The MCTC News Blog

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.

St. Paul Police Department Swears in Nation’s First Karen Officer—an MCTC TRIO Starting Point Graduate

Posted on: December 23rd, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

The St. Paul police department has made the news on a few occasions recently.

Earlier this fall, it welcomed Kadra Mohamed, the first woman of Somali descent to the department—a move made possible by the announcement that the police department approved an option for employees to wear a police-issued head scarf.

Last week, the department swore in the nation’s first Karen officer. Ler Htoo is a graduate of the Law Enforcement program run jointly by Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) and Hennepin Technical College. The Karen ethnic group originates from the country of Myanmar, and there are about 8,500 Karen individuals living in Minnesota. During his time at MCTC, Ler was a student in the College’s TRIO Starting Point program.

(You can also read the story of Deborah Montgomery, MCTC Law Enforcement instructor, who was the first woman hired to the St. Paul police department back in 1975.)

The full story is pasted below, and available from the St. Paul Pioneer Press here.

St. Paul swears in nation’s first Karen police officer

Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune | Updated: December 19, 2014 – 9:42 AM

Ler Htoo graduated from the St. Paul Police Academy on Thursday night, becoming what is believed to be the first police officer from Myanmar’s Karen ethnic group in the United States.

When you are the first member of your community, your culture, to become something as quintessentially American as a police officer, well, you might be a little cautious about tooting your own horn.

That’s why, as he was about to graduate from the St. Paul Police Academy Thursday night and become what is believed to be the first Karen police officer in the United States, Ler Htoo wasn’t quite ready to mark the accomplishment.

“It’s not over yet,” he said before the ceremony, looking to the next 16 weeks of field training with veteran officers. “I’m not quite there yet.”

Still, he’s come a long way.

Htoo spent the first three years of his life in his native Myanmar and the next 15 in refugee camps in Thailand. In 2009, when Htoo was 18, he and his family moved to St. Paul. In 2011, he graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School, where he ran track and cross country. He then graduated from Hennepin County Technical College after studying law enforcement.

His interest in becoming a cop was always strong. He joined the St. Paul Police Explorer Program before becoming an award-winning member of the department’s community liaison program, helping members of St. Paul’s Karen community navigate the laws and customs of a new country.

Earlier this year, Htoo was a finalist for civilian employee of the year for his liaison work — teaching in-service classes, making presentations to business associations and schools and helping organize Karen youth groups and elder meetings.

“This is what I like to do. I want to help people,” Htoo said. “I like when people approach me. I want to be the one they can count on in my community.”

As the St. Paul Police band played “Pomp and Circumstance” from the Johnson High School auditorium balcony Thursday night, new officers marched to the stage, preparing to take their place among the state’s second-largest police department. An auditorium filled with families and friends taking photos, shooting videos and registering memories, looked on with pride.

“Take pride in the work you do, for the department, for each other and for the city of St. Paul,” St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith told them. “Know that your actions will be judged not just by what you do, but how you do it.”

Htoo is part of the largest — and most diverse — incoming class of new St. Paul police officers in at least 30 years. Forty-seven officers were sworn in Thursday. Five of the graduates are women, one is Latino, three are African-American, nine are Asian, 15 are military veterans.

The class swells the ranks of the St. Paul Police Department to 615 sworn officers, the most in the city’s history.

‘A huge breakthrough’

Karen leaders praised Smith’s choice in picking Htoo.

Saw Morrison, a program manager with the Karen Organization of Minnesota, said Htoo’s hiring represents a door opening for the Karen in Minnesota — of opportunity and responsibility to give back to the broader community.

Htoo, he said, is “passionate and committed. His goal is very clear, to help the community and represent the whole community.”

Chong Vang, executive director of the Karen Organization of Minnesota, was asked about the impact of Htoo becoming a cop.

“It’s huge,” he said. “We have had a number of conversations about how to get a Karen person on the force, about how to improve cultural competency. This is a huge breakthrough for the community and for Ler, too.”

There are an estimated 8,500 Karen in Minnesota. The ethnic group was persecuted in its native Myanmar.

Not only will Htoo be able to help his fellow officers better understand the growing Karen community, but he will help the community better understand its responsibilities and expectations here in the United States, Vang said.

“He can educate the community about the police force and their role,” he said. “That’s important, for a community that has been persecuted by the [Myanmar] government in the past.”

Vang was asked if being the first Karen officer in Minnesota, and possibly the nation, puts pressure on Htoo.

