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MPS Summer College Academy Graduates 1st Class of EL Students from MCTC

Posted on: August 31st, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments
MPS English learner students at MCTC.

MCTC Interim President Avelino Mills-Novoa addressed the graduating Summer College Academy class.

On July 30, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) celebrated 117 English Learner (EL) students graduating from Summer College Academy classes.

As immigrants and first-generation Americans, EL students often must overcome tremendous adversity to pursue higher education and find jobs. A partnership between MCTC and Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), the Summer College Academy provides academic guidance and direction at a critical juncture in EL students’ academic journeys.

High school students and recent EL graduates participating in the program receive the opportunity to experience college-level language instruction, earn an English credit, and prepare for higher education. In addition, the program’s classes help teach students to utilize their unique backgrounds and multilingualism as strengths critical to their success.

The goal of the Summer College Academy is to accelerate the graduation rate for EL students while reducing or eliminating the need for remedial classes when an EL student starts college.

Under the direction of MPS Deputy Education Officer Elia Dimayuga-Bruggeman and with the support of MCTC instructors, the 117 EL students received three levels of reading and writing classes on the MCTC campus over the course of eight weeks this summer.

Ms. Dimayuga-Bruggeman expressed excitement about the collaborative nature of the program. “By working together, we can move beyond individual efforts and unleash the power of collaboration that will help ensure Minneapolis English Learners can go to college and be prepared for successful futures,” she said. “The partnership between MPS and MCTC to provide our English Learners college-level courses through the Summer College Academy will advance our students on their journey toward high school graduation and place them in a pathway to college and career readiness.”

The program culminated in a Family Celebration and Career Fair, where families and students were provided with information on how to access college as well as different careers that lead to family-sustaining jobs. Participating schools included Wellstone International High School, Edison High School, Henry High School, South High School, Southwest High School, Washburn High School, Roosevelt High School, and Heritage Academy of Science and Technology.

MCTC Alum Recognized for Local American Indian Women’s Fitness Initiative

Posted on: August 31st, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Lucie, MCTC Graphic Design alumMCTC Graphic Design alum Lucie Skjefte contacted her former MCTC instructors with excitement recently. Beyond her college involvement, graduation, scholarships and transfer to the highly-esteemed Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Lucie has made even more waves in the local community.

Former president of the MCTC UNITE student club and an active advocate for native communities, Lucie—along with her sister and others—founded KweStrong, a local triathlon comprised of American Indian women.

The canoe-bike-run event celebrated its fourth year this summer.

“Lucie is a wonderful example of the power and determination of the students who have entered and passed through our institution and become leaders in our community,” said Bill Hendricks, MCTC Graphic Design instructor.

The original Star Tribune story is posted below. Read Lucie’s story here.

Fitness, pride is potent combination for indigenous women’s group

KWESTRONG triathlon is a centerpiece event, drawing many from tribes across the Midwest.
By Mackenzie Lobby Havey, special to the Star Tribune

The sight of 166 American Indian women and girls paddling across the calm waters of Lake Calhoun in the early hours of Saturday morning represented an intersection of past, present and future.

Clad in brightly colored life jackets, the women ranged in age from 9 to 70 and came from tribes in Iowa, Nebraska, Canada and elsewhere. They put in their silver aluminum canoes on the south beach and paddled north in the direction of the shops, bars, restaurants and high-rises of Uptown.

They tread on what once was native land — Dakota to be specific. Long before the European settlers arrived, Lake Calhoun was largely surrounded by wetlands and known by its ancestral name: Mde Maka Ska, or “White Earth Lake.” Back then, the native people who lived in the region fished and harvested wild rice from the lake, as well as gardened on nearby lands.

Today, the bustling Calhoun has a different makeup, so the vision of indigenous women making their way together across the lake was striking. Taking part in what is known as the KweStrong Triathlon, women came together for a fourth year to compete in the canoe-bike-run event. “Kwe” is the Ojibwe word for “woman.”

Founded in 2010, KweStrong is the idea of Korina Barry, 28, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and twin sisters Lisa and Lucie Skjefte, both 33 and belonging to the Red Lake Nation. Runners themselves, they found that they were constantly getting questions from other indigenous women about how and where to work out in the city. This inspired them to start the triathlon with a goal of inspiring women to be healthy and physically active.

“When we first started this, there were a lot of races every weekend, but we didn’t see many women of color and native women, so we wanted to create a space for that,” said Barry, who is the director of outreach at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work.

“At the time, we didn’t know anything about permits, and none of us had ever participated in a triathlon or any other race where there was registration and bib numbers,” recalled Lisa Skjefte, who is the Indian community liaison for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “Even still, we ended up with almost 80 women participating, and the beauty of what we witnessed was amazing — 30 canoes with women and their daughters and children.

That single event ended up blossoming into something much larger. KweStrong does weekly canoe instruction each summer on Lake Calhoun, and in the winter the group organizes a snowshoe race. In the process it has gained support from local Indian leaders and others, like Wheels of Fun, which offer equipment, and Allina Hospitals, which provides sponsorship.

The women say that creating a community of active Indian women has been important, not just for those they’ve recruited to participate in KweStrong events but also for themselves.

