Guest column

Policymakers, nonprofits can leverage tech to expand youth opportunity – in the Twin Cities and beyond

When I founded the Sanneh Foundation in 2003, I knew we had the chance to make a real impact in our communities. And along the way, it’s become increasingly clear that a multifaceted approach is needed to most effectively uplift our local communities and families – from policymakers to teachers and parents, and all leaders in between. 
The 2022 World Cup magnified soccer’s ability to mend differences and bring cultures together to cheer, laugh, and even cry together at times. As Americans observed this on an international scale, you only need to take a quick trip to St. Paul to observe the positive impact that soccer can have on a community, and the children within it. For instance, our Kick it Back program recycles gently used soccer gear and shoes to be sent to children in Haiti, and our local high schools, too. Simply by establishing a pipeline to help a young person to get a pair of shoes to play soccer, you keep our urban youth in positive sports programs and not searching for guidance in the streets. 
While soccer has been pivotal in my life, I am proud that the talented team at the Sanneh Foundation takes a wraparound approach to uplift, mentor, support, and nourish our youth. Our Dreamline Program empowers coaches to support children in schools to have an extra outlet that they can lean on to help make conscience decisions, growing as a more confident and productive individual in the process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also began to help feed families, as well. At this point, we have donated over 3 million pounds of food to our local communities through that initiative. 
Technology also plays a vital role in the work that we do at the Sanneh Foundation. I will never get tired of the initial reaction on a child’s face when you hand them a tablet, laptop, or piece of new tech that they may not have access to at home. While it is fun to engage with the newest gadgets in tech, it also empowers children in Twin City communities to be versed in the technology platforms that are critical in them obtaining jobs and a modern education. Being familiar with Microsoft products or the many free Google tools that we utilize undoubtedly gives individuals a competitive edge as they pursue a career or higher education.  
While I am proud of the impact that the Sanneh Foundation continues to make, I also understand that it takes a village to raise a child. I hope that we will see Congress take a less combative tone toward the tech sector. Rather than targeted bills aimed at breaking up or disrupting companies, I am hopeful to see positive legislation that can work to uplift our communities in tandem with the work of our organization. 
Tony Sanneh, who was raised in St. Paul, is an American retired professional soccer player who played as a defender or midfielder. Tony Sanneh established The Sanneh Foundation in 2003. The organization is now based at 1276 University Avenue W.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here