The MCTC News Blog

Program Brings 85 African American Male High School Students to MCTC Campus

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Twin Cities high school studentsLast week, MCTC’s College Now program (formerly known as K-12) welcomed 85 students from high schools in Apple Valley, Rosemount and Cottage Grove to campus. The law offices of Zelle Hoffman facilitated workshop sessions for these students, and the visit was coordinated by the Tazel Institute.

The Tazel Institute aims to create a vision for high school African American males who, because of this program, will be exposed to opportunities ranging from the classroom to the boardroom. While on campus, the students were given a tour by Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) and Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS) volunteers. Guest speakers included Stanley Jackson of the Minnesota Timberwolves and attorneys Christopher Fowlkes and Lee A. Hutton III who highlighted making good choices, navigating high school and the benefits of gaining a college education. One student told event organizers that “I never met an African American male attorney in person, let alone two.”

Participating MCTC departments include College Now, the Diversity office, Power of YOU and Student Life.

Join MCTC Green Dot for a Unity March Nov. 18

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Green DotFrom Diane Scovill, MCTC Physical Education instructor:

I want to invite you all personally to join MCTC Green Dot for a unity march on Wednesday, Nov 18.

March with us to UNITE!

We too often stay in our academic lanes and only pass each other occasionally. The Green Dot Unity March is a chance to break out of our lanes and march together for something bigger than ourselves—for something hard to define and to achieve, but worth coming together anyway. We march as people who are striving for peace and justice. We march to build bridges. We march to be seen. We march to make our interests known. We are marching to bring people together and make every member of our community safe through our connection and our work.

You could march because you have lost someone to violence. You could march because you have tried to find other people who feel like you do and you don’t know how to find them. You can march because you need the exercise. Please march. There is nothing like being part of Green Dot—growing a movement that supports the creation of environments that are safe for every member of our community.

Marching is one action step. Certainly we have many more steps to take to make a lasting change. First, we have to find each other and we have to give each other hope.

A rally will start at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18 in the T Skyway. We will be making signs for the march with the Feminists Organizing Change student club. If you want to bring a picture of a loved one to be part of this march please do so. We will hold a brief remembrance at 12:15 p.m. and the march will begin at 12:45 p.m. The route will proceed inside campus buildings, and we will also move outside depending on the weather.

  • Who: Students, staff, neighbors, faculty, businesspeople, police people and everyone else
  • What: Pledge to stand up to violence
  • Where: T Skyway
  • When: Sign making at 11:00 a.m. Remembrance at 12:15 p.m. March at 12:45 p.m.

There is nothing else we do that brings students, faculty, staff and the neighborhood together. Let’s keep the spirit going.


You can connect with the MCTC Green Dot group on their Facebook page.

MCTC in the News: Plight of Modern Refugees Strikes a Chord for Immigrant Artists

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Khadija Charif, a student at MCTC and the daughter of Somali immigrants, performed her poem “She Woke Up” at the Refugee Crisis forum at Macalester College recently. As part of our community here at MCTC, Charif advocates for refugees struggling to find safety. The original story is available at this link, is posted in its entirety below.

Plight of Modern Refugees Strikes a Chord for Immigrant Artists
By Laura Yuen

When Khadija Charif performs a poem about a Syrian refugee woman, her mind races to the image that inspired it: a video of a panicked mother searching for her lost child and husband along the family’s journey to safety.

Charif, the daughter of Somali immigrants, said her own mother was moved by the same image.

“My mom found it so, so, so touching, to see a mother and a wife going through that struggle — and here she was, blessed enough to have her family with her,” Charif said.

Charif will perform the poem Thursday evening at a forum where young Minnesota artists will draw from their personal experiences in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The state is home to a vast refugee community whose own stories of escape and rebuilding may ring familiar to the most recent exiles from Syria.

“It kind of hits home,” said Charif’s mentor, Somali-American photographer Mohamud Mumin, referring to the current crisis. “It’s something that we empathize [with], and know firsthand.”

