On April 22, Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College held their annual gala Celebrating Success. The virtual event raised more than $63,000, and was wonderful. It highlighted the great work happening at our colleges and raised money for scholarships.

While we celebrate student success via the gala, we are also registering students for next fall. The students come to us looking for opportunities to learn and secure a brighter future. Scholarships help students realize that future and develop the confidence to persist.

One such student is Tatiana Paolini Belotto at DCTC. She is pursuing her A.A.S. in business management with an additional diploma in multicultural human resources management. Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Tatiana will add her DCTC degrees to an M.B.A. from Universidade Anhembi Morumbi to start her own global HR consulting business. I met Tatiana at Phi Theta Kappa’s All-Minnesota Academic Team Recognition event. She was receiving a 2021 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarship. In thanking the Coca-Cola Foundation for their support, she affirmed how scholarships not only support students but affirm their decision to be in college.

Scholarship recipients often remark that the money is invaluable, but so is the fact that someone believes in them enough to invest in their educations. Those students regularly tell us they hope to pay it forward. Indeed, past graduates are some of our most generous donors. These alumni share their dollars, time, and expertise. Their continued support signifies to current students that they are not alone. It signifies that they are part of a history of learners who want to improve their communities.

Of course, this is true whether one attended a community college or not. At Inver Hills, our Foundation recently received a donation from Duke Cannon Supply Company, specializing in premium men’s grooming products. The company focuses its philanthropic programs on veterans and front-line workers; the donation will endow a new scholarship for students in nursing and emergency medical services.

Spring is busy for our colleges. As we tell our story to new students, we often focus on the practical part of starting a college education. But it is important to recognize, when students attend DCTC or Inver Hills they join a community that pays it forward to future students and the broader community.

Michael Berndt is president of Dakota County and Inver Hills technical colleges. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.

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