Want to share your co-op story? Submit here!

Raw Creativity & TLC

Name: Afton Brooks

Pronouns: she/they

Period: 2017-2020

Quintessential Co-op Memory? Peering down from the second floor room Jeremy and I were in to see Luna and Kolo giving it their all dancing to whatever the frat boys were playing, in both a mocking and authentically joyous manner. Coming home to my first roomie Phil face down on the futon, in the pencil dive shape, was a bit tragically humorous — I don’t know how he managed to take 23 something credits while living there. The house was full of brilliant people! Finding a school-to-house-engagement-life balance was hard, but I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences for anything else.

Very Important Person to You? Jeremy 🤎

Favorite Co-op Meal? One of my favorites that felt so wholesome was when we were all mashing up a gigantic bowl of avocados together to make guacamole. It was prompted by an event we had where some of us shared the cooking of a meal which was meaningful to us in some way.

Favorite Co-op Party Theme? Our triple birthday party, Primordial Soup with incredible musical performances and the womb room. And of course the Halloween parties, dressing up as corn with a pocket full of corny jokes.

Do You Have Advice? How do you practice self-care? 😉

What does the Co-op mean to you?
Ahh the beautiful intensity of our co-op home. That big ol’ house has a spirit as strong as the memories we carry with from it. Reflecting on that time brings back so many !! From singing and dancing and making unheard of creations in the kitchen, to late nights of dancing ourselves clean with the humming fridges, the occasional long and arduous house-meeting, piling up on the porch couch, and of course all the existential check in questions at supper club that made me contemplate my every means of existence … can’t forget the bathroom hangouts and teeth brushing parties either.

It was a magical place, with real practical effort and passion that kept it alive. We all faced many a challenge, and hopefully realize how we grew from them. I like to think it all made me stronger and more compassionate in a variety of ways at least.

It’s where I met the love of my life, where I learned how to live with a bunch of people, and where I learned how to value community. Generally speaking, it was really where my awareness of self, society, the way certain economic structures impact the world, and the importance of taking care of each other and our environment was indefinitely deepened.

I’ve grown to appreciate the moments of levity. True, things could get chaotic, but while it was functioning I still find it pretty miraculous in considering how we found ways to organize so many dynamics of life in a house full of almost 30 people. The food plan was awesome, the friendships that grew were/still are nurturing, our discussions were momentous, our collective creativity was enlightening, and the ways we connected is unforgettable.

Feeling Valued

Name: Ellery Wealot

Pronouns: He/him

Period: 2017-2018

Quintessential Co-op Memory? Marching around the kitchen with people playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” on a variety of band instruments.

Most Memorable Meeting? Whether or not to purchase raisins as part of the house meal plan

Favorite Maintenance Project? Refinishing a floor in a 3rd floor bedroom

What do you do now? Lives in Seward neighborhood, Minneapolis; works in Capital Markets and Compliance Billing

What does the Co-op mean to you?
I moved to the Twin Cities in October 2016, after graduating from the University of Minnesota- Morris the spring prior. I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in East St. Paul, paying $840 per month for a three-month lease. It was the most affordable single-occupant housing I had been able to find.

I had two part-time jobs lined up: an internship researching rural business retention strategies in the US MidWest and a role as a teller at a local credit union. I had very little money. I remember worrying about whether I could afford Tylenol and savoring a quart of mint-chip ice-cream that I had regretted buying after realizing I couldn’t afford it.

I was also lonely. I had no friends or connections in the area and had a long commute to work, meaning I got home each night at 7pm, cooked and ate dinner, washed my dishes, watched an episode of Parks and Recreation on my laptop, and then went to bed around 9pm– so I could get up at 5:30am the next morning to rinse and repeat.

Given my social situation; I was immediately drawn to the community of kind, welcoming people at the Students’ Co-op. Of course, it also helped that I was familiar with (and very passionate about) cooperative business models and social enterprises. And while I knew the housing was more affordable than my current situation, it wasn’t until after I applied that I discovered that rent was only $300 a month, with an optional $60 per month meal plan on top of that, which provided access to fresh, organic produce and other local foods purchased in bulk.

