Continuing a Legacy of Success

As we celebrate Community College Month in April, I think it’s important to recognize and honor our nation’s unique institutions of higher education.

The nation’s America’s approximate 1,200 community colleges are considered by higher education scholars to be one of America’s greatest educational successes of the latter half of the 20th century. From the 1947 Truman Commission Report that mandated equal opportunities for higher education as a part of a national social justice agenda to 21st century workforce development efforts, community colleges are recognized as portals to opportunities. Our missions during the past 60 years have expanded from the traditional lower division transfer courses and vocational education to take on a more significant community role as a catalyst for change and problem solving. The community colleges’ social mission extended their reach beyond education to ensure that a focus was placed upon social and economic justice.

Today, more than half of all undergraduate students in the country are enrolled in community colleges. LCCC alone has served more than 350,000 students since 1963! What began as a movement to train workers for unfilled jobs has emerged into 1,462 innovative and dynamic community colleges adapting to serve the changing needs of their own communities across the country.

Many of these community colleges are connected through the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) whose annual conference I am attending this week in New Orleans, La., alongside representatives from 1,200 other community colleges. I am honored to be a presenter at this conference, sharing the impact community colleges and the many successes of our students.

Joining me here at the AACC conference is one of our college’s very own success stories, Daniel Truitt. Daniel received the highest score of all community college students in Ohio in the All-USA Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team competition. As the top student from Ohio, he was named a 2017 New Century Scholar, one of only 50 students in the country to win the award. He received a scholarship and was recognized at the AACC Presidents Breakfast Monday morning. At the state level, Daniel was named to the All-Ohio First Academic Team.

LCCC President Marcia Ballinger stands on the right in a white suit. In the center is Daniel Truitt, and to Daniel's left is his father.
I enjoyed spending time with Daniel and his father, Rick, at the AACC Presidents Breakfast in New Orleans.

As the valedictorian of Firelands High School’s class of 2014, Daniel Truitt’s options for selecting a college were wide open. While taking LCCC courses through a dual-enrollment option called College Credit Plus during high school, Daniel met LCCC Professor Kathy Durham who piqued his interest in biology. Daniel told me, “Dr. Durham’s courses sparked something in me that I didn’t know was there. When I found out that I could continue with Dr. Durham at LCCC and earn a bachelor’s degree in biology through LCCC’s University Partnership, it was like all the pieces came together.”

By taking full advantage of College Credit Plus and LCCC’s University Partnership, Daniel earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University in December 2016 – at the ripe old age of 20!

He has accumulated zero debt and a lifetime of experiences, preparing him for his next adventure into medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine this fall. I am so proud of Daniel and can’t wait to see what he is able to accomplish with his life.

LCCC student Brandon Holcomb from Lorain also won national recognition as a Silver Scholar in the All-USA competition. He was also named to the All-Ohio First Academic Team. Brandon is a senior in the Lorain County Early College High School, a four-year high school located on our campus that provides an amazing opportunity for motivated students to earn their high school diploma and associate degree simultaneously – and tuition-free. Brandon is doing amazing work as part of the Early Scientists HIV research group on campus.

Two male students smile with medallions around their neck.
Daniel and Brandon received a scholarship and medallion for their placement on the All-Ohio First Academic Team.

Daniel and Brandon will both march in the LCCC Commencement ceremony on May 13. I can’t wait to shake their hands as they cross the stage!

Lorain County Community College, like many other institutions throughout our country, has adapted to serve the needs of our community. With the changes within our shifting industry base, we increased targeted skills-based training programs that prepare students for unfilled and high-paying jobs. Additionally, we’ve encouraged students to consider making their own job through entrepreneurship and have created a broad-based entrepreneurial support network. LCCC’s robust portfolio of resources for entrepreneurs and innovators led the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship to recognize LCCC as one of five community colleges across the country with an award for demonstrating excellence in entrepreneurship. I had the honor of accepting the award today at the AACC conference. That’s part of the fabric at LCCC … to grow talent and grow jobs.

From our roots, our number one priority was to meet the needs of our community and I am proud to be part of driving that legacy forward.

Empowering Women, Creating Leaders

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I’m reminded of the wonderful contributions women have made to the creation of Lorain County Community College and the success of our college and community. The advocacy efforts of Lorain County’s League of Women Voters in 1963 led to your community college receiving the charter for the first permanent community college campus in the state of Ohio. It was this early group of women, along with local business and community leaders, who saw the potential for education to improve our community, create leaders, and empower women.

