September 01, 2017

On August 14, the Century College Multicultural Center held its second annual kick-off event for underrepresented student populations. The kick-off is designed to help incoming students transition from high school to college.

In previous years, Latino Student Services, Asian Student Services, and African/African-American Student Services, all of which are part the Multicultural Center, have held separate orientations. The Student Services departments are led by coordinators Yessica Santana, Pa Ku Lee, and Trumanue Lindsey, Jr., respectively.

 “We want to make sure that students are set up in the best way possible to succeed,” said Lindsey, Jr. “By collaborating, we bring incoming students together so that when they start class, they can see a familiar face and feel more comfortable on campus.”

The kick-off focuses on introducing students to campus resources, sharing what is expected of them as a college student, understanding financial aid packets, teaching them how to read their course syllabus, and other essential tools for success.

What is the Multicultural Center?

The Multicultural Center’s mission is to serve historically marginalized students by providing access to higher education and supporting them during their time at Century College.

The center also focuses on cultural programming by promoting student leadership and development, as well as fostering a strong sense of cultural identity.

To accomplish these goals, the student services coordinators Santana, Lee, and Lindsey, Jr. offer programs that are built to maximize success for underrepresented students.

These include IMPACT, a college access program administered by Lee that supports graduates from Roseville, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Area schools. Through one-on-one advising, a peer support network, and campus resources, IMPACT facilitates academic and personal growth.

The two other programs offered are Power of You, which covers the full cost of tuition for eligible students, and Brother 2 Brother, a chapter of a national organization that promotes retention and graduation for African American and Latino male students. Both are administered by Lindsey, Jr.

“Brother 2 Brother connected me to another person who had graduated from Century College a long time ago,” said Danny Mulenda, a Century College graduate who majored in Computer Information Systems. “He really helped me through a lot of challenges on my way to earning my degree.”

The Student Services Coordinators also advise student groups on campus, including Movimiento Latino, Black Student Association, and Asian Student Association.

A Family Dynamic

Students that come to the Multicultural Center aren’t treated like students; they’re treated like family.

“A lot of the students refer to me as their big brother,” said Lindsey, Jr. “When you develop those types of relationships, it pushes students to succeed, because they know we aren’t helping them because we have to – we’re helping because we care.”

The Multicultural Center staff goes beyond the requirements of their jobs to help students, often meeting with them off-the-clock. The relationships formed in the Multicultural Center don’t end after graduation. The Student Services Coordinators continuously follow up and provide resources for students and alumni.

“My respect for them is through the roof,” said Century College student Lucino Sosa, who is majoring in Marketing. “Whether they’re helping me apply for a scholarship or find a new school to transfer to, they’ve always been there.”

Ruth Mejia, a 2017 Century College graduate who served as President of the Student Senate and Vice President of Movimiento Latino, credits the connections she made in the Multicultural Center for helping her grow as a leader.

“I saw everyone in that room as my mentor,” said Mejia. “Anytime I had a situation that required me to problem-solve or do critical thinking, I was able to come to them.”

Making an Impact

At the end of the academic year, the Multicultural Center hosts a graduation ceremony to recognize underrepresented students at Century College. The last ceremony, which occurred in April, had 65 participants.

This is one way that the staff at the Multicultural can see how they’ve helped students. But it can often be difficult to see just how great their impact is.

“The work that we do is not easy,” said Lee. “We may not always see the impact we make right away, but through time as we engage with the students, it’s amazing to see how much each student grows.”

According to Lindsey, Jr., success is best measured by feedback from students.

“When students come and say, ‘I’m graduating’ or ‘I’m transferring – thank you for everything,’ that lets us know that the work we’re doing is paying off,” said Lindsey, Jr.

Though the staff at the Multicultural Center does tough work, it doesn’t feel like it to them.

“I once read a quote that says, ‘when you find something you’re passionate about, you don’t work a single day in your life,’” said Santana. “That’s what I’ve found here.”