I moved into the co-op in January 2017, and what followed was arguably the happiest year of my life. I able to save huge amounts of money on rent, which allowed me to build my emergency savings, eat healthier, and replace my 200,000 mile ’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which had just about every problem you can imagine an old car having, including mysterious pools of water that would form in the backseat every summer). More importantly, I was validated and uplifted by a community of people who loved me and believed in me. I had people to share meals with, including our weekly supper club. I often helped prepare supper-club, sometimes disastrously (like the time we tried to make homemade pizza and somehow ended up with several gallons of sauce), but always memorably, for better or worse. I had people with whom I could share brunch, exercise, jog across Stone-Arch Bridge, watch movies, go on road trips, laugh, and cry. The members of the co-op trusted me with leadership positions within the house and made sure I knew my ideas and aspirations for the co-op were valid, even if they didn’t always receive a passing vote at a house meeting. It was a space where I felt loved and valued.

In May 2018, I recognized that it was time to find new ways to learn and grow– and that perhaps living with thirty college students into my late twenties might not be ideal. I moved out of the co-op but took several pieces with me– in the form of other co-op members who moved out with me into a new home in Seward neighborhood. That is the home I still live in today.

Five years later, my financial stability and the majority of my community of friends can all be traced back to the Students’ Co-op in some way. Some of these are people I live with, and some of them are spread across the US or even the world. Even those I lost touch with had a profound impact on me, challenging the way I view the world and the way I treat myself and others. I am truly grateful for my time at the Students’ Co-op, and I hope that others can be fortunate enough to have the same experience in the years to come.

Finally Felt a Functional Home

Name: Maxeem Konrardy

Pronouns: any

Period: March 2011 – Sept. 2012 and April 2014 – Oct. 2015

Very Important Person to You? It’s impossible to pick from so many! I am in constant contact with my dear friend and roommate Charlie, we were the center of our own little Room 6 community.

Favorite Group Activity? Random outdoor adventures involving who ever shows up then Eagan taking guitar requests around the fire pit.

Favorite Co-op Meal? One time we pitched in for tons of fresh Indian ingredients, and I spent all afternoon making three different curries. It was amazing. I still think about that.

Best of Dinkytown? Magus books

Favorite Co-op Party Theme? Progression parties felt like Trick-or-Treating combined with playing “fort” and very involved performance art.

Favorite Maintenance Project? Refinishing the floors for possibly one of the last times they could withstand being shaved down.

Most Valuable Lesson/Skill? Anarchists, communists and fascists can share the skillet in the morning

Do You Have Advice? Communicate

To Put It Simply … Heart

What do you do now? I still dream a lot about co-operating … literally!

What does the Co-op mean to you?
Art had been my way of coping with instability in family, ever since I can remember. Yet after gaining a supposedly high-ranking creative job (that I’d seamlessly entered right after the art academy) the office perpetuated more societal dysfunction and stress than ever, and I could not support the position of business partnership. Failing to find an alternate way to define success for myself, I decided to take up my mother’s offer to join her family in Europe and see if I could navigate and heal the roots of intergenerational trauma. I imagined myself interning with the Tuscan landscape to learn subsistence farming that would provide food-based spiritual medicine.

While co-directing an organic farm in Ramsey to gain strength and experience I met a diverse group of protesters. Then the end of 2008 bubble popped and the European adventure turned into a wrestling match between another corporate job and somewhat directionless exploration of alternatives to what I’d tried before. So I dove into the latter, which ended up looking like living with activists in Oakland, and finally exchanging intensive forensics research for room and board outside of Rome (which lasted almost a year).

Meanwhile, back in America, Occupy Wall Street was spilling out of subculture into the streets, Native Americans were showing up to give pointers about resistance to the hegemony, and it finally felt like there was a glimmer of long overdue change in regime on the horizon – from neocolonial greed to something more like the difficult path of communication and (before I knew the word) egalitarianism. And despite naïve effort with my Mom, intergenerational trauma overwhelmed my ability to heal it.

So after the 18 months of struggling to reboot sustainable community, I found myself back on Dakota land, experiencing the compounded crises of belonging that the 99% was going through. My activist father met young collectivists who — by coincidence or through the inevitable — overlapped with the groups I knew. My dear friend among them Kira recommended me to one of the most collectivist kinds of spaces she had yet experienced. It sounded like something right out of the struggles of the Tuscan hills – people sharing resources, space and garden, and making collective purchases together – to resist despotism within dominant culture!