Earlier this week I was honored to be the guest speaker for our local WIMODAUGHSIS (Wives, Daughters and Sisters of Master Masons) chapter. I was invited by Jane Norton, one of the College’s longest supporters and champions, and I was delighted to engage with this wonderful group of dedicated women in a conversation about the state of higher education in our county. Similar to the League of Women Voters, WIMODAUGHSIS has a rich history of supporting local causes that foster equality and provide assistance to those in need and I was impressed at how deeply this group truly cares about advancing women.

A room full of women sit at tables to listen to Jane Norton speak at the front of the room.
It was inspiring and appropriate to connect with Jane Norton, WIMODAUGHSIS Chapter President Sharon Herzer, and the WIMODAUGHSIS members during Women’s History Month.

Over the past five decades, more than 100,000 women have earned college credits and advanced in their lives thanks to their education from LCCC. While the numbers are grand, it’s the woman behind each number that I believe is so important. Women like Patty Rone, Kristin Hohman, and Char Wray.

I met Patty two years ago when she was a Licensed Practical Nurse working in home health care and wanted to get ahead in her career and in life by earning her RN degree. Her determination, perseverance, dedication, and commitment to overcoming barriers have inspired me beyond words. Equally inspiring is Kelly Gruscinski, who works in our Office of Accessibility Services, and partnered with Patty to help her cross the finish line this past December to complete her degree. I was thrilled when Patty called to share her news that she passed her NCLEX exam in February and is now employed as an RN as Mercy Health Center.

A photo of Patty Rone and LCCC President Marcia Ballinger.
Patty Rone and me after she passed the NCLEX exam.

Kristin serves as Editor-in-Chief of our Collegian student newspaper. I’ve gotten to know her throughout the past year as she and I each assumed our respective new roles. Earlier this month she interviewed me about my views on Women’s History Month, and I decided to turn the question around and ask her about who has inspired her at LCCC. She immediately lit up and told me about an experience during her first semester here when she connected with faculty member Tammy Bosley, who teaches Communications. After a hiatus from attending a university several years earlier, Kristin wasn’t sure how she might fit in at LCCC. The tremendous support that Kristin felt from Tammy that first semester and the continued mentoring have demonstrated to her that women supporting women has made a meaningful difference in her career decision.

A blond woman sits to the left of LCCC President Marcia Ballinger in the president's office.
Kristin and I enjoyed interviewing each other about Women’s History Month.

We are fortunate to have many women in teaching and leadership positions at the College, as well as several women serving on our Foundation and District Boards. Char Wray, a member of our Foundation’s Board of Directors and a member of our Health Careers Advisory Committee, was named President of University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center in 2015. As the first woman to be appointed to this role, Char is truly a role model for women in our community. And wouldn’t you know – Char got her start right here at LCCC where she earned her associate of applied science degree in nursing. She continued her education through our University Partnership, earning her bachelor of science in nursing from The University of Akron and enabling her to advance her career.

A photo of Char Wray.
Char Wray got her start here at LCCC.

Patty, Kelly, Kristin, Tammy and Char embody what this month is all about – empowering women to succeed in life and positively impact our society.

One of my personal goals as president is to ensure we are doing our part to create leaders – within our College, our community and our students, and I welcome your ideas on how we can continue supporting those facing challenges in their lives – regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity. Every student’s dream matters and it is our responsibility to continue creating equal opportunity for all.

Amidst the dreary January weather, our faculty members have been preparing for the launch of our spring semester. The start of a new semester represents a new beginning for some, a milestone of accomplishments for others, and for all of us the chance to reflect on our purpose, our direction and our source of motivation. What better time to do this than when our semester start coincides with the start of a brand-new year?

Last week the College hosted Josh Wyner, Founder, Vice President, and Executive Director for the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute to serve as our keynote speaker at our mid-year convocation. The Aspen Institute is an internationally recognized educational and policy studies organization that provides a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. Under Josh’s leadership, the Institute has done tremendous work nationwide in identifying key components to community college success. But they don’t stop at policy – the Aspen Institute actively engages colleges and their leaders to create sustainable change and help students achieve their dreams.

We were honored to have Josh Wyner speak at LCCC's Mid-Year Convocation.
We were honored to have Josh Wyner speak at LCCC’s Mid-Year Convocation.

LCCC’s connection to the Aspen Institute runs deep – LCCC has twice been named one of the Aspen Institute’s top 120 colleges and last year I was selected for the Aspen Fellowship program. It has been a wonderful experience working with Josh and other leaders to identify best practices that we can apply right here at LCCC.

