The MCTC News Blog

Bernardo Squires: Behind the Scenes

Posted on: December 15th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

The way Bernardo Squires tells his story, he was born twice—both times on March 12 around 11 p.m.

Bernardo, MCTCHis Journey

In 1952, Bernardo was born in Caimanera, Cuba on March 12 to Jamaican and Trinidadian parents. Raised by his grandmother and taught by Jamaican teachers, Bernardo was a global citizen even before he left his home country.

His village sat nine miles from Guantanamo Bay. His and many of his friends’ fathers worked on the base.

“In 1962 when we were in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, everyone’s father went to work at Gitmo and sent money back to their families,” he said. His father took the job because he spoke English and wanted to help support his family. After several grueling years, his father left Cuba seeking refuge in the U.S. Bernardo didn’t know if he’d ever see his father again.

“At the time, the law said if you were 15 or older and male you couldn’t leave the country unless you performed military service,” said Bernardo. It had been six years since he’d seen his father, and he had to find his missing family member.

But first, he had to get out of Cuba.

“Back then, the only way you could get out of Cuba was to end up in Guantanamo,” he said.

And the only way to get to Guantanamo was to swim.

So Bernardo and several friends—nicknamed “guisanos,” or worms—waited until the tide was out and began the very, very long swim across Guantanamo Bay.

“Sometimes boats would come by looking for people, and we had to hold our breath and duck under the water,” Bernardo said. “One of my friends almost didn’t make it. By the time we came ashore in Guantanamo, he was like a ghost. It took him a week before he was normal again.”

Bernardo, MCTCBut he and his friends made it. Once at the military base they sought refuge, and were taken by plane to Miami, coached through immigration and housed with other teenagers in a foster family. “One by one my friends all got in touch with their families in the U.S.,” he said, “but I didn’t have a way to reach my father.” In a time before in-home internet connections and cell phones, Bernardo had to use extensive family and friend connections, borrowed phones and almost a month of time before he had a phone number he hoped belonged to his father.

Around 11 p.m. on Bernardo’s 16th birthday, Bernardo’s father picked up his phone in Brooklyn, and was convinced his lost son had come back to life.

Moving Forward

Bernardo finished high school in New York, attended trade school in Indiana and made a living in several states before taking over the role of caretaker at a little church in south Minneapolis. Saint Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church on the west shore of Lake Calhoun would be Bernardo’s home and livelihood for the next 17 years.

He had a home, a job and a new land-locked life in Minnesota. But—never one to slow down—Bernardo kept moving forward. He began dabbling in art.

“I wrote my first poem at age 27,” he said. “I’ve been writing poems ever since then. I write about whatever comes to me—the writing itself isn’t who I am. I’m just the receiver.” He later picked up a job modeling for an art school in Uptown.

“There was a girl in one of the classes who kept stopping by to talk to me,” he said. “I honestly didn’t know why she kept coming by to visit. It never even occurred to me that she was interested in me.”

He laughed. “Really, I was so dumb.”

Bernardo now has five children in or nearing adulthood. The girl from art school who kept stopping by to chat—now his wife—is still a practicing artist.

Many years later, Bernardo was trying to save money for his kids to go to college. When his job at the church in south Minneapolis was cut, he knew in his heart where he wanted to be.

Bernardo, MCTC“I aimed high and aimed at MCTC. I knew that working there was going to help my family so much.”

As he makes his rounds of the campus during afternoons and evenings, Bernardo’s beaming smile goes with him to each classroom he visits. Working second shift as a general maintenance worker gives him time to exercise and meditate each morning—something he uses to minimize the stress caused by a heart condition.

“I’ve been here now since 2008, he said. “In fact…yesterday was my anniversary.”

He didn’t have to wait long to see the benefit MCTC had on his family: Two of his children have attended or graduated from MCTC, and a third begins classes in January.

“I do my very best because I’ve always been like that,” said Bernardo, who still practices his own form of art. “What inspires poets is the truth. Sometimes I come home and I feel frustrated, so I just write. It helps a lot. That’s why when you see me, I always have a smile on my face.”

“I love it here. I really want to be here until I retire.”

The manner
is the way – you color with emotion
the spectrum of the day – beneath the sun
and sky
your thought was just a seed
lying dormant in the garden – when winter passes
it will awake
to reveal the heart’s intent.

-From Honor Sleeps Within the Heart, by Bernardo Squires

MCTC Political Science Instructor Brings Awareness and Support to Twin Cities Veterans

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

MCTC Political Science Instructor Miki Huntington was recently featured in an article in the Lake Minnetonka Magazine. In addition to teaching Political Science, Miki is an Army veteran and former member of the Bush administration. She also advises MCTC’s Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter and is co-chair of MCTC’s branch of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR). MCTC is fortunate to have Miki actively contributing to the betterment of our community. The original story is available at this link, and posted in its entirety below.