Mumin also mentored another artist presenter, Muna Ahmed, 22, who is majoring in neuroscience and psychology at the University of Minnesota. For the past year, she has been photographing Twin Cities refugees from all over the world and listening to their stories.

Ahmed, a Somali-American born in Yemen, said she could relate to the act of leaving one’s homeland and adapting to a new place and culture. She said that through her photography, she wants to help connect the broader public to the plight of the refugees.

“I think anyone, not necessarily even immigrants, can connect and understand having to be vulnerable, and needing help, and seeking it, regardless of things holding you back,” Ahmed said.

Thursday’s event will also feature speakers from Macalester College, the Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee and the resettlement group International Institute of Minnesota. The forum is a collaboration among the college, Public Radio International and the group Gazillion Strong.

Charif, a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, considers herself lucky; her family left Somalia before civil war erupted in the early 1990s. After that, mother and father were separated for several years while her dad lived in the United States, working to provide for his family in Belgium.

But Charif’s family has seen its share of loss, too. Her younger brother, Abdullahi, drowned last year during a swimming class at St. Louis Park Middle School.

Charif’s grief hasn’t stopped her from advocating for others across the globe struggling to find safe refuge.

“We’re hoping to bring awareness toward the crisis,” she said, “and also to have a ripple effect.”

The forum starts at 4:45 p.m. at John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

MCTC In The News: Start of A Transition at FAIR Downtown

Posted on: November 2nd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
FAIR School Downtown started its first school year since a change in management to Minneapolis Public Schools from the West Metro Education Program.

The FAIR School in downtown Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Community and Technical College campus is located just blocks from FAIR School Downtown, a K-12 school in downtown Minneapolis. The proximity provides students an opportunity to look to MCTC as both a choice for PSEO as well as after graduation. “Some FAIR Downtown students take advantage of the campus’ proximity to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to complete college-level coursework,” said FAIR School principal Kevin Bennett. The original story, available at this link, is posted in its entirety below.

Start of a transition at FAIR Downtown

October 6, 2015

By: Dylan Thomas

DOWNTOWN WEST — More than a week after the start of the 2015–2016 school year brought most Minneapolis Public Schools buildings back to bustling life in August, the hallways at FAIR Downtown School were still relatively quiet, with no students in sight.

A post-Labor Day start remained on FAIR Downtown’s calendar even though management of the school was transferred this summer to Minneapolis from the West Metro Education Program. It was just one example of how the downtown site serving grades K–3 and 9–12 remains distinctive in its new home district.

Principal Kevin Bennett said, for him, the most noticeable change may be that his district headquarters is now two miles away in North Minneapolis instead of just down the hallway from his office. For students and their families, the message from Bennett and the district is one of consistency and stability for at least the next four to five years.

“I think we’re working to keep the experience for students the same,” Bennett, who is beginning his 12th year at the school, said. “I would hope if students say that something is different, it’s been that we’ve been able to access (Minneapolis district) programs and personalize their learning experience for the better.”

But there has been change, including significant turnover in FAIR Downtown’s K–3 teaching staff since last school year. And for some parents, the unusual path FAIR students once followed from downtown Minneapolis to a sister campus in Crystal and then back again is now looking too uncertain.

Meanwhile, officials with Robbinsdale Area Schools, the district now running FAIR Crystal, have publicly discussed a change in grade configuration at that 4–8 school as soon as 2017.

Staff turnover and that uncertainty where both factors Jim Ramlet, a former member of the two schools’ PTO, cited for enrolling his two boys at new schools outside of FAIR this fall. Ramlet, who lives in Robbinsdale, said his younger son would’ve been entering his senior of high school just as Minneapolis’ pledge of four years of stability expired.

“You don’t want to be looking for another high school when your son is starting his senior year,” he said.

WMEP’s changing role

The West Metro Education Program was founded in 1989 as a way for its 11 member districts, including Minneapolis, to collaboratively work on school integration issues. Although it no longer manages the two FAIR schools, WMEP plans to continue offering professional development for educators.

