So Minnesota: Laura Baker

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The vision of one woman at the end of the 19th century lives on today in Northfield, Minnesota.

In 1897, Laura Baker established a small private school for a handful of students with developmental disabilities.

Today, Baker’s creation exists as Laura Baker Services Association in Northfield.

“I just think it’s incredible and amazing,” said Executive Director Sandra Gerdes.

“It’s important to figure out as a society, how do we create norms that say it’s ok for people to be who they are, to be accepted, and I think that’s the journey she started on.”

Baker strongly believed her students would grow into productive members of society by providing them with a safe, stable learning environment.

To bring the community and her students together socially, the school often hosted parties.

“When she started, they were moving into the direction of institutionalizing,” Gerdes said. “She did step out at a time when people were saying, that doesn’t work, we don’t want you to do that.”

The Laura Baker Services Association continues to teach life skills to many in the community today.