LKM5794_1115_Miki_EJD_001 Cropped


Excelsior Resident Miki Huntington Brings Awareness and Support to Twin Cities Veterans


Miki Huntington has worked in the White House. She’s flown Black Hawk helicopters. She has lived overseas. She spent 25 years in the U.S. Army. She served as a member of President George W. Bush’s administration. And though she’s already achieved that prestigious list of accomplishments, Huntington is now living in Excelsior, tackling another item on her bucket list: teaching.

Huntington was born in Japan, where her father, retired by that time, had been stationed with the Navy. Her family lived in Japan until Huntington was 10. It was overseas that she developed a deep appreciation for her country, and she eventually joined the Reserves and then ROTC to help pay for an education degree.

As she listed her preferred areas of military service, aviation came to mind. “Someone told me not to put it down,” says Huntington. “ ‘You’ll never get it,’ they told me… but sometimes a challenge is a really great motivator!” That spirit of confidence and resilience is one that’s served Huntington well through 25 years in the Army, including 10 as a pilot in Huey and Black Hawk helicopters.

Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in Asian studies, lived in South Korea and Japan, and became foreign area officer for Asia and the Middle East. When Huntington was asked to apply for a position at the White House, she and her husband knew they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So she spent 2007 through 2009 in Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Security Affairs Office.

In 2011, she retired from her final military position as the chief of U.S.-Japan government relations, and she and her husband, an Excelsior native she met in South Korea, decided to move back to the lake area. She began pursuing her life-long dream of teaching, and she brought her extensive military and travel background into the classroom as a political science professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). She also advises MCTC’s Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter and is co-chair of MCTC’s branch of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR). It’s an initiative that connects veterans with support, training and resources; Huntington and her team plan events and coordinate resources designed to raise awareness of and build support for veterans and their families.

Annette Kuyper is director of military outreach for the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs, and she’s worked closely with Huntington to develop MCTC’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program.

“Veterans need to feel like they can come back and contribute in their civilian communities,” says Kuyper. “We’re educating our networks on the resources that are available, making more people aware of resources in case transitional issues surface.” Though raising awareness in a community is important, “it takes people like Miki to lead organizations and synchronize support,” says Kuyper.

Huntington worked with Kuyper to secure MCTC’s certification as a recognized Yellow Ribbon Company, which included making an organization-wide commitment to supporting veterans and military-connected families and community members. In January, MCTC became one of 47 Yellow Ribbon organizations in Minnesota.

Kuyper notes that a recent Readiness & Resilience in National Guard Soldiers (RINGS) study found that combat service members are amazingly resilient. “Key factors that help in that resiliency are that they came back to communities and workplaces and educational institutions that show acceptance and visible support for veterans,” says Kuyper.

Tara Martinez, director of student life and co-chair of the Yellow Ribbon Committee at MCTC, notes that being a veteran is different from other identities.

“It’s not an identity that’s often obvious … veterans might not easily connect with each other,” says Martinez. The Yellow Ribbon Committee developed a Hall of Veterans designed to commemorate service members in the current MCTC community. In this way, students and staff could begin to recognize and support MCTC veterans and active service members.

“As someone who hasn’t served in the military, I needed to partner with someone who had. Miki is poised, polished and professional, but also so fun and down-to-earth,” says Martinez. She notes that MCTC has a student population with an average age of 28, so there’s a higher-than-average percentage of veterans and non-traditional students. Huntington offers her military background every day in the classroom, but also knows first-hand that just as college experiences are diverse, a military background isn’t the same for everyone.

“I wasn’t a combat veteran. For some of us, going to work in the military is just like going to a regular job. Yes, there are serious needs we need to address [for combat veterans], but that wasn’t the experience for all of us,” says Huntington. More importantly, she says, communities need to recognize the wide variety of reactions and needs of our veterans, and to offer support and understanding.

One aim of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is simply to be more inclusive and appreciative of veterans in our communities. Huntington says that the Yellow Ribbon initiative at MCTC has encouraged her because “it’s taken the conversation beyond ‘Thank you for your service.’ Not to discount the intent behind that comment, but it’s just the start of the conversation.”

Though it’s taken her a few extra years to land her original dream job in the classroom, Huntington says that working with students isn’t all that different from her time in the military. Says Huntington, “Service in a uniform, or service in the classroom… I’m grateful to do what I do.”

(Photos courtesy of Miki Huntington)

Taking Flight

Far left: Miki Huntington in a UH-1 “Huey” Iroquois helicopter at K-16 Seoul Airbase. Top center: Huntington’s husband David, left, and Vice President Dick Cheney, right, pin on Huntington’s new rank of Lieutenant Colonel during her promotion ceremony in 2008. Bottom center: David and Miki Huntington with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in 2009.

Yellow Ribbon

Miki Huntington works with Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s student veterans’ groups and helped secure the college’s certification as a Yellow Ribbon Company.

Learn about some of the awards on Miki Huntington’s uniform.

