September 21, 2021

After high school, Alec Ly didn’t want to go to college; however, his cousin, who was employed at Century College, convinced Alec to give it a try.  Initially, he wondered if attending college was the right decision.  At Century, Alec’s experiences both inside and outside the classroom enhanced his public speaking, critical thinking, and leadership skills.

Flash forward a few years, and Alec is now Century College’s Student Life Assistant, helping other students find opportunities for growth and leadership.

Strong Student Support

Alec describes himself as “the kid who would never speak up in high school–until my senior year.”  At Century College, he soon found that he enjoyed speaking up and mastering his communication and presentation skills.  In fact, he enjoyed instructor Amanda Olson’s public speaking course so much that he decided to pursue his Communication Certificate, along with his AA degree.

“College is about challenging yourself, and part of that experience is to learn to communicate effectively,” Alec observes. He worked closely with his TLC tutor, Mary Kay, and did very well in his class. After she graduated, he took over her position as the Tutor Linked to Classes (TLC) for Amanda Olson’s Public Speaking Class.  (At Century, tutors are student positions and fall into two categories: peer tutors give help to their fellow students in any subject matter, while a TLC tutor is assigned to a specific course for a specific instructor.)

“I interviewed with Jackie Reichter, the director of the Tutors Linked to Classes program, and saw her almost every day when I would go into the Academic Support Center to do my tutoring.  I worked as a tutor for two and a half years, and then, I was ready for my next leadership opportunity,” Alec remembers.

Leadership Opportunities and Life Lessons

Alec became involved in various Student Life leadership opportunities, working as the Planning Activities (PAC) co-chair, creating and organizing student events during his last year at the College. “PAC is a student-run committee, led by co-chairs and followed by the Director of Events, who is an executive board member from the Student Senate, as well as the PAC advisor (the Student Life Intern).

“I learned a lot about the Student Life Department, how the student committees and organizational structure operate, and became a much stronger leader, ” Alec notes. “In addition, I was also recruited to join Century’s Student Senate–and, I did a few internships as well.

“One of the internships included working with Century’s ‘Wood Ducks Leadership’, an outdoors leadership development initiative, and I helped facilitate activities with incoming students. The point of that program is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to try new things.”

This is an important lesson, Alec feels, because college requires a different kind of commitment. “You need to become an advocate for yourself, and be unafraid to ask questions both inside and outside of class.” Alec says. “For example, I failed  one of my first assignments in Comp I because I was confused about the objective. I did what I could to complete it, but after seeing my grade, I realized that, had I asked for help to understand the objective, I could have passed. From that moment on, I asked questions when I felt confused and by doing so, I was able to be more confident with my work.  I passed the course with an A.

“In your first year at college, you need to know that the second you ask, you will get the help you need. There are so many support centers at Century College—the Writing Center, the Math Center, the Food Pantry—these are just a few examples, and students need to take full advantage of all that the college experience offers.”

While he was a Century student, Alec received financial aid and worked retail jobs. Although he was able to graduate without debt, his one regret is that he didn’t take advantage of the numerous scholarships offered by the Century College Foundation.  

Advice for New Students

Alec loves his job with Century’s Student Life department, and loves working within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.  In future, he may consider transferring to a four-year university and continue a career in student affairs. For now, he enjoys positively helping and impacting students, and knowing that he is giving back to Century College working in the Student Life department.

“There’s a stigma about community colleges,” Alec notes. “And I didn’t know if a two-year college was the right choice for me.  This stigma is unfair and old-fashioned, and takes away from students’ hopes and dreams.” 

He offers this advice to new students:  “If you are unsure, you should try college anyway. You do your own research, and don’t say you can’t do it.  Going to college takes time and money, but just try it.  You’ll find that college will open doors to new opportunities.  I’m very happy where I am in life, and very happy that I went to Century College.”

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