“There is always a level of pressure,” he said. “But Ler Htoo is smart. He has a good head on his shoulders. I think he will be able to navigate the challenges that will come his way. He is not shy about talking about the laws and regulations and what is OK and not OK.”

Before he feels completely comfortable doing that, Htoo acknowledged, he has a bit more work to do.

“You have to be constantly learning. With this job, you can’t stop learning,” he said, looking forward to the next four months with excitement — and a little nervousness. “With all the laws and the statutes, there is much to know.”

James Walsh • 651-925-5041


MCTC Celebrates Veterans

Posted on: November 4th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Veterans-200As Veterans Day approaches, MCTC looks back at its history of veteran support. From TRIO to student clubs to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon initiatives, the College has learned from past successes and continues to implement new, innovative programs to welcome and support veterans on campus, including several activities planned for Nov. 6.

Veterans Upward Bound

Veterans have been attending MCTC since the College was a vocational school and veterans returning from the war were looking for work.

Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), which celebrated its 40th anniversary at the College last year, is one of MCTC’s most comprehensive veteran services. The federally funded TRIO program provides short-term remedial courses for veterans to help them transition into postsecondary education. The courses, textbooks, financial aid counseling, one-on-one tutoring and all other services are free.

Former TRIO Director and Vietnam veteran Jon Westby was honored to participate in VUB’s 40th anniversary celebration last year. Westby’s history with TRIO at MCTC goes back a long time: He was the first director of VUB in 1974, and he led a national fight to keep the program alive in the late 70s, when former President Regan nearly eliminated TRIO and other veteran support programs.

“Being with other veterans helped me get back into society after the war,” he said. “It cleansed demons that we all have.”

VUB’s current Program Director Craig Asche became inspired to work with veterans after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He was a gradeschool teacher at the time and would see what the veteran parents of his students were like before and after their time in Iraq.

“Everyone I meet is someone in process,” he said. “I like to be part of that process of helping others find services and making connections.”

Welcome Center

Veterans have a place to meet on campus for camaraderie and support and to talk with other students in the Veterans Welcome Center. “This is a place where veteran students can relax, socialize and do homework,” said Asche. “It’s staffed by student veterans. There are computers and information available. It’s also a meeting room for the MCTC chapter of the Student Veterans of America.”

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

In addition to the College’s existing services and resources for veterans, MCTC is taking steps to become a state-recognized Beyond the Yellow Ribboncampus. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR) is a statewide program that works to connect past and future veterans with community support and resources. With encouragement from Gov. Mark Dayton, a committee of MCTC employees and students are working to bring BYTR to the College.

MCTC Political Science Instructor and U.S. Army veteran Miki Huntington sits on the committee and believes support is crucial for veterans.

“We want MCTC to be a one-stop shop for veterans and their families,” she said.

The committee has a number of plans in place to bring awareness to the community. This winter, MCTC will host the exhibit Always Lost: A Meditation on War—a traveling exhibit featuring photos, interviews and poems of deceased veterans. The exhibit will be on display in the Helland Center Dec. 15, 2014—Jan. 26, 2015.

“I hope in all these efforts that we can give back to all of those who have served for us,” said MCTC Student Life Director Tara Martinez.

MCTC Liberal Arts student Tim Ireland is the president of the College’s Student Veteran Association (SVA) chapter and is very active in organizing veteran-centered events and initiatives like BTYR at MCTC.

“I put everything into what I do and my post-service work is just as important as when I was in uniform,” he said.

Military Friendly School

MCTC was named a military friendly school for the fourth time this year. The honor, given by Victory Media, recognizes an institution’s military culture, flexibility, support services and financial assistance for veterans.

Veterans Day Recognition Events Nov. 3-7

This fall, MCTC planted a tree in its outdoor plaza in honor of Veterans Day (pictured, right) and the many veteran-supportive initiatives underway at the College. In addition, the community is invited to the MCTC Veterans Day recognition event “Honoring All Who Served” on Thursday, Nov. 6 from noon–1:30 p.m. The following events will take place:

  • Noon—Flag raising and veterans tree dedication ceremony featuring the MCTC Choir and Public Safety Color Guard (outdoor plaza flagpole)
  • 12:15–1:30 p.m.—Veterans Day Recognition Program (H.1002)

The MCTC community is also invited to visit the “Remember a Vet” display in the Hennepin Ave. Skyway from Nov. 3–7.

