Dr. Michael VanKeulen is CoFounder and Partner in Open Path Resources. With 28 years of experience in education, as teacher, administrator, board member, and founder of several schools, he has been an influence in shaping educational change across the United States. He has worked within the East African community of Minnesota for the last 17 years and traveled in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Turkey, China, and across Western Europe for his work. He served as a Hubert H. Humphrey Policy Fellow 2013/14 within the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of MN. He was named an Education Policy Fellow for 2015/16 Center for Policy Design (St. Paul, MN) and the Institute for Educational Leadership (Washington D.C.). Click HERE to read more about his experience.
Imam Sharif Abdirahman Mohamed, also known as Sheik Abdirahman to many in Minnesota, is CoFounder and Partner in Open Path Resources. Imam Sharif graduated from Metropolitan State University in with a Liberal Arts degree in Family Counseling. With 15 years of experience of family and marriage counseling and teaching people about Islam, he is well known in the local community and among Somali Islamic scholars in North America As the Imam and board member of Islamic Civic Society of America (ICSA) he led his community by acting as
co-founder and chair of the Islamic League of Somali Scholars in America (ILSA). He has traveled to Europe several times upon request of the U.S. State Department as an advisor to these nations on how to better engage their sizable Somali communities. This spring he received the Public Leadership Award from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Most recently has graduated from the Fairview Hospitals CPE program and has become Minnesota’s first Muslim Chaplain. Click HERE to learn more about Imam Sharif.
Sheik Abdisalam Adam came to the United States in 1991 and worked as Arabic English-Somali Translator in Virginia before moving to the Twin Cities in 1996. He is the Founder and current Board Chair of the Islamic Civic Society of America, which operates Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis. Abdisalam also serves on the Boards of Islamic League of Somali Scholars in America, Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, and Neighborhood House in St. Paul. Abdiasalam works for St. Paul Public Schools and has served as a ELL teacher and a Somali Cultural Specialist with the ELL Department and Office of Family Engagement and Community Relations.
Kent W. Elliott Allen has worked in the Minneapolis Public Schools since 1998, both as a special education teacher and, for the last 10 years, as a school psychologist. Issues related to school based mental health, culturally fair assessment, and over-representation of children of color within special education are particularly important to Kent. He is also active in the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, currently serving as the union steward of the MPS school psychologists, working with the contract negotiation team, and having run for election to the union’s executive board.
CoFounder and Executive Director of Islamic Civic Society of America Wali Wali Dirie was born in the capital city of Somali, Mogadishu. There he graduated from Jamal Abdinasir High School. Wali came to the United States in 1996. Wali completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Phoenix University and an Associated Degree at KRS Computer Business College. KRS is now combined with Normandale College. As the Executive Director for the Islamic Civic Society of America (ICSA) Wali oversees the oldest and first Mosque (Dar Al-Hijrah) to serve the Somalicommunity in MN. Click HERE to visit the ICSA website.
Paul Winkelaar has been a supporter of Open Path Resources and the Islamic Civic Society of America for many years and joining our Board of Directors in fall of 2020. His joyous but determined organizing to build opportunities for the full diversity of MN’s community drew him to work with our community. Starting in 2017, Paul used his connections to get community members on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota to invite 30 of the East African Muslim community from the Twin Cities for a sit-down meal and conversation. Paul found funding, organized community and political leaders to join and simply prepared the event which has become a recurring and “not to be missed” event of the year (Sadly, during COVID we have had to temporarily postpone this event for community safety).
As a Social Studies teacher, Paul saw the power of youth leaders and systems that support teachers to be most effective. He is passionate about public schooling as an essential resource for a healthy democracy, Paul earned his Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota. He now works as a Political Action Specialist for Education Minnesota and is passionate about education and creating viable educational opportunities for children policy work. His current focus is on recruitment and retention of teachers, Every Student Succeeds Act, Adverse Childhood Experiences, student discipline, standardized testing, and children’s health. One of the most connected community influencers you could meet, Paul resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.