Through Power of YOU, MCTC Student Connects with Her Community
“I didn’t initially want to go to college. I just wanted to work.”
Shomarri Powell, a Liberal Arts student at MCTC, worked two jobs throughout high school so she could help her mother and two younger brothers financially. “I couldn’t handle two jobs and complete my classes. My grades just weren’t that good because I worked all the time.” Although college didn’t seem possible, it was Shomarri’s mother who encouraged her to work less, study more and explore the Power of YOU (POY) program.
“Power of YOU really is a support system,” said Shomarri. The program covers the costs of tuition and fees for two years—or up to 72 credits—for qualifying students. It also provides academic support by offering walk-in tutoring and advising to POY students four days of the week, leadership skill building and a chance to connect with other students.
Power of YOU is a program dedicated to helping students access their individual academic “swag.” Swag refers to the confidence, attitude and skills necessary to be a successful student and do well in college.
When she was 12 years old, there was a drive-by shooting outside Shomarri’s Minneapolis home. Her mother moved their family to a suburban neighborhood where she thought they’d be safer. There, they suffered under a racially discriminatory landlord who drank too much. They moved seven times in five years. “It was really hard, and I was really mad at the time,” Shomarri said.
A guest speaker in her first class at MCTC connected with Shomarri over the topic of power and civic engagement. “The guest speaker asked me how I was going to communicate with my community and how I was going to get people to talk. I realized I could use my past experiences to connect with people.”
Power of YOU students are expected to complete 20 hours of community service each semester. Encouraged by fellow POY students, advisors and her guest speaker, Shomarri joined the group Public Achievement and fulfilled her service requirements by speaking to middle and high school students about civic engagement. “Now I realize I’m better off than a lot of people are,” she said.
Thanks to the public speaking experience she gained with Public Achievement, Shomarri is now a peer advisor in the POY program. “I used to think public service meant picking up trash on the side of the road,” Shomarri said. “Now I know it’s about communicating with your community.”
After she finishes her classes at MCTC, Shomarri hopes to find an internship which furthers her public service experience, transfer to a four-year university and eventually wind up in government work. “When I first came to MCTC, I was so open-minded. That’s how I was able to step back and see a lack of power in my community, and that’s what I’m working to change now.”