Finding hope in these challenging times

We are all facing challenging times during this unprecedented crisis. For all of us, our world has been turned upside down. Our workplaces are different. Our schools are different. Even our home life is different.

And yet, there is a layer of hope.

At Lorain County Community College, we are finding new ways to serve our community. Our faculty and staff are transforming education and services to make sure that our students, our graduates and our community come out of this even stronger.

We are and we will always be Lorain County Community College proud and we are all in this together.

 

Are you finding hope during these times? Please share on social media with #CommodoresComeTogether and #LCCCproud

As we begin National Community College Month, it’s safe to say this is not the April any of us expected. The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the entire nation into a new reality, including higher education and Lorain County Community College.

This nationwide crisis has given me a new perspective on Community College Month and the role of LCCC for our students and the community. As always, the health and safety of all students and employees are our top priority. In the face of this emergency, we remain guided by the principle that every student’s dream matters. By wrapping our students in a Culture of Care we can help them reach their goals, even in these uncertain times.

A banner at Lorain County Community College reads, "Overcome" and a street sign says, "Innovation Drive."
Signs on campus remind us with innovation we can overcome any obstacle.

Innovation in the face of challenges

When faced with great challenges we often find the most hope and innovation. This is the case at LCCC with our faculty and staff, students and the community. The steely resolve and entrepreneurial spirit that are the hallmarks of our community have become abundantly clear during the coronavirus outbreak.

Within hours of learning of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s recommendation that all colleges move the remainder of spring semester to remote delivery, LCCC’s faculty and staff were already creating solutions to meet the needs of each student. I’ve been inspired daily by the determination of everyone involved in transforming the college during this time. By the time classes resumed after spring break, the physical location of LCCC shifted. Anywhere there is a student is now the classroom. The kitchen tables and home offices of faculty and staff are now the offices of the college.

Tweet screenshot of Vince Granito using online platform to connect with students.
Faculty members quickly adjusted to reaching students online. Psychology professor Vincent Granito, Ph.D., even included his dog, Jose.

Continuity of service

We are working to make the transition to remote classes as smooth as possible, while also understanding that our students may be dealing with unexpected issues. Through surveys emailed to students, we identified the specific needs of each student and connected with them directly to address their concerns and challenges. For students who are struggling with the transition to online classes, our professors and advisors are reaching out to personally assist during this time.

With uncertainty abounding in many areas of life, it’s my goal that the college remain a pillar in our community, solid and strong. It’s my promise that no student be without technology or food during this crisis. For students without a proper computer at home, LCCC provided refurbished laptops. LCCC’s Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC) is helping students to access food, financial help, counseling and other resources. Our on-campus food pantry, Commodore Cupboard, remains open as an essential service. Students and community members can call ahead to the pantry and their orders are filled through curbside pickup by our amazing pantry staff.

Serving the community

The food pantry is just one example of our commitment to the community’s wellness. With in-person labs canceled for the remainder of spring semester, LCCC was able to donate supplies to Lorain County hospitals that would have been used in classes such as nursing and microelectronic manufacturing. Over the past 10 years, more than 4,000 students have earned degrees from LCCC in health care fields. Sharing these needed supplies with them and all health care professionals was the right thing to do.

Two men unload boxes from the back of an SUV for use by community hospitals
LCCC security delivered boxes of medical supplies to local hospitals.

And when the need for personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care professionals was beyond what the college had in stock, our Fab Lab employees got to work to create new products. LCCC Fab Lab employees are 3D printing headbands for safety visor kits that are being delivered to the Lorain County Office of Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security, for distribution to local medical facilities.

A reassuring voice

As a college, often the most important thing we can share in the midst of turmoil is reassurance. A key part of the college’s COVID-19 response has been the steady and reassuring voice of our own virus expert, Harry Kestler, Ph.D. Kestler has shared daily video updates since March 11. Kestler has 35 years of experience as virus expert, including serving as faculty at Harvard and at the Cleveland Clinic’s world-renowned Lerner College of Medicine. His COVID-19 video series has more than 60,000 views on YouTube, helping people in Ohio and across the country better understand the coronavirus and the country’s response.

LCCC was founded in 1963 as the community’s college. Over the past 57 years, the college has adapted to meet the changing needs of our community. In the weeks and months to come, I know we will continue to transform to best serve our students and the people of Lorain County. I am #LCCCProud of the positive impact the community’s college is having during this difficult time.

#LCCCProud #Comm_College   #CCMonth

On this Valentine’s Day, I want to take a moment to share with you what I love about Lorain County Community College as captured in this video.