The Community College Excellence Program has identified the following formula as the new definition of college success: Access + Completion + Post-Graduation Student Success. As a community college, creating access is part of our mission and has always been a core focus of our work. More recently, we have worked to improve our student completion rates and I am pleased to announce that our rates of students completing their degree within three years have more than doubled since 2010. This is a wonderful tribute to the hard work of our Student Success Council team and many others on campus who have played a role in our success.

We continuously use data to inform our strategies, practices and policies to improve student success. While the numbers often provide insight, I am reminded that it is the real people behind the data points that truly matter. Along with Josh Wyner, we invited several inspiring students to speak at our mid-year convocation and they talked about what this college means to them.

Personal connections make all the difference in college achievement, the students said.
Personal connections make all the difference in college achievement, the students said.

Each of them come from incredibly different backgrounds, but have a consistent theme to their story – that they chose LCCC because they wanted a clear pathway to a successful future at a college where they can connect with their faculty and peers. That personal connection to our faculty and staff was repeated several times that morning and speaks volumes to the dedication of our employees – many of who often go above and beyond to help our students be successful.

As a way to celebrate our faculty and staff for their extraordinary efforts that support our vision, I have created a small recognition symbol and award.  The idea came from a story I shared in an earlier post of Espy Correa gifting a bike to a student to help him get to class. The first recipients were LCCC’s website redesign team led by Lori Martin and the email migration team led by Don Huffman and Norm Lease. Thank you for all of your hard work on these challenging projects!

The message of the BIKE card is a wonderful reminder of why we, as faculty and staff, are all here. THIS is why I come to work every day – to see our students fully realize their potential and create better lives for themselves and their families.believe

  • Believe in every student…for they have a dream.
  • Inspire every student to achieve their greatest potential.
  • Be Kind, for the smallest gesture of kindness could mean the difference in success or failure for that student.
  • Empower every student by taking action to help break down every barrier to success.

If you would like to nominate someone for the BIKE card, you may do so here. Thank you for helping me recognize and celebrate our LCCC team.

 

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Breaking Down Barriers to Success

I find myself speaking and writing quite a bit lately about Lorain County Community College’s strategic plan, Vision 2020, and that is because I am fully committed to guiding this institution on a path to successfully achieving this vision. When I accepted the presidency position, I also accepted the charge to enable LCCC to continue forging ahead with Vision 2020 as our guide. Literally thousands of voices from our community helped create this vision and I believe it has our College focused on the right priorities – those most needed by our community and our campus.

Vision 2020’s first strategic priority is to drive student completion for academic and career success. “Student completion” has become quite a buzzword within the higher-academic world, and this is because research has emerged that demonstrates that while community college enrollment numbers remain steady, graduation rates are low. As a way to counter this, community colleges across the country are placing a focus on improving what we refer to as “student completion” rates – essentially making sure students are earning the degree they are striving for when they first enroll. This is why our first strategic priority is focused on this specific area.

First and foremost, we are here to educate, but we also need to be here for our students to help them finish what they set out to do when they first step onto our campus. Seventy percent of our student population is enrolled part time, and many are non-traditional students – meaning they are not coming to us straight out of high school but at a later, and often more complicated life stage. Our students face challenges such as a lack of affordable child care, lack of reliable transportation, and an overall lack of resources to provide for their families. Many are balancing jobs with family commitments and school, and unfortunately school often becomes the last priority.

At LCCC, we are working to change this by addressing these barriers in order to help our students be successful. One program focused on this area recently received statewide recognition – SAIL, Students Accelerated in Learning, is modeled after a program called ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) that was implemented at the City University of New York (CUNY). LCCC was selected to pilot this program, along with three other community colleges in Ohio in partnership with MDRC, a national nonprofit education and social policy organization, and funded by a grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (Madison, Wisconsin), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping make college a reality.  The purpose of the pilot program was to determine if the CUNY model was transferable to community colleges in other parts of the country.

The SAIL program launched in 2015 and seeks to improve student success by addressing and removing barriers for low-income, first-time, full-time college students who are seeking to earn a degree. Students who were chosen to participate in the program received personalized advising and career planning advice, sponsored tuition, food gift cards, textbook vouchers and were required to take advantage of tutoring services offered by the college.

I was pleased to join Cynthia Arredondo, advisor, left; and students Dorisa Johnson and Anastacia Novosielski
I was proud to discuss the success of LCCC’s SAIL program in Columbus along with LCCC advisor Cynthia Arredondo, left; students Dorisa Johnson and Anastacia Novosielski.

