Everyday Heroes

Inver Hills Foundation provides opportunities to support students

Everyday HeroesInver Hills Community College Foundation launched its annual employee giving campaign for FY15 at the end of February. The Foundation chose the campaign theme Everyday Heroes to celebrate the certainty that all members of the Inver Hills campus community are day in and day out heroes each in their own unique way. Our faculty and staff dedicate their time and talent to give our students every opportunity to succeed. Our students step up their games and overcome every obstacle to achieve their academic and career goals. The college’s business, industry and community partners continually provide indispensable resources to keep the college mission advancing in the right direction.

The Foundation wishes to thank all the Everyday Heroes at Inver Hills for an exceptionally successful employee giving campaign.

Inver Hills Community College: OUR MISSION
“Dedicated to the power and promise of education, we inspire students, build careers and strengthen communities.”

Everyday Heroes at Inver Hills

Isaac Anderson

Isaac Anderson | A.A. degree transfer student

Isaac Anderson, 21, of Northfield, Minn., received a $1,000 Kopp Investment Advisors Presidential Scholarship to help him pursue an A.A. degree at Inver Hills. Isaac first enrolled at the college as a PSEO student. He is taking engineering prerequisites and is on track to transfer to a four-university to study biomedical engineering. Right now, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Purdue University and the University of Iowa are at the top of his list. His career focus is hovering between tissue engineering and robotic prosthetics.

Isaac grew up in a missionary family, which gave him the chance to experience life and culture in Lijiang, China, and Baguio in the Philippines. At the age of 13, he learned that he had a genetic condition called spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA. Isaac’s motor muscles are undergoing progressive atrophy. There is no known cure for SMA.

“I can’t build muscle no matter how much I exercise,” Isaac said. “Stairs can be tough, but I work hard to live a normal life.”

While at Inver Hills, Isaac discovered ceramics. He has taken beginning and advanced courses—and reports that his ceramics instructor, Wendy Olson, is “awesome.” Isaac has three siblings and one has provided him with a wheel and kiln so that he can do ceramics at home. Isaac is also a sketch artist and is just getting the hang of poi, a performance art that involves swinging tethered objects in rhythmic patterns. He is sticking with glow sticks until he’s good enough to work with actual fire.

Angela Gallant

Angela Gallant

“Isaac Anderson was an outstanding student in my College Algebra II course over the summer of 2013. The course was a hybrid demanding significant self-motivation on the part of the students. Yet, even though it was his first math course at Inver Hills, Isaac rose to the challenge and earned the top score in the class on each assignment. He came to class each week fully prepared, asked great questions in class as well as on the discussion board. He also provided insightful responses to questions raised by other students.

“Isaac will go far. He’s incredibly motivated and bright. He recognizes the value of education. He is currently paying his own way through school, and he has invested not only his money, but also his time and energy in his studies.” — Angela Gallant, M.S., Mathematics Instructor

Tori Bigginton

Tori Bigginton | A.A. degree transfer student

A native of Watertown, S.D., Tori Bigginton, 46, worked as a massage therapist for 13 years before returning to physics and mathematics, her original career path. She joined the U.S. Army after high school and served overseas in Nuremberg, Germany. She soon found herself raising a family of five, which put her college education on hold. Today, Tori is a single-parent college student at Inver Hills with four children living at home. Scholarships, including Goodrich Veteran’s and Thomson Reuters STEM, have been a big help.

Tori not only excelled in her math courses at Inver Hills, she also explored her love for music. She sings in choir and also composes her own music. She has 15 songs ready for a CD and describes her creative music genre as film score. She sees music as a way of communicating that transcends words. She applies that sense of transcendence to her own life.

“You shouldn’t feel trapped in your life,” she said. “You always have a choice. If you don’t like the way your life is, change it.”

You can listen to Tori’s original composition, “Midnight Blue,” by clicking on the YouTube video below:

Tori is graduating from Inver Hills spring 2014. This summer, she and her family are moving to Chico, Calif., where she will pursue her B.S. in Physics at California State University, Chico. Tori’s goal is to earn her master’s and then her Ph.D. so that she can teach physics at the college level. Her five children are Josh, 23, who is starting his own business, James, 21, who resides in Oregon, Justin, 19, who is a full-time student at Inver Hills studying environmental engineering and cultural anthropology, Joel, 16, a PSEO student at Inver Hills studying applied engineering and physics, and Andrea, 11, who attends Khan Academy and is “really good at math.”

Stan Rothrock

Stan Rothrock

“I have had the privilege of teaching Tori in several of my music classes in recent years. While music has not been her primary focus at Inver Hills, she has taken Applied Voice, Applied Piano and Choir to heighten her understanding of music and supplement her general education. Tori has worked very diligently in my classes and grew a great deal as a musician. Not only did she do all that was asked of her, she went above and beyond by seeking assistance outside of class and asking questions when things were unclear to her. I was especially touched at how she challenged herself in recent semesters by applying her accumulated musical knowledge to her own compositions.