Senior Aviator Badge (silver wings) Awarded for attaining an aeronautical rating of Senior Army aviator; recipients have at least 1,000 hours and 84 months of Department of Defense (DOD) aviator flight time, which must include flight time as a pilot in command. Huntington piloted UH-1 “Huey” Iroquois and UH-60 “Black Hawk” helicopters.

Defense Superior Service Medal Awarded to members of the Armed Forces who rendered superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility. Huntington received the award upon completion of her White House assignment.

Legion of Merit Awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. Huntington received the award upon her retirement following 25 years of service in the Army.

Meritorious Service Medal (one bronze oak leaf cluster) Awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who has distinguished himself or herself by outstanding meritorious achievement or service. The oak leaf cluster is issued to denote the award of second and succeeding decorations.

Army Commendation Medal (three oak leaf clusters) Awarded to any member who distinguishes himself or herself by heroism, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service.

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Army Achievement Medal (two oak leaf clusters) Awarded to any member who distinguishes himself or herself by meritorious service or achievement of a lesser degree than required for award of the Army Commendation Medal.

National Defense Service Medal (one bronze star) Awarded for honorable active service for any period between 2 August 1990 and 30 November 1995 (Persian Gulf) and 11 September 2001 to a date to be determined (Global War on Terrorism). The bronze service star is worn to denote participation in a named campaign to denote an additional award. Huntington notes that she did not deploy overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan, so this medal simply reflects her service during the specific time period.

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Awarded to members of the Armed Forces who have participated in or served in support of a Global War on Terrorism operations outside of the designated area of eligibility on or after September 11, 2001 to a future date to be determined.

Army Service Ribbon Awarded to members of the U.S. Army for successful completion of initial entry (“basic”) training.

Army Overseas Service Ribbon Awarded to members of the U.S. Army for successful completion of overseas tours.

Reserve Components Overseas Service Ribbon
Awarded to members of the Reserve Components of the Army for successful completion of annual training or Active Duty Training for a period of not less than 10 consecutive duty days on foreign soil.

Air Assault Badge (silver badge) Eligibility criteria consists of satisfactory completion of an air assault training course.

MCTC Receives Accolades from MN Women’s Press

Posted on: June 2nd, 2015 by insidemctc 1 Comment

In the May edition of the Minnesota Women’s Press, the publication’s annual What Women Want issue paid homage to several of MCTC’s initiatives which have gone beyond the status quo in providing women access to education:

  • Favorite summer camps for kids (MCTC Career Exploration Camps)
  • Honorable mention: Favorite place to continue your career education
  • Honorable mention: Favorite leadership development/opportunity to increase personal power

MCTC is honored to receive recognition from the Minnesota Women’s Press, and has been recognized in previous years for being a great place for women to get a trade education (2010).

MCTC Art Instructor Greg Rose Named “Made Here” Resident Artist

Posted on: April 7th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments
Greg Rose, MCTC Art instructor

Greg Rose, MCTC Art instructor.

This week, MCTC Art Instructor Greg Rose was named a Made Here resident artist for the 730 Hennepin Avenue City Lofts Building.

Made Here is an initiative of the Hennepin Theater Trust which creates art in vacant or underutilized space along the City’s entertainment corridor. “MCTC has been hailed as a leader in revitalizing Hennepin Avenue by city officials and the American Institute of Architects,” said MCTC Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Mike Christenson. “This campus recognizes the remarkable progress and inspiration brought by the Historic Theater Trust, Made Here, and its artistic teams. We are honored to have Greg Rose working with our students every day and pleased to partner with Hennepin Avenue leaders.

Made Here launched in 2013 with visual displays in vacant storefronts and commercial spaces. Today, it infuses a variety of public spaces with art and art-inspired experiences from pop-up parks to live performances to rotating exhibits to fence wraps around construction sites. Read more about the recently awarded artists.


Governor Dayton’s Biennial Budget Recommendation

Posted on: March 17th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments
MN Gov. Mark Dayton

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton addresses an audience at the grand opening of MCTC’s new nursing facilities. Oct. 3, 2013.

Today, Governor Dayton announced his recommendation that Minnesota State Colleges and Universities receive $142 million in this biennium.  If enacted by the legislature, this means that the state will continue to invest in a core public service providing Minnesotans access to high quality affordable education throughout the state.

We deeply appreciate the Governor’s leadership and his continued support of the critical role that higher education plays in ensuring prosperity for all Minnesotans.

The funding Governor Dayton has recommended will help our colleges and universities protect the programs that prepare our graduates to meet the needs of communities across the state and protect access to higher education by holding down tuition.

I am grateful to all who stand behind our funding proposal, including all five of our bargaining units, both student associations, all 30 presidents, and especially our Board of Trustees, who have been so instrumental in discussions with the Governor and the legislature.

I look forward to the discussions that will unfold over the remaining weeks of the session.

Steven Rosenstone
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426