The results thus far are promising and a few weeks ago I was invited to Columbus to attend a forum hosted by the Ohio Department of Higher Education to discuss SAIL’s success. One of our student advisors, Cynthia Arredondo, and students Dorisa Johnson and Anastacia Novosielski joined me and shared their personal experiences with the program. To date, 344 students have earned more college credit with higher grade point averages while continuing to make progress toward their degrees at a faster rate compared to a control group.

While SAIL’s metrics indicate we are on the right track, it is the personal stories of impact that are most remarkable. Last spring, we graduated the first three SAIL participants and all of them have gone on to pursue advanced degrees – two of which are now attending our University Partnership! Donna Atanasova was one of these graduates and SAIL could not have come at a better time for her. She came to LCCC after leaving her job of 21 years looking to earn a degree, but when she first enrolled at LCCC her grade point average was only 1.62. Thanks to SAIL, she brought that up to a 3.7 and became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. This semester she is a University Partnership student pursing her bachelor’s degree in accounting with Hiram College – right here on our campus. Read Donna’s Great Grad story from Commencement 2016.

Donna, right, holds flowers while being congratulated by her husband following LCCC's 2016 Commencement ceremony.
Donna and her husband, Zdravko Atanasov, following the LCCC 2016 Commencement ceremony.

Even though all of our students come to us with their own unique set of challenges, it is our job as an institution committed to providing access to higher education to find innovative ways to create pathways to success. For some students like Donna, the personalized advising and tutoring can make all the difference. For other students like Nacho, whose story I shared in this blog, help with transportation was all it took to set him up for success. We recognize that each student’s situation is different and by prioritizing this effort through Vision 2020, I am confident we can continue to find solutions to removing these barriers – because every student’s dream matters.

Today is a special day – 50 years ago, on October 3, 1966, Lorain County Community College opened its doors to our permanent campus. Many of you may not be aware that the history of community colleges dates back to 1947 when the Truman Commission had a vision of accessible and affordable post-secondary education. The League of Women Voters, along with local business and community leaders, spearheaded the movement to create our own community college. But it wasn’t until the residents of Lorain County voted to establish a tax levy, which continues to provide critical funding to this day, that Lorain County Community College became a reality. Lorain County Community College was granted a charter to serve Lorain County’s higher education needs on July 15, 1963.

The Morning Journal, Saturday, October 1, 1966.
The Morning Journal, Saturday, October 1, 1966.

Many people may not know that LCCC’s roots lie deep within the city of Lorain. Lorain City Schools gifted the Lorain School of Technology along with the Brownell Building, where classes were held for the College’s first two years. Who knew that this would be the start of a partnership between the College and Lorain City Schools that would last the next 50-plus years? In fact, the teachers from the School of Technology became LCCC’s first teachers.

Brownell School, the site of the first LCCC classes in 1964.
Brownell School, the site of the first LCCC classes in 1964.

The College had 1,006 students register for classes during the first year of operation, and the leadership at the time recognized that a larger, more permanent campus would soon be necessary. A committee studied 17 different locations during the winter of 1963-64, and the Abbe Road location prevailed as the most desired location that would be accessible to all in Lorain County.

Three families provided a total of 249 acres of farmland to the College, creating the opportunity for a permanent campus with room to grow according to the community’s needs. And grow we have! In 1966, the first three buildings opened their doors, staking Lorain County Community College’s place as Ohio’s first community college with a permanent campus. We have gone from a first graduating class of 33 students to more than 12,500 students enrolled this semester.

Our connection to the community runs deep – our roots lie within the heart of those who recognized the important role education can play in a region’s economic vitality. Since 2000, we have helped increase educational attainment in Lorain County by 21 percent for associate degrees, 29 percent in bachelor’s degrees and 49 percent in master’s degrees – far outpacing other counties in our region. The community had a vision 50 years ago, and the College has delivered.

But what makes Lorain County Community College so special is the people. Our students are motivated to work hard and improve their lives. Our faculty and staff are dedicated to going above and beyond to remove barriers to success. Lorain County is a special community – and its college has created a family who cares deeply about our future.

Ohio Historical Marker located near College Center.
Ohio Historical Marker located near College Center.

In some instances, the personal connections to Lorain County have persisted through generations. In fact, one of the families who provided part of the land for our campus is that of our very own Dean of Allied Health and Nursing, Dr. Hope Moon. The ripple effect of the hard work championed by those early leaders is also carried on throughout the community by our alumni. I recently learned that a strong leader and long-time champion and partner of the College was part of one of our first graduating classes. Mr. Paul Rigda retired (2015) Superintendent of the Elyria City Schools is a proud graduate of the class of 1968.