“There’s something that happens when I’m running and I reach that point of wanting to break down and then all of a sudden I find strength in the people I run with,” Lisa Skjefte said. “Suddenly everything becomes clear — the water sparkles brighter and the trees shine more. Even if my mind wants to give up, my connection to this land and other native women is strong and I know I can do it.”

With canoeing being a fundamental part of the KweStrong event docket, she said women draw a significant sense of ancestral strength from the local lakes and rivers.

“I  tell the women that it’s in our blood. We are expert canoeists; it’s written into our bloodline and is so important to our way of life and who we are as native people,” she added.

Through the triathlon and other events, KweStrong is working to emphasize the importance of creating a legacy of health and community engagement for Indian women. It’s about helping women connect to their heritage, while lighting the way for a brighter future.

Indeed, there were plenty of examples of the KweStrong mission at work last Saturday. After participating in the triathlon last year, Valerie LaFave, 51, of Red Lake Nation challenged her daughter, granddaughter and several cousins to compete, also bringing her mom along for support and encouragement.

“Being among the other Native American women at the triathlon last year was really empowering, and I wanted my daughter and granddaughter to experience that too,” she said. “I wanted to lead by example and show them that anything is possible.”

“We envision a healthy, vibrant community, not just for the ones here and now, but for our future generations,” Lisa Skjefte said.

Dept. of Ed Awards MCTC Student Support Services Grants

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

TRIO students at MCTC.Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) was honored to recently receive three grants to continue funding TRIO Student Support Service Programs for low-income, first-generation college students and/or students with disabilities.

The U.S. Education Department recently announced the award of $270 million to 968 institutions of higher education to provide thousands of students with academic and other support services they need to succeed in college. These grants are aimed at helping increase the number of low-income college students, first-generation students and those with disabilities to successfully complete a program of study at the postsecondary level.

MCTC received three separate awards totaling more than $766,000 for five years of funding student support services for English language learners, students with disabilities, first-generation students and students with low incomes.

“I’m very excited we were awarded these funds to provide five more years of student support services based on our past success as well as future potential,” said Dr. Jennifer Brookins-King, director of MCTC TRIO Starting Point. “This is an opportunity to have 5 more years of fun working with students to see them through to success.”

Through this federal grant, funds are awarded to institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for academic advising and development, cultural and social experiences, assistance with basic college requirements and to motivate students toward the successful completion of their postsecondary education.

“Our goal is to increase the retention, graduation and transfer rates of our students and see all of them accomplish their goals,” said Dr. Brookins-King.

Vote Now for This Year’s Greening Awards!

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District is rewarding sustainable design and attention to the environment again!

Click here to vote now for this year’s Annual Greening and Public Realm Awards. The recent redesign of the MCTC outdoor plaza created a lush backyard for the campus that allows Loring Park’s presence to be felt here at the College. MCTC received Greening awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Want to learn more about the plaza redesign, the sustainable design and the flora that are carefully tended? Come take a tour of the outdoor plaza on Opening Day, Wednesday, Aug. 19 at noon. All MCTC students, faculty, staff and members of the community are invited to learn more about the plaza redesign, campus and city sustainability efforts and plants at the tour. Questions are welcome! The tour will be rescheduled in the case of inclement weather.

Again, to vote in this year’s Annual Greening and Public Realm Awards, click here or visit http://www.minneapolisdid.com/greeningawards.

Denisse Linares: On a Path to Success

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Denisse, MCTC gradWhen Denisse Linares visited MCTC this summer to interview Interim President Avelino Mills-Novoa, Deputy Education Officer for Minneapolis Public Schools Elia Bruggeman and several high school students for a story on Univision, she walked around like she knew the place. Because she did know the place—quite well.

Denisse began attending MCTC in 2006, when she dove into English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. After several semesters, she transitioned to the Human Services program, and in the meantime served as activities coordinator for the Xicanos Latinos Unidos student club. “I was in school for a long time—first part time, then full time.”

Going to college in Minneapolis wasn’t at the top of her to-do list when Denisse was graduating high school. “My plan was to go back to Mexico,” she shared. Having moved to Minnesota when she was 12 years old, Denisse had strong ties to her family members who stayed behind, and thought for some time she could begin her adult life in the country where her parents started theirs.

But encouraged by a high school counselor, she stopped by an open house at MCTC. Liking what she saw, Denisse submitted an application. And then took the Accuplacer. And finally decided to take a leap—and stay on her path in Minnesota.

“It was a tough decision. At 18 years old, it was a very scary decision,” she said. “MCTC was so helpful when I didn’t know what to do next.”

After committing to staying in the Twin Cities, Denisse flourished. With a strong start in ESOL classes, campus involvement, a major that inspired her and compassionate instructors, she received her Associate in Arts degree in Human Services in 2011. Denisse went on and transferred to Augsburg College where she studied business management, and landed a job as an account executive with Univision.

“Deep inside I think I knew I needed to stay here, even though going back to Mexico would have been easier,” she said. “I would tell someone in my position to continue their education, and to find resources to help them. There are so many more resources now than when I was making my decision: there are scholarships, paid internships and the opportunity to go to school part-time and work in their field.”

After her interviews, Denisse had to leave in a hurry. “The Gold Cup is going on right now,” she explained. “Everyone wants to run advertisements with Univision. It’s a busy time of the year.”