It’s a big day at Lorain County Community College as our LCCC and University Partnership students begin a new semester and academic year.
And while every academic year is special, this one holds a very unique designation. This year, we celebrate 60 years of Lorain County Community College serving our community. The students beginning classes today continue a long tradition of building a better future for themselves and our community through higher education.
Since 1963, we’ve remained true to our mission to provide affordable, quality education and workforce training to our community. Over the years, one in four Lorain County residents have taken a class at LCCC and more than 45,000 have earned a degree. The LCCC University Partnership provides access to bachelor’s and graduate degrees from 14 Ohio colleges, all here at the LCCC campus and at a fraction of the cost. After graduation, LCCC alumni fuel our economy as 90% of LCCC grads live and work in the Northeast Ohio region.
To ensure our graduates are prepared for the ever-changing demands of local industries, LCCC maintains close relationships with hundreds of area employers. As industry needs evolve, so do the curricula of LCCC’s academic programs and workforce training. All this adds up to a skilled talent pool for employers and good paying jobs for our graduates.
Keith Adkins knows this firsthand. After working retail for several years, the 36-year-old Elyria native was ready for a change. He came to LCCC, where he turned his hobby of computers into an associate degree in network communications technology. Along the way, he found support in the Students Accelerating in Learning (SAIL) program, and utilized the LCCC Children’s Learning Center for his young son. While a student, Keith began an internship in the IT department at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center. He excelled in the internship and recently accepted a full-time position at the hospital. Learn more about Keith.
LCCC graduate Amanda Badillo, 22, also landed a dream career at a local hospital after earning her LCCC degree. In the midst of the pandemic, Amanda followed her passion for helping others and enrolled at LCCC with the goal of becoming a registered nurse. In May 2023, she earned her associate degree in nursing and was awarded the Florence Nightingale Student Nurse Award for Nursing Excellence. After passing the NCLEX-RN, Amanda accepted a position as an operating room nurse at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. Learn more about Amanda.
Success stories like Keith and Amanda’s abound, and LCCC’s impact continues to grow. Earlier this year, LCCC was profiled in a book by Harvard University’s Project on Workforce for LCCC’s contribution to regional economic growth and opportunity. The book, “America’s Hidden Economic Engines: How Community Colleges Can Drive Shared Prosperity,” explores the ways in which forward-thinking community colleges are designing and implementing new solutions to both adapt to critical needs in the U.S. economy and create new pathways to opportunity for a diverse range of learners.
Our commitment to strengthening the local economy is at the core of who we are as an institution, and I’m honored to help to amplify the vital role community colleges serve as economic engines for job growth and advancing individual and family prosperity.
It is my wish that the students beginning classes today fully immerse themselves in all their community college has to offer. From employer-connected pathways and streamlined academic programs, to holistic support services and a vibrant campus, we are helping students build the future of their dreams. That’s been our goal for the past 60 years and remains our focus as we prepare for the next 60 years and beyond.
Click below to watch the video I shared with students this morning.
There is something truly magical about our Lorain County Community College Commencement ceremony. From the processional to the confetti-filled tassel change, the energy in the room is palpable as our entire community comes together to celebrate our graduates.
I had the honor of shaking hands with our LCCC and University Partnership Class of 2023 as they crossed the commencement stage on May 13, achieving their goal of earning a college degree. This remarkable class includes 2,222 students who earned LCCC degrees or certificates – including 10 students who earned an LCCC applied bachelor’s degree in microelectronic manufacturing! This group also includes 344 students who earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership. With this class, we have already achieved 91% of our 10,000 Degrees of Impact goal, well ahead of the 2025 schedule.
Watch our Graduate Salute video:
As I think about our fieldhouse filled with graduates and thousands of their families, friends and supporters, I am filled with hope and optimism for each graduate, and for our entire community. Like our overall student population, the Class of 2023 includes people of all ages and backgrounds – and 44% of them are the first in their families to earn a college degree! From traditional college students, to dual enrollment high schoolers, to older adults – everyone came to their community college to help them unlock opportunity.
At its core, that’s what LCCC was founded to do: unlock opportunities for students, for this community and for our entire region. Since 1963 that’s been our mission and I’m honored to lead this institution as we continue to make strides in delivering high quality, affordable education that changes lives. Over the past 60 years, more than 44,000 students have earned degrees in high-demand fields. And because LCCC works closely with local employers to ensure graduates are career-ready, more than 90% of LCCC graduates live and work right here in Northeast Ohio.
