Today I'm at the Worthington campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, on the shores of Lake Okabena. The school offers liberal arts and sciences programs, including farm management, nursing, and it's quite aggressive in reaching students through online learning.
I've been asking students about the economy and, in particular, their journey that's brought them to pursuing their dream, also known as a career if they do it right.
If you've got some questions you want to throw into the mix, drop 'em below.
10:27 a.m. - We're set up in the cafeteria/lounge area. Coincidentally, it's free-food day at the college. Or maybe it's not a coincidence.
11:58 a.m. - I've talked to Jordy, who is trying to decide between the ministry, engineering, or football. He's from Miami. I've talked to Andreus, who is from Switzerland. He'd like to get into real estate but first he had to go back to Switzerland for mandatory military service. "Nobody picks on the Swiss, why do they need an army?" I asked.
"You never know," he said.
12:35 p.m. Jose Saravia of Luverne just stopped by. He was deployed to Iraq for 22 months and expects to be sent to Afghanistan in the next few years. The Guard is paying his way through college. He went to Iraq wanting to be a cop someday. Now he wants to be a nutritionist or dietician in a hospital.
12:38 p.m. - A young man who wants to be a police officer stopped by. He current works in security at ShopCo, and says he's seen an increase in shoplifting, though he's not sure it's tied to the economy.
12:42 p.m. - Carrie is graduating from Luverne High School near the top of her class (#2 because she got an A- in gym, she says). She's been taking college courses while going to high school and will actually graduate college before she graduates from high school. She's heading to college in Florida, but she's also joined the National Guard to help pay for it. She says many of her friends have also joined. "I want to get out of here," she said. "It's not that I don't love Luverne, but I want to see the rest of the world and then come back."(4 Comments)
Since I'm in the neighborhood today anyway, I might just swing over to the Hartquist Funeral Home's Engebretson Chapel in Luverne. They're displaying an "authentic replica" of President Lincoln's casket, according to today's Worthington Daily Globe.
The replica coffin is identical to the original coffin that holds Lincoln's remains, with two exceptions. The replica is not lead-lined, and it does not feature the formal silver nameplate on the top, which was inscribed with Lincoln's birth and death dates.
"It probably was an impressive casket at the time," says the funeral home director, well-skilled in the art of dampening expectations.
Batesville Casket Company asked for and received permission to create the replica in 1984. There are four of them touring the country and their "appearances" are booked through 2010. Apparently, they're quite popular for funeral home grand openings, which is whole 'nother story, I'm sure.
(Photo: Via Flickr/daveblog (Creative Commons license))(2 Comments)
Posted at 3:13 PM on February 11, 2009
by Than Tibbetts
Filed under: War
Members of the 34th Infantry Division — known as the Red Bulls — are preparing for a one-year deployment in Iraq. The division held a departure ceremony last night at Roy Wilkins Exhibition Hall.
Posted at 5:37 PM on February 11, 2009
by Bob Collins
If you think the economy in the United States is bad -- and it is -- consider Andreas Wellit's perspective. The Swiss native, an international student at Minnesota West Community & Technical College in Worthington, has more of a connection to the world's economy than many Americans.
His father buys and sells real estate around the world. "He starts with something little. He does it by himself. He cuts down the trees and puts a hotel on it. It takes awhile," he said Wednesday. "He looks around, when something gets cheap or someone goes broke, he moves in."
"Even as the economy is bad here, you see country's like them, it makes you appreciate what you have here more," he said. In Switzerland, a value meal at McDonald's will run you about $12, he reports, so life in the United States' economy is a little better, but requires some finesse. "I look where I can save the money. Before, I'd just spend it. It's kind of tiring, always looking for the cheaper stuff, but that's how it is."
Wellit first came to Minnesota in 2004. He was attracted to the "State of Hockey" in a roundabout way. "I didn't know what to do and I always wanted to go play hockey and go to the United States and learn English. I looked up a program where I could sign up and they said, 'Where would you like to be?' I said, 'Florida sounds good,' and they said, 'Yeah, that's another $500 so I was like, 'No, just sign me up anywhere you want; I just want to play hockey.'"