This level of impact, where 50% of families have been served by LCCC since its creation as Ohio’s first community college, wouldn’t be possible without our students, faculty, staff, and our longtime supporters.

It is with  great pride and gratitude I thank everyone for making Lorain County Community College the institution it is today: a true resource for all that is guided by one purpose … to serve the needs of this community as “the community’s college” in the best possible ways.

After watching this video, I hope you will join our social media pages to share why you love Lorain County Community College.

Find LCCC on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Linked In and use #LoveLCCC and #LCCCproud.

Giving Thanks for our Culture of Caring

This is the season for gratitude, caring, and reflection. As president of Lorain County Community College, I’m thankful for the culture of care demonstrated by our faculty, staff, students and the community. Together, we’re focused on building brighter futures.

Each year on Thanksgiving Eve, LCCC’s Office of Student Life hosts a free community Thanksgiving dinner that is open to all who wish to come – and especially to those unable to spend the holiday with friends or family. It’s my hope that this dinner brings together those who may not otherwise have met and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s always heartwarming to see people who arrive as strangers leave as new acquaintances. I’m often reminded that as joyous as the holiday season can be, it can also bring hard times. It’s during those times that our LCCC family comes together to lift up each other and spread our culture of caring.

Just last week I heard an incredible story about a student in LCCC’s nursing program who went the extra mile to improve the spirits of a patient. Christina Bray is completing her clinical rotations at Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital on her path to become a registered nurse. She met a patient who was struggling after the recent loss of her mother. Christina took the time to talk with her and learned that the patient and her mother shared many special traditions, such as celebrating the first snowfall of the year with hot cocoa and Bing Crosby music.

Christina took those details to heart and when the first snowflakes of the year fell a few days later, she knew what to do. Instead of going straight home after her shift, Christina stayed on the floor and surprised her patient with a warm mug of cocoa and those special songs that brought back so many memories. What a wonderful display of caring and compassion! It speaks volumes about Christina that in the midst of her busy schedule she took the time to sit with her patient, listen to their story, and take action.

It’s those precious moments that make the most impact, and I am so proud of Christina. The caring she showed for her patient is a wonderful example of the quality of instruction that LCCC faculty cultivate to create such empathetic graduates. Dr. Rebecca Starck, president of Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital, heard about Christina’s good deed and presented her with a special recognition at the hospital.

Nursing student Christina Bray, middle, stands with Dr. Starck and nursing faculty. Christina showed our culture of caring to her patient.
It’s that perspective of what’s important that makes Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital a wonderful partner to LCCC in so many initiatives. On November 3, the hospital hosted their Avon Hospital & Richard Jacobs Health Center 5K run and 1 mile walk and this year’s beneficiary was LCCC’s Commodore Cupboard  food pantry. Thanks to the generosity of the hospital and the many runners and walkers, I was honored to accept a check for $11,000 on behalf of Commodore Cupboard.

LCCC President Marcia Ballinger holds a giant check with representatives from Commodore Cupboard. The donation spreads our culture of caring.
The donation from Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital will provide 500,000 meals for our students and community.

Our food pantry is a staple on our campus, providing emergency food to LCCC students and their families. For the many people in our community who are struggling with hunger and food insecurity, the holidays are an especially uncertain time. Through this donation, more than 500,000 meals will be provided to people right here in Lorain County at a time when they need it most.

Taking care of each other is something we do all year round at LCCC, but I am especially thankful for the caring and compassion that happens during the holiday season.

I invite you to take a moment and watch our LCCC video for this Thanksgiving season.

 

Transfer Success by Strategic Design

This week is National Transfer Student Week, providing an opportunity to celebrate the many students who begin at LCCC and transfer to a four-year institution.  As the community’s college, the educational goals of our students are as diverse as the communities of Northeast Ohio we serve and we understand that many students have aspirations for bachelor’s degrees and beyond. Some of our students begin at LCCC already with a firm plan to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, while many others decide to continue on for a four-year degree after they find their passion in an associate degree program at LCCC. However their baccalaureate plans take shape, the fact is that 25 percent of our students will transfer to a four-year institution, and LCCC has programs to make it possible to reach their goals quickly and affordably.

