MPR News at the ThreeSixty Journalism Gala. Clockwise from left (back row): Laura McCallum, Linda Miller, Doualy Xaykaothao, Elizabeth Dunbar, Will Lager, Ka Vang, Emma Sapong, Marcheta Fornoff and Marianne Combs.

Submitted by Marianne Combs, Arts Reporter and Producer, MPR News

I love a good bake sale – especially when it’s for a cause I can really get behind – and October’s bake sale at MPR will go down as one of my all-time favorites.

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Each year MPR participates in a fundraising campaign for ThreeSixty Journalism, a program run by the University of St. Thomas that teaches ethnically diverse high school students how to tell their stories, and attempts to instill in them a love of journalism. As a media organization that recognizes the importance of a multicultural workforce, we know it’s critical to help foster talent at an early age.

Last week our in-house fundraising campaign culminated in a bake sale with contributions from some of the best bakers in the newsroom. Digital Producer Nancy Yang created a “Purple Rain” cake in honor of Prince; reporters Solveig Wastvedt and Peter Cox each whipped up batches of pumpkin muffins and ginger snaps, and editor Meg Martin turned out fudge and biscotti. Even our Executive Director of News and Programming Nancy Cassutt brought in some Rice Krispies treats.

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Purple Rain cake.

And our co-workers responded in kind with amazing generosity. By the end of the day we had raised $4,400 for the ThreeSixty Journalism program. That’s a record for us, and it placed us once again as the top media donor – outgiving the Star Tribune, KARE 11 and several other local media sponsors.

There’s another reason this bake sale was particularly important. In past years the fundraising campaign was run by our beloved colleague Toni Randolph, who died last summer. Toni was a mentor to many budding reporters, and a champion for diversity. We felt it was important not just to match what she raised in past years, but to go even further, in her honor.

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Gold Sponsors!

So it was particularly gratifying for me last Friday to attend the ThreeSixty Journalism fundraising and awards dinner, where I got to meet some of the amazing high school seniors that benefit from the program. They are smart, enthusiastic, motivated young men and women, and I have no doubt they will go far.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s bake sale, and to breaking more records, as we take our commitment to diversity in journalism forward.

Toni would be thrilled.