The school boards of the Minneapolis and Robbinsdale districts acted last winter to take over management of the FAIR Downtown and FAIR Crystal, respectively. At the time, Interim Superintendent Michael Goar said the school’s K–3 classrooms “obviously” would be phased-out at some point, but pledged to “protect the program” at FAIR Downtown and transfer some of the lessons learned there to the district at large.

The shift in the schools’ management was formalized in June during a special legislative session.

Minneapolis district leaders plan to initiate a community engagement process around the future of FAIR Downtown this year, while at the same time continuing conversations with Robbinsdale about the future of the Crystal campus, Michael Thomas, chief of schools for the Minneapolis district, wrote in an email. For now, the schools continue to operate as an inter-district integration program, enrolling students from all 11 of the member districts.


Bennett, who this summer was one in a group of American educators invited on a five-city tour of China, said he’s interested in pursuing community partnership school status for FAIR Downtown. The designation gives Minneapolis schools greater freedom in setting their own budgets, staffing rules and curricula — even the lengths of the school day and school year — as long as they can show the changes are boosting student learning.

Bennett said the school already offers students unique learning opportunities through a “robust network of partners,” including downtown businesses like Target and arts institutions like the Hennepin Theater Trust. Some FAIR Downtown students take advantage of the campus’ proximity to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to complete college-level coursework.

Bennet said those partnerships, and the 500-student school’s relatively intimate size, continue to draw families. He estimated about half of the school’s students live in Minneapolis.

In 2014, the FAIR Downtown graduated more than 88 percent of its relatively small senior class, according to the latest figures available from the Minnesota Department of Education. The graduation rate for Minneapolis Public Schools that year was just less than 59 percent.

Not a seamless transition

Richard Spratt, the parent of both a current FAIR Downtown sophomore and a graduate of the school, mentioned that graduation rate when asked about the school. Spratt described the small campus as “a very caring community,” but said he wonders about the direction the school will go in now that it’s a part of the Minneapolis district.

“In a large system like that you lose control of a lot of things, and sometimes systems make decisions that have a negative impact on programs,” he said.

Kari D’Averill, whose son, Levi, is a grade 2 student at FAIR Downtown, said the transition has not been as “seamless” as the Minneapolis district promised. By D’Averill’s count, there was only one teacher on the school’s K–3 staff this fall who’d been there the previous school year.

Drawn to FAIR in large part by the relatively small size, D’Averill said she’d already experienced additional layers of district bureaucracy since the transition to Minneapolis. But as long as the leadership and office staff at FAIR remains in place, she added, “I still have great hope that the FAIR that was will emerge.”

“We’re committed to seeing it through until it doesn’t work,” she said.

Pearl Christenson DREAM Memorial Fund

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Pearl-Christenson-200Pearl Christenson was the child of Norwegian immigrants and lived the American dream of opportunity. Together with her husband Jerry, she raised a family of six children with the fundamental belief that access to education is the key to success for all who call America home, including immigrants.

Pearl was an early and consistent supporter of Power of YOU, a program which covers the cost of attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) or St. Paul College for two years for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and inner suburban high school graduates. She also understood the critical challenges facing our new immigrants, knowing that 24% of students now in Minneapolis public schools are immigrants and refugees. She was amazed to learn that 60% of the 2015 nursing graduates from MCTC were born outside the U.S. Additionally, she cared deeply for students who have come to the U.S. as children but have “undocumented” status, which poses great barriers to pursuing college and the American dream. She was fascinated with MCTC’s effort to provide special scholarships for these undocumented DREAMers.

This year, MCTC is piloting scholarship support for a special cohort of seventeen Power of YOU students who are otherwise ineligible for governmental aid because of their undocumented status. The Christenson family can think of no greater way to honor Pearl and her life of commitment to education and opportunity. You can learn how to contribute your support to the Pearl Christenson DREAM Memorial Fund by clicking All of us who love Pearl thank you.

See Pearl’s obituary here. She passed away in October, 2015.