Candidate One

Kyle Cavenah

Campus: South Central College-North Mankato
Elected office running for: Vice President

Hello, my name is Kyle Cavenah and I am currently enrolled at South Central College in North Mankato. I am originally from Rapid City, South Dakota and if you don't know where that is then just think of Mt. Rushmore and I'm about thirty minutes from there. I graduated high school in 2013 and am a non-traditional student. I took some time off from school to focus on life and to work. This then lead me to pursuing my passions in politics and going to South Central College where I am going to further my education!

1. What degree or certificate program are you seeking?
I am currently finishing my AA degree and will be pursuing a Bachelors in Political Science and a masters in Political Law from the University of Wyoming.

2. What are your future career plans?
My future career plans entail running for public office in the future! I want to run for POTUS one day in the future but for shorter term goals I want to become a member of the House of Representatives as soon as I graduate!

3. Please describe your previous student government or professional experience, and how it has prepared you for this position.
I am currently the President of my campuses Student Senate. This role also has me serve on a number of committees throughout the campus to help it grow effectively, and to help ensure that the students are represented, and that they get the best experience possible from the campus. I am currently on the University and City Development Committee to represent the students of South Central College in order for their voices to be heard so that the cities of Mankato and North Mankato can grow in a way that suits the needs of all stakeholders. I am also on my schools Strategic Planning Committee as a student representative to share the voices of the students in how the school can help adapt to the needs of its students. Last but not least I also serve on my campuses Dean of LAS search committee. I serve as the voice of the students to make sure that they have a Dean that has their interest in mind, and will have a presence among them so they can feel comfortable going to them with any concerns that they may have regarding their classes, professors, or grades. These things have prepared me for this position because it keeps me advocating for the needs of the students on that I represent deeper levels and I will continue to do this for all of you when I'm elected.

4. Why are you running for this position?
I am running for this position because I wanted to be more hands on involved with the policy side of LeadMN. This, in my opinion, gives me a solid opportunity to continue what I do currently in representing students, just at a greater level. I feel as if I am the most qualified and most ambition candidate out there, and will give you all 110% every day. I promise to keep my best foot forward and most importantly, to represent the wants and needs of the 180,000 Community and Technical College students in the state of Minnesota.

5. What challenges do you see facing Minnesota's community and technical college students?
We all know that College affordability is one of the biggest challenges out there and this is going to be the one thing that I will advocate more than anything for us all. We all know that school is much to expensive and we can combat this with the use of OERs and also by pushing for debt free college. Then we also need to continue to address the needs of those who are food insecure on our campuses. We have all done a great job on our campuses of addressing this, but there is much more than needs to be done and I want to be one of the many to help eliminate this problem from our campuses. Next there is the overall mental health of our students that we need to address. Not only are students dealing with the constant stresses of not being able to feed themselves or being able to pay for their school, but this also effects their ability to pay for rent and their utilities. And those don't include all the stress that comes with homework and studying! Stress, as well as anxiety and depression are only some of the mental health issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible on our campuses because for some people, there might not be a tomorrow for them. We need to get them the help that they need today.

Kyle Cavenah headshot

Candidate Two

Axel Kylander

Campus: Anoka-Ramsey Community College-Cambridge
Elected office running for: Vice President

My name is Axel Kylander, and I was born in England during my dad's service in the U.S. Navy, and I've grown up in Mora, Minnesota. I was a withdrawn kid. Bullying made me shy, and I struggled a lot in high school, but I loved college as soon as I hit my first PSEO classes. All I wanted was to be a wealthy, famous author.

That changed when my mom collapsed on April 16th, 2017. Days later she was diagnosed with brain cancer. For the next fifteen months, I took care of her with my dad and sister. I was at her side when she died.

I don't know if my lack of detail about my life before 2017 is because I can't remember it, or because it was so devoid of purpose. But in my mom's death, I found purpose. I was a caregiver 24/7 for more than a year. Everything I want to do in life hinges on my need to help people. I couldn't overcome a natural disease for my mom, but I can be part of eradicating the systemic problems our society inflicts on itself. And that's why I am here. I have to be.

1. What degree or certificate program are you seeking?
I am currently finishing up my AFA in Creative Writing. Writing has always been one of my main passions and means of expressing myself, and it's been hugely rewarding to study the craft for these first couple years of my post-secondary education. I write poetry, fiction, theater scripts, and creative non-fiction. Currently, my primary projects are a historical fiction novel and a collection of poems and essays about my mother's illness. After my AFA, I hope to pursue an AA in communications or political science, as well as a BA in philosophy, with an emphasis on justice and human rights.