Paul graduated from Lorain High School and immediately enrolled at LCCC in 1966 – as one of the first students on our permanent campus. Paul continued his education, ultimately completing his bachelor’s in education from Kent State University and master’s degree in learning disabilities and behavior disorders, also from Kent State before embarking on a 43-year career in education.  What is truly remarkable about Paul’s story is that he was the first in his family to not only graduate from college, but from high school! Paul told me, “I got a great education – those two years were wonderful. Little did I know back in 1968 that this would be the beginning of a career that led me all the way to being Superintendent.”

Paul Rigda, LCCC alum and retired Superintendent of Elyria City Schools, received a resolution of gratitude from the LCCC District Board of Trustees during the 2015 LCCC Commencement ceremony.
Paul Rigda, LCCC alum and retired Superintendent of Elyria City Schools, received a resolution of gratitude from the LCCC District Board of Trustees during the 2015 LCCC Commencement ceremony.

LCCC helped Paul achieve his academic success, and we are so grateful that he later was instrumental in helping to launch Lorain County Early College High School, a collaboration between Lorain County Community College, Elyria City Schools and Lorain City Schools. This program provides a pathway for high school students who are first in their family to go to college to earn their associate degree simultaneously with their high school diploma. Talk about paying it forward. Paul is truly an inspiration and his story demonstrates how much positive impact access to quality education can have not only on one’s success, but also on an entire community.

As we celebrate this 50-year milestone, I hope that the generational connections to Lorain County Community College continue to grow. Those who were first in their families to attend college are now able to pass down the gift of knowledge to their own children. There are countless more stories like Paul and Hope that I enjoy sharing through this blog as a reminder of the importance of our work. This College truly was a gift from the people of Lorain County to future generations, and together we can continue our impact as we address the needs of our county.

The Power of Collaboration

As  the community’s college, Lorain County Community College is here to provide affordable education, training options and entrepreneurial guidance to everyone. We firmly believe that everyone’s dream matters and recognize that in order for us to fulfill our mission, we must work to remove the barriers preventing our students from reaching their goals.

In fact, Vision 2020’s first strategic priority is to Drive Student Completion for Academic and Career Success and it focuses on identifying ways to remove the barriers facing our students. The Chronicle Telegram recently brought to light one such barrier that continues to plague our students, our cities and our county – poverty. The September 15 article, County poverty rate dips ‘but still too bigpointed out that while Lorain County’s poverty rate declined from 14.8 percent to 13.5 percent from 2014-15, it has still not recovered to pre-Great Recession level of 12.5 percent. Perhaps most alarming is the fact that the city of Lorain’s poverty rate is 24.4 percent – 10 percent higher than the state of Ohio.

I see the impact of these poverty rates every day on our campus through the eyes of our students – many of whom are struggling to make ends meet while taking classes to try to improve their financial state. I have shared several student stories through this blog that bring to life how difficult it can be to be facing financial hardship while trying to achieve your goals. The College is addressing the issue internally through an initiative focusing on Closing Achievement Gaps of Under-Resourced Learners as part of Vision 2020. However, we know that we cannot solve this problem alone.

LCCC often serves as the convener regarding social issues, and our best work occurs when we bring organizations together to solve problems affecting Lorain County residents. Poverty is one of those issues that truly requires all hands on deck in order to make a difference.

The College recently joined forces with the United Way of Greater Lorain County and ten other partners across the nonprofit, government and education sectors to launch the WE3 Collaborative, which stands for Women Empowered, Educated and Employed. WE3 strives to help hard-working single mothers living in poverty increase their earning capacity to help them become economically secure and self-sufficient. Each partner plays a critical role in WE3’s success and together I am confident we can make a difference in the lives of these women, while working toward an even larger decrease in Lorain County’s poverty rate.

The work of the WE3 collaborative directly aligns with Vision 2020’s third strategic priority of Inspiring Community Engagement, Connectivity, Diversity and Wellness. Through this priority, the College is working to achieve several initiatives, including Impacting the Quality of Life of Under-Served Populations by expanding partnerships and programs that respond to the unique needs and opportunities of those most under-represented/under-served in our community. We are also working to Increase Community Capacity Building by partnering with others for community planning and problem solving through neutral convening to discover common ground and achieve collective impact. The WE3 collaborative embodies these initiatives and I am so proud LCCC is able to serve in a leadership role.

While creating new programs to address social issues is wonderful work, experience has taught me that it is the people behind these programs that truly give them meaning. Just last week, I had the opportunity to meet LaToya Miller, who was recently hired as the Project Coordinator for WE3.  LaToya commented that her “role embodies everything I represent as a woman and a mother – empowered, educated and employed.”