However, it’s not about just earning any degree to get any job. LCCC is laser-focused on providing equitable education opportunities that lead to careers with family-sustaining wages. To aid in this work, LCCC was named part of the “Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network,” an initiative with the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center. I am thrilled to join this consortium and can’t wait to see the results for our students and their families.
We know that higher education is one of the greatest predictors of economic mobility. And we know that early exposure to higher education increases the likelihood that a student will earn a college degree. By delivering college courses to high school students through dual enrollment options like College Credit Plus and Early College High School, more high school students than ever are getting college experience at no cost to them before they even graduate high school. This year, we celebrated 160 high school students who earned an LCCC credential – the largest group of dual enrollment graduates in LCCC history! Lorain County Early College High School graduate Sheliya Cordero is one of 60 students who earned an associate degree along with their high school diploma through Lorain County Early College High School, delivered here on the LCCC campus. Now, she’s off to The Ohio State University with her tuition covered through the Young Scholars program. Learn more about Sheliya.
Another 40 students earned associate degrees this year through LCCC’s Lorain Early College Academy at Lorain High School. These early college programs are especially impactful, providing higher education access to students from underrepresented groups, many who are the first in their families to earn a degree.
Through strong partnerships with local schools, more than 45% of Lorain County high school students earn LCCC college credit before they earn their high school diploma – that’s a savings of more than $43 million for local families. And the savings are even higher for students who continue their education at LCCC and the University Partnership. The impact of these programs is compounded for families who attend LCCC together, like Stephen McDonald and his daughter, Myah.
LCCC graduates of all ages are prepared for in-demand careers, including those that will fill talent and supply pipelines as Intel builds a new semiconductor manufacturing plant in Ohio. LCCC already partners with more than 80 employers in the semiconductor industry here in Northeast Ohio who are preparing for exponential growth. As job demands grow, LCCC has been preparing students in the semiconductor industry for more than 10 years with our microelectronic manufacturing programs. In fact, LCCC offers Ohio’s only applied bachelor’s degree in microelectronic manufacturing, as well as associate degree and certificate programs. Many students land employment even before they complete the program, like applied bachelor’s degree graduate John Trubach. Learn more about John.
From bachelor’s degrees to associate degrees and certificates, I’m so inspired by each graduate in our Class of 2023. By turning to LCCC, they are unlocking opportunities for themselves, their families and our community.
Lorain County Community College was founded in 1963 as a source of constant, relevant education and training for local people. Over the years, many things have changed, but one thing that remains the same is our commitment to adapt to the needs of employers, students and the community through affordable, impactful education.
With a focus on embracing change, LCCC continues to make strides in this mission throughout the changing tides of economy and industry. In fact, disruption and adaptation are a norm at LCCC, rather than the exception. At LCCC, we thrive on changing the model in order to best serve students. This has been the case for nearly 60 years, as more than 44,000 students have earned LCCC degrees in the fields needed most by local employers. And it is worth noting that more than 90% of LCCC graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio – a direct testament to the career-ready education and training they receive and the lasting impact this has on our community.
Recently, LCCC was named to a new consortium that will help us continue to support students in career readiness. LCCC is one of just 10 community colleges in the country selected for “Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network,” an initiative with the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center. The focus of the network is on improving students’ post-completion outcomes and proving that by focusing on delivering credentials of value, colleges can strengthen the programs they offer and advising they provide.
I’m thrilled to join the Unlocking Opportunities network and build upon LCCC’s progress in this area. The network’s mission directly aligns with LCCC’s Vision 2025 strategic plan, which includes the promise of 10,000 Degrees of Impact. This initiative aims for 10,000 individuals to earn credentials from LCCC between the years 2019 and 2025. To date, progress on this goal is more than 70% complete.
However, 10,000 Degrees of Impact is not about students earning just any degree. Rather, it’s about helping students find their passions in academic fields that lead to careers with family-sustaining wages. These intentional academic and career pathways unlock opportunities for students while supplying local employers with a talent pipeline for the future. Deliberate academic and career training, combined with employer connections, is more important than ever as industry needs continue to rapidly change.
Here in Ohio, this means training students for careers in the semiconductor and microchip industry with our microelectronic manufacturing programs. This field is expanding exponentially as Intel builds a new semiconductor manufacturing plant just two hours from LCCC’s campus, turning this area into the Silicon Heartland.