To best serve the needs of our students and the community, in 2018 LCCC took the bold step to become one of the first community colleges in Ohio to offer an applied bachelor’s degree. LCCC students can now earn an applied bachelor’s degree in microelectronic manufacturing (MEMS) – the only bachelor’s degree program of its kind in Ohio – right here from their community college. This degree is even more remarkable when you factor in earn-and-learn opportunities, including paid internships that offset the already low cost of the program. It’s my vision that this the MEMS degree is the first of many applied bachelor’s degrees to be offered by LCCC. (Read more about why community colleges should be offering applied bachelor’s degrees in this piece by Education Dive.)

The groundbreaking venture into applied bachelor’s degrees follows LCCC’s long-time trajectory of connecting Northeast Ohio with bachelor’s degrees. In 1995, LCCC was the first community college in Ohio to offer a University Partnership. This revolutionary program has grown to include more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs from 14 Ohio universities – all available right here in Lorain County and for a fraction of the cost.

Graduates celebrate following the LCCC graduation ceremony.
The 2019 LCCC Commencement ceremony included 353 students earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership.

For students who prefer to transfer and attend a four-year university on their main campuses, advisors and LCCC’s transfer center help students connect the dots for a streamlined transfer experience. Additionally, LCCC is continually developing enhanced transfer experiences, such as the new UP Express CSU program, which makes transferring to Cleveland State University’s downtown campus even easier for LCCC students.

Each of these transfer and baccalaureate programs and options directly align with LCCC’s new strategic plan Impact 2025, which includes the future-focused priority of efficient and affordable transfer opportunities. These options happen concurrently with the many student resources and support services available at the college that help students overcome barriers.

The results of these multi-targeted transfer and support efforts are clear: students who begin at LCCC and then transfer to a four-year institution earn bachelor’s degrees at a higher rate than students who attend a university straight from high school. In fact, 43 percent of students who begin at LCCC and transfer to a four-year institution earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of taking their first LCCC class, and another 30 percent or more will earn their bachelor’s degree over time. The rate of bachelor’s degree attainment is even higher for LCCC students who begin taking college classes in high school through LCCC’s College Credit Plus program; 62 percent of students who take LCCC’s CCP courses earn their bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating high school.

This data is impressive, but the real story is found within the students who make these numbers possible. Students like Alexandra Moen, who grew up across the street from LCCC but didn’t plan to attend here until she realized the overwhelming cost of going away to college. She instead looked close to home and found her community college. At LCCC, she found her passion for improving her community, serving as president of LCCC’s Student Senate. Alex earned two associate degrees from LCCC before earning a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Cleveland State University through LCCC’s University Partnership in June 2019.  Today, she’s using her skills in a full-time role at United Way of Greater Lorain County. Learn more about Alex.

Alex Moen wears her graduation cap and gown, holding two degree covers.
Alex Moen shows off her degrees from LCCC and Cleveland State University.

For Allyssa Earl, LCCC’s SAIL (Students Accelerating in Learning) program served as a springboard to her success. Allyssa began taking classes at the LCCC Lorain Center because she could walk to the campus from her Lorain home. When she learned about SAIL, she jumped at the chance for additional support and resources for her education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cleveland State University through LCCC’s University Partnership in May 2019. Learn more about Allyssa.

Allyssa Earl stands in the library between shelves of books.
Allyssa Earl earned a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership.

It was professors at LCCC who first inspired Nicholas Sutfin to explore the intersections of art and science. He earned an associate degree in universal arts at LCCC before transferring to Cleveland State University and later to Boise State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geoscience. He continued at Colorado State University, where he earned his master’s degree and then Ph.D. in earth science – fluvial geomorphology in 2016. Sutfin credits LCCC with starting his path of self-discovery.  “LCCC can help you determine where you go, instead of just ending up somewhere,” he said. Learn more about Nicholas.

Nicholas Sutfin stands among green trees in the LCCC courtyard.
Nicholas Sutfin earned his first degree at LCCC. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in earth science.

For our top students who transfer to elite colleges, their success is even more prominent. A report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently found that 75 percent of students to who begin at a community college and transfer to an elite university complete their bachelor’s degree within six years. I’m willing to bet that 2019 LCCC graduate Eleana Cintron will be among those who bolster those statistics. Cintron completed the Lorain County Early College High School program in May and during her four years of high school on the LCCC campus, she racked up honors such as being the youngest intern hired at Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center. She was also awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which will fund her education as she works toward a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Case Western Reserve University. Learn more about Eleana.

Eleana stands in front of a white board.
LCCC graduate Eleana Cintron will attend Case Western Reserve University in the fall.

For our LCCC students who are just beginning their transfer journey, I have every confidence they will continue their success – and their community college will be here to support them each step of the way.

