Reaching Higher

man with beard
3/5/21

In 2008 Carlos Virgen was living in Minneapolis, working bottom of the ladder, entry-level jobs, and being turned down for management opportunities whenever he reached for a higher rung. Despite being capable, he kept bumping into the ceiling of needing a prerequisite degree. He also had a challenge that many people living in America have. 

At the time Virgen was undocumented, which put him in a frustrating catch-22. He needed a degree to improve his professional situation. He didn’t think he could afford college with the low-paying jobs he’d been working. He thought his status as undocumented meant there wasn’t any hope of moving closer to his goals. Then a friend mentioned Minneapolis College. 

“Back in 2008 I was undocumented, so I didn’t think college was a possibility. I met with an academic advisor, Rose Vega (now retired) who provided me with useful information that gave me hope. I applied and started college in the fall of 2008.” One of the benefits he learned about was the Srok Memorial ESL Scholarship, which he received for two years, and credits it as a major contributor to making his education affordable. 

With the help of those resources, he enrolled in school. Once there, he had the same nerves and anxieties any of us would, but Minneapolis College made an immediate positive impression. Virgen found comfort in the school’s diversity, both among the student body and faculty. 

He also took advantage of the many resources at the Learning Center. “I remember when Dr. Ursula Walsh told me that if I needed help with homework, she would accompany me to the library to get a tutor. The Learning Center was quite an important part of my success,” said Virgen. 

Virgen is now a proud alum of Minneapolis College, and attributes the compassion and diversity he found there as being keys to his success. He is now a licensed insurance provider, a part time potter and owns a small cleaning company. “At Minneapolis College, I learned important tools to manage my employees with respect and dignity.” 

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