While Intel’s investment in our state is new, LCCC’s microelectronic manufacturing program and employer connections in this industry go back more than a decade. In fact, LCCC offers Ohio’s only associate of applied science and bachelor of applied science degrees in microelectronic manufacturing. These programs were developed with direct input from our 80 industry partners who are filling the semiconductor supply chain right here in Northeast Ohio. Learn more about LCCC’s strengths in microelectronics.
To further ensure students learn the skills needed most by employers, our microelectronic manufacturing programs include LCCC’s earn and learn curriculum model. These paid internships with local employers give students valuable work experience and provide local industry with a skilled talent pipeline. That level of career-ready education paired with hands-on training attracts students like Paul Greer III. As he nears graduation, Paul has already completed two internships with local companies ready to hire. And, with a 100% employment rate for LCCC’s microelectronic manufacturing graduates, I have no doubt Paul will land his dream career. Learn more about Paul Greer III.
For Jasmine Jackson of Elyria, LCCC’s focus on in-demand careers means turning a job loss into an opportunity to prepare for a new future in cyber security. Her timing is excellent. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections put job growth in cyber security at 40% or more over the next decade. And LCCC has the training and employer connections Jackson was looking for. Through earn and learn opportunities built in the curriculum, Jasmine began a paid internship at MCPc, a global software security and device company, after just two semesters in the program. Learn more about Jasmine Jackson.
Students like Paul and Jasmine are training at LCCC for careers that didn’t exist a decade ago. In addition to microelectronic manufacturing and cyber security, LCCC offers pathways in cutting-edge programs like automation, blockchain and many more. And students are learning in the ways that mean the most to them. LCCC delivers short-term certificates and industry recognized credentials that employers want, and lead to fast employment for students. From there, students can seamlessly continue in their academic pathway with stackable associate degrees and applied bachelor’s degrees, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees from many Ohio colleges through LCCC’s University Partnership.
As higher education prepares for projected systemic change – in what is being called the Great Upheaval by higher education scholars Arthur Levine and Scott J. Van Pelt – I feel confident that LCCC will continue to what we do best: nimbly adapt in order to best serve students as they reach their academic and career goals.
While no one can predict the future with complete certainty, I know that LCCC will continue to be here, always ready to serve our students and our community in the most impactful ways.
Lorain County Community College is closed Monday, January 16, as our country pauses to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King dedicated his life in service to others with the vision of a society that is just and equitable for all.
At LCCC, we honor Dr. King’s vision by delivering high quality and affordable education to all in our community. Through collaboration with community partners, we are working together to build a vibrant future for all.
For 60 years, Lorain County Community College has been the trusted place our community members and employers turn to as they prepare for the jobs of the future. We are the number one training location for Lorain County’s first responders. Half of Lorain County families have someone who has taken classes at LCCC or the University Partnership. And after graduation, they find career success right here in our region, as 90% of LCCC graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio.
This means that LCCC graduates are deeply embedded in our community. They’re firefighters, like Steven Acord. They’re nurses, like Jody Page, and police officers, like Mitch Lorig. And our students are training for jobs of the future in manufacturing, like Mason Moreck.
When LCCC was founded in 1963 as Ohio’s first community college with a permanent campus, manufacturing education and training was one of the first focus areas. As time passed, manufacturing evolved, and LCCC’s collaboration with the industry deepened. Today, Ohio’s manufacturing sector is at yet another exciting tipping point. Intel’s new, leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing plant represents one of Ohio’s greatest economic opportunities. Its presence will drive unprecedented supply chain growth throughout the state, including Lorain County. It’s not just about one company coming to Ohio — it’s an entire industry embedding itself in Ohio, creating the Silicon Heartland, similar to when steel and auto first arrived on the shores of Lake Erie.
Long before Intel’s historic groundbreaking ceremony, LCCC was preparing for this moment. LCCC has been developing unique expertise in semiconductor and microelectronic manufacturing education and training for more than a decade. LCCC offers Ohio’s only associate of applied science and bachelor of applied science degrees in microelectronic manufacturing, preparing students for work in this growing semiconductor industry. Both programs have boasted 100% job placement rates for our graduates, in part because of innovative earn-and-learn paid internship opportunities built into the curriculum with more than 80 Northeast Ohio employers. And as Intel’s presence helps bring this Silicon Heartland to life, our graduates’ career opportunities will only grow.