As a mother, I, too, understand the challenges of raising a family while going to school and working full time. When I pursued my MBA though the University Partnership program with Kent State University my daughters were in elementary and middle school, and later when earning my Ph.D. they were high school students.  I can only imagine how much harder this scenario becomes when financial hardship comes into play.

The heartfelt work of the WE3 Collaborative will continue to make a difference, along with other programs at the College striving to remove barriers to success. As an institution, our goal is to stay in touch with the needs of our community, allowing us to identify opportunities for new partnerships. This is how we harness the power of collaboration to create meaningful change for our students and community. There is so much for us to build upon here in Lorain County – and together we can help each student reach his or her potential. Because, after all, every student’s dream matters.

 

Click here for more information on WE3.

WE3 is made possible by the following partners:

  • Elyria Public Library
  • Lorain City Schools
  • Lorain County Community Action Agency
  • Lorain County Community College
  • Lorain County Department of Job and Family Services
  • Lorain County JVS
  • Lorain County Urban League
  • Oberlin College Bonner Center for Service and Learning
  • Oberlin Community Services
  • Ohio Means Jobs Lorain County
  • United Way of Greater Lorain County
  • YWCA of Elyria

Every Student’s Dream Matters

The beginning of the fall semester is my favorite time of year – as we welcome more than 11,000 students to campus, the halls are buzzing with anticipation of the year to come. To me, the start of a new semester represents a season of opportunity and growth. Our students come to us from all walks of life, and that diversity shines through all over campus. Our campus community comes to life as the semester kicks off, and I am so proud of how hard our faculty and staff work every single day to ensure we are meeting the needs of such a diverse student body.

Collectively, our faculty and staff create an environment where all are welcome. Inclusivity has always been one of Lorain County Community College’s points of pride, and our mission of “empowering individuals to succeed through quality education” stems from the belief that everyone deserves to have access to education.

While this concept is firmly embedded institutionally, I recently learned of two students who were deeply affected by certain LCCC employees who went above and beyond to ensure students can achieve their educational dreams.

The first story I would like to share is about a young man named Ignacio but he prefers to be called “Nacho.” Nacho was working with Lauren Beiler, a part-time advisor in Enrollment Services, who learned that he was walking quite a distance every day to and work and would be walking to LCCC this fall semester. Realizing that this lack of transportation could become a barrier to Nacho’s success, Lauren connected him with Espy Correa, a student success coach, and shared with her his dilemma. Espy immediately thought of a solution – that evening she went home and loaded up a bike that she had been planning to sell at a garage sale. Instead, she brought the bike to campus to present to Nacho. A week later, Nacho returned to campus and Espy surprised him with her thoughtful gift – she became a game changer for Nacho, removing a barrier with her own generosity.

At left, LCCC student, Nacho, stands with his new bike. At right, LCCC Success Coach Esperanza Correa.
Nacho, left, with the bike he received from LCCC Success Coach Esperanza Correa, right.

I believe that LCCC is a game changer for our students like Dorisa Johnson. She credits Dina Ferrer – the coordinator for our Lorain Learning Center, as her game changer. During high school, Dorisa had a rough time facing financial hardship and spending most of her time caring for her ill father, who later passed away. As would be expected, this experience had a profound impact on Dorisa, and she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. As she tried to figure out her path, Dorisa connected with Lorain County’s Employment Network, OhioMeansJobs, and the Lorain County Urban League. Through these organizations she was introduced to LCCC and Dina, who helped Dorisa enroll in her first college course and the GED program simultaneously. The staff and teachers motivated her to complete her GED and immediately enroll in additional LCCC courses.

Dina became Dorisa’s mentor, hiring her as a student worker and helping her navigate an educational pathway to reach her goals. She has now earned 49 college credits toward an associate’s degree in Medical Assisting and maintains a 3.1 G.P.A. When talking about Dina, Dorisa often mentions that she is like family and says, “She made me feel special, successful, and appreciated.”

LCCC student Dorisa Johnson and LCCC Lorain center coordinator Dina Ferrer.
LCCC student Dorisa Johnson and LCCC Lorain center coordinator Dina Ferrer.

I am so proud of our faculty and staff who are game changers for our students on a daily basis. There are countless more stories like these I could share because this is the nature of what we do here at LCCC. First and foremost, we make sure all of our students know that their dream matters. For those who are afraid to dream, we are here to help them see the possibilities.

