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.
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.
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.