All this wind up is to say that I have experienced some profound uncertainty in life. So when my application to the Students’ Co-op was accepted in March 2011 (they recently struck the rule forbidding non-students) I was surprised to find something much more special than just a less-dysfunctional space. It was an orderly experiment in co-operative living with a known history going back over 70 years. I was recruited into bathroom and maintenance duties in quick succession – savoring, admiring and wondering at every strange rule that kept it going. In short order I was part of the first place in my life that felt like “home”.

Living in closeness, as part of a functional group, teaches irreplaceable lessons of reassurance, trust and collaboration. When you are treated more equally than empire ordinarily dictates, the raw humanity is unforgettably healing. Conversely, if something is too much for a community to handle, I learned what forgiving, remembering and learning from mistakes looks like, instead of merely shaming, hiding and coping. In co-operation, the spirit of collectively flowing shared power to needs is ever present, as opposed to mainstream quests for stations of poorly aged privilege. The Students’ Co-operative didn’t only justify my faith in humanity – it exceeded my expectations with constant exercises in gentleness and overcoming stagnation.

Is it perfect and free of faults and illusions? Of course not! It’s just that thanks to three Winters and four Summers of invaluable friendships, skills and lessons in the organically co-operative home at 1721 University Avenue, I have unrestricted access to emotional wellbeing – an internal never-ending Spring from which my very life’s sense of hope is perpetually renewed. It was through co-operative role play there that my coping mechanisms could Fall away to reveal a creative joy, redolent with meaning and inspiration. Renewal and transformation are rare powers – ones that I strongly feel will behoove generations of now and the future. Let us re-give that gift to those who need it, while we can.

Back-Up Plan

Name: Ian Morris

Pronouns: He/Him

Period: 1994-1997

In the summer of 1994, I mentioned to a friend that I needed to find an apartment before classes started in the fall, but I wasn’t looking forward to the apartment-hunting process. She moved into the Co-op a few months before and suggested I apply to live there. I was hesitant. I grew up in a quiet house without siblings and I worried that living with 20 other people would be hectic. I thought I wouldn’t fit in. I planned to look for an apartment but decided that that The Co-op would be my back-up plan. As the busy summer came to an end, I hadn’t found an apartment. I decided to move into the Co-op until I could find something better.

But as soon as I arrived at the Co-op, I found everyone was friendly and welcoming. I was surprised how much time I spent talking to people in the kitchen and the TV room. I enjoyed getting to know my fellow co-opers and I was struck by the fact that so many people with different backgrounds were able to get along and keep the house running efficiently. After a few weeks I forgot about my plan to find an apartment.

It may seem strange, but many of my best memories of the Co-op were doing house jobs or working on the building during work weekends. I didn’t mind doing dishes or vacuuming the hallways. During work weekend when we refinished the floors or put up shelving, I enjoyed feeling that I was making the building a better place for everyone.

I also learned a lot from the conflicts and disagreements that occurred while I was at the Co-op. During those years there were arguments between roommates and conflicts with our neighbors on University Avenue. I learned that a critical step in resolving these kinds of conflicts is to help people see the issue through the perspectives of others.

I keep in touch with people I met during my years at the Co-op, and I’ve visited Co-op friends in Minnesota and on both coasts. We still talk about crazy things that happened at the Co-op and the interesting people we lived with.

Although I don’t live in Minneapolis anymore, I’ve been back twice in the last year with my 11-year-old son. Fortunately, we’ve been able to spend a little time at the Co-op helping other co-opers get ready for renovation. It’s been fun to see my son’s enthusiasm as he works on the building I lived in 30 years ago.

I took a lot of important lessons and experiences from the Co-op during my time there. I’m glad I can give something back so that new generations can have the same good experiences.

Resilience and Opportunity

Name: McKenzie Robida

Pronouns: he/him

Period: 2017-2018

Quintessential Co-op Memory? When everyone would get together and cook at the end of the day after class. The environment was fun and light and there was frequently good music and conversation. There was a real familial vibe and people often would spontaneously dance. It was a lot of fun.

Favorite Group Activity? A group consisting of a large portion of the house started a DnD group. This was great fun and where I learned how to play for the first time.

