Student Spotlight: Melina Myhre

Nursing major connects with Congresswoman Angie Craig on foster care system

Melina Myhre, 24, is earning her Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) in the Nursing program at Inver Hills Community College. A working mother of four, Melina is on track to graduate from Inver Hills in spring 2022. She is looking forward to completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through the Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education (MANE) at Metropolitan State University.

“My dream since I was little has been to follow in my mom’s footsteps and become a registered nurse,” Melina said. “I hope to work as a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital in the Twin Cities metro area after graduating from Metro State in 2023.”

Melina has been exceptionally active as an Inver Hills student. She participated in the Nursing and Psychology clubs during fall semester 2019, and was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa. She made the Dean’s List for fall semester 2019 and is waiting to hear about the Dean’s List for spring semester 2020. She earned a 4.0 GPA both semesters.

Connecting with Congresswoman Craig…

Melina took part in an Inver Hills Learning Community called “Eighteen and Nowhere to Go” during fall semester 2019. This Learning Community, or LCOM, is a combination of English 1108: Writing and Research Skills and Psychology 1210: Lifespan Development. Students in the LCOM were given the assignment to write persuasive letters to stakeholders in the foster care system. Melina Myhre wrote an impressive letter to U.S. Representative Angie Craig, who represents Minnesota’s Second Congressional District. Melina’s letter urged legislative leaders to address racial, economic and sociological discrimination in the child welfare and foster care system.

Excerpt from Melina’s letter to Congresswoman Craig…

Dear Congresswoman Craig,

I am writing to you to bring your attention to a subject that, as you are already aware, is thrown under the rug far too often: racial and socio-economical bias in the child welfare and foster care system. More specifically, the rampant discrimination by social workers and caseworkers in the system against families who belong to minority groups and/or who are trapped in the depths of poverty.

Congresswoman Angie Craig

According to an article on racial bias in U.S. foster care from Marquette Law Review, African American, Native American, Hispanic, and bi-racial children are removed from their homes and are placed in foster care at higher rates than their white counterparts – despite their being no real difference in child maltreatment rates between races. Children of color and/or who are poor also stay in foster care longer, and they and their families are much less likely to receive support and reunification services from their workers and child welfare in general.

Certified Child Welfare Law Specialist Professor Tanya Asim Cooper also states that social workers from non-impoverished backgrounds tend to favor keeping a child in foster care, rather than keeping the child with their family and providing services.

I know that this is a subject that is near to your heart, as you fought a discrimination case of your own while in the process of adopting your oldest son, Josh—and have faced open discrimination while continuing to build your family. You have also co-sponsored the bipartisan Every Child Deserves A Family Act, in order to end discrimination of LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents, as well as discrimination against LGBTQ foster youth. Families of color and families who are poor experience the same discrimination you have faced (and worked to end) when working with child welfare and foster care.

I am a 23-year-old college student at Inver Hills Community College, and a mother of four myself. In my English and Psychology classes this semester, we have diligently studied and researched the U.S. foster care system. We have also hosted a panel of former foster youth from the St. Paul area in class, who bravely shared their stories and experiences in foster care, and what their involvement with child welfare was like. We heard the raw reality of a broken and discriminatory system.

Foster care is a personal aspect of my own life. My husband has five adopted siblings, all of whom were adopted from foster care, and all of whom came from impoverished families who were Native American, African American, and Hispanic. Foster care and adoption has built a huge part of my family.

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Melina received a reply from Angie Craig April 10, 2020. “I strongly agree that discrimination has no place in the foster care system,” Congresswoman Craig wrote. “Poverty or cultural practices alone are not valid reasons to remove a child from their family, and I appreciate the work you are doing to learn about and fight for positive change to this practice. I also agree that the Minnesota Legislature should closely examine this issue, and because I am a federal representative, I encourage you to reach out to your local legislators.”

Melina quickly shared the news with her LCOM instructors, Lisa DuRose, PhD, English faculty, and Julie Luker, EdD, psychology faculty. Lisa and Julie are also co-directors of learning communities at the college. They were excited to learn one of their students had connected with a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I was absolutely humbled,” Melina later said. “I put so much of not only my heart into the letter I wrote to Congresswoman Craig, but the hearts and voices of the foster youth we worked with in class from Ampersand Families. It was one thing for me to be heard, but to be able to give them a voice when that’s all they wanted… that made me so happy.”

Lisa and Julie worked directly with Melina and other students in the Writing & Psychology LCOM, which collaborated with Ampersand Families, a nonprofit organization that supports permanent families for older youth, to learn more about the foster care system and then advocate for comprehensive changes.