2. What are your future career plans?
I would love to have a career in public service, especially in applying the complex critical thinking and problem-solving skills philosophy teaches. I don't know exactly what this career will look like, but whether it's working as a public defender, or in policy writing and analysis, or for a non-profit, or running for office, I know I want to put my energy into this arena. A life-long love of history made me develop an interest in law and politics, and now that passion has become my expression of civic engagement.

3. Please describe your previous student government or professional experience, and how it has prepared you for this position.
When I joined Student Senate, I only knew that I didn't know anything, so I looked to my fellow senators, learning as much as I could from them. I think the best thing that happened to me early on was losing an election for the only executive board position our Senate has had open all year.  It checked the ego of a new student leader, and it gave me a chance to really think about titles. I learned that there's no such thing as "just a senator." Executive positions come with specific authorities, but the lack of those hasn't stopped me from pouring my energy into promoting student involvement on my campus, working on establishing a campus food shelf, advocating with legislators, being a voice for student interests on committees. In Senate I have learned how to lead, not because it was expected from a title, but because the needs of my fellow students required me to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

From Phi Theta Kappa, I have learned how to lead when people are looking to you specifically, when you are bound to an office by an oath. I became our chapter's ranking Vice President in the second meeting I attended, and from there learned the dynamics of being ingrained in our efforts, and being an effective and honest right hand to the chapter president. When I became our chapter president, I was introduced to new layers of the leadership experience, the realities of having the final responsibility for initiatives and being an authoritative voice. I approach my role with a service leadership philosophy, ensuring the chapter's decisions are carried about, but trying to emphasize the voices around me, trying to make sure that my fellow members feel like they are involved and heard.

4. Why are you running for this position?
I came to my college after years of remote, online learning. I came with a story to tell and a pile of trauma. Everywhere I went on our small campus, in everyone I talked to, I found the same struggles, or different ones, no less pressing. I got involved because, after losing my mom, I knew I had to do something with my life, something meaningful. I didn't know where to start, but by coincidence I wandered into Student Senate, and it was the best thing that's ever happened to me. I could never give up what I am involved in. I could never close my eyes to what I have seen in myself and my peers. And having seen those things, and heard about the challenges, triumphs, and needs that run through 180,000 students in this state, I don't know what else to do but to run. I believe in what we do. And I believe I can effectively carry out the responsibilities of the Vice Presidency, and that this position would be the fullest and most demanding application of my skills and passion.

5. What challenges do you see facing Minnesota's community and technical college students?

Minnesota's community and technical college students face a wide array of challenges, with affordability at the root of many. The untenable financial burdens of school strip so many of us bare, down struggling to afford things as fundamental as food. But LeadMN already studies these issues. We care deeply about the impact they have, and will continue to fight to eradicate these barriers to student success.

So I'll use my words to discuss another problem that desperately needs to be added to LeadMN's platform the mental health crisis on college campuses.

I saw it within my first week on campus. I came there after burying my mom, burdened with post-traumatic stress on top of life-long anxiety and depression. I thought my difficulties were unusual. I was wrong. I found myself surrounded by peers carrying their own traumas and pains, compounded by the towering stress of not knowing how they'd be able to pay for classes, textbooks, or food. And I know my campus is not the only one with this kind of suffering.

I know from personal experience that even a little time with a counselor can be the difference between being overwhelmed and being able to succeed. But we have one counselor for over 1,000 students, with limited hours and no training for the needs of LGBTQ+ and minority students. And my campus is not uniquely lacking in resources among all those represented at LeadMN. In this organization, we fight to lay out a path to the American Dream. But the American Dream feels further away when the present is plagued by nightmares. I have seen what LeadMN can do, and I am thrilled to be part of it. And I know this unacceptable status quo, like the ones we already combat, can be overcome through our efforts.

Axel Kylander headshot

Candidate Three

Priscilla Mayowa

Campus: North Hennepin Community College
Elected office running for: Vice President

Hi! My name is Priscilla and I'm the legislative coordinator for my student senate as well as the Advocacy Workgroup co-leader. I'm also Platform Committee representative for the Metro West region.This will be my second year on senate as well as first year on the Platform Committee. When i'm not working on Senate or LeadMN business, I enjoy reading, writing, cooking, watching TV (mostly animated), sleeping or working on my shared podcast. In the summer I do engage in a lot more activities such as visiting art spaces and museums, hiking, going to different farmers markets, volunteering in the children's department of my church etc. I'm friendly, fun and you'll usually find me engaged in an interesting conversation.