As serendipitous as it all might seem, we are ready for this moment because LCCC, in collaboration with our community and industry leaders, has done what community colleges are uniquely designed to do — forecast future employer needs and respond swiftly to meet them. Community colleges were built for this moment. In 1947, the Truman Commission acted upon a vision to create locally responsive institutions of higher education to educate and train Americans for an industrialized economy. This, in turn, ensures that those within our community have the opportunity today to train for and excel in the jobs of tomorrow. That is why community colleges will be the center of the Silicon Heartland and other widespread technological innovations.
Through decades of thoughtful design, LCCC is an economic engine for our local community and a powerful resource to turn economic disruption into opportunity. For our community, that means that LCCC has formed close relationships with local employers to ensure our programs are preparing students for the in-demand jobs of our region. Employers need talent now, and many students are able to participate in earn-and-learn models while earning their degrees. This design provides an immediate response to employer talent needs and allows students to gain real-world experience in their field of study. This model is beneficial for students of all ages, from working adults to dual enrollment high school students.
Mason Moreck understands this. When he was just 12 years old, Mason began taking classes at LCCC through College Credit Plus. Now a junior at Avon High School, Mason is on track to earn a bachelor of applied science degree in microelectronic manufacturing at the same time he graduates high school next year. And he’s earning on-the-job training through a paid earn-and-learn internship with Core Technologies. Learn more about Mason.
Through LCCC’s College Credit Plus, students like Mason are earning college credit before they graduate high school. In fact, 45% of Lorain County high school students earn, on average, 20 college credits through LCCC’s College Credit Plus. That adds up to $6 million in savings for local families. When high school students continue their education, LCCC remains top of mind, as 68% of Lorain County high school graduates begin their education at LCCC.
Affordable tuition and easy transfer options make LCCC a top choice for high school students, as well as adults returning to school. Through LCCC’s University Partnership, students have the opportunity to choose to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio colleges without ever leaving the LCCC campus. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the University Partnership delivers more than 100 bachelor’s and master’s degrees from 15 Ohio colleges. These degree programs are offered on the LCCC campus and save students an average of 70% on the cost of a bachelor’s degree. It is no wonder the LCCC University Partnership has become a popular higher education choice for Lorain County residents. Since 2000, Lorain County has experienced a 77% increase in bachelor’s degree holders – with 89% of those earning credits from LCCC.
Community Colleges, and LCCC specifically, are ready for the future. This community, along with all Ohio, is on the cusp of greatness. We will remain steady down our path, delivering accessible academic programs in ways that quickly translate into in-demand careers. But we will also continue to take hold of opportunities to carve out a new path, launching programs that fill gaps in our community. LCCC prepares our economy for the future, and as I look toward that future, I know the best is yet to come.
In these times of monumental change, our community turns to Lorain County Community College to light a path to the future.
As LCCC and University Partnership classes begin today, the campus is alive with the hope and purpose of all students – those starting their first college classes, those returning after some time away, those retraining for new careers, and so many more.
One thing they all have in common is that they turned to LCCC to help them reach their career goals. With customized academic support and our culture of care, LCCC is committed to helping each student find success, whether they are pursuing a certificate, associate degree or applied bachelor’s from LCCC, or a bachelor’s or master’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership.
Here is a video I shared with students to welcome them on the first day of a new academic year.
For nearly 60 years, LCCC continues to be the trusted place our community members and employers turn to as they prepare for the future. In fact, one in four Lorain County residents have taken classes at LCCC. And after graduation, they find career success right here in our region, as 90% of LCCC graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio. Our graduates find local careers by design, as LCCC partners with more than 700 local employers to ensure students graduate ready to get to work on day one.
These innovative applied bachelor’s degrees in MEMS and Smart Manufacturing build upon the success of LCCC’s University Partnership. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the University Partnership delivers more than 100 bachelor’s and master’s degrees from 15 Ohio colleges, as well as the two applied bachelor’s degrees from LCCC. The programs are all offered on the LCCC campus and save students an average of 70% on the cost of their education. It is no wonder that the LCCC University Partnership has become a popular higher education choice for Lorain County residents. Since 2000, Lorain County has experienced a 77% increase in bachelor’s degree holders – with 89% of those earning credits from LCCC.
