With warm regards this holiday season

As the holidays approach, I find myself reflecting on what truly matters.

Over the past year, I have seen our community come together as we navigate the future together. At Lorain County Community College, this includes our students, faculty and staff, as well as our collaborations with many public and private partners. Thank you for all you do to make our community a caring and vibrant place to live.

In the coming year, I encourage to you continue to care for one another and to live each day with gratitude and joy.

With warm regards,

Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D.
Lorain County Community College

Remembering 20 years since 9/11

For those of us old enough to remember, it’s a day frozen in time. September 11, 2001.
It’s one of those days that leaves a mark on your soul. You remember what you were doing, where you were and who you were with at the time the news broke that our country was under attack. For all of us, the day was marked with fear, shock and sadness and forever changed the way we view the world.

It’s now been 20 years since terrorists overtook four commercial flights, crashing the planes in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Two decades have passed since 2,977 innocent people lost their lives that day, yet the memories of that day never get easier. On that day we held our collective breath, worrying, wondering what would happen next.

And yet, in the midst of the tragedy, there was still a spark of the American spirit. That spark grew into a flickering flame and soon a raging fire as our country came together to heal, to hope and to move forward in the face of tragedy. When the chips were stacked against us, Americans across the nation came together with resolve and hope for our future. In the days, weeks and months that followed, we were one people: Americans. And we did what Americans do: we helped each other.

In the heartbreaking video footage of the chaos in New York City, we saw the terrified faces of people running away from the rubble – running for their lives, hoping to see their family and friends again. And we saw the brave faces of the first responders, those remarkable men and women who ran toward the collapsing buildings; those who knew the risk and went anyway. Among the 2,977 people who died that day were 441 New York City first responders. They died doing their job, but so much more. They died for the cause of helping others – they died heroes and our country remains indebted to them.

A popular quote from Mister Rogers reminds people in time of crisis to “look for the helpers” – the people who run toward tragedy to aid others. When I see the videos of the police officers, firefighters, paramedics and medical professionals who answered the call on 9/11, I think of the students I see here at Lorain County Community College in our first responder and health care programs, as well as the LCCC alumni who now serve our local communities. LCCC is the number one location in Lorain County for first responder training, and it’s a responsibility we take seriously. The students in classes this year are working toward their goal helping others, even when it may not be easy or convenient for them. The legacy of those lost on 9/11 lives on with those working and training in these vital fields.

As I remember that awful day and the week and months that followed the attacks, I’m reminded of the many other helpers who emerged during that time to help our nation cope. I think of the teachers and educators who comforted their students during a time when we all were grappling to understand the unfolding events. This also includes counselors, social workers and all those who make it their life’s work to improve life for others. These continue to be much needed roles in our community, and LCCC will continue to fulfill our mission by delivering the highest quality education that leads to well-prepared professionals that lift us all up.

Even with the passage of 20 years the memories of that day remain painful. There were many things the terrorists robbed us of in an instant. However, they were unable to take from us the basic qualities that make us Americans: resolve, resiliency and hope for a better future. As we face new challenges, I know our country will continue to grow and become better; just as we did in the days and months following 9/11. And I know our local communities are in good hands with the first responders, teachers, counselors and more who now stand ready to help us all, whatever each day may bring.

Lorain County Community College held a 9/11 remembrance event on Sept. 10, which included the unveiling of a Remembrance Display. The display includes blue flags in the shape of a star to represent the 2,977 people who tragically lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. At the center of the star are four lights, representing each of the four planes. Using augmented reality on smart devices, visitors of the display can project a semi-translucent image of the Twin Towers, which appear to rise more than 50 feet above the ground.

Translucence Twin Towers rise above a field with grass and blue flags
Augmented reality projects the image of the Twin Towers above the LCCC 9/11 Remembrance Display.
Blue flags in the foreground, Dr. Ballinger in red at podium, large american flag on building
9/11 Remembrance Display, from the ground
Aerial shot of flags arranged in a star
Aerial view of the 9/11 Remembrance Display
Police officers at 9/11 memorial event
Members of the Elyria Police Department
Dr. Ballinger speaks, wearing a red blazer, with American flag in background
I was honored to address the campus and community on this solemn occasion.

Welcoming Students to a New Academic Year

There is a level of excitement that accompanies the start of each fall semester. It is a time of hope, a time of possibilities. But it also offers a time for reflection. A time to consider where we are in life and where we hope to go. A time to think about the lessons we have learned and how to apply them in ways that allow us to move forward in positive and constructive ways.

I’ve heard people say that you must go through the darkness to grow into the light. That the challenging times are what make us stronger, more resilient, and more able to tackle whatever life throws our way. And from what I am seeing from our students, they are more than ready for their next chapter. And we are ready to help them be successful.

Our students have grit – proven by the fact that more than 11,000 Lorain County Community College and University Partnership are returning to campus this week to pursue their dreams. LCCC students don’t sit back and wait for things to change; they push forward to reach their goals, and we are here to support them on their journey to success.

Jamie Morrow struggled for years to finish her degree and reached her goal with support from LCCC’s Advocacy and Resource Center. After completing her associate degree, she set her sights on earning a bachelor’s degree and is currently enrolled in LCCC’s University Partnership program with Hiram College.  When asked about the lessons she hopes to instill in her children she said, “I hope they realize that no matter what mistakes you make, no matter how impossible a situation may seem, anything’s possible.”

Jamie Morrow wearing a black shirt
Jamie Morrow

Pablo Oquendo II was born with OCA2 (oculocutaneous albinism) with visual and hearing disabilities – as well as a fierce determination to achieve his goals. He earned at an associate of arts degree at the same time he graduated from Lorain High School in 2021 through LCCC’s College Credit Plus program. Along the way, he received support from his instructors at Lorain High and at LCCC, and also from LCCC’s Accessibility Services.

Pablo Oquendo II
Pablo Oquendo II

Like Jamie and Pablo, the LCCC students starting classes this semester are ready to work hard – and we are ready to support them. Our culture of care remains paramount to who we are as an institution and this past year has reaffirmed our deep commitment to meeting our students where they are.

So as we begin this fall semester, please join me in congratulating our students for their bravery, their dedication, and their willingness to step into the spotlight and focus on their education.