R.T. Rybak

R.T. Rybak

R.T. Rybak served as Mayor of Minneapolis from 2002-2013, and is currently President of the Minneapolis Foundation.

Prior to his role at The Minneapolis Foundation, Rybak was Executive Director of Generation Next, a broad partnership of organizations and leaders from across Minneapolis and St. Paul dedicated to educational excellence and narrowing the achievement and opportunity gap. Previously, as a Senior Advisor for Municipal Practice at Living Cities, he contributed to Living Cities’ strategic engagement with city governments across the country.

During his tenure as mayor, R.T. led efforts to make Minneapolis a national leader in innovative, cradle-to-career approaches to youth development, and has worked to highlight the crisis of our region’s achievement gap and advance effective strategies for ending it.

As mayor, R.T. founded the Minneapolis Promise, an innovative cluster of coordinated efforts to get students college- and career-ready and put them on the path to success. The Minneapolis Promise says to young people that if they stay in school and focus on their education, Minneapolis will support them with high-quality summer jobs and work-readiness training through the STEP-UP program, counseling to help them plan a vision for their future at privately-funded college and career centers in every Minneapolis public high school, and financial assistance to attend college through The Power of YOU, a collaboration between Saint Paul College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools.

R.T. has called STEP-UP the achievement of which he is the most proud. Since 2004, STEP-UP has put 18,000 Minneapolis youth — 86% young people of color, 50% from immigrant families and 93% living in poverty — to work in meaningful summer employment. The White House recognized STEP-UP as a national model for youth summer jobs at a conference that President Obama attended.

R.T. has been recognized as a national “Afterschool Champion” by the Afterschool Alliance not only for his leadership of the Minneapolis Promise, but for founding the Minneapolis Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, an innovative public-health approach that has dramatically lowered youth involvement in violent crime, for being a champion of the youth-led Minneapolis Youth Congress, and for his active involvement in Minneapolis’ Youth Coordinating Board.

A Minneapolis native, R.T. Rybak spent almost 30 years working in journalism, the commercial real estate business, publishing and the Internet before being elected mayor in his first run for public office. He and his wife Megan O’Hara, a communications consultant and local-food advocate, have two grown children.


Contributing Articles

Mayors and Schools: Holding the Agenda, Together

In this installment of the Mayors and Schools Field Trip, R.T. Rybak shares insights on his time in Minneapolis, first as mayor and later as head of a collective impact table focusing on a comprehensive youth agenda. At noon on January 2, 2014, the mayor of Minneapolis’ top priority for young people was the Minneapolis Promise, a series of efforts that …

Mayors and Schools: Kansas City Charisma

Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak takes the Mayors and Schools Field Trip to Kansas City, where Mayor Sly James has avoided controversy while also making a significant impact on early childhood education. If you want to see the expression “life of the party” brought to life, go to a Royals baseball game with Kansas City’s charismatic Mayor Sly James. It …

Mayors and Schools in the Nation’s Capital

The past three D.C. mayors have sustained a surprising commitment to school reform. In this installment of our series on Mayors and Schools we look at Washington, D.C., the site of some dramatic and controversial actions involving how the most visible elected officials in cities impact the education of the children they represent. Here we reflect back with Mayor Adrian …

Mayors and Schools in Boston: Why Get Involved?

In the last installment of the Mayors and Schools Tour, we spent time with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff as she starts her second year in office. While she has no formal control of schools, and her city has little history of deep mayoral impact on youth, she is working diligently to make a mark. In this installment, we travel to …

Mayors and Schools in Oakland: Doubling Down on Partnerships

After our conversation last month with San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, we crossed the Bay Bridge to visit Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, where we found that the dramatic differences in their situations illustrate the many factors beyond governance structure that impact how a city’s chief executive can work to improve education. Living Cities is hitting the road with former Minneapolis …

Contributing Resources

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