“Melina already entered the class with a personal connection to the foster care system and a deep curiosity to learn more,” Lisa said. “As she gained further knowledge about foster care, and the psychological and social implications, she became such an advocate for reforming the system. Through her research and her experience with the youth at Ampersand Families, Melina used her writing skills to affect social change. It was such a pleasure to watch her gain more confidence in her writing and research skills throughout the semester. I am deeply grateful to have been a part of her learning.”

Julie added: “Melina was a valuable student in our LCOM course. She was never shy to speak her truth, which stemmed directly from her lived experiences. By being vulnerable, Melina helped her classmates think even more deeply about the countless connections between lifespan developmental psychology and the American foster care system. I appreciated her voice and her insight.”

More about Learning Communities at Inver Hills…

Learning communities at Inver Hills Community College provide students with a great way to learn together as a team. As a member of a learning community (LCOM), you’ll be part of a group of students who share academic interests and have at least two courses in common. You’ll experience the variety of opportunities found at a large college or university in a smaller, supportive environment at no extra cost.

Learning communities are one of the best ways for students to take on challenging and important courses. By joining a learning community (LCOM), you become part of a cohort with shared interests and goals. You can participate in fun and rewarding activities together and develop the camaraderie that can help you excel in your coursework. Instructors and peer mentors are there to help you understand the material, and you can collaborate with students in your cohort.

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More about Melina…

Originally from Lakeville, Minnesota, Melina graduated from Lakeville North High School, Class of 2014. She has extensive experience working as a mental health advocate and counselor.

“I’ve worked for a few wonderful agencies,” she said. “I worked with clients who have severe and persistent mental illness and chemical dependency issues. I have A LOT of training in the field, and I am hoping to use what I have learned in my nursing career.”

Melina has been married two years. She and her husband, Zack, who works as an automotive technician. Melina and Zack have four children, Layla, almost 9, Ivy, 5.5, Malachi, 3, and Ezekiel, almost 2.

“We don’t have any pets,” Melina added, “but we want a dog.”

Melina works while going to college as a daycare teacher at KinderCare in Lakeville. “All our kids attend KinderCare as well,” she said. “I usually work part-time during the school year and full-time during holiday breaks and summer, but I decided to take classes for summer semester 2020 at Inver, so I am only working part-time right now. I love my coworkers and the children and families we are so privileged to serve!”

Most of Melina’s free time revolves around her children. “I like to be outside with them, going for walks together on the trails here in Farmington or Nerstrand Big Woods State Park just south of us,” she said. “Both of my daughters are in sports and a big chunk of my time is dedicated to that. I also love to go swimming and camping, and visit the splash pads around Dakota County with my kids. I enjoy doing home decor/decorating in my free time as well.”

Melina and her family reside in the Lakeville/Farmington area.

Remembering Heather Elizabeth Tima

Melina lost one of her very good friends, Heather Elizabeth Tima, to cancer on the last day of 2019. Hashtags used in Heather’s honor include #ForeverTeamHeather and #F**kCancer

Heather Elizabeth Tima May 27, 1992 – December 31, 2019


Melina Myhre family gallery

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

EYE-OPENING!

More about Nursing at Inver Hills…

A.S. in Nursing

The Associate of Science (A.S.) in Nursing prepares you for a career in professional nursing. Admission to the Nursing program is limited and competitive; a separate application is required. Many students enroll at Inver Hills and complete prerequisite courses before applying to the Nursing program. Advanced standing is offered to qualified licensed practical nurses (LPN’s) interested in the MANE nursing program.

MANE

The mission of the Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education (MANE) program is to increase baccalaureate prepared nurses in Minnesota through transformative educational strategies

To prepare professional nurses to promote health and meet the evolving and complex health care needs of our communities.

The goal of MANE is to make baccalaureate nursing education available to students across the state, allowing qualified students to graduate with a baccalaureate degree within four years on every partner campus.

The Inver Hills MANE Nursing program admissions process admits you to both the Metropolitan State University Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Inver Hills A.S. in Nursing programs.

LEARN MORE…

Registered Nurses

Provide and coordinate patient care, and educate and support patients and families.

WAGE

This is a very high-wage career that pays well above the statewide median of $20.95/hour.

Minnesota

Median: $38.12/hour
High: $45.33/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $41.37/hour
High: $47.46/hour

OUTLOOK

In Minnesota, there are 69,000 workers employed in this very large career. This career is currently in very high demand and seeing high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate is 11.1 percent. There will be a need for about 42,029 new Registered Nurses to meet market demand between 2016–2026. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

Melina Myhre  Q & A

How did the Learning Community, Eighteen and Nowhere to Go, help you better understand Minnesota’s foster care system?
Coming into the class, I already had a personal connection with foster care in Minnesota. My husband has five siblings who were adopted from foster care. Foster care made up his family growing up, and makes our family what it is today.