1. What degree or certificate program are you seeking?
I'm currently doing my generals but intend to major in Accounting with a minor study in Marketing or the other way around.

2. What are your future career plans?
My future career plans keep changing and expanding as the future gets closer. I have my sights set on working as a CPA or marketing manager for a few years and then getting a law degree. When I have attained the American dream i intend to settle properly into advocacy and policy work such as running an organisation like LeadMN or running for office.

3. Please describe your previous student government or professional experience, and how it has prepared you for this position.
I have almost two years of student government under my belt. In my first year of senate  participated extensively in different committees which gave me a good glimpse into how a college is run. In my second year, I currently work as the legislative coordinator working on policies that affect students on my campus alongside other top officials of the college. In the fall of '18 I headed and coordinated the GOTV campaign on my campus. I worked with a small team of people to create and then implement our action plan. I kept tabs on our goals and ensured that the campaign ran smoothly. As Platform Committee rep i also help conduct meetings alongside the GC rep as well checking in with the various campuses in the region and working on our collective goals. I also helped restart a club on my campus as the Vice President. My duties involve planning meetings and events with the president, checking in with other board members and communicating with student life and other staff members that could be of help to the growth of the club. A professional experience that has proved useful in my growth and prepared me for this position is the Events committee i sit on in my church. This committee plans all programming and events for the church. And i am placed in charge of a sub-group for every event we plan. From all these responsibilities I have learnt to not only work with a team but also manage one, I have learnt to be an active advocate by ensuring students rights are preserved, I understand a lot more on how colleges are run and can apply this knowledge when needed. Legislative duties such as GOTV are the responsibility of the VP which i already have experience with.

4. Why are you running for this position?
I am running for this position to ensure continuity of the work of the past cabinets as well as introducing new ideas. I enjoy advocacy and legislative work immensely, two important element of the position.I'm also running because this is a great opportunity for me to grow myself.

I love the work of advocacy and want to do more and learn how to do more. I also love to create, strategize and implement, skills that this position will put to use.

I have a very strong voice that is able to articulate issues as well as appropriately convey messages. An ability that is important for a position like this that involves testifying before legislators. Finally and most importantly, I'm running because I care deeply about issues that affect college student such as high cost of tuition and inadequate support for higher ed from the government, rising cost of textbooks and tools, food insecurity, homelessness and other various barriers that help to create an achievement gap.

5. What challenges do you see facing Minnesota's community and technical college students?
As always, a common challenge across the board is the high cost of tuition that then create other challenges for students. The ever increasing cost of books and materials used in more technical and hands on courses. Another challenge that thankfully got a lot of attention this year is food insecurity but also a number of community and technical college students are facing housing insecurity. Another common challenge is the lack of basic support and programs that students need to be successful such as counselling and mental health resources, advising and career counselling, accessibility services etc which can be attributed to the inadequate funding given to MinnState.

Priscilla Mayowa headshot

Candidate Four

Joshua Medley

Campus: Normandale Community College
Elected office running for: Vice President

I am Joshua Timothy Medley. I was a PSEO student, I am a community college student and I am a senator at Normandale Community College. I am currently studying to get a degree in biochemistry and I hope to move on to a medical school.

I am a passionate and experienced leader and I want to represent LeadMN as its vice president.

In the past year LeadMN representatives like Oballa Oballa have inspired me through their hard work and dedication to fighting the good fight. The reason I am running for vice president is because I believe I will do the best job. I am hard working, passionate, and honest. I am not here for me and I am not here for a title on my resume. I am here because I want to fight for what I believe in.

I believe in the power of diversity, higher education, and our power to create a rippling wave of change that would go across the country and the world. Some of the topics I am concerned with are: mental health, PSEO discrimination, reforming the student unit record laws, promoting diversity on our campuses and all of LeadMN's previous goals.

1. What degree or certificate program are you seeking?
I hope to transfer to the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and get a degree in biochemistry.

2. What are your future career plans?
I hope to do some laboratory research relating to conservation or ecology. I also would want to go to the Univeristy of Washigton's Medical School or the University of Minnesota's Medical School. I hope to become a general surgeon. After I have gotten through a few decades of the trials and tribulations of medicine. I would love to run for political office. I hope to become a professor or open up a restaurant near the end of my life.

