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Thulani JwacuSeeing Students Through to Success

“It’s not enough to give students access to college,” said Thulani Jwacu, Power of YOU advisor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. “We want to see them graduate, and that takes a lot of support and individual attention.”

When Thulani started working at the MCTC Library in 2005, he was a fresh graduate from Metro State University, and received a crash course in offering student support. “I saw first-hand what an MCTC student’s academic experience is like,” he said. He found himself tutoring, orienting students to technology and mentoring work study students. “I had an opportunity to work with students to go beyond what they were learning in the classroom.”

The experience was inspiring. “I became interested in how we teach students to succeed outside the classroom. It's more than just being present; students need help developing broader skills.”

Thulani has taken those lessons and experiences with him. Last year he transitioned into his current role as a Power of YOU advisor, and works one-on-one with recent high school graduates who are the first in their families to go to college. “What attracted me to Power of YOU is the curriculum,” he said. “It’s intended to help students become scholars—to turn them from high school students to successful scholars who transition from MCTC to a four-year college or a job.”

The Power of YOU curriculum is dependent on passion like Thulani’s. The program—almost 10 years old and one of the first in the state of Minnesota—offers free tuition to qualifying students and centers on academic support as a key to student success. Students meet one-on-one with advisors to plan their courses, make sure they meet deadlines and maintain a manageable workload. "The support makes it possible for a lot of high school students, who wouldn't have previously thought of attending college, to become success stories,” said Thulani. “We're giving access and support to many students in our immediate community."

The Power of YOU enrolled around 250 students in the 2014–2015 school year, and the program continues to grow. “We’re focused on building relationships with students,” said Thulani. “Knowing that they have someone in their corner to guide them through the intricacies of being a college student is of great comfort."

Published May 2015

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