“Tori’s accomplishments provide insight into her overall academic potential, not just in music, but throughout her studies. She is most interested in the STEM area and excels at calculus and other math classes. Tori is highly self-motivated; not only does she like to challenge herself, but she does so with a vibrant smile, continuous in-depth thought, and a very positive and light-hearted attitude. Tori is highly self-aware and she settles for nothing less than her best.” — Stan Rothrock, D.M.A., Music Instructor

Troy Mincer

Troy Mincer | Accounting A.S. student

Seattle-native Troy Mincer, 25, is working to earn three degrees at Inver Hills, an A.S. in Accounting, an A.A. and an A.A.S. in Contemporary Business Practice. Troy graduated from Cascade Christian High School in 2006 and went on to earn Professional Cooking and Culinary Arts certificates from Renton Technical College in Renton, Wash. He ran the kitchen at Windmill Bistro in Sumner, Wash., but opted to continue his education after meeting his future wife, Olivia, and starting a family in Hastings, Minn. Troy and Olivia, a former student at Inver Hills, have two children, Iris, 3, and Simon, 6 months. The couple lost their infant child, Blake, who spent 33 days in intensive care in 2012 before he passed away.

“People at Inver Hills were so sweet and kind during that time in our lives,” Troy said. “I missed a huge chunk of schooling, but all my instructors were very supportive and understanding.”

The recipient of a $2,500 Doffing Scholarship, Troy is set to graduate from Inver Hills spring 2014. He is then heading to Metropolitan State University to earn a B.S. in Accounting and become a certified public accountant. He belongs to PTK and is also actively involved in VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. He greatly enjoys helping people with their taxes, especially when they get refunds, and credits his expertise in that area to the Federal Individual Income Tax course he took in the Accounting program.

Troy works full-time as a cook at Valley Natural Foods even while taking 16 credits in courses this semester. Olivia is making plans to continue her education at Inver Hills once her husband has completed his B.S. at Metro State.

Gerry Swarsensky

Gerald Swarsensky

“I’ve had Troy Mincer in two of my classes now. I wish that I could hire him to be in more of my classes. He has so much enthusiasm that it spills over to the rest of the class. He wants to get to know all his classmates. If just a few students treat class time as extremely valuable, the course will go well. And it’s not simply because Troy already has a splendid business background. It’s because Troy is just a thoroughly decent person who takes full advantage of his college opportunity.

“The membership of the Inver Hills Business and Accounting Club increased because of Troy. When he invited students to attend meetings, they came. We had guest speakers at most meetings and I was always nervous that the students would not generate much discussion when we got to the question-and-answer session. Troy had great empathy for the speakers, and he knew how important it was to show appreciation to them by asking thoughtful questions. Troy’s assignments are always completed and superb, and his attendance is a given. I wish that I could clone him.” — Gerald Swarsensky, Accounting and Law Instructor

Annmarie Bangura

Annmarie Bangura | Future student in MANE program

Annmarie Bangura, 28, experienced firsthand the civil war that devastated her native country of Sierra Leone for 11 years, costing more than 50,000 people their lives. Annmarie witnessed terrible atrocities before eventually making her way to a refugee camp in neighboring Guinea. In 2004, she emigrated to the United States in a party of 14 refugees. She recently became a U.S. citizen.

“Rebels from the Revolutionary United Front came to Lunsar, my home village,” Annmarie said. “I saw people killed. I watched as they burned down my house. I escaped and walked barefoot 30 miles, carrying my baby girl, Betty. I was separated from my son, Julian. My mom is still missing.”

Annmarie eventually reunited with Julian in Minnesota after a friend discovered him in Sierra Leone. Betty, also a U.S. citizen, is studying nursing at St. Catherine University. Annmarie is taking general education courses at Inver Hills as she prepares to apply for the Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education (MANE) program to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She appreciates the help and understanding she has received from Inver Hills counselors, including Milissa Troen and Nicole Bietz. She also takes advantage of the Mobile Pantry program at the college.

The recipient of the Dakota Electric Scholarship, Annmarie speaks two languages besides English, Temne and Creole. She has made a strong recovery from the trauma she survived during the Sierra Leone Civil War. More than happy to be living in Minnesota, she looks forward to becoming an R.N. and using her training to help others.

Nicole Bietz

Nicole Bietz

“Annmarie plans to complete our A.S. degree in nursing. She was a student in my READ Learning Community class last fall. She always takes advantage of office hours if she has questions and is very thorough in her work. When we talk about tips and strategies to increase success, I know that Annmarie takes them to heart and applies them to her life.

“In addition to being a student, Annmarie is also a single mother who works full-time to support herself and her two children, who are a driving force in her life and her pursuit of a nursing career. She works long hours and stays up late to make sure she has all of her homework in on time. She is one of the most motivated students I have worked with at Inver Hills. Annmarie witnessed great suffering in Sierra Leone. She wants to be able to give back and help people in need both in Africa and the United States.” — Nicole Bietz, Counselor

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