In celebrating King, reminded of sense of community, collaboration at SCTCC

At the recent celebration honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy, a powerful sense of community prevailed. The theme of this year’s celebration was Our Beloved Community: The Courage to Celebrate Diversity, and it was evident from the number of individuals volunteering and engaging in MLK activities over the holiday weekend that the community we reside in is beloved. Greater St. Cloud members collectively participated in celebrating diversity and creating a welcoming and inclusive community where all people belong and thrive.

I feel the same powerful sense of community at St. Cloud Technical & Community College (SCTCC). As in the MLK community celebration, the level of employee engagement and support to fulfill our College mission and vision always inspires me. The collective commitment to providing the education, training, and support necessary for equitable participation in our society, economy, and democracy is evident in the passion faculty and staff demonstrate to develop meaningful relationships that help our students thrive and succeed. SCTCC is our beloved community.

The sense of community for SCTCC extends beyond the boundaries of our campus. SCTCC serves as a microcosm of greater St. Cloud and our Central Minnesota region. We are the community’s technical and community college, and we work collaboratively with community partners. Support from business and industry partners, non-profit organizations, and other community-based organizations is crucial to students’ success. These partnerships provide economic support, mentor students, offer career opportunities and internships, advise on program curricula, and volunteer in countless ways to provide students with resources they need to attain their educational goals.

Examples of community collaboration and support for SCTCC are many and varied. I would like to share just a few:

Bob Sexton was an SCTCC alumni, friend, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and beloved community member. He included SCTCC in his estate planning by purchasing a life insurance policy totaling $1.1 million for scholarships, faculty support, instructional equipment, and general operating expenses. Bob gave generously over the years to support many programs at SCTCC, including welding and other skilled trades, and he was a frequent patron of the culinary arts lunch program. He made a tremendous positive impact on students’ lives at SCTCC and the lives of people in the greater St. Cloud community. Bob never failed to make me smile and his presence is missed.

Granite Partners, a private investment and holding company with a mission to grow companies and create value for all stakeholders, donated Granite units valued at $1 million to generate annual income for scholarships and program investments.

The Women’s Fund Dancing with Our Stars 2022 event invited Daniel Larson, SCTCC Executive Foundation Director, to embrace a public dancing opportunity to raise scholarships for Women in STEM & Trades at SCTCC. The community response exceeded all expectations with a total of $133,000 raised in scholarships for SCTCC students.

VEX Robotics Minnesota is a hands-on robotics programming competition that promotes STEM to middle and high school students. The state championship is annually hosted by SCTCC and will be again held at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center from March 2nd through the 4th. This event requires significant volunteer participation, and many SCTCC faculty and staff participate along with volunteers from business, industry, and other community organizations. Funding for VEX Robotics is provided through generous business and industry contributions.

Community support flows both ways, and faculty, staff, and students at SCTCC reciprocate with the generous support of their time and resources to serve the greater St. Cloud region. Again, there are many varied examples and I would like to share just a few:

Dr. Sangeeta Jha and Lyda Avila received the MLK 2023 Humanitarian Award in recognition of their outstanding community contributions and service for embodying and advancing the work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. Jha is a beloved member of both SCTCC and the greater St. Cloud community. She is actively engaged in several SCTCC committees and activities in addition to teaching Sociology, Anthropology, Gerontology, and Women’s Studies. She also volunteers on several community committees and initiatives, often serving as a chair or co-chair. Dr. Jha’s contributions are inspiring, and it is such an honor to work collaboratively as colleagues at SCTCC.

The SCTCC Dental Clinic takes part in the Minnesota Dental Association’s “Give Kids a Smile” program. The clinic offers exams, x-rays, cleaning, fillings, sealants, extractions, and oral hygiene instructions free of charge to children in need of dental attention. “Give Kids a Smile” is a charitable outreach program to provide free care to low-income children in need.

Several SCTCC programs host fundraisers throughout the year, from canned goods for local food shelves, to Toys for Tots, to gathering essential items including clothing and home goods for donation.

Clubs and organizations at SCTCC take part in philanthropic activities, such as the Practical Nursing Club working with CentraCare’s Coborn Cancer Center to make and donate blankets for patients.

Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” We see evidence of this at SCTCC every day. My deepest gratitude to our SCTCC employees for their incredible passion, dedication, and support. My immense appreciation and thank you to our community members for their ongoing support and collaboration. Each make a difference. Collectively, they are our beloved SCTCC and St. Cloud community, creating a college experience where our students can succeed and thrive.

This is the opinion of St. Cloud Technical and Community College President Lori Kloos. To A Higher Degree is typically published the fourth Sunday of the month and rotates among the three presidents of the largest Central Minnesota higher education institutions.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: In celebrating King, reminded of sense of community at SCTCC