Children First

A nonprofit organization

16 donors

If you haven't checked in on Children First in a while, you are going to be EXCITED to see your caring in ACTION!  This past year, we launched Park Partnership for Success, a data-informed, cross-sector cradle to career partnership closing the race and poverty opportunity gaps so that all kids in St. Louis Park, MN can realize their brilliance.

Then we launched the Early Years Action Group, a cross-sector group that works to eliminate disparities in experiences and outcomes for children from birth through late elementary school ages.  Our team, led by the incredible Martha Thompson, did extensive outreach to ensure that we are in close relationship with parents from the population most impacted by the gap in opportunities to prepare their children for Kindergarten.  

With parents on board, we began work on Kindergarten enrollment, Early Childhood Screening, summer learning opportunities (launching an in-the-parks learning program for parents and children in partnership with Hennepin County Library, SLP Public Schools and many community partners; doubling the number of summer preschool slots so more children in the target population could participate), and ... just last week ... the launch of a SLP Area Childcare Provider Network.

Not content with those efforts, our amazing team took up the challenge laid down by SLP Community Ed Director Patrice Howard - to create a week-long summer reading festival with no budget and just a few months to plan!  Our community RESPONDED!  With great leadership from SLP Public Schools; City staff from Parks & Rec, Sustainability, Police, and Wellness Programs; and the Parktacular Ambassadors, an event was born!  See the images below for an infographic that our VISTA, Te'Jah Fields, created to capture some of the impact of the event.

Next up?  The launch of the Upper Grades/Post-Secondary/Career Readiness Action Group.

We are so grateful for the community's support of this work.  Will you be giving today?  WE HOPE SO!

More about our history:

The seed for Children First was planted more than 25 years ago in March 1992, when Carl Holmstrom, superintendent of St. Louis Park Schools, made a presentation about the plight of young people to the St. Louis Park Rotary Club.  Carl’s speech was so inspiring that two entrepreneur Rotarians pushed the community to dream of a way to make life better for its young people. 

The question became: How does a city rally its citizens, schools, families and neighborhoods to help all children and teenagers thrive? Armed with this question, Dr. Holmstrom and the two benefactors invited Search Institute to help St. Louis Park create a citywide effort. A yearlong process of community forums, focus groups, surveys and interviews led to the creation of Children First, the nation’s first community initiative organized to rally all its residents and institutions to nurture the healthy development of children and teenagers based on Search Institute’s pioneering research on Developmental Assets. Developmental Assets are building blocks of successful development important for all youth, which research consistently shows are strongly related to positive outcomes for young people across race, socio-economic status, gender, age, family composition and type of community.

Children First was founded by a partnership among the business, city, health, faith and educational communities in St. Louis Park, MN. Linked by the shared vision of raising asset-rich youth, this collaborative continues to mobilize a significant number of citizens and organizations to promote developmental assets. 

The Children First model and scientific studies of its impact have been published in a number of important national and international academic journals and books, including:

  • The Journal of Community Psychology
  • The Journal of Applied Developmental Science
  • Journal of Adolescence
  • All Kids Are Our Kids: What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents (Jossey-Bass)
  • Developmental Assets and Asset-Building Communities: Research, Theory and Application (Kluwer/Plenum)
  • What Do Children Need to Flourish? Conceptualizing and Measuring Indicators of Positive Development (Springer Books)

After Children First was launched in 1993, more than 600 communities across the United States, Canada, and around the world, launched similar initiatives. As the first model in this Healthy Communities – Healthy Youth movement, Children First has played an important role as a teaching community. Countless city leaders – from New York to California to various cities in Australia, South Africa and Brazil – have utilized community-building innovations first created in St. Louis Park. 

Organization Data


Organization name

Children First


Education Children & Family Community Economic Development

BIPOC Serving

BIPOC Serving


6311 Wayzata Blvd.
St Louis Park, MN 55416