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‘I want to be that representation I never saw growing up’ | Local woman shares experience to help others

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Andi Skillings was 29 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a gay, Hispanic woman without insurance, she wants her story to shed light on her experience.

Andi Skillings was 29 years old — and living her best life — when… 

“It was actually after a yoga workout and I came home and I felt something in my right breast that I had never felt before,” she recalled.

Andi was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“One day you’re in your apartment cooking, and then they call you and give you the news and I ran straight to the toilet,” Andi said. “I was sick. Immediately sick to my stomach A bad dream.”  

A bad dream because she had cancer, and because she had no medical insurance. But in that moment, she got a lifeline. The Minnesota Department of Health Sage program stepped in and paid for the mammogram, and set her up for doctors, appointments and treatments while also helping her get insured. 

And she needed that help because she didn’t know what to do or how to do it, because she never saw breast cancer coming.

“For a long time, I was very naive to the fact that Hispanic women even really got breast cancer very often, as crazy as that sounds,” she said. “You look at a billboard or a TV ad, most of the time it’s a white woman. So, I never got to see a face that looked like mine. Wasn’t on my radar at all. 

And while Hispanic women get breast cancer less often, they get more aggressive cancer — like Andi’s — which is a rare form of triple negative. 

“This breast cancer is more likely to return and metastasize, and this type of breast cancer often affects Hispanic women most,” Andi said.

But Andi was in another marginalized community, too — one she didn’t see when it came to breast cancer. 

“You know, also being a queer person of color, I was afraid at what kind of care I was going to be given,” she said.

In the medical world, yes, but at home, she didn’t have to fear at all. 

“When she got that phone call, I was like, ‘I am right there with you. I am not going anywhere,” said Andi’s wife Eva Skillings. “I just had no question, I will hold your hand through this entire thing.”

Eva fought with her for over a year — treatments, surgeries and the moment she got her first all-clear. 

They tell the story of the cancer they fought for three reasons: gay women, Hispanic women and uninsured women should be a part of the conversation. 

“I want to be that representation I never saw growing up,” Andi said.

For more information on the Minnesota Dept. of Health Sage program, visit mnsage.com or call 888-6HEALTH (888-643-2584).

Watch all of the latest stories from Breaking The News in our YouTube playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries



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DNR proposal to sell 80,000 acres of land in the BWCAW

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The school trust lands would transfer to federal ownership and officials said it would benefit Minnesota’s public education system.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands and the U.S. Forest Service- Superior National Forest have proposed a plan to sell land in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the federal government to benefit the state’s public schools. 

According to information from the DNR, the state, U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund (TCF) have been trying to find a way to exchange school trust lands in the BWCAW for lands outside and this process has yet to yield an outcome. 

Find more information about the land proposal originally drafted in 2012 here. 

In this new proposal, published on Thursday, the DNR would remove the school trust designation from around 80,000 acres of state lands and those acres would be purchased by the federal government using federal Land Water Conservation Funds. 

Officials said this agreement would “uphold Minnesota’s fiduciary responsibility” to generate money for the Permanent School Fund and help to provide a continual source of income for the state’s K-12 schools. 

Since the cancellation of the 2012 land exchange, TCF also wants to sell up to 15,000 acres in the Superior National Forest, outside the BWCAW, directly to the U.S. Forest Service. The DNR said they are also evaluating the land in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service, counties and Tribes to identify land suitable for state acquisition. 

Funding will still be needed for the Minnesota DNR to buy the land. 

“The state’s school trust lands are designated to maximize long-term economic return for the Permanent School Fund and provide a continual source of funding for every K-12 public school district in the state,” said Sarah Strommen, commissioner of the Minnesota DNR in a press release. “This important land transaction ensures that the DNR can fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to the school trust. We are pleased to work with the U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund to remove school trust lands from within the BWCAW and acquire forest lands outside the wilderness for the public.”

The DNR said Minnesota’s school trust lands have provided a reliable source of money for the Permanent School Fund for more than a century, due to activities like mining and logging. The 1964 Wilderness Act and the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act limit the state’s ability to use the 80,000 acres of school trust lands in the BWCAW as required by Minnesota’s constitution, officials said. 

