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 big’ pointed 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.
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