The impact of LCCC’s Earn and Learn programs is so well known that when University Hospitals noticed an unmet need for licensed practical nurses (LPN), they turned to LCCC to develop a solution. The result is a new Earn and Learn program that allows current UH employees working as patient care nursing assistants (PCNA) to earn their LPN credential from LCCC. Students remain full-time employees at the hospital – earning full pay and benefits – while they complete the one-year LPN program, tuition-free. Upon graduation, they will be hired as LPNs at the hospital. Talk about a win-win for students and the community! And once they earn their LPN, the education and career opportunities continue with the LPN to RN bridge program and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from LCCC’s University Partnership.
The ability to seamlessly advance from one credential to the next is a vital component of all LCCC and University Partnership programs, including our Aspire GED and adult diploma programs. Luis Hernandez is a first-generation college student from Lorain who turned to LCCC to help him earn his GED in 2019. He continued his education, first at the LCCC Lorain Learning Center near him home, and now on our main campus. In this academic year, Luis will earn an associate degree and two certificates, with plans to continue his education for a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership. Of all these achievements, what I find most inspiring about Luis is his passion for advocating for students in his role as president of Student Senate.
Another student committed to serving is Brittany Kramer. After more than a decade working for the same company, Brittany found herself laid off and in need of additional training and education. She turned to LCCC for the affordability and flexible schedule she needs as a mom. At LCCC, she has exceled in her classes and found a home where she can grow her leadership skills. She’s earned three associate degrees and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership. What’s more, she holds leadership roles with Student Senate and Phi Theta Kappa honor society and was named one of the top community college students in Ohio for 2022!
As this new academic year begins, the possibilities are endless but LCCC remains steadfast: always here, always ready. So, when individuals like Luis and Brittany turn to LCCC they can do so confidently, knowing their community college will help them build a fulfilling future, for themselves and our region.
The best time of the year is here – commencement season! I love seeing our graduates celebrate their moment as they cross the commencement stage and soar to their futures.
I was thrilled to lead the 58th annual Commencement exercises for the Lorain County Community College and University Partnership Class of 2022. This was our first in-person graduation ceremony since 2019, and it was wonderful to see our field house filled with graduates and their supporters.The Class of 2022 included 1,773 graduates earning 2,193 associate degrees and certificates – and four of those students earned an applied bachelor’s degree from LCCC in microelectronic manufacturing. An additional 351 graduates earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership. That’s a grand total of 2,554 degrees and credentials earned by 2,124 graduates, and I am incredibly proud of each and every one.
This graduating class holds a special place in my heart as this year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of LCCC’s University Partnership. This program launched in 1996 as an innovative solution to the fact that Lorain County was falling behind in bachelor’s degree attainment. What began with five partner colleges and universities offering 12 degrees has grown to now include 14 partners and more than 100 bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Students who complete degrees through the University Partnership save an average of $74,000.
And that all adds up to big strides for our region. Since 2000, Lorain County has experienced a 77% increase in bachelor’s degree holders – one of two counties in Northeast Ohio with the highest increase in baccalaureate attainment. And we continue to enhance the University Partnership, most recently through an expanded strategic alliance with Case Western Reserve University to continue to fuel Ohio’s emerging semiconductor economy.
Helping our students get a jump-start on their higher education goals are our dual enrollment programs. This year, 127 high school students earned a degree or certificate at the same time they completed high school through Early College High School, College Credit Plus or Career Technical Education programs. This includes Sierra Mobley, who earned both an associate of arts and an associate of science at the same time she completed Lorain County Early College High School on the LCCC campus. In everything we do at LCCC, it’s all about helping our graduates and our region soar. To celebrate the class of 2022 and recognize the 25th anniversary of the University Partnership, we dedicated a breathtaking public art display called SOAR, Success and Opportunity, Advancing the Region. The display spans 200 feet and features 2,022 sculpted birds in perpetual motion, soaring in the air. When you stand near the display, you feel the sensation of being in a flock of birds that has just taken to flight.
It’s my hope that our graduates and our community see this display and are reminded of their own potential to take flight and achieve the lives and careers of their dreams. And I hope they know their community college is here for them along the way.
April is Community College Month, a time to celebrate the broad impact of our nation’s community colleges.
Lorain County Community College.
It’s right there, our middle name: community.
LCCC’s history of serving the community stretches back to 1963 when the need was recognized for a local college to create higher education access and a bridge to gainful employment. Over the past 59 years, LCCC has helped Lorain County adapt and thrive through prosperity and challenging times. Through nimble academic programs and meaningful connections with local industry, the college has helped our community remain competitive today and prepared for the innovation of tomorrow.