“The resolution of this longstanding land management issue is a major win for Minnesota’s public school students,” said Aaron Vande Linde, Minnesota Office of School Trust Lands director. “The project’s culmination will result in millions of dollars deposited into the Permanent School Fund. This investment will support the state’s public education system in perpetuity, fulfilling our fiduciary duty to ensure that both current and future beneficiaries receive maximum economic returns from school trust assets.”

The DNR plans to begin the work of removing the school land trust designation from state lands within the BWCAW, with help from the Office of School Land Trusts. 

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the BWCAW is made up of more than 1 million acres, 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and more than 2,000 designated campsites.



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Minneapolis stays busy with GALA Choruses event

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“We’ve come back very, very strong, and we continue to build on that momentum,” Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, said.

MINNEAPOLIS — If you’ve felt like Minneapolis has been busier than normal recently, you’re right. The year has been jam packed with events so far, as hundreds of thousands have flocked to the city.

The most recent major event, the GALA Choruses, is a five-day, 7,000-singer strong LGBTQ+ choral festival featuring 200 concerts.

“It’s an incredible experience to feel like you have this community of people like you,” Jane Ramseyer Miller, artistic director for GALA Choruses, said. “And then on top of it all their choral nerds, so it’s just fun. Everybody’s singing and walking down the street and enjoying concerts.”

It’s the event’s first time in Minneapolis in decades, and has been a long time coming.

“Minneapolis has actually bid for 16 years to host this festival, so it’s about time that we’re here!” Ramseyer Miller said.

In fact, the event was supposed to happen four years ago in 2020, but was canceled because of the pandemic. Since then, the festival has continued to grow, bringing even more people to Minneapolis.

“Well, we have taken over hotel rooms all across the city,” she said. “So of course, that’s income for hotels, the same things with restaurants and businesses, bars, for sure. All of those things just help build the infrastructure for Minneapolis.”

It’s another big get for Minneapolis, adding to a year filled with large events. From the Big 10 tournaments to the success of the Wolves and Lynx, the Olympic Gymnastics Trials and Twin Cities Pride, there hasn’t been a lull.

“To really establish that momentum and let people know that things are really happening in Minneapolis, and that they need to come down and check it out,” Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, said.

Because of these major events, Tennant says that’s allowed them to entice other organizers to take a look at Minneapolis, using those events as recruiting pitches.

“What it means it that whenever we do one of these events, other event organizers look at us and say, ‘That is a city that I think we could see ourselves in,'” Tennant said.

“There’s nothing about Minneapolis that dissuades national customers from coming,” he added.

Business has been so good that Tennant says this June was the busiest time for hotels in Minneapolis ever.

“In June, from a hotel occupancy perspective, a little over 67%. We were about 62% this time last year,” he said. “If we go back to 2020, the occupancy was about 13%, so we’ve come back very, very strong, and we continue to build on that momentum.”



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AC companies preparing for hot, busy weekend

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With temps in the high 80s and 90s, air conditioning companies are expecting an uptick in calls for service.

MINNEAPOLIS — When you work in heating and air conditioning, summers are spent watching the weather.

When the heat comes, so do the calls for service.

“When people realize the house is heating up and they look at their thermostat and it isn’t keeping up and then the phone starts ringing you know,” said Ed Pelto of Ed’s Heating and Air.

Pelto and one of his employees spent Friday morning replacing an old AC unit from the 70s.

He says this unit is one of the oldest he has ever seen, but in 90-degree weather he says even newer units may struggle to keep up.

“Fan motors will start going out when we have consecutive days and people don’t shut it off,” Pelto said.

At Dean’s Home Services they’re also getting ready for a busy weekend.

HVAC sales and service manager David Husnik says homeowners should check their air filters now, because if they’re dirty, the AC units will have to work harder than they need to.

“Check out your mechanical room. Look and see, do I have any water dripping? Is it operating as normal? How is the humidity in my house?” Husnik said.

And check your AC unit outside.

Manager Chris Uttke also recommends cleaning out your unit now before the heat comes this weekend.

“There is a lot that can get stuck in the unit and cause it to work harder than it needs to. Cottonwood seeds, grass clippings, dust and dirt,” Uttke explained.

“What we would recommend doing is a low pressure hose, rinse the unit from top to bottom, to clean it off so it doesn’t have any issues.”

AC companies also recommend putting in a call for service as soon as possible, because they are expecting to be busy this weekend and the earlier you call the sooner a technician will be able to come and inspect your unit.



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