Into the Future

Asche, an MCTC Veteran Certifying Official and other individuals are available to assist veterans in the enrollment process and to provide guidance in the veterans benefit application process. As MCTC heads into the future and welcomes veterans at every point, the College strives to remain flexible and relevant for its entire community.

MCTC Recognizes the Service of Veteran Students Like Tim Moore

Posted on: November 11th, 2013 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC student Tim MooreOn Veterans Day, many reflect on acts of bravery, selflessness, self-sacrifice or patriotism. If you talk to Tim Moore, he might tell you about the quieter, less visible experiences a veteran has: Transition. Culture shock. Self-exploration. The depths of depression followed by the joy of community support.

Tim joined the National Guard in 1983 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts and working for a time in a community service agency. Over the next 30 years he served with the Guard in four different states, and served several years’ active duty as a medical lab technician in the U.S. and Germany.

“In 2005, while working with the Guard in Minnesota, I was in charge of medically clearing 4,500 soldiers for deployment to Iraq,” said Tim. “When I finished, they cleared me to go to Iraq too.” Tim spent his 50th birthday in Camp Shelby, Miss. undergoing hot-weather training. “Shortly after that, I went to sleep in a big iron bird. When I woke up, I was in Iraq.”

Recounting his experience in Iraq during a time of war, Tim is measured, fair and somewhat removed. “It was a positive experience,” said Tim. “I learned a great deal and met a lot of good people. I saw some of the horrors of war, and was injured.” Tim returned to the States for medical treatment, and upon re-joining civilian life, discovered some aspects of his pre-war life simply didn’t make sense to him. “I was hyper-sensitive to sound. I was hyper-vigilant. I didn’t trust anybody, and I couldn’t go near large crowds. I had all the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t have anybody around me who I trusted enough to tell this to. I felt so out of place—you’re not going to believe this—I wanted to go back.”

“You leave whole, and some of us come back in pieces,” Tim said. “Everyone else stays the same, but you don’t.”

Tim’s father passed away shortly after he returned from Iraq, and Tim became withdrawn. He struggled for many months and fell into depression. After a time, Tim found his way to a veteran’s home in St. Cloud, Minn., where he decided furthering his education would be his next step. He heard good things about MCTC’s Veteran’s Upward Bound (VUB) program, so he investigated.

“When I visited, I met the staff at VUB, and that was the beginning,” said Tim. “For the next three semesters that I was with VUB at MCTC, they were always encouraging. They never judged me—just encouraged me to ask questions of myself.”

Tim found he had a penchant for math. “When I started with VUB, I was at a crossroads with math. I worked with one of the math instructors at MCTC, Ursula Walsh. She encouraged me to focus more, and helped me clear my head.”

In the spring of 2013, Tim worked with VUB advisors to apply for graduate school, and hit a bump in the road. “I found out I had an outstanding loan—from the year 1900,” said Tim. “With help from a VUB advisor, Russell, I learned when the University of Massachusetts switched to a computerized system in the mid-80s something went wrong in my file. It took two months to sort it out, but after that I was able to apply to grad school.”

Tim spoke at an anniversary celebration for MCTC’s TRIO programs recently. Veteran’s Upward Bound, one of five TRIO programs at the College, celebrated 40 years with MCTC, and Tim shared his story with a rapt audience of around 100 attendees. “The strongest thing I ever did,” Tim said at the anniversary celebration, “was learn how to ask for help.” Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison joined the celebration by way of pre-recorded video, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak proclaimed Oct. 15, 2013 to be TRIO Day in the city of Minneapolis.

This fall, Tim began graduate school at Hamline University in St. Paul. His goal? To become a math teacher.

“It’s not enough to have a fire,” said Tim. “You have to have focus. Veteran’s Upward Bound helped me find my focus.”

Student Receives TRiO Leadership Award

Posted on: November 7th, 2011 by insidemctc 5 Comments

Rahel Haile, a TRiO Starting Point student, received the TRiO Leadership Award at the MAEOPP Adult Student Leadership Conference on Oct. 29.

She was recognized for her exemplary leadership in academics, school and the community. Haile has been a Starting Point peer mentor for three years and has provided many new students and nursing students wonderful, calming advice and plenty of encouragement. She has helped to develop and improve our mentoring program to help mentors connect with students in more ways. Ms. Haile will graduate this fall from MCTC with an Associate in Science degree in nursing.