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St. Paul Rondo Neighborhood Honors MCTC Law Enforcement Faculty Debbie Montgomery

Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments
Debbie Montgomery

Debbie Montgomery holds a copy of a 1976 Pioneer Press story about her involvement on the St. Paul Police Force.

MCTC Law Enforcement Faculty Debbie Montgomery received a unique honor this week: The City of St. Paul named a stretch of Marshall Avenue, in the city’s historic Rondo neighborhood, after her. Read the story from the Pioneer Press here.

St. Paul honors Debbie Montgomery with street segment

The segment of Marshall Avenue between Lexington Parkway and Western Avenue soon will bear the name of a former St. Paul City Council member who grew up during the civil rights era and became the first female officer in the St. Paul Police Department.

On Wednesday, the council voted to approve a resolution co-naming the avenue after Debbie Gilbreath Montgomery. Council member Dai Thao, who sponsored the resolution, called her a “true pioneer of courage and leadership for the city of St. Paul.”

Montgomery, who attended the vote, expressed gratitude for the new street name in her honor and encouraged city leaders to embrace the growing diversity within St. Paul as important decisions are made.

“Our city is changing,” Montgomery told the council. “We have to be open. … We have to make sure that everyone is at the table — at the table when the initial discussions happen, not afterward.”

According to Dai Thao’s resolution, Montgomery was born in St. Paul’s historically black Rondo neighborhood in 1946, 12 years before the construction of Interstate 94 razed her home and cleaved the neighborhood in two.

In the late 1950s, she served as president of the St. Paul NAACP youth group, and at age 17 became the youngest person ever elected to the NAACP’s national board of directors.

The position allowed her an opportunity to rub elbows with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and march on Washington, D.C., in 1963 with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Two years later, she participated in a historic civil rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala.

Montgomery, who graduated from St. Paul’s Central High School, went on to earn two master’s degrees in urban planning and police administration. She became the first female police officer in the St. Paul Police Department in 1975, rising up the ranks from sergeant to senior commander.

Council member Dan Bostrom, a former St. Paul police sergeant, recalled serving alongside Montgomery on the force. He told the council not to be fooled by her calm demeanor, and remembered a time when she knocked a belligerent suspect unconscious.

“When you run into a bunch of drunks during St. Patrick’s Day, yeah, we’re talking about Jekyll and Hyde here,” said Bostrom, to widespread laughter.

Montgomery served as assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety from 1991 to 1998 and was elected to the Ward 1 seat on the city council in 2004. She was unseated by Melvin Carter in the November 2007 election.

In 2008, she became an adjunct professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Montgomery was one of seven candidates who ran for the open Ward 1 seat on the council in November 2013. She finished in fourth place, with Dai Thao winning the seat.

Felisha Burns: Seeking a Career, Not Just a Job

Posted on: October 16th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Felisha Burns, MCTC alumFelisha Burns had to grow up fast.

A native of South Minneapolis, she lost her mother at age 13. “My dad raised me, but he worked a lot,” she said. “He worked second shift at the postal service. If I got home from school and he wasn’t there, I had to work things out for myself.”

She began working at age 14—first at Burger King, then at a gas station near Loring Park in Downtown Minneapolis. “I worked there for awhile and made enough to pay for my own place. It was great while I was young, but eventually I asked myself if I wanted to be doing that for the rest of my life.”

When Felisha’s cousin told her she was considering going back to school, Felisha realized it was a great next step. “We did it together,” she said. “That’s when my journey began.”

When Felisha began studying at the school then known as Minneapolis Community College (MCC), she focused her energy on acquiring one degree. “When I was done just two years later, the college was called MCTC, and I had five diplomas and certificates.”

Felisha knew she wanted to work in a business office, and throughout her studies in Business Office Technology picked up skills in keyboarding, data entry, business math and specialized office support. She needed a job to support herself during school, and started working at TCF Bank, where she would stay for five years. During her time at MCTC, Felisha was invited to participate in a business speaking competition in Duluth. “I was surprised my instructor asked me, but she believed I could succeed,” she said. “When I arrived at the competition and drew a random speech topic, it turned out to be the same topic I focused on all semester in class. I knew I could deliver that speech.”

