Jenny (Ekstedt) Johnson '99

Sara Jacobson

On many levels, Jenny Johnson credits Minnehaha Academy and her time there to her career of 15 years as a non-profit fundraiser, and now serving as the Director of the Family Philanthropy Resource Center at the Minneapolis Foundation.  “A lot of what I learned and experienced at MA led me to a career in non-profit philanthropy.  I had an experience that was meaningful in understanding the continuity of volunteerism and getting to really see change happen.”  

Lifelong Relationships

Jenny was a ‘lifer’ at MA.  She attended Kindergarten through 12th grade then went on to Covenant Bible College, and finally North Park College.  As students and classmates, she and her peers really connected with each other for the 13 years they were together.  There were 88 graduates in her class. “I’m really grateful for my small class--we got to spend a lot of time together.  My closest friendships as an adult are still my friends from MA.” 

Jenny believes that MA was instrumental in developing her as a whole person. It wasn’t just about academics, sports, music, art, etc.  She and her classmates had exposure to all of it--and one thing wasn’t more important than another. Everything contributed to the whole person. 

The Value of Volunteerism

Jenny and her good friend Cara had the opportunity through MA to volunteer at a local elementary school a few blocks from school.  They went for 30 minutes two mornings a week for 3 years. “I loved the consistency--that Cara and I did it together, and I also loved that we got to work with these same kids year after year and watch them grow and learn.”   This experience taught Jenny about the consistency of volunteer efforts and the importance of not just dropping into a community one time and thinking that you are going to change anything. She grew an understanding that longevity, persistence, continuity, and commitment are what changes a community and an individual’s life.  This experience, and another experience during her college years volunteering with transitional housing for people with AIDS, significantly shaped her and her future career.  “I saw the same types of transformation in people’s lives as a volunteer in college that I saw as a volunteer in high school, and I credit these experiences to what I am doing today.  I saw how someone’s life could be transformed through their own determination and persistence and the opportunities offered by a nonprofit organization.  That clearly became a career that I wanted to go into.” 

Life Today

Today, Jenny works for the Minneapolis Foundation as the Director of their Family Philanthropy Resource Center.  Primarily, she works with families and individuals in the Twin Cities community helping them to make an impact or change in our community through their philanthropy. “I help them to Identify their own values, and then help them align their charitable giving with their values. It’s an amazing group of people to get to work with.  It’s people who are thinking about their community and thinking about ways to help the community to move forward and achieve better things. I love my job.”  

Jenny is married and has two young children. She and her husband are currently exploring schools for their kids, and Minnehaha is a strong contender.  “I keep coming back to the whole person development--strong academics, strong athletics, opportunities to participate in music and drama.  It’s all there!  At the end of the day, I want my kids to be good people--to have character and integrity.  I hope that they also do well academically, but that is not the most important thing to me.  It’s hard to create an atmosphere with both academic rigor and intentional character building.  MA does a great job with both.”  

To The Students

What word of advice would she give to current students?  “Cherish your MA friendships and keep those people close to you. I am so grateful on so many levels to still have those close friendships today.”

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