Aspiring educator shares penny-pinching tips

Youth, it’s understandably said, is wasted on the young. Not, though, in the person of Vanessa Young who, at 24, is an excellent exception to the proverbial rule.

She’s sensibly down to earth when it comes to the fundamental nuts and bolts of dealing with a dollar, though she feels it wouldn’t hurt to get a bit better at it. Employed this summer at Freedom School in St. Paul (she’s also a professional tutor at East Side Learning Center), Young reflects, “As a servant leader intern, it is terribly hard to budget. I need some more finance fitness training or something.”

That said, she also wouldn’t be remiss to give herself a break. Who among us in the day-to-day working world and supposedly (just ask politicians) improving economy isn’t having a tough time stretching a buck?

“I am a thrifty shopper,” she states. “I use the clearance rack as much as possible and clip coupons.”

Vanessa Young Photo courtesy of Vanessa Young
Vanessa Young
Photo courtesy of
Vanessa Young

Being frugal doesn’t mean you can’t watch what you put in your body. “I like to have a variety of options for a home-cooked meal, box- and process-free, so I can stay healthy even on a budget. So, I shop at [a bargain supermarket chain] for some things and the local Chinese grocery stores for noodles for lunch, fruit and cheap chicken.”

And there is the food source that increasingly has become vital to more and more people: “I go to the food shelf and get what I can. My neighbor and I partner on meals all the time, too. It helps stretch our meal capacity.

“The conversation goes a little something like this: [We’ll both ask] ‘What’s for dinner?’

“Me: ‘I have chicken and rice.’

“Diamond: ‘I have green beans and potatoes.’

“Both: Alright we got a meal!’

“I rarely eat out, because I am a penny cruncher. The majority of my wining and dining happens on a date or special occasions. Or if I’m dying for some Chipotle with a little extra money in my pocket, or just happen to split a bowl with a buddy.”

She sums up, “Living life in a recession or, to me, on a fixed income, is not anything new. However, it has been difficult as a college student [at Metropolitan State University] making a living to support myself, carpooling and seeking out affordable housing. I find myself being very innovative and creative with sustainability.”

That’s not all she’s creative about, combining a concern for the community with her passion for culture. “I would like to figure out a way to make a special call to the community and to local artists to be more supportive to one another.”

A bit of qualifying background: The St. Paul native started in the arts early, attending Crosswinds Arts and Science East Metro Intergration District (EMID) from seventh to 10th grade (see related front page story). “During my time at Crosswinds, I became in tune with my creativity and kinesthetic learning ability. [Acting] in musicals and plays and embracing musical recordings, creating songs, drill-stepping, and dance from multiple genres helped me embrace the arts even more.”

She graduated from Harding Senior High and went to Metro State, seeking a degree in the Urban Teacher Program. “However, my passion for overall student success directed me to seek an alternative learning strategy to accomplish this, hence receiving an individualized degree in Youth and Family studies. With this degree and my work-study coordination experience in the Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship, I discovered methods of programmatic organizing that can lead to civic and community engagement.”

In 2009, Young took part in the East Side Voice Project, conducting research on the issues facing young people on St. Paul’s East Side. “From this I was invited to participate in a documentary, TPT: East Side Pride, discussing the historical and present foundations in Saint Paul.

“In 2012, I became the founding chapter leader, president of student for Students For Education Reform at Metropolitan State University, organized annual read-ins, participated in pipeline-to-prison rallies, education reform [and hosted a] Black Arts Movement art exhibition.” None of it anything at all to sneeze at.

Most recently, this past spring she was Twin Cities luminary Brenda Bell Brown’s right hand as assistant to film director-producer Brown for Sing Blues, Thank You, presently in post-production.

Next up: “I plan to utilize my knowledge to incorporate community involvement to help engage, empower and elevate my community. My main mission is to help all students become globally competitive, establishing a love for creative learning strategies, encourage and be a role model for creating new positive statistics for Blacks in Minnesota.

“As a future educator, I believe it is important to enlighten, encourage, engage, and in due time elevate members of the community to help establish a better society.”


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.

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