kim said as she set her Northside Pride branded water bottle on the desk in front of her.

This year, Kim has already celebrated 30 years with the Center, and the 20-year-mark in her role as program director is on the horizon. She was recently awarded the 2024 Director of the Year by the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC) for her many years of service at NCDC.

Kim reflected on her early days with NCDC, guided by her love of children and the many challenges and opportunities such work brings. She beamed as she began to discuss the place she’s helped to grow and the young minds who fill it.

“The kids are really excited to come here every day … you know that it’s important when a child is excited to get up in the morning at 7:00 to come here.”

It didn’t take long for Kim to turn the focus away from herself and bring attention to those she has worked alongside for the last three decades.

“I’m so lucky to have such smart people around me,” she said, smiling.

And though the relationship is still fresh (within the last decade), her appreciation for NAZ and the shared work the two Northside organizations have been able to accomplish together wasn’t far from her mind. Kim recalled seeing the potential connection with NAZ before their partnership bloomed.

“I do remember looking at the opportunity; NAZ values were very similar to NCDC’s beliefs,” she said. “Aligning with NAZ is an easy fit because it gives great opportunities for the children and families.”

NAZ and its partners meet on a regular basis to discuss alignment in their strategies to support scholars and their families. This collaborative approach helps ensure the best possible outcomes for individuals and the community.

During our conversation, Kim’s dedication and love for the Northside quickly became very clear. She expressed care and concern for scholars as they started their education journey and how that pathway was one leading to a life full of success and potential. Intentional dedication to a child’s continued development has been in the forefront of Kim’s mind for the last three decades.

“The opportunity just to have the child learn and be ready … able to navigate through the school system is so important; the social-emotional piece is so important.”

She spoke of children she once taught in a classroom who have since grown up to be the parents she sees each morning, bringing children of their own to NCDC.

“Having a space where a parent can drop off a child and feel comfortable while they go meet their own goals … it’s so valuable,” she said. “Having a safe, reliable space where the children can grow in a community is so important.”

In order to provide access to such a space, NAZ and NCDC work together with our partners at Think Small to blend state funding with NAZ private scholarship dollars to support NCDC scholars, leading to more opportunities for success for Northside kids.

As we transitioned our conversation from the past and present, we asked Kim what the future – the next decade, or so – of early childcare on the Northside looked like. After a lighthearted joke of her own retirement in the next ten years, Kim expressed a beautiful vision of achievable opportunity for Northsiders and their families. She talked of more green spaces on the Northside for children to play: just one of her many ideas focused around wellness for families and scholars alike.

“The early childhood field really gets overlooked with regards to wellness,” she said. She followed with a comment directed at the mental-wellbeing of scholars: “What’s needed really is access to therapeutic services.”

In addition to the increased focus on wellness, Kim spoke to the importance of Out-of-School-Time (OST) programming throughout the Northside for scholars to be supported as close to 24/7 as they possibly can be. One of many mirrored values between NCDC and NAZ shined through: supporting the entire scholar.

After everything she’d shared, every moment she’d helped create for thousands of children and families, decades of work, Kim still only expressed interest in doing more. Her and NCDC’s dedication to Northside families will never fade, and she made that crystal clear. Simply put, she described places like NCDC and NAZ as the supporters of scholars and their unending dreams:

“We have to have high expectations for our children, but really give them the support to achieve those high expectations.”

Thank you to NCDC and Kim Osborn for their dedication to Northside families and their continued partnership with NAZ.

Northside Achievement Zone Partner Spotlights are an opportunity to focus on NAZ’s more than 30 partners who shine brightly in North Minneapolis, serving scholars and their families.