Did you get your start at LCCC before transferring to a four-year institution? I want to hear your story! Find me on Twitter or email me at president@lorainccc.edu.

A New Semester of Supporting Students

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Today marks the start of a new semester and a new academic year at Lorain County Community College.

The excitement on campus today is palpable. The hopeful energy of nearly 14,000 new and returning LCCC and University Partnership students is in the air, swirling with the excited anticipation of our faculty and staff who have been preparing all summer for this moment. When you put it all together, the atmosphere is downright exhilarating.

As we welcome students back this week, here is my message to LCCC students who are beginning their new semester:

A fresh start.
At a community college, a fresh start comes in many forms. For many of our students, this week marks their first-ever taste of college life. They may be coming to us straight from high school, with their futures wide-open. Others are taking their first college classes in their 40s or 50s after deciding to embark on a career change after years in the field. Still others are returning to college after an extended absence, and are now ready to complete what they started.

No matter what past brought them through our doors, one thing’s for certain: their future is theirs to write. Helping students reach their goals is a privilege we take seriously. Every student’s dream matters and our campus is ready to wrap our arms around each student and guide them to their finish line – whether that’s an associate degree, certificate or bachelor’s degree.

Tailored support.
At LCCC, we pride ourselves on being student-ready; that means meeting students where they are and providing the tailored support they need to reach their goals. There is no one-size-fits-all method for supporting students. Over the past decades, LCCC has cultivated a culture of caring by adopting a holistic approach that helps our students achieve success and stability.  In 2018 our efforts were recognized nationally by the American Association of Community Colleges, who named LCCC the first the nation for student success. This academic year, we are taking student support a step further with the creation of our new Student Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC), a one-stop connection for students to find assistance in overcoming obstacles like hunger, emergency car repairs, child care and so much more. Our campus recently hosted Donna Beegle, Ed.D., president of Communication Across Barriers, and a champion for ending poverty. As Dr. Beegle told us, it’s the community’s responsibility to “fight poverty, not the people who live in it.” I know the ARC will do that just – help students overcome barriers on their way to success.

Here’s more about the ARC:

Let’s get started.
No one knows exactly what the future will hold, but at LCCC we know that our students will be prepared for whatever comes their way. Our programs prepare students for the jobs of the future, while our support systems guide them through the realities of today. As I walk on campus, surrounded by our students and their boundless possibilities, I’m hopeful, excited and ready to see each one reach for their dreams.

Impacting the Future through Education

On Saturday, May 18, the campus of Lorain County Community College was absolutely buzzing with excitement and pride for the class of 2019.

More than 620 students marched in our ceremony, representing a total class of 1,641 graduates who earned 2,083 associate degrees and certificates. An additional 353 students earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership, bringing the grand total of degrees and certificates awarded to an astounding 2,436! What a true honor it was for me to shake the hand of each graduate as they received their diploma.

The day was made even more extraordinary by the inspiring words from keynote speaker Allan Golston, president of the United States Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Golston encouraged the graduates not to wait to pay forward their success, but to begin right away impacting the lives of others. In his new post on Medium, Golston shared the impact the LCCC Class of 2019 had on him during his visits to our campus.

Allan Golston stands at the podium during his keynote speech.
Allan Golston encourages the class of 2019 to pay forward the lessons they’ve learned.

The graduates represent a promising future for Lorain County and our region. The LCCC District Board of Trustees recently adopted a new strategic plan that includes the promise of 10,000 individuals earning a degree or certificate by the year 2025. We call it 10,000 Degrees of Impact and it’s all about making Lorain County future-ready.  Studies show that higher education dramatically increases a person’s chance move up the economic ladder, making a college degree a powerful tool to break the cycle of poverty for families. (For more on this, read my blog about higher education and upward mobility.)

The 2019 graduates represent the first class to be counted toward our new goal. What an impact these individuals will have on our world!

Julian Colbert

The impact will be made by students like Julian Colbert, an 18-year-old senior at Clearview High School who earned two associate degrees through LCCC’s College Credit Plus program.  Julian will transfer to The Ohio State University in the fall with a full scholarship as a Morrill Scholar. He is one of 136 high school students who earned LCCC degrees this year through College Credit Plus and Lorain County Early College High School.

