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

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

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.”