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NCIC program alumni returning in leadership roles

Nobles County Integration Collaborative Youth Program Leader Gladys Aldana watches the progress of Dave Lowry-Ortega, a blindfolded artist, and his guides Kelly Xayavath (on far left) and Ehta Hso as he completes a drawing. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2
Nobles County Integration Collaborative Bilingual Program Aide Than Than Kyaw helps Pwey Say with a painting project in art class. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — With a passion for helping others, two young professionals have joined the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, and are eager to provide programs and assistance they know well from recent experience.

Gladys Aldana and Than Than Kyaw are integrating into their new roles as youth development leader and bilingual program aide, respectively.  

Aldana, a 2015 Worthington High School and 2017 Minnesota West Technical and Community College graduate, will lead the collaborative’s Dynamic 507. She said she’s excited to guide the after-school high school program aimed at helping students navigate and prepare for their next steps beyond high school — whether that be a job, higher education or financial aid applications.

As someone who desires work in an education-centered field, Aldana is excited to be leading a program she participated in just years before. She hopes to be a helpful resource to students she considers not unlike herself just a few years ago.

“While my mom was always supportive of me to continue my education, she didn’t always know how to help,” said Aldana, explaining that her mother grew up in Mexico and as a result didn’t know the processes of applying for colleges and financial aid. “I want to build relationships and (students) to know they can count on me.”

Aldana also assists in Odyssey programs for middle school students, and is on hand for a portion of the day at Worthington High School for language barrier support and Spanish translation.

As for Kyaw, he’s helping new students learn the English language, in part through art. The Karen interpreter is assisting students in a high school art course comprised entirely of newcomer students who are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs.

He also interprets for the handful of Karen-speaking students and families, a need he too once had, as his family relocated from Thailand to Worthington when he was 12 years old. Kyaw said he was enrolled in District 518’s ESL program until 11th grade.  

A current Minnesota West student and 2017 WHS grad, Kyaw is also now prepping for a career in the education field. He thinks this position can help him learn and push him closer to his future goals.  

“This is a great opportunity to learn and I’m taking it,” he said enthusiastically. “It’s learning in action.”