Poet Langston Hughes wrote eloquently about the importance of dreams. I take his words to heart:

“Hold onto dreams
For if dreams die
Life is like a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”

Community – Our Middle Name

I believe that you can’t help to lead a community you don’t love, and you can’t love a community you don’t know. Having worked in this community for the past 25 years, what amazes me the most is the strong network created by our non-profit partners, philanthropic organizations, and educational institutions. The spirit of collaboration is alive and well in this community, and it is one of the qualities that I believe will help move the needle for economic mobility as residents increase their income.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Boys and Girls Club of Lorain County’s new Desich Family Campus. A partner of Lorain County Community College, the Boys and Girls Club provides an invaluable service to the youth in our community – often serving as the tipping point in helping young people choose a positive life path. The event celebrated the naming of a new facility after the Desich family, which brings yet another connection to LCCC. Dick Desich was a College Trustee for 34 years in fact, and has been a strong philanthropic supporter for many years. Dick spoke to the youth at the event and shared that he grew up in that same neighborhood. He challenged them to stay in the Boys and Girls Club and then enroll at LCCC. The bonus for those who persist – an LCCC scholarship funded by Dick Desich – to earn their degree.

One of the speakers at the ribbon-cutting was a remarkable young lady named Rosie Shepherd. Rosie was raised by a single mom, lived in extreme poverty, suffered through the loss of a close family member, and was victimized by a bully. She eventually landed at the Boys and Girls Club in response to her school principal’s suggestion after witnessing her negative behavior at school –certainly a normal reaction to her challenging life circumstances.

The Boys and Girls Club provided Rosie with a safe place to go after school and a caring staff who helped her discover her life’s purpose and deal with unknown medical issues. Today, Rosie has a bright future. She was recently recognized as the Boys and Girls Club of Lorain County’s Youth of the Year as well as the State of Ohio’s Youth of the Year due to her award-winning essay discussing the impact the Club’s impact on her life. Rosie advanced to the Mid-West Regionals in Chicago two weeks ago and now has plans to continue her education right here at LCCC this fall. Her goal – to teach fourth grade. Congratulations, Rosie!

Rosie’s ability to overcome the odds and launch a successful pathway to her future is remarkable. We’re committed at LCCC to help give the “Rosies” of our community the hope they need to build a better future. Fourteen percent of all families in Lorain County with children under 18 are headed by single female heads of households, and nearly half of these families live below the poverty level.

As the President of this community’s College, I feel a deep responsibility toward bringing awareness to the challenges facing our community, as well as identifying hopeful solutions. Research has shown that access to education can be a powerful factor in making a meaningful impact for those who are under-resourced. I take to heart the “community” in Lorain County Community College. After all, it’s our middle name.

I recently invited the College’s Administrative Leadership Team to spend the day with me exploring Lorain’s vibrant past. Our gracious and informative host was Barb Piscopo, Executive Director of the Lorain Historical Society, who led us through the city exploring its historic industrial past and ending with a look at the future. We spent time at El Centro with Executive Director Victor Leandry and his team to explore enhanced educational programs that more fully address the needs of our Latino community. Our day ended focused on high school students and the world of possibilities at the new Lorain High School. What an amazing facility, but more importantly a symbol of opportunity. I’m delighted that LCCC’s partnership with Lorain City Schools transcends to new levels at Lorain High through Titan College, which offers high school students the opportunity to graduate high school with both an associate degree and a high school diploma free of charge. The new high school will also be home to the LCCC Community Learning Center, designed to complement Titan College by providing community members with access to the courses and training they need to succeed in the 21st century. And of course, LCCC will continue to operate its City Center location in downtown Lorain with the goal of providing multiple educational locations as an added convenience for Lorain residents.

This enhanced partnership with Lorain City Schools demonstrates LCCC’s commitment to our community and the power of collaboration. I am so proud to be leading a College that holds tight to these values:

  • We are the community’s college
  • We are trusted by the community to educate, lead and inspire
  • We create a better, more sustainable future for our community

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I will close with one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Our Roots, Our Values, Our Community

One of the wonderful aspects about serving as Lorain County Community College’s President is having the opportunity to hear from members of our community in a variety of forums – through conversations with our community leaders, to grassroots events, to dedication ceremonies honoring philanthropic contributions intended to improve the lives of others. Well, this past week – in fact on Tuesday evening – I spoke with members of two very different families who have direct connections to Lorain County and our College.

The first family I spent time with was Dan and Mila Reaser and their two children, Danny and Shannon. Dan and Mila are from Lorain County, born and raised. They have deep-seeded roots here and have vested themselves in both our College and our community. All four of the Reasers have attended Lorain County Community College, seeking out courses that better prepare them to run their family business, a television reality show, The Outdoor Option. After launching and growing their first company, American Hood, the Reasers decided to sell it with the proceeds creating the Reaser Family Foundation in order to keep their philanthropic giving within the county lines.