Daymiah and Jeremiah Leyva

Another high school student who earned a degree is Daymiah Leyva. She’s one of 21 students from Lorain High School who earned an associate degree through College Credit Plus. Daymiah had the uniquely amazing experience to earn her degree at the same time her father, Jeremiah, earned his bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership. A few years ago, Jeremiah decided to make education a priority in his life and he came to meet with me to talk about returning to LCCC. His determination to create a prosperous future for his family was an inspiration, and I was pleased to help him get back on track toward his goals. Over the past four years, Jeremiah and Daymiah inspired each other to strive for the best and I know they will continue to push each other to achieve their dreams.

Brandy Spradlin

One family making a big impact is the Spradlin family. Brandy earned her first degree in 2018 – when she graduated at the same time her daughter, Ashley, earned an associate degree through Lorain County Early College High School. This year, Brandy earned her associate degree nursing alongside her son, Chase, who earned his associate degree through Early College. Brandy and her family are a true inspiration and it’s clear that higher education will have a tangible impact on their futures.

With graduates like Julian, Daymiah, Jeremiah, Brandy, Chase and so many more impacting our community, I know that the future is in good hands. As the class of 2019 inspires others to reach for their goals, I have no doubt that our community will be celebrating the graduation of 10,000 more LCCC students by 2025.

 

What are you favorite graduation memories? Tell me on Twitter.

Inspire. Encourage. Empower.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I find myself thinking about the limitless potential that exists when women are fully embraced in our community. It’s imperative that women inspire, encourage and empower one another. Melinda Gates said, “When women and girls are empowered to participate fully in society, everyone benefits” and I agree wholeheartedly. I’m proud to serve as LCCC’s first female president, and it’s important to me that women in our community feel connected, supported, and prepared to reach their educational and career goals.

It’s my mantra that every student’s dream matters, and it’s our mission at LCCC to help each student achieve their goals – no matter the barriers they may face. As the community’s college, we serve students of all ages and demographics, and we prepare them for the next phase in their lives – whether that’s retraining for a new career or transferring to a four-year university through LCCC’s University Partnership or another institution. The strength and determination put forth daily by our students is truly inspiring. But even the most resolute student can run into roadblocks, and that’s where LCCC’s specialized networks and support programs can inspire and energize students – especially women who often face unique challenges.

One program that is inspiring students to reach their goals is our Students Accelerating in Learning (SAIL) program, which is producing amazing results for all participants – including women of all ages. Our ground-breaking SAIL program is modeled after the highly successful ASAP program at The City University New York. LCCC’s SAIL provides financial support in the form of tuition scholarships, textbook vouchers and gift cards for gas and groceries. Moreover, students are supported each step of the way through regular communication with their advisor. Many of the students are women from low-income households and are the first in their family to attend college, making the SAIL program a tool to break the cycle of poverty.

There is no doubt that the combined impact of monetary support and advising is effective and SAIL’s results speak for themselves. Over a two-year study by the nonprofit research firm MDRC, students in LCCC’s SAIL program graduated at more than twice the rate of students not in the program. (Read more about our results and find the full case study here.) This swift path to graduation – with more than 41 percent of SAIL student completing a degree in three years – is worth expanding and LCCC is committed to doing just that. Over the next five years, 1,000 students will benefit from the SAIL program.

This expansion is focused and deliberate. We know that educational attainment has a profound effect on whether a family lives in poverty, particularly for those with a high school diploma or less. A college education can be especially transformational for single mothers with young children, who often bear the brunt of poverty. Of all the families in Lorain County with children under five years old living in poverty, 61 percent are headed by single moms. By reaching these populations through strategic programs like SAIL, we give women and their children the power to move up the economic ladder, creating a vibrant future for their families and our community.

Inspire.

One inspiring student to complete our SAIL program is Dorisa Johnson. Dorisa started walking to the LCCC Lorain Learning Center when she was 18. She had earned her GED – the first in her family to reach that milestone – and was hungry for more education. She felt a calling to study for a career in heath care as a tribute to her father, who passed away in 2014. At LCCC, Dorisa found SAIL and the confidence that she could achieve her goals. She also found a trusted advisor and confidante in SAIL advisor Cynthia Arredondo.

“I felt challenges, but I kept meeting with Cynthia and listening to her advice,” Dorisa said. “And now I feel like I’m succeeding. I’m getting somewhere.”

With that support, she earned an associate of applied science in medical assisting from LCCC in 2018 and is now on her way to a bachelor’s degree from LCCC’s University Partnership.

Dorisa Johnson wears medical scrubs and poses in a blue hallway.
Dorisa Johnson is on her way to a career in health care.

Encourage.

Dorisa was steadfast, but like most students, she faced challenges. The SAIL program prepares students to weather storms through a built-in support system at LCCC.