3. Please describe your previous student government or professional experience, and how it has prepared you for this position.
I have worked in the governing body of every school I have been a part of. In those organizations I have always been an advocate, a creator of efficiency, and an organizer. I was a taskmaster in the Boy Scouts of America. Although I did not enjoy my time there I put in honest work to troop 219 and did my best to make everything more organized. I also was a student leader in the Friends of Rachel Volunteer organization in my high school. I organized food drives, homecoming float decorations, MCed pep fests, and every other task that high school can have.

Everywhere I go I end up leading. Whether assigned to groups in Pre-Calc, or tabling for a club, I will always be the first one in and the last one out. Leading the charge isn't something that I got from experience. I lead the charge because it is who I am.

I am a speaker and a diplomat. Although I will admit that my experience as a public speaker is a work in progress and has been getting better repeatedly. I only need the chance to talk more to sharpen my words. I understand a room. What I can say and what I cannot say are things that I have been keenly aware of all my life. I also have learned when it is necessary to say the unsayables. To stick to my gut and defend a point even when the unbold would call it a faux pas. I have learned how to be diplomatic Every day provides a new diplomatic experience. Convincing people of my ideas and beliefs, or at least convincing people to support one of many efforts to uplift those beliefs, is something everyone does everyday. I am still learning and growing everyday.

4. Why are you running for this position?
Here are a few motivations for running for vice president of LeadMN.

I previously attended a predominantly white institution. It lacked perspective, culture, and progressive ideas. It is extremely important that we as an organization promote diversity in LeadMN and Student Senate across Minnesota. I also would like to lift the student record ban so that information can be easier collected on institutions that are not creating a supportive environment for people of color and transgender people.

I want to support legislation that bans forms of PSEO discrimination. PSEO students should be able to use the services provided by the college they attend.

I want to promote mental health in schools across Minnesota and ensure institutions are staffed with licensed personnel. If someone is sick with the flu then they visit a doctor. If someone is anxious or depressed they should be able to see a qualified psychiatrist.

I also want to promote college affordability. REUs, OERs, Z-degrees, and College Promise are all rights every students deserves. Education is a right that every human should have. No one should have to pay for generals they did not want to take in the first place. Minnesota should invest in that workforce.

5. What challenges do you see facing Minnesota's community and technical college students?
The issues community colleges face right now relate to transportation, mental health, diversity, affordability, community college graduation rates, food insecurity and housing.

In reference to housing and transportation, housing has never been an issue for technical and community colleges. I believe that at the principles of going to a community college, affordability is chief among them. A number of the students going to community colleges are low income or struggling financially. Whether through some of the first dormitories on the most densely populated community and technical college campuses or the installation of programs within the colleges designed to help students find housing near their two year college we can help these students.

Transportation is similar to housing. Carpooling programs and other such transportation efforts have been installed around Normandale Community College. Every community and technical college is not as lucky as Normandale. Even with these programs I have personally seen my friends suffer because they had to beg for transportation or put themselves in financial risk in order to get to school.

Community Colleges are not recognized for the amount of students they get to graduation because they have large amounts of transferring students. With a lift of the federal student record ban, community colleges could be partially credited for the graduation of students from universities who used community college generals as a base for their degree.

Mental Health is a growing issue around the country. Every community and technical college should have enough licensed personnel on staff to help their population of students. The stigma of therapists and psychiatrists needs to end so that people of all religions, races, and creeds can visit a mental health professional unashamed.

Diversity should be something we demonstrate through our LeadMN representatives not just our written goals.

Previous LeadMN projects are important.

Joshua Medley headshot

Candidate Five

Brian Welch

Campus: Mesabi Range College-Virginia
Elected office running for: Vice President

I am from Aurora, Minnesota, a town I have lived in for my entire life. I like to hike in the wilderness, especially in wooded areas and on hills. I also like to play video games, specifically Halo, Smite, Ark: Survival Evolved and Garry's Mod. I'm an avid Dungeons and Dragons player, and I've made it a personal goal of mine to play every campaign with a home-brew (something that isn't part of the base game) character!

Outside of hobbies, I love public speaking! It's fun, and it makes me feel energized, as opposed to terrified like most people. I am a stay-at-home son by trade, but by employment I'm a tutor at Mesabi Range for Psychology, Writing, Math, Astronomy, and a few others.

Every day, I try to learn something new. It makes me a wiser and stronger person in the end, and it helps me become a better advocate for not only myself, but for those around me.