He played hockey as a high schooler in Luverne, Minnesota -- about 1,305 miles from his first choice. "I didn't like it too much because I was 16 and they just started the war in Iraq," he said.
He went back home to earn a degree in business management, then --because he liked it here, he says -- gave in to the lure of southwest Minnesota to take more classes. He'd like to buy and sell real estate, but he's not yet sure where. When classes are over in Worthington, he has to go back to Switzerland for a year of mandatory military service.
"I have to say we've never lost a war," he said.
Posted at 7:18 PM on February 11, 2009
by Bob Collins
There's a lot riding on Jordy Nunez. The Miami, Florida native is the only one of 13 children in his family to go to college, and now he's got a difficult decision to make: Pursue a football career, become an engineer, or enter the ministry.
"I've been praying hard so the Lord directs me where to go," he told me during News Cut's stop at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington on Wednesday where I talked to several students about how the economy is affecting their lives.
"Anything yet?" I asked.
"Not yet," he said.
Nunez was recruited to play football in Worthington. That and academic scholarships are his ticket to an education. "I have more of an education in mind than trying to make it big," he says.
Southwest Minnesota has been good for Nunez, who says it's good to be away from the violence of Miami and the "worrying you have just walking down the street." The downside, however, is that there's not a lot to do in Worthington, which gives him a lot of time to think about his three options for the future, and the economy is certainly playing into it.
"If it's ministry, it'll be hard. There's not much money, but I know money's not going to be an important thing," he says. "Engineering? If there's no money, there's no need for engineers. There's no building. It's going to be rocky because the economy is low right now. Hopefully when I graduate, the economy will be better. If I choose football, I'll have fun during college, and I'd pursue a business degree. I'd like to own my own business and maintain myself and my family."
He's leaning toward the ministry, but he's still got choices to make. If it is the ministry, he plans to attend North Central University in the Cities and take up world missions. If it's engineering, he'll head for Florida International University. And if it's football, he'll take a scholarship offer to play Division 2 football at the University of Minnesota Crookston. It doesn't offer an engineering program, so he'd pursue a business degree.
"Once you go into ministry, you're going in expecting that you're not going to have money," he says. "Your main goal is not money; it's to reach as many people as possible and giving yourself to the Lord. The Lord will always provide if you're doing his will."
"If I didn't have all those doubts about my future, I'd just dive head first into ministry. But then you have all these outer influences telling you about money. I do keep those other two choices open just in case I do change my mind."
Carrie Bauer of Luverne, Minn., has figured out at a young age how not to let a lousy economy ruin your plans. She's a high school senior who's been taking college courses at Minnesota West Community & Technical College, where I talked to her on Wednesday. "People don't realize how much college costs. Minnesota has paid for my school for two years. I've saved so much money," she said.
Because she's at the top of her class at Luverne High School (She's #2 in her class. She says it's because she got an A- in gym), she had the option of taking post-secondary classes at college instead of taking classes in high school. "I haven't paid anything to go here for two years," she said. "I'll graduate in May from here and then I'll graduate in June from high school."
On Tuesday, she found out she's been accepted at the University of Tampa. She plans on majoring in political science and international business, then she'll head for law school, become a politician, and eventually, she hopes, a diplomat.
There was only one hurdle to overcome. Her mother told her there isn't money to pay all of her college. So in November, she joined the Minnesota National Guard. "I kept thinking my parents were going to pay for my school, but she told me they paid for only a portion of my sister's school and I didn't have that kind of money. (The National Guard) will pay for wherever I want to go to school. It's amazing! I've made so much money."
Nobody will shoot at her for two years, at least until she gets her bachelor's degree. "I'm going to help defend the country and then I'll come home and the GI Bill will pay for my law school."
Bauer says many of her friends have also joined the Guard.
