Students, faculty and alumni of Normandale Community College were joined by community organizations, business owners and donors on November 3, 2011 at the Grand Finale Gala for the third annual fundraising competition called Toast of the Town Challenge. The gala marked the final day of two months of fundraising by teams of students for the Normandale Community College Foundation.
The three Toast of the Town Challenge teams were Team Leadership!, Team smART, and Team STEM. Each team raised funds by offering creative activities on campus and at the Mall of America like painting mural tiles, making sculptures out of 3M packaging tape, offering miniature hovercraft rides, dancing with Xbox Kinect or giving away a plastic, pink flamingo invasion where offices were filled unknowingly with pink flamingos (individuals could also buy insurance if they did not want their office invaded). A silent and live auction at the gala helped add to the total amount of funds raised, which the foundation will use for scholarships and programs.
Today’s students are paying considerably more for higher education than ten years ago. Some experts estimate the price tag has doubled. “It is important to recognize that students are bearing an increasing burden in the ability to pay to come to places like Normandale,” said Normandale Community College President Joe Opatz. ”Fifty-eight percent of our students are receiving some form of financial aid and that is up thirty-one percent in the last two years. That represents forty-two million (dollars) in financial support to our students so they can attend…So that means they are working more, they are borrowing more and they have to take longer to finish.”
It was the third year for the Toast of the Town Challenge and the total amount raised was $115,009.97. The team that raised the most money was Team smART lead by students Jason Wentworth and Mindy Bolton. Wentworth commented on the affect scholarships have on students, “I am pretty sure that is a life changing experience for them so they can afford a lot more of their future than they expected they could.” Mindy Bolton knows personally how helpful scholarships can be. ”I have received scholarships in the past,” Bolton said. “I know how much they can boost the time frame you can get school accomplished and the general moral of how you feel as a student.”
All of the team leaders made comments on the amount of work required for the fundraising, the amount of personal growth experienced and the amount of fun they had. Dozie Okpara of Team STEM said,”Doing this has really enhanced my leadership skills, my communication skills and I got to meet knew people”
The team leaders of the 2011 Toast of the Town Challenge were
Bernard Akem – Akem is one of only 20 students nationally to claim the Pearson Prize in which he receives $10,000 toward his next two years of school. He is also the president of the Normandale Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.
Yael Radison – Radison was accepted as a member of the Americorps this past January. She is also part of the Student Senate and the Multicultural Club. Radison is currently studying Microbiology and Physiology to fulfill general requirements for the Dental Hygiene program.
Jason Wentworth – Wentworth majored in Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota before leaving to pursue a corporate career. After he was laid off from his job, he came to Normandale to major in Economics. He is currently working two jobs on campus, one of which is as a studio assistant in the Art Department.
Mindy Bolton – Bolton came to Normandale to study Art Therapy, and after taking an introductory class in the subject she quit her job at the salon she worked and went to work at a group home, a job more suited to her major. She also works on-campus at the Writing Center where she helps tutor other students.
Dozie Okpara – Okpara is the President of the Student Senate for the 2011-12 academic year. He is majoring in Engineering, and wants to get into a Petroleum Engineering career. Okpara’s dad liked Normandale so much that both of Dozie’s sisters attend the school as well.
Galina Yakovlev – Yakovlev is studying Biology in her second year at Normandale. She plans to graduate this spring and attend Medical School at the University of Minnesota. Yakovlev was in Virginia this summer working in a six-week Doctor’s program.