In this era of rapid change, the ability to quickly adapt and create new training and credentials is one of LCCC’s most important attributes. By listening to local employers and keeping an eye on the pulse on the needs of our community, as well as nationwide trends, LCCC creates academic programming that leads to career-ready graduates with good paying jobs waiting for them upon graduation. As a result, more than 90% of LCCC graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio. All this builds a confidence in LCCC and our region that employers look for when making big decisions.
So, earlier this year when Intel announced it is bringing its most advanced chip manufacturing operation in the world to Ohio, I was thrilled but not surprised. LCCC and our entire state have been preparing for an opportunity like this for decades and we are ready to maximize the economic impact Intel will bring. A group of college and local leaders gathered to watch the live stream of the Intel announcement. Watch the video:
While some find themselves Googling the work that Intel does, at LCCC, words like “semiconductor” and “mechatronics” have been part of our vocabulary for nearly a decade. In fact, LCCC has been training students in the field of microelectronic manufacturing (MEMS) since 2013 when we became the first community college to offer an associate degree in MEMS. In 2018, LCCC made history again as the first community college to deliver an applied bachelor’s degree in MEMS.
Our MEMS program is delivered in a successful and replicable “earn and learn” format where students work while attending college. Not only does this model of learning give students opportunities to gain work experience while they are in school, making themselves more attractive to future employers, it allows students to earn a livable wage as they complete the program. This structure, combined with the low cost of community college tuition and time to degree of typically two years, drives the growth and diversity within our earn and learn programs. The MEMS program alone has increased from three students in 2013 to 150 in 2021. And these students are women, students of color, traditional college age, and adult learners.
These two applied bachelor’s degrees offered by LCCC complement the more than 100 bachelor’s and master’s degrees from 14 Ohio colleges and universities in LCCC’s University Partnership. This year, we celebrate 25 years of the University Partnership providing affordable degrees to local people. By pairing LCCC’s low tuition rate with thoughtful transfer pathways, students in LCCC’s University Partnership save an average of $75,000 on their degrees.
That savings makes a real difference for students and their families. This can be particularly significant for high school dual enrollment students who follow a bachelor’s degree pathway through our MyUniversity program – a model that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 20 while saving 80 percent on the cost of their education.
Whether students are earning a short-term certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s or master’s degree, they can confidently pursue their goals knowing their program will prepare them for a career right here in Northeast Ohio. After all, that’s why LCCC was created. It’s a mission we’ve fulfilled since 1963, serving our community, now and in the future.
February can be one of the bleakest months in Northeast Ohio. Fortunately, there is a bright spot this time of year with the annual DREAM conference, hosted by Achieving the Dream (ATD).
Recently, I joined more than 300 community college leaders for the ATD annual convening. Inside the virtual conference, I felt myself become energized through the stories and strategies shared – especially the messages shared by ATD President and CEO Dr. Karen Stout.
During her opening remarks, Dr. Stout unveiled ATD’s new vision statement, which centers on helping to create vibrant communities by advancing community colleges as hubs of equity and mobility in their communities. She went on to encourage each college to be a beacon of hope. As our communities and students continue to make their way make through the challenges of recent years, Dr. Stout urged us each to create hope on our campuses and beyond. It was a message that set the tone for the entire DREAM conference. And even now, long after the final plenary session has ended, I find myself returning to Dr. Stout’s message for inspiration.
It seems like a simple thing. It’s a dream, a wish; the feeling that something better is yet to come.
Hope is the spark that ignites us to strive for more. It calls from inside us, pushing us to take a risk and put ourselves out there. It’s the quiet resolve that the result will be worth the effort. Hope is essential for our future, but these dark times may have dimmed the hope inside many.
Fortunately, there are places that specialize in hope: community colleges.
At LCCC, our mission directly aligns with ATD’s vision statement. Our hope for a vibrant future for all has developed into a strategic plan to ensure that everyone in our region has equitable access to the education they need to build a successful future for themselves, their families and all of Lorain County. We know that education can be the golden ticket to a better tomorrow. But before a student ever makes it to their first class, they must first have hope that they can succeed. Once there is hope, a plan can be developed to help each student reach their goals. Whether it is an associate degree or certificate from LCCC or a bachelor’s or master’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership, we can help our students and our community build and spread hope.
