The MCTC News Blog

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.

MCTC Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS) Presents Women’s Health Fair

Posted on: April 17th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

SAASMCTC Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS) presents its Women’s Health Fair on Thursday, April 23 from noon–4 p.m. in L.3100. Join us as we share tips on how to live life, take care of your body and relieve stress!

Participating clubs and resources include the MCTC Yoga Club and North Point Health and Wellness Center.

Guest speakers include:

  • Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra, administrative director and health systems navigator of the Cultural Wellness Center presenting “Loving Yourself”
  • Brianne A. Hill, MSW MFA, presenting “Mental Health”

MCTC Health and Wellness Opportunities Grow

Posted on: June 10th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Focus on fitness at MCTC.Students at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) have seen an overall increase in health and wellness in the last few years.

Last year nearly 5,000 students at four two-year colleges completed a college student health survey, identifying trends when compared to data from previous health surveys in 2011 and 2009. The 2013 survey results indicated the number of uninsured students at MCTC has dropped from 28.3 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2013. This is likely due in part to outreach efforts by the state-funded insurance initiative MNsure combined with recent health and wellness opportunities for MCTC students.

In 2012, MCTC opened its student-centered health clinic on campus. Boynton Health Service provides quality healthcare services—including treatment for illnesses and injuries, lab and x-ray testing, routine medical exams and mental health services—by medical professionals on campus to all enrolled MCTC students. “I often hear patients say it is so convenient to get their care right here on campus, between their classes,” said Jenny Swanson, Boynton Health Service clinic manager. “Our primary care providers also host monthly health talks in the common spaces on campus in order to reach out to the greater MCTC population on a variety of health topics.” Insurance is not required by students who use Boynton, and students without insurance are not turned away.
The College has also invested in fitness programs, intramural activities, a fitness center and motivational exercise programs for students. More than 800 students utilized the MCTC weight room and gym facilities during the 2013–2014 academic year. “Our numbers have increased every semester since we started,” said Drew Rongere, campus recreation and wellness coordinator. “Even during finals week we had people in the weight room and the gym. Some students love working out now that they see what they can do.” In the 2013 college student health survey, more than half (54.7 percent) of MCTC students report engaging in moderate to high physical activity levels.

“What’s even better than the physical accomplishments is the connections and friendships students make,” said Drew. “It’s good for their mental health as well as their physical health.” Drew is working with MCTC’s diversity director Dr. Whitney Harris to address mental and physical health disparities among students.

The 2013 health survey also revealed telling data about the physical, mental and sexual health of the MCTC student body. The survey showed 22.7 percent of students reported the death of someone close to them as being a major mental health stress, up from 20.3 percent in 2011. The survey also showed that students are using the new Boynton facilities to seek testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections as well as for routine physical checkups, immunizations and treatment of minor injuries.

Both Boynton and the campus fitness center will be open during the 2014 summer session.

It’s Showtime! MCTC Hosts Collage of Spring Shows, Events and Performances

Posted on: March 21st, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC Spring ShowsFrom fashion and fine arts to welding, this spring MCTC students, faculty, staff and community will demonstrate their skills in a collage of shows, events and performances.

In celebration of MCTC’s Centennial year, each event is held in recognition of the long history MCTC and its predecessor colleges have in Minneapolis. With roots dating back to 1914 when founder Elizabeth Fish established the Vocational School for Girls, MCTC is proud of its thousands of students, employees, alumni and supporters. This spring, we celebrate how far we’ve come in the last 100 years. It’s showtime!

Events this spring include the tenth annual Sustainability Fair; our Open House, STEM Fair and Skills Rodeo; the Theater department’s spring play Top Girls; a health fair; student and faculty concerts and recitals; and, of course, our award-winning portfolio shows in Apparel, Graphic arts and Photography and Digital Imaging. A comprehensive calendar of events with links for more information can be found here.

Serving students through our student health clinic

Posted on: September 5th, 2012 by insidemctc No Comments

student health clinic workersResponding to the individualized needs of the campus community, MCTC’s student health clinic provides a confidential and intimate setting for students to access preventative, primary care and mental health services. Open five days a week this fall, the clinic is located in MCTC’s new and vibrant Helland Center where it’s easily accessible by all students.

“The students we’re serving are representative of the rich diversity at the College,” said Jenny Swanson, RN, clinic manager. “We understand the comprehensive pressures students are facing, whether related to their general physical and mental health, economic or educational challenges, or other pressures life can bring. Our goal is to be present with the students, establish strong relationships and meet their health care needs.”

When human services student Amy Bartholomew arrived at the clinic, she was having difficulty breathing due to severe asthma symptoms. “Despite my not having health insurance and the clinics busy schedule, they rushed me in and I was treated immediately,” said Amy.  “The clinic team was caring, empathetic and generally concerned for my well-being. “ Following Amy’s visit, clinic staff contacted her to follow-up, going above and beyond traditional health care services. The clinic strives to be known for this type of care.

Most health care services offered are available at no out-of-pocket cost to enrolled students. MCTC tuition includes a small health service fee, which pays for the on-campus health care services. Insurance is not required, but is accepted if available, to help sustain the clinic. “Traditional services including routine preventative medical exams; acute care for minor injuries and common illnesses; testing; vaccines and mental health evaluation and referral are among the many services provided free at the clinic,” said Jenny.

“We’re excited to have the health clinic on campus,” said Tara Martinez, director of Student Life at MCTC. “The clinic is an outstanding example of our student senate and student body working together with the College to hear student needs and spearhead an initiative that brought the clinic to MCTC.”