For Alyssa Earl, the requirement to enroll full time almost stopped her before she got started. This requirement is in place because we know that students who enroll full time are more likely to earn their degrees faster. Alyssa was working full time and not sure she was able to prioritize school. Like Dorisa, Alyssa turned to her advisor, Cynthia Arredondo for advice.

“I was scared to go to school full time but Cynthia stayed on me and made sure I put myself and my future first,” Alyssa said. “Now that I’m on campus full time, I get that full college experience. I work on campus. I am involved in clubs. It’s inspiring.”

Arredondo said Alyssa’s struggle to put education first is a common dilemma for the many women she mentors through the SAIL program.

“Women more typically have greater family responsibilities, whether it is being a parent – and the burden is greater if they are a single parent – or a caretaker for another family member, along with the financial responsibility of having a job while attending college,” Arredondo said. “Breaking down the process of completing college can feel overwhelming for many woman, especially at the start.”

Arredondo encourages and inspires fearful students by sharing the stories of the many strong women who completed their degrees while also balancing other responsibilities. Regular communication is also a priority, she said.

“Cynthia was always in my inbox, always emailing me. Always making sure I stayed on top of my goals,” Alyssa said. “Because of her and because of the SAIL program, I’m more confident and it’s made me who I am today.”

Alyssa earned her associate degree in 2018 and is now working on a bachelor’s degree in psychology through LCCC’s University Partnership. Without the push from her advisor, Alyssa said she would have taken one or two classes per semester, dramatically lengthening the time it took to earn her associate degree.

Alyssa Earl poses for a photo wearing a denim jacket and red shirt.
Alyssa Earl is the first in her family to earn a college degree. She’s now working on a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership.

Empower.

When students are inspired and encouraged, they become empowered to reach for their dreams, like SAIL graduate LePreece Johnson.

LePreece was in her mid-40s when she decided it was time to leave a successful corporate job and follow her dreams toward a new career in engineering. With five children and a husband, LePreece struggled at first with allowing herself to focus on her education. It was the financial assistance of SAIL that helped her put aside her doubts.

“Knowing I had tuition covered helped me sleep at night,” she said.

LePreece Thomas poses in green her work uniform by a large yellow machine.
LePreece Thomas left her successful corporate job to follow her passion for engineering. She found her place with LCCC’s SAIL program.

LePreece earned two associate degrees in May 2018 and is now working in her dream career as a project coordinator for Mainthia Technologies, a contractor for NASA – a job she was landed before she even graduated.

“I’m so grateful to LCCC and SAIL, I can’t say it enough,” LePreece said. “I started in LCCC spring of 2015, worked straight through until graduation, and I have a brand new exciting career to show for it.”

LePreece, Alyssa and Dorisa were inspired, encouraged and empowered to build a strong and positive future for themselves. They are now doing their part to inspire others – including the next generation who can look to these women as strong examples of what can be achieved when we support one another.

 

It’s Women’s History Month, and I want to know: Who are the women that inspire you?

Tell me on Twitter.

2018: A year of “remember when” moments

We all have those “remember when” moments … those instances that years later you look back to as a turning point; an event or action that happened and made all the difference. Sometimes, it’s the smallest moments that make the largest impact. And at times, it’s big moments that mean big changes.

As the calendar nears the end of 2018, I find myself reflecting on the past year. And what a year it has been. The past 12 months at Lorain County Community College have been filled with many moments – big and small – that will stand test of time.  As the president of your community college, these moments are personal for me but also are wide-reaching in their positive impact for our region.

These are the “remember when” moments from 2018 that I will be talking about for years to come.

Remember when … A record number of students earned their degrees at LCCC?

Our May 2018 commencement ceremony celebrated the largest graduating class in the college’s history – 2,018 graduates in the year 2018! As anyone who has started something big can attest, who you were when you started the journey may not be who you are at the end. That was true for so many of our graduates, including Trecia Cintron, who earned an associate degree through LCCC’s Early College High School.

“Five years ago, I never would have seen myself graduating with more than 70 college credits,” Trecia said. “And now, here I am soaring above and beyond my own goals.”

Students rang bells to celebrate their graduation in May 2018. What a moment!

Remember when … the future of higher education in our community was changed when the first classes started in LCCC’s new bachelor of applied science in Microelectronic Manufacturing (MEMS)?