As graduation grew closer, Felisha grew into her adult self. “When my classmates and I first started at the College, we didn’t have a clue who each other was,” she said. “But the closer I got to graduation, the more nervous I was, and my classmates felt the same way. We all had things going on in our lives. We all knew what our goals were and we all supported each other.” Felisha and her classmates attended graduation together in the Northrup Auditorium.

Furthering her career, Felisha moved from TCF to a position with Hennepin County, where she provided economic assistance to elderly or disabled individuals. “I worked there for another five years,” said Felisha. “It gave me an understanding of our society and people who are in need. Ever since then I’ve been committed to working with people in need. I love it.”

Now, 15 years after she graduated from MCTC, Felisha works with the City of Minneapolis, working as a personal assistant and attending outreach events. “I work with the Step Up program, adults, dislocated workers, families and high school age students,” she said. “Whenever I see young people come in, I ask if they’re planning to go to school.”

Felisha looks back at the last two decades and sees much to be proud of. “I went from low income to the middle class,” she said. “I tell other young people that I had to grow up fast, and if I can make this success happen, so can they. Along the way they’ll meet some amazing people, and they just need to start the process.”

Ah-Nung: Putting the “Community” in Community College

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Ah-NungMatrious

Ah-Nung Matrious was looking for a fresh start when she came to MCTC last fall after a less-than-stellar experience at a previous college. In her short time at the College, she’s already made an impact in the student community by means of collaboration and conversation.

When she started at the College, Ah-Nung was encouraged to join the United Nations of Indian Tribes Education (UNITE) student club.

“They were beat when I joined,” she said. “We all took on responsibilities to make improvements happen.”

Ah-Nung and the other members worked together to turn the club around. They mended broken ties with other student groups and increased accountability.

“We all revamped UNITE’s outlook as a student organization,” she said. “There may have been some struggles, but we overcame them and now we are stronger and more involved than ever.”

A key component to the club’s turnaround included collaboration. Ah-Nung and UNITE began working together to host events with another MCTC student club, Xicanos Latinos Unidos (XLU). The collaboration started with a potluck that brought members of the two clubs together to share their cultural foods and get to know each other. Members of the clubs also played a Jeopardy-style game and answered questions about Native American and Latino culture. Both clubs learned about each other’s cultures in ways they never thought they would.

“We went out of our way to forget about cliques and interact with each other,” Ah-Nung said.

The collaboration spanned other student groups as well. UNITE, in collaboration with the Student Veteran Association (SVA), reached out to other clubs to collect funds for an all-College barbeque. Ah-Nung saw it as an opportunity to create the atmosphere that she felt at the potluck, except on a larger scale. Hundreds turned out for the barbeque and she has even bigger plans for the next one.

“I think our collaboration started a trend,” Ah-Nung said. “It created a bigger sense of community.”

Ah-Nung’s Native American values are tied into her aspirations for the campus. Included in those values are community, unity and contribution. She knows that she won’t accomplish her goals alone, but will be successful with the help of her peers.

“We are always working together to look out for the future of our loved ones,” she said. “If those other student organizations and individual students didn’t help me or contribute, nothing great would have been accomplished.”

Before she came to MCTC, Ah-Nung was living on a secluded reservation in Hinckley, Minn. Coming to the Twin Cities was a shock for her.

“People who live in the boondocks often don’t have much, if any, experience interacting with people of other cultures,” she said.

Ah-Nung, currently the president of the MCTC Student Senate, is hopeful by the time she’s graduated next spring that she’s created a better sense of campus community for current and future students.

“One of the best things I like about MCTC is regardless of race or background, I have a lot of support,” she said. “I’m very thankful that they have given me the opportunities to let me do what I’ve done.”

Estefanía: A Confident Leader

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Estefania HeadshotEstefanía Navarro was hit by culture shock when she came to the U.S. in 2005 and realized Americans didn’t like the Disney Channel show Lizzie McGuire as much as she thought they did. Born in Morelos, Mexico, the MCTC student had learned all she knew about the U.S. from television and movies.