1. What degree or certificate program are you seeking?
I'd be lying if I said I knew!

I'm interested in Psychology, Mass Communication, Management, Chemistry, Astronomy and a little bit interested in Business and Political Science.

The *current* program I am in is the General Studies program at Mesabi Range College - Virginia Campus, and I am also going for my certificate in Business Management at the same location. My tentative plan is to transfer on to a 4-year university into either a Psychology or Mass Communications program, ultimately seeking out a master's degree in either one.

2. What are your future career plans?
I've been inspired by LeadMN and what they do, and I've decided that I want to do something similar. Whether that means coming full-circle and working for them after I've finished my education, finding something akin to it, or creating my own advocacy-centered organization, the end goal is to use the talents and experience I gain to continue being a resounding and confident voice for those around me.

Or, if that plan doesn't work out, I wish to go into the field of psychological therapy for young adults with anxiety and depression. I could potentially do both, if time allows!

3. Please describe your previous student government or professional experience, and how it has prepared you for this position.
I began my career with the Student Senate/Government system in 2017 as a Member-At-Large on the Mesabi Range College - Virginia Student Senate. I spent a fair amount of time in this role, gaining  insight as the 'average joe' senator on how the Senate operates, as well as how each role appears to function from a completely hands-off and outside perspective. In addition to that, I was a helping hand for the general operations of the group, lending my assistance wherever needed.

Towards the beginning of 2018, I was promoted to the Director of Communications for our Senate. In this role, I expanded the social media presence of our Senate and enacted programs/initiatives that increased our visibility both on and off-campus. I also made it easier to access our information, for those who were less experienced with social media.

At the end of the 2017-2018 Academic Year, I was elected to be the Vice President of our Senate, due to my display of creativity and innovation on the Senate, as well as my genuine desire for inclusion and respect of all of our members, not just those with certain titles.

During the 2018 Spring General Assembly, I was elected to be the Platform Committee Representative of the Northeast Region. In this position, I've made significant contributions: one in particular being the unification of the NHED region and it's six campuses by reaching out to Vermillion and Itasca's Senates so that they can be informed about what's going on in the region/state.

At the September Student Leadership Conference I was elected to serve on the Steering Committee as well as the Minnesota State Policy Council. In my time on both of these committees, I gained a clear understanding of the working documents of both LeadMN and Minnesota State.

4. Why are you running for this position?
I am running to be the LeadMN Vice President for three reasons:

1) To tackle mental health challenges facing college students across the state;
2) To enact protections for PSEO students in regards to unfair treatment by high-schools and colleges; and
3) To bring about change in the realm about how we communicate with one another in regards to positions, titles and experience within LeadMN and Student Senate.

I believe meaningful change does not come from idle voices; it comes from those who are willing to mobilize and act on their thoughts and desires. That's why I am choosing to run for this position, to act on them. However, these positions are only three that I am coming up with: I want to hear more of the positions of my fellow students, their issues and struggles. Those are the challenges that I will take to the legislators, the capitol and the media, as they are the issues that matter: the issues that we all face as college students.

5. What challenges do you see facing Minnesota's community and technical college students?
I see too many, but I'll lay out the three I already mentioned:

1) The challenge of mental health awareness, as well as society's dismissal of it;
2) The mistreatment of PSEO students by their institutions, whether it's their high-school or college; and
3) Lack of proper communication between students and the groups/organizations/administrations representing them.

Topic 1) This issue is tricky, because a lot of people either dismiss it as being fictional, or avoid talking about it due to the controversy surrounding it. Yet, our students fall behind and struggle because of the lack of action and change. Our students are depressed, suicidal, anxious, addicted and overall struggling around us, and many of our institutions and campuses have nowhere for them to go. We have students leaving class to have panic attacks, dropping classes due to the course load being too much for them, or dropping out of college all-together because of the combined stress. We need to band together and shine light on this issue, before it gets any worse.

Topic 2) PSEO students are being discriminated against by their high schools because of their choice to pursue higher education early on in their lives. They are being excluded from events, barred entry from their campuses, guilt-tripped into skipping out on job opportunities and being up-front told 'If you cross that bridge, you aren't allowed back here'. PSEO students would benefit greatly from protections being put in place to shield them from discrimination by high schools, as well as colleges.

Topic 3) We need to improve how we communicate with one-another, looking beyond positions and instead valuing individual input and insight. Far too many times have I seen a student left out because they didn't have a certain title, leaving their voice unheard and their opinion unknown.

Brian Welch headshot