Brandon Woodall is an LCCC culinary student who turned his dream into action. Named a 2022 DREAM Scholar by ATD, Brandon is inspiring people across the country with his story of hope and determination. Long before he was named a DREAM Scholar, Brandon was a kid growing up with two loves: basketball and cooking with his Aunt Valerie. His basketball dreams nearly came true – he briefly attended two different colleges and played on their basketball teams, but a lack of funding and support services caused him to drop out each time. He worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet, but cooking remained his passion. In 2018, he opened his own catering and private chef business, named Valerie’s Kitchen and Catering, in honor of his aunt. When the pandemic caused his plans to change, his aunt encouraged him to enroll in LCCC’s culinary arts program. Brandon was nervous but filled with hope.
Now in his second year at LCCC, Brandon’s hard work is paying off. He is excelling in the culinary program and making a name for himself in Lorain County and beyond as he wows clients with his food and inspires them with his enthusiasm for his craft. When Brandon earns an associate degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management – Culinary Arts later this year, he will be the first in his family to graduate from college. Learn more about Brandon.
During the ATD DREAM conference, Brandon shared an autobiographical poem. Part of his poem includes:
I am from building an empire from the ground up so that my children and grandchildren can break generational curses. I am from being scared to death to enter culinary school because of fear of failure. I am from Chef Adam and Chef Brad, my culinary instructors who saw potential in me.
His poem continues,
I am no longer from the doubt and negativity generated by people who think you can’t do it. I am Chef B and I am here to build my dynasty.
(Read Brandon’s full poem below.)
And what a dynasty it will be. With the help of LCCC, Brandon is creating a foundation for a successful future. Through LCCC’s customized support services, Brandon and all LCCC students receive customized academic support and access to holistic wrap around services through the LCCC Advocacy and Resource Center. These supports, as well as every action we take at LCCC, are deliberately designed with equity in mind.
It’s my core belief that every student’s dream matters, and LCCC is committed to helping every student achieve their dreams, no matter their circumstances. Through our work with Achieving the Dream, we continue to make strides in equity in access, experience and completion for all students. LCCC first joined ATD in 2011 and with their guidance and our own strategic planning, LCCC has risen to a leader in student success. In fact, LCCC has held ATD Leader College status since 2015, and been a Leader College of Distinction since 2019. In 2020, LCCC received the ATD Leah Meyer Austin Award for student success. With a laser focus, LCCC is strategically addressing equity in all aspects of LCCC’s work. LCCC’s Equity by Design Team actively seeks to advance equity and inclusion for all students, and a multi-pronged approach to community outreach ensures everyone in our region has the opportunity to access higher education.
The result of these measures is an increase in students’ persistence and an overall increase in completion rates, especially among minority, low-income and under-represented groups. Over the past decade, graduation attainment for LCCC’s Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx students has nearly quadrupled. Additional progress includes an increase in the completion of gateway math and English courses, with the largest increase among low-income students; increased persistence from year to year, with the largest increase among Black/African American students; and increased completion rates among all students, with the largest increase among first-generation college students.
These improvements are the result of deliberate policy changes, holistic support and reaching students earlier in their academic career to ensure all people in our area build the hope of a better future. For students in grades 7-12, LCCC’s dual enrollment programs allow students to gain college experience – for free and often in their home schools. In fact, 45% of Lorain County high school students earn LCCC college credit by the time they graduate. That amounts to a savings of nearly $5 million for local families.
That early touch point to college builds momentum for high school students – many who are the first in their family to pursue higher education. In fact, 81 percent of Lorain County high school graduates who earn LCCC dual enrollment credit continue in higher education – compared the national average of 66 percent.
These are remarkable gains, but there is always more work ahead. My hope for the future is that more students will turn to their community college to help turn their hopes into a plan for success – just like Brandon.
I am from By Brandon Woodall, Sr.
I am Brandon Woodall Sr.
I am from where most people don’t make it out.
From empty abandoned houses in the neighborhood and broken glass on the street.
I am from the unforgiving city of Cleveland, Ohio.
72nd and St. Clair street to be exact.
I am from the number one bus on the RTA, standing up and holding on tight as the bus sways.
I am from long walks to Save A lot in the snow and selling brownies and chili dogs to have lunch money in my pockets.
I am from grandma’s and grandad’s house which was filled with aromas from burning charcoal outside to the smell of the well seasoned chicken wings inside.
I am from the caramelization of nutmeg and brown sugar on top of my Aunt Val’s yams.
I am from loud smacks on the table when an Ace beats a King in spades.
I am from the loud cheer in the kitchen when the Browns score.
