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Lt. Gov., Higher Ed Commissioner Visit Fond du Lac Tribal College

Baihly Warfield
Updated: March 04, 2019 10:18 PM

CLOQUET, Minn. - As many student are studying for and taking midterm exams this week, Minnesota's top elected officials are focusing on education. 

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Monday, a statewide "education tour" brought Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (D-Minn.) to Cloquet. Flanagan and Department of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson, Jr., talk to students, staff and faculty at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. 

"There are multiple pathways to higher education, and everybody needs to find the right fit," Flanagan said in her opening remarks. 

Much of the conversation focused on budget items that specifically pertain to tribal education or to college students in general. 

"We wanted to be very student-focused and make sure that the student voice was part of the work that we were doing," the Lt. Gov. Said. 

Both Flanagan and Olson said they felt right at home at FDLTCC. 

"It feels comfortable," Olson said, "and that's really what tribal colleges are all about."

Olson's parents were both from Fond du Lac, and he is now the first American Indian Commissioner of High Education. Flanagan is the first native woman to serve as Minnesota's Lieutenant Gov. 

Both say they are committed to tribal education from kindergarten to college. 

"We also know that we have those achievement and attainment gaps that persist from K-12. And they persist into higher education," Olson said. "So I want to make sure we put a laser focus on providing opportunities for American Indian students in higher ed to be able to enroll and stay in school and ultimately complete." 

Angela Martini will graduate from FDLTCC this spring as an electric utility technician. 

"My biggest concern is transferability to higher education. Not saying that this isn't higher education, but even higher. The next step in engineering," Martini said. 

She also wants to make sure Post-Secondary Enrollment Options are available for the next generation. 

"My kids are going to be coming of age. I'm very interested in PSEO programs and how important it is, not just for them but the future in general," she said. 

FDLTCC Interim President Stephanie Hammitt said sometimes, the best way to learn is to go to the source. 

"Our institution is special, and it's hard to explain sometimes," Hammitt said. 

She pointed to partnerships as one of the college's top priorities. 

"We're the only college of its kind in the United States where we're both a state and tribal college," she said. "So we work in both venues of AHEC and federal programs and then the state programs. And the partnership is something that is so important to us. We couldn't do what we do without each other."

Plus, places like FDLTCC offer distinct opportunities that Olson said he would like to see more of. 

"Tribal colleges oftentimes have really unique program and degree offerings that aren't offered elsewhere. And so to be able to have the opportunity to grow those is critical," Commissioner Olson said. 

Gov. Tim Walz also visited southern Minnesota Monday. He went first to Rochester to celebrate a school-based alternative learning center opening. Then, Walz stopped in Mankato for a listening session with students and teachers. 

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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