"After two years of going to school in the south, I'll come back to Minnesota to go to law school. Minnesota is a good place to raise your kids in. Luverne is a small town and you have to get away from it to appreciate how good Luverne is. But most people who go to school here, they graduate here, and they stay here. I'm not going to be one of those people who are a Luvernian for the rest of their life. I need to get out of here and experience the world."1 Comments)
Posted at 8:33 PM on February 11, 2009
by Bob Collins
Barring a completely collapsing economy, Joey Larson, a native of Alden, Minnesota, may have the right idea for a career in a bad economy. He's in the law enforcement program at Minnesota West Community & Technical College in Worthington. There's no shortage of bad guys these days.
He may end up as a police officer when he graduates later this year, but he's got his eye on another job: "loss prevention leader" at the ShopKo in Worthington. He'll catch shoplifters. Like many of the students I've met on the News Cut on Campus tour, he has a well-thought-out plan. "It's helping me build a resume, build experience, and deal with people," he said of his potential job and his job-hunting strategy. "When you're a cop, a lot of times people are mad at either you or someone else. When you're working at loss prevention, the people you catch at shoplifting, they're going to be mad at you, and they're not going to like you. So it teaches you to deal with the people at that time."
Larson has used student loans to pay for 100% of his education. "My parents made just enough money that I didn't qualify for any financial aid, but they didn't make enough so they could help me with tuition at all," he said. He couldn't say how far he's in student-loan debt, another similarity with other students I've met in the last month. He guesses it's close to $30,000. "I try not to think about it," he says.
Alden is 100 miles from Worthington. Larson doesn't drive there much anymore because of the price of gasoline. "It's cheaper, but I'm being a lot more conservative with my money now."
He's confident things will get better. "I feel pretty comfortable. I think there are ways to get help and you don't need to be by yourself," he says.
He works at ShopKo now as a loss prevention investigator and says the economy "has a huge role in how much people shoplift." From what he's seen so far, people are stealing more frequently. "This year, the first month started out at about $3,000-$4,000 in known shoplifting," he figures. That's about four times the amount of a year ago.
"They don't really need it. When we stop them we search their purse, their wallet. It seems like they almost have more than enough money to pay for what they stole. It's not from need, it's from greediness, almost," he says.
Posted at 9:01 PM on February 11, 2009
by Bob Collins
"My parents could only afford to put one kid through college, so I decided to join the Guard. The benefits were good, but not as good as they are now. I did it for the benefits at first, but then being overseas you see a different perspective on life. You see how you take things for granted," he told me during the News Cut on Campus tour stop at Minnesota West Community & Technical College. "Like all the resources we have here to be successful. We have opportunity here in America. You see on TV other countries, how they're not that developed, but when you see it firsthand and you're living there, it's a whole new story."
Saravia says that experience is when the Guard became more than the benefits. "Someone had to do it for the kids back home, so they have a chance, too," he said.
He's working on liberal arts courses and then plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota and pursue a degree in the nutrition program. He'd like to work in a hospital. "Before, I wanted to be a police officer but the only reason I wanted to be a police officer is because it was the easiest way to go. I didn't have good grades in school and there was no way I was going to get anywhere," he said. But in Iraq he said "everybody got into the nutrition thing, and staying healthy. We all got in good shape and when I came back I knew exactly what I wanted."
Saravia says there's a family reason, too, for his choice. "My brothers are really overweight, and my mom has diabetes so I was thinking I could help them out with their eating habits. Hopefully I can go there, take care of them, and try to live a healthy life."
In all likelihood, however, there'll be another stop first. He expects to be deployed as part of a troop buildup to Afghanistan.
The poor economy is a fact of life, he says. "This is going to happen. It's happened in the past. It's going to keep on happening; it's going to go down and it's going to go up. I'm just going to keep on investing. We're still young and we have an opportunity to make something from it... that's the beauty of being our age. You have all this time to take risk and not worry about it. "