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Owatonna man honored by McKnight Foundation

Ibrahim Hussein

OWATONNA — The founder of the Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna got a “wonderful” phone call earlier this month.


Ibrahim Hussein, who started the Somali American Cultural Society and works as a Somali liaison at McKinley Elementary School, was one of six people awarded the 2012 Virginia McKnight Binger Award for Human

Service. Hussein found out about the award at the beginning of the month, and will receive the award on Friday.


Hispanic, Somali leaders speak with Owatonna volunteers

Sharing stories

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 4:30 pm         |                         Updated: 9:05 pm, Thu Aug 22, 2013.           

OWATONNA — To help the organization’s volunteers better serve minority students, leaders of Grandparents for Education asked Somali and Hispanic residents to speak at the group’s annual meeting.

Grandparents for Education invited Ibrahim Hussien, Hanzi Ali, Chely Flores and the Rev. Brent Carlson, a local pastor who spent time in Asia, to Thursday’s meeting at Wilson Elementary School in Owatonna. Sonja von Arb, co-founder of Grandparents for Education, said the panel was asked to the meeting to allow volunteers to gain a better understanding of the differences in cultures.

Each panel member spoke for about 10 minutes to the crowd of roughly 50 volunteers, teachers and district administrators. After the introductions, the crowd asked questions.

Von Arb asked the panel if there was anything people did, unknowingly, that was offensive. The panel agreed that people shouldn’t stereotype or judge a book by its cover.

Ali, a student at Owatonna High School, shared a story of how a woman told him, while he was working as Cash Wise, that she couldn’t believe how well he spoke English.

“She said she couldn’t believe I spoke ‘so good.’ I had to fight the urge to correct her grammar,” Ali said.


Somali after-school program, four years strong, recognizes volunteers

                                                                                                  Posted: Monday, June 1, 2015 4:15 pm


SACSO volunteer dinner

More than 30 people gather at McKinley Elementary School on Friday night to recognize the volunteers at Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna. (Kim Hyatt/People's Press)



Ibrahim Hussein, founder and director of the Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna (SACSO), is shown at the volunteer appreciation dinner with his 2-year-old daughter Samira. (Kim Hyatt/People’s Press)                                                           

OWATONNA — Ibrahim Hussein was so overwhelmed with emotion at the Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna (SACSO) volunteer appreciation dinner, he folded up his speech and let the moment speak for itself.

Four years ago, Hussein said he couldn’t imagine standing in front of the crowd of volunteers, community stakeholders, friends and Somali families at the dinner on Friday night.

Hussein is the founder and director of SACSO, a nonprofit organization located on East Front Street in Owatonna that serves as an afterschool program to help Somali students with their homework. At the time he thought of creating SACSO, he was working at McKinley Elementary School as a Somali liaison.

It was at McKinley that he realized there were “many things lacking,” but he didn’t know “how long we were going to do this.”

On Friday, four years later, he returned to the initial place of inspiration, greeting every guest with an infectious smile and hug, or selfie with Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism president Jennifer Libby.

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