In October 2018, Jared Dumont walked into the Richard Desich Business and Entrepreneurship Center for the first class in LCCC’s newly approved applied bachelor’s degree in MEMS.  Jared and his classmates are the first in the state to receive bachelor’s level education in MEMS at a community college. The applied bachelor’s degree meets a specific need in the region and melds seamlessly with the associate degree MEMS program. Jared, who has already landed a job in the field by completing the MEMS associate degree, will graduate with even more experience and be prepared to advance to higher level jobs in the field. What’s more, the full applied bachelor’s degree can be completed at little cost to the students, due to LCCC’s low tuition and paid internships built included in the curriculum.

This MEMS applied bachelor’s program is going to produce big results for our region, and I can’t wait to continue to develop more specialized applied bachelor’s degree programs for our community.

Jared Dumont holds a Printed Circuit Board he created in in the MEMS program.

Remember when … a family member’s graduation inspired generations?

In late November, I arrived in my office to find a hand-written note from Christine Halvorsen. In her note, Christine wrote to me that she graduated from LCCC’s University Partnership program in June 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in technical and applied studies from Ohio University. She commented that just a few years ago, she had been faced with a restructuring at her employer and wasn’t sure where to go. Over the years, Christine had completed some LCCC classes, but stopped out to focus on her family. More than a decade later, she found herself in need of a bachelor’s degree to keep her job.

It was during that time that she attended the graduation of her niece, Halle Branscum, who earned an associate degree from LCCC in 2016. That day also happened to be my first commencement speech after being named president of LCCC. I shared with the graduates my own story of earning a master’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership, and I urged them to continue to reach for their dreams. Hearing those words, Christine told me, helped spur her to take the plunge toward her own education. With the support of her son and Halle, Christine registered for classes and started toward her future the next week!

Christine went on to earn an associate degree in 2017 – where I had the pleasure of shaking her hand as she crossed the stage. She continued to earn a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership and Ohio University. And, she’s now working on her MBA. Christine’s note means so much to me, and her story is a testament to what can be achieved when you truly believe in yourself.

Christine celebrate graduation with her son and niece.
Christine after her 2017 LCCC graduation with her niece, Halle Branscum, and son, Stephen Seiber.

Remember when … new students took a chance on themselves?

Starting something new can be challenging. At LCCC, our faculty and staff are dedicated to making the transition to college as seamless as possible for everyone. To the nearly 5,000 students who took their first class at LCCC during 2018, I’m proud of you! And we are here for you, so that years from now, you can look back on 2018 as your “remember when” moment of taking your first class that led to a brighter future.

Remember when … LCCC’s commitment to student success was nationally recognized?

On April 30, 2018, I shook hands with Dr. Walter Bumphus, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, on stage at the AACC national conference. Honestly, the moment is a bit of a blur in my memory. I had just heard Lorain County Community College announced as the winner of the 2018 Excellence in Student Success award, and somehow my feet carried me to the stage to accept this amazing honor on behalf of LCCC.

Student success is at the heart of every program, every initiative and every support service we provide as the community’s college. I was honored to accept the award on behalf of every student – past, present and future – who has ever trusted their higher education to LCCC. The national recognition has driven our campus to dive even deeper into our commitment to be a student-ready college, supporting our students in the ways they need it most.

Dr. Ballinger accepts the AACC award on stage.
Accepting LCCC’s award from AACC President and CEO Dr. Walter Bumphus.

Remember when … let 2019 fill in the blank.

Sometimes, it’s only clear years later what those “remember when” moments were.

It can take time for life to unfold and reveal what those “remember when” moments were. As we all journey into 2019, I wish you many “remember when” moments that will positively direct your life for years to come.

A Culture of Caring

At Lorain County Community College, it’s my goal to provide all people with the opportunity to earn a degree that helps them fulfill their dreams. For today’s college student, getting from the start line to the finish line is rarely a straight road. For most students, there are stops, starts, zigzags and barriers along the way. The things that can help students keep going are personal connections with someone on campus paired with the right support services. As president, that’s why I’ve made it a priority at LCCC that our culture of caring delivers each student an equitable opportunity to earn a degree. It’s about LCCC being student-ready.

A Dream That Keeps Truckin’

For more than a decade, Shontae Jackson from Lorain took LCCC classes as her schedule and her life circumstances permitted. As a mother of three children, she had a lot on her plate, but she dreamed of owning her own food truck. When a life change caused her to get serious about completing her degree, she returned to LCCC determined to make her dream a reality. While she had the personal commitment and drive to succeed, she also benefited from a mentorship from LCCC’s culinary program director Adam Schmith who saw in her a spark for creating complicated dishes with ease. By connecting with LCCC’s student business support center, NEO LaunchNET, Shontae soon found herself the owner and operator of the Steel Magnolia food truck. And when she needed help staffing the truck, her classmates in the culinary program volunteered their time and skills to support their friend and classmate.