The family recently took their commitment to our College a step further by making a significant donation to the Roy and Bobbi Church Visionary Leadership Institute. The LCCC Foundation honored this gift by dedicating the Reaser Grand Room on July 11, 2016. The naming of the Grand Room for the Reaser family was never about the fanfare; it was about inspiring others, now and in the future, to invest philanthropically in this college and our community.

Following the Reaser Grand Room dedication event, I traveled to the North Eaton Church for the Lorain County Farm Bureau Pork Chop Dinner Policy Development Meeting where I enjoyed a delicious dinner while meeting some local farmers. One gentleman, Ted Schriver, introduced himself and shared his family’s interesting story and multi-generational connection to Lorain County.

I learned that Ted is the son of the late Henry Haley Schriver, who was fondly known as the “Co-op Philosopher” thanks to his commitment to cooperative values. Ted shared with me that his father served in the Ohio House of Representatives 75th district working on issues near and dear to his heart – including bringing Lorain County Community College to this community.   Ted shared that his dad did all of this work while he was running his family’s dairy and fruit farm with his wife and 11 children, delivering a unique rhyme-inspired presentation to thousands across the country about leadership, and serving as the president of the Belden School Board which created Midview Schools.

As I begin my third week in my new role, I have been thinking about these two families, the Reasers and the Schrivers, realizing that one thing lies at the root of their success and their profound impact on our community – values. The Reaser family’s decision to give back and create their family foundation was driven by their family values of generosity and compassion. Henry Schriver’s legacy has crossed generational lines, instilling the values of love for your community, education, and leadership into his 40 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

Values represent the core of who you are – as a person, as a family, as a community and as an institution. Our community has undergone tremendous change during the past several decades, but the values of education, hard-work, innovation and commitment have not faltered. Lorain Countians are resilient, innovative, and dedicated. I am proud to be serving as a catalyst at Lorain County Community College to achieve our vision that empowers a thriving community by leading the charge to increase educational attainment, accelerating businesses and job growth and inspiring community engagement. This important work is supported by Lorain County Community College’s core values, as defined by our campus and greater community during the creation of Vision 2020:

  • We are the community’s college
  • We are trusted by the community to educate, lead, and inspire
  • We create a better, more sustainable future for our community

Feel free to tweet about what values you see reflected within our community @Lorainccc #LorainCCCValues and consider following me on Twitter @PresBallinger.

LCCC Proud

Welcome to my first Lorain County Community College President’s blog! I’m excited to share my thoughts with you and even more excited that you’ve taken the time to read this.

Today truly is a special day – a day that marks a new beginning not only for LCCC but also for me, both personally and professionally. I am writing this as I drink my first cup of Starbuck’s this morning and preparing to walk around campus.  As I step into the role of President, my schedule is taking on a life of its own – but there is important work to be done, and I am honored to be the catalyst as we move forward and build upon our rich foundation.

Our alumni, students, faculty and staff are building blocks of LCCC’s foundation, and each has points of pride about what our great College means to them. It’s ironic that as I was writing this blog, Professor Jeff Koleno stopped by my office to welcome me on my first day, and we quickly began reminiscing about our early days at the College when we first started together in 1991.  He talked about how proud he is to be an LCCC alum as he earned his associate’s degree from LCCC in 1982 and that if we had the University Partnership at that time he would have enrolled here.  I shared with him that had it not been for the University Partnership, I doubt that I would have pursued my MBA in 2000.  We’re both LCCC Proud of our roots!

Equally proud is North Ridgeville resident Thomas Vilevac, who enrolled at LCCC in 1964 and was a member of our first graduating class! Last month marked the 50th anniversary of this graduating class, whose ceremony was held on June 9, 1966 for 105 students.  I recently talked with Tom about his LCCC experience, and he commented that had it not been for LCCC he wouldn’t have had the great career he had in computer programming and database administration working in the manufacturing and banking sectors.

LCCC’s roots run deep throughout our community. During my time here, I have witnessed the power of collaboration, determination, and innovation. But one lesson that rises above the rest is what I have learned about the value of community. Your voice matters – and I look forward to hearing your thoughts as we work to achieve the goals outlined in Vision 2020. As we all embark on a new chapter this academic year, I hope you will help me discover new ways we can collaborate and broaden our impact.

As the year unfolds, I will be offering many opportunities for us to stay connected. For now, I hope you will consider subscribing to this blog by providing your email address as well as following me on Twitter @PresBallinger.  Tweet about your LCCC points of pride @LorainCCC #pointsofpride.