I am from building an empire from the ground up so that my children and grandchildren can break generational curses.
I am from sleepless nights due to preparation for events.
I am from being scared to death to enter culinary school because of fear of failure.
I am from Chef Adam and Chef Brad, my culinary instructors who saw potential in me.
I am from Lorain County Community College where they gave me an opportunity to be a Sous Chef for many events getting me ready for the real world.
I was appointed to be a part of the first ever Traveling Culinary team tasked with assisting a 4 star restaurant with its grand opening.
I am 1 of 4 students from Lorain County Community College picked to publish some of my recipes in the Ohio Farm Bureau Magazine which gave me exposure throughout Ohio.
I am no longer from the doubt and negativity generated by people who think you can’t do it.
In the next 5 years I see myself being a private chef and expanding my catering craft.
People around the world will come to eat my lamb and rice with brown sauce, my seafood boil with juicy king crab, my mouth watering Cajun corn, and my famous soul food that is stellar beyond its years.
As thousands of Lorain County Community College and University Partnership students begin classes today, I welcome them to our LCCC family. Our students continue to look forward, building a brighter future for themselves and our community. When I think of our resilient students, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Throughout the pandemic, our students continue to look boldly forward. In the face of struggle, they’ve chosen hope. And their community college is here to help them achieve their goals. We do this by cultivating community, opportunity and unity, here on campus and throughout our region. It all happens through a lens of equity that meets students where they are, wraps them in our Culture of Care, and results in academic and career success.
One recent graduate who found career success is David Copsey. Following his calling to serve his community in the healthcare field, David came to LCCC with a plan to study nursing. However, once he shadowed a respiratory therapist, he knew he’d found his true purpose and enrolled in Bowling Green State University’s respiratory care program through LCCC’s University Partnership.
Once the pandemic hit in March 2020, David felt even more solidified that he was in the right place, despite the hardships of the field.
“Other people’s instincts were to leave when the pandemic hit, but for me this job is truly a calling,” David said.
David graduated in December 2020 – a peak of the pandemic – and immediately accepted a position with the Cleveland Clinic. It’s a rigorous job and he felt well prepared by his degree program.
“It’s hard sometimes. There are a lot of times I’m crying; there are a lot of times I’m frustrated,” David said. “But I still wouldn’t change it for the world because I’m constantly helping people every single day, which I love to do.”
I’m so proud David is following his passion to serve others; and I’m honored that his community college was able help him reach his goals. This represents the root of who we are as an organization. LCCC was created in 1963 to deliver quality educational opportunities for everyone. And in 1996, our community supported the addition of our University Partnership program, offering affordable bachelor’s and master’s degrees right here on the Elyria campus. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the LCCC’s University Partnership, I’m inspired by David and all the University Partnership graduates making a difference, and humbled by the community that made this program possible.
Since the creation of the University Partnership, nearly 7,000 people have seized this wonderful opportunity and earned their degree. What began as a partnership with five colleges and universities delivering 12 bachelor’s and master’s degrees has expanded to 14 partner colleges delivering more than 100 degrees. And because we know that high tuition costs are often a barrier to educational attainment, affordability remains central: the average University Partnership student saves $74,000 on the cost of a bachelor’s degree. Instead of racking up debt, LCCC and University Partnership students build relevant, job-ready skills that meet the needs of local employers. In fact, 90% of LCCC graduates find work here in Northeast Ohio.
Low cost, quality education that leads to high wage jobs; that’s one key to building strong communities, a strong economy and brighter future for us all. Another key lies in the knowledge that we can achieve more together than we can separately. As we convene for the first day of classes, we celebrate the unity that’s created when people from all walks of life come together to pursue their dreams.
To inspire students on this topic, we hosted an event in College Center on January 18 commemorating the life’s work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and featuring former NFL player, Shawn Harper. Shawn’s story of overcoming the odds and surmounting negativity was a wonderful message for our students as they begin their spring semester, likely facing challenging circumstances on a personal or emotional level.
To further mark this occasion and our commitment to social justice, today we unveiled the launch of a Unity Quilt. Students, faculty and the community can participate by creating a personalized square that represent their views on unity, service and community. Alone, each square tells just one story, but when woven together, a beautiful new collective emerges.
Like the quilt, each student starting class today has their own experience that becomes an integral part of the overall fabric of our campus and our community. My hope for this semester is that students continue boldly in pursuit of their dreams – and their community college will be here to help them by providing opportunity, connection to community and unity for all.