“The Master Student Award is an opportunity for MTI to celebrate our spectacular students. Master Students receive an award of recognition and are displayed on the Hall of Fame.” – MTI College Announcements
So what does it take to be an MTI College Master Student? After talking with Sue Thornton, Director of Student Services at MTI College, it’s clear that it takes quite a lot indeed. Of course academics are taken strongly into account, but behavior, drive, attendance, and citizenship are just as key, if not more so. Over the last fifteen-or-so years the merit awards at MTI have undergone quite the evolution; and in the last five or so years, the newest concept has landed, now, on the Master Student Award. I had the opportunity to talk with a recent Master Student Award recipient, Meleane Fehoko, a student in the Accounting program, and her story is a perfect example of what makes an exemplary Master Student.
First, though, a little background on the award itself. At the end of each term, when MTI instructors are busily finalizing grades, they are given the opportunity to nominate their students for the Master Student Award. After spending a full term, and often more time, with their students, the instructors are in the best position to communicate who is making the clear and driven effort to excel in their career at MTI not only academically, but also as a member of the community. The department Chairpeople and Deans are given the list of nominees and are able to determine recipients, but when it comes down to it, it’s the instructors’ nominations that decide who is in the running for and who will eventually be named a Master Student.
It would be easy for an award like this to become what some could consider as a throw-away; something that is given out every term regardless of whether or not anyone really deserves it. However, MTI does not fall into this pitfall. If no students are nominated and selected as Master Students in a given term, then no award is given. Only when a student shows true drive, academic excellence, and exemplary citizenship does MTI announce them as a Master Student.
With that in mind, it is clear why it is very rare for a student to be named a Master Student early on in their career at MTI. More often it takes several terms for instructors to see a time-tested drive and dedication in a particular student. That is probably why so many students ranging from Phlebotomy to Paralegal appear in the Deans’ offices asking what it takes and how they can become a Master Student. Not only is it a great honor on the MTI campus to have your picture posted on the Master Student wall, and a thrilling moment to be called out for your achievements in class (says John Alcorcha, Chair of Core Education), but a brilliant addition to a graduate’s portfolio and resume as well. But remember, academics alone won’t earn someone the award. “If everything is about a GPA, you make it impossible for people to be people,” says Thornton. If a student is ordinarily a straight-A student but has a personal life crisis that takes his or her attention off of academic pursuits for a term or two, their perseverance and dedication are taken into account, even when their GPA may be lower than it usually is.
This is where Meleane comes in. She is from an island of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean where she lived with her family until moving to Sacramento three years ago to live with her aunt. She had always dreamed of coming to America to try to live the American Dream – little did she know a friend of hers entered her name in the Diversity Visa Program also known as the Green Card Lottery. She was granted the path to American and she jumped at the opportunity.
“In Tonga we can live off the ocean and the plantation. We are poor, but everyone is happy,” she says of her home. There is no need for renting an apartment because there are no apartments to rent. There is no need for grocery bills because there are no groceries. People in Tonga fish for and grow their own food and live in a peaceful harmony. They even have free access to medical care. However, living this way doesn’t provide one with much job experience. “I am tired of being rejected from a lot of jobs,” Meleane says. With no experience in the job market, employers are hesitant to hire her. However, when asked what she thinks the Master Student Award will do for her she says, “I can’t tell you how happy I am that I received it! It makes me feel comfortable… proud of myself. I didn’t know that they were going to award me with that. I didn’t know they’d mention me for bugging [my teachers with questions] in class!”
Meleane graduates in April and hopes to continue into Year Two at MTI College, but she knows that the Master Student Award will already add credibility and emphasis to her resume; credibility and emphasis she most definitely deserves. With drive and dedication to her studies that bring her to school early, use up her lunch periods and keep her on campus working late, she is a perfect example of a true Master Student.
I asked if she had any advice for her fellow students – whether in the Business, Legal, Technology or any other major – who want to strive for the Master Student Award and she said simply, “spend every moment here as though it is your future. You have to want something in order to act upon it and later achieve that dream. I want a job and a better future so badly, in return I study hard. I struggle each day and in every class to clear my confusions hoping I’ll finally get a job in the near future.”