I have always been on the “other side” of foster care—the adoptive family’s side. The Eighteen and Nowhere to Go Learning Community helped me better understand the realities the youth, teens, and young adults in foster care face when they AREN’T adopted. It helped me step into their shoes, and opened up  my eyes to everything that is wrong with our social service system. It made me realize we are failing here in Minnesota, and everywhere to be honest. It makes me want to push continually for change.

A huge recurring theme that came up in my research and in conversations with the youth from Ampersand Families was discrimination, and that is what I wrote my letter to Congresswoman Craig about. I hope one day we can have a foster care system that is free of discrimination against people and families of color, or who are economically unstable/low-income.

What advice would you give students thinking about joining a Learning Community?
I would say 100 percent join a Learning Community! I highly suggest taking one that you have a personal connection to, or one that interests you. That is what helped motivate me in the class. I would also advise to take the work very seriously, and to try to not fall behind. Put your heart into the class, and you will get so much out of it! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or to start a discussion in class.

Why did you choose nursing as your career path?
I chose my career path because ever since I can remember, I have wanted to take care of people. Growing up, I watched my mom work in all different settings as a registered nurse, and that interested me. I have always been fascinated by hospitals and watching nurses and doctors and doing what they do.

When I started in the social service field after I graduated high school, that is where I really discovered my real passion for taking care of others, and for medical work. As a mom, being a labor and delivery nurse would give me an amazing opportunity to help other mothers, and that would be an life changing experience for me!

Three words that describe you as a college student:
MULTI-TASKER. HARDWORKING. THOROUGH!

Why should students make the effort to increase their civic engagement?
Students should increase their effort in civic engagement because it truly gives you a connection to the outside world. It is one thing to take classes and learn the material, but if you don’t understand and can’t see how it applies in the real world, your degree and future career have a lot less meaning to them. Civic engagement helps a career not just be a career.

What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?
There are so many challenges facing my generation (I am the tail end of the millennial generation). I think what we struggle with is not speaking up for our own opinions and beliefs, and not speaking up for what is right. We see and face so much hate in our world today, and we kind of just go along with what we are told is right. We need to stand up for ourselves and others because that is the only way we are going to see change in this world.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years I will be 44, so I hope that at that point in my life me and my husband will have attended our youngest child’s graduation from college. I hope to work and continue to work as a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital at that point in my life, and continue to help others in any way I can.

I hope to be able to do some volunteer work, and I also hope my husband and I are able to live in our dream home on some acreage. I hope my kids are happy and healthy and where they want to be in their careers in life as well. My oldest will be almost 29 in 20 years, so maybe we will be young grandparents!

Melina Myhre  12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Lacrosse all the way! I played lacrosse myself. I also recently started playing soccer in my free time with my kids. It’s been fun.
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I would LOVE to visit Jamaica!
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Go back to college as a working mom of four children, all age 8 and under! It has been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I want them to see their momma accomplish her dream so I can be an example for them.
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a house with some land 2) Put savings away for my kids college education 3) Make sure my parents and in-laws were taken care of financially
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Dragnificent! and Ozark
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: I’m not much of a movie watcher, but I recently watched Revolutionary Road for my Interpersonal Communication class, and although it was sad, it was an EXCELLENT movie.
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: To be the best role model and mother to my kids, and make sure they are continually happy and healthy. No matter where life takes me, if they are happy and healthy, that makes me happy.
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Flamingo—I mean it’s pink and awkward compared to other birds… totally fits me.
  9. Dream occupation: Labor and delivery nurse! As a mom, it would make me so happy to help other moms.
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Any of the drag queens from the show Dragnificent! The kindness, compassion, and care they show to the women who come on their show inspires me. I wish we could all be a little more like them, and inspire others to love themselves just the way they are.
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I’d love to be able to master cooking some new and unique recipes. I’ve been having trouble planning what to cook for dinner lately!
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Discrimination and hate
Learn more about learning communities at Inver Hills by contacting:

Lisa DuRose, PhD
English Department Coordinator and Faculty
Co-Director of Learning Communities
651-450-3341

Julie Luker, EdD
Psychology Faculty
Co-Director of Learning Communities
Psi Beta Faculty Advisor
Psychology Club Faculty Advisor
651-450-3975

Learn more about the Nursing program at Inver Hills by contacting:

Dawn Newman
Director of Nursing
651-450-3309

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