Most Valuable Lesson/Skill? It’s difficult to choose any one lesson. I grew up in a rural area with very little sense of community so I think the most significant lesson I learned was the power of a strong community. The community as a whole was resilient and just generally made me much happier than living alone. This has made community engagement and community building core values in my adult life.

What the Co-op Means to Me:
My time at the Students’ Co-op was seminal for my development and I frequently look back at the lessons that the experience taught me over the year that I lived in the Coop starting in 2017. I came to the Co-op like most people, looking for affordable housing. As a student, it was, and I imagine still is, difficult to find affordable housing. While the options for students were sparse, the land that was being allocated to additional housing units was being developed for luxury apartment buildings that were far out of reach for someone with a socioeconomic background like mine. I was on my own and my family couldn’t afford to help me stay on campus. When I learned of the Co-op through a friend I was immediately sold because the affordable rent would allow me to live on campus for the first time, to engage in study groups and to eliminate a long and costly commute from my family home. If I remember correctly, I was able to rent a space within walking distance of my classes with some food provided for roughly the monthly cost to fuel my car. What I thought I would find was a safe haven of affordable housing but what I experienced was much more profound.

I discovered a thriving community that worked collaboratively to feed and house one another with democratic elections and regular joint meetings to ensure that the members of the house were included and came to decisions as a community. I met some of the most interesting people of my life in this place. The diversity of and free expression of ideas alone led to me reconsidering many of my own positions and resulted in a personal renaissance of my own philosophical and political thought over the time I lived in the house. I felt genuinely welcome, respected and safe while I lived in the home and this stability was critical for me. It provided the support necessary for me to complete my bachelor’s degree as the first person in my family and to attain the personal stability that I and many generations before me lacked.

In my opinion, this living arrangement is critical to the culture of the University Campus and an essential service for other students, like me, who need additional support and a sense of community. The Co-op has been a safe harbor and vehicle for social mobility for decades. With the worsening housing crisis, the Students’ Co-op and other organizations like it are critical to demonstrate successful housing alternatives and to promote human flourishing. I am not sure what would have happened to me without the Students’ Co-op but I am confident that without it I would have fared worse and would have lacked the proper conditions to flourish and grow as a person. After graduating I moved out of the Co-op to live with my partner but I will always cherish the time I spent at the Co-op for the pivotal role it played in my life and for the friendships that I formed along the way.

Invited to Join In the Fun

Full Name: Andrew S.

Pronouns:

Period:

What does the Co-op mean to you?
A few of my favorite Co-op memories are going into the kitchen and finding massive bowls of popcorn for anyone to eat out of; stumbling on other delicious food that people would make and leave out to feed their fellow co-opers.

I loved the community bike rides we did — once all biking with the “freedom from pants” ride and another time biking on the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. Community Game of Thrones watching nights. Loved living in a space big enough to host lots of Couchsurfers and Warm Showers bike tourers. I loved being invited to join fun events and games with co-opers inside and out of the house.

A Place to Grow

Name: Jeremy

Pronouns: He/Him

Period: 2016 – 2020

Favorite Group Activity? Retreats were mostly fun: sauna and snow, hanging out casually without as much serious business, drunken shenanigans, staring at the stars in the wet grass

Favorite Co-op Meal? late night house brownies and popcorn

Favorite Co-op Party Theme? Triple birthday primordial soup complete with living room womb

Favorite Maintenance Project? “project manager” for the (hopefully still standing) hood vent stand with McKenzie (designer) and Gerhardt (fabricator) and stucco loan work with Patrick from Foley. Gotta love the big coop symbol on the front peak.

Do You Have Advice? Take it easy, stay focused, have fun

What does the co-op mean to you?
The coop provided me a space to learn, grow and form new relationships. I gained many life skills while living at the coop and hope future generations can benefit from it as well. The culture of the house fluctuated but the spirit never faltered. I feel we are naturally drawn to this style of living, to build community and companionship and share resources through struggle and joy. Haphazard maintenance projects were enlightening and fun while providing a safe space to learn and grow while contributing to the community. I feel that these small projects are reflective of the whole experience of the coop. It was a comfortable place to learn and grow while making mistakes along the way. We weren’t perfect, but we were beautiful. I am forever grateful for the friendships I have formed from my time there, and am glad to have spent those years living at the coop which helped shape me into the person I am proud to be today. Oh, and are those cookies house by the way?