Shontae Jackson, right, with LCCC Culinary Arts Institute Director Adam Schmith, me, and entrepreneurship professor Lee Kolczun.

SAILing Past Road Blocks

When Jared Jones graduated from Vermilion High School in 2015 he felt unsure about starting college. When he applied to LCCC’s Student Accelerating in Learning (SAIL) program, he found the customized support he was looking for. Jared was excelling in his courses when he was faced with a serious heart condition that required two surgeries. He then was forced to deal with the death of two grandparents –  all in the same semester. Setbacks like these can cause a student to leave college and not return. For Jared, it was his connections with his instructors and his SAIL advisor, Cynthia Arrendondo, who helped him move past the road blocks he faced and continue his education. He’s now back in the classroom and maintaining his high GPA on the way to earning an associate of arts degree.

Support from the SAIL program helped Jared Jones get back in the classroom after facing setbacks.

A Dreamer with a Goal

Corina Barranco was only 5 years old when she and her family walked from Mexico into the United States and eventually settled in Lorain, hoping for a better life.  As she completed her senior year at Lorain High School in May of 2018, she dreamed of attending LCCC to study police science. Corina excelled in her high school classes and qualified for an LCCC scholarship, but she was afraid to apply. As a DACA recipient, or Dreamer, she faces unique challenges with financial aid. Corina’s story was chronicled in Time’s story “A Dreamer’s Life,” including the hardships she faced in funding her college education. The attention received widespread attention and community members flooded the LCCC Foundation office with financial donations to ensure Corina would have the opportunity to earn a college degree. The monetary support was so great, in fact, that a new LCCC scholarship was created specifically for students like Corina. Thanks to the community and our financial services team, Corina is now enrolled in her first semester at LCCC.

Corina Barranco is now an LCCC student after financial aid team members removed barriers in the scholarship application.

Like Shontae, Jared and Corina, each student’s experience is unique, and each person requires individual support to help them reach their goals. At LCCC, providing equitable, tailored support has been a hallmark of our campus culture for years. The populations we serve at LCCC are as varied as our program offerings and include students of all ages, races and socio-economic demographics, and many are tasked with nontraditional college student roles, such as raising a family and working full-time jobs. In fact, research shows that nearly 74 percent of all undergraduate students in the country have at least one factor that qualifies them as “nontraditional” students. When these students enter the classroom, they bring with them all the qualities that make them unique, again confirming that a one-size-fits-all approach does not apply in higher education. This objective takes us back to the roots of LCCC, which was founded in 1963 with the goal of creating equity of opportunity for everyone in Lorain County through higher education.

Moving the Needle

By proactively meeting students where they are in their personal and academic journey, the college has increased the overall number of degrees and certificates awarded by 79 percent since 2011. Through intentional design and a culture of caring and support, the number of degrees awarded to Hispanic/Latino students increased by 149 percent during that time, and the number of degrees awarded to black/African American students increased 123 percent.

While I’m proud that we are moving the needle, we recognize that there is still a distance to go as we continue to shift our focus to equity of outcomes.

Meeting students where they are means providing the individualized supports each student needs to be successful.

 

With our focus on equity and individualized service, we invited Dr. Tia McNair to our fall Convocation to share her views on the need for higher education institutions to become student-ready. Taking the dated view that students must be college-ready prior to enrolling in courses and flipping it around, McNair challenges each college to become student-ready and be prepared to support individuals in the ways they need. By changing the focus and responsibility from the student to the college, we are able to laser-focus our sights on continuing to develop our culture of caring at LCCC.

I was honored to have Tia McNair join us on campus as we focus on equity and a culture of caring.

It’s my belief that every student’s dream matters, no matter where they begin their journey or what barriers they may face along the way. By focusing on equity, our campus is able to break down barriers that students face while also bolstering their potential and confidence – leading to a positive future for individuals and a prosperous future for our community.

And that’s what it’s all about: providing the right support for each student so they can focus on achieving their dreams.

Have you experienced a culture of caring, or are you working toward equity? Tell me about your experience on Twitter at @PresBallinger. I’d love to hear from you.

Read more about the students we serve at LCCC on our new stories page: www.lorainccc.edu/stories.