Estefanía came to the U.S. with her single mother and younger brother. Her mother, who had lived and worked in the country previously, left Mexico for better job opportunities. Despite having taken English classes at a private school in Morelos and attending a mostly Latino middle school in South Minneapolis, the transition was still difficult. 

“I was lucky to have gone to a private school in Mexico,” she said. “I had very strict teachers who shaped me into who I am today.”

In 2007, Estefanía began attending Camp Sunrise, a free YouthCARE program that hosts urban youth at a camp in Rush City, Minn. every summer and teaches them the importance of the environment and working together. At the camp she learned the importance of working with others efficiently and how to be a proper leader. She was also struck by the diversity of her fellow campers.

“Seeing all these people with different backgrounds in the same place was amazing,” she said. 

Estefanía continued attending the camp through middle and high school, eventually becoming a junior counselor and then a full-fledged counselor. She enjoys establishing connections and getting to know the campers she oversees. She remembers herself as a shy and quiet teenager who lacked confidence when she first attended the camp. Over the years, her confidence has grown and she is now helping others who were like her.

Estefanía first walked the skyways of MCTC as a middle school student when the College was hosting a Latino-related conference and, later as a Jump Startstudent. The diversity of the campus community stood out and reminded her of Camp Sunrise. 

Estefanía was one of three Latino students to graduate with honors at her high school. Proud as she was, she felt like she had lost some of her culture since arriving in the U.S.

“I felt like I was losing a part of myself,” she said.

When she started attending MCTC, she heard about culture-related student clubs through Student Life. A representative from the Xicanos Latinos United (XLU) club encouraged her to attend one of their meetings. She felt like the club might help her regain some of her culture. After one meeting, she was sold.

“XLU is the family I didn’t have growing up,” she said.

Estefanía not only made friends in the club, but she’s also learned more about Mexican culture.

She experienced one of her proudest moments with the club when she organized a culture fashion show. She worked with more than 10 students from XLU and other Student Life culture-related clubs to model native clothing for their peers. The diversity and community she saw in the fashion show reminded her of why she came to MCTC. 

“We made friends with other students that we normally wouldn’t talk to,” she said.

In addition to her club involvement, Estefanía attended Student Senate meetings during her first year at MCTC. The more meetings she attended, the more intrigued she became by the passion she saw in the students participating. She wanted to be a part of that so she became a senator. As a senator, she wanted to make a change but she needed “a little more push.” In order to do that, she ran and became the director of diversity on the Student Senate’s Board of Directors.

“I really appreciate MCTC’s diversity, and I wanted to do something to help out and represent the minority community,” she said.

When a new election period came along, Estefanía had the option of running for director of diversity again or running for another position. She remembered her lessons from Camp Sunrise, and decided to take on more of a leadership position. 

“I knew the next president would need a strong vice president and I felt like I was the right person for it,” she said. “It felt like the natural thing to do.”

Student Senate inspired Estefanía to get involved with politics outside of MCTC. She stays up to date on political news and watches political documentaries. Her involvement with Camp Sunrise and Student Senate has also sparked a career interest in either education or politics.

“Closing in on the achievement gap is a passion of mine,” she said. “We need to keep students engaged and education is key for a brighter future no matter what your ethnicity or nationality.”

Race to Save the Planet—An MCTC Learning Community

Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC learning communityCollaboration is key to solving some of the world’s most challenging issues. Race to Save the Planet is a unique learning option offered by MCTC that gives students an opportunity to collaborate and deeply engage with their instructors—and each other—while learning about issues involving our environment and planet.

This interdisciplinary block of coursesoffered this Fall is set up as an intentional learning community in which students meet three days a week for a block of time each day and earn eight credits across two disciplines: Biology and Political Science.

The lectures, assignments and activities are integrated by the instructors to give students a holistic look at the environment from a broad range of perspectives. The coursework includes public work projects where students apply what they learn in class to actions in their own community.

“I’ve never had a class where people were so willing to open up to each other,” said Kristin Lessard, a former student who took the classes. “Before enrolling in the course, I never had any serious environmental focus, but now I’m going to major in environmental science. It’s the best class I’ve ever had!”

Students will earn credits in Race to Save the Planet that satisfy four Goal Areas of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (Goal Areas 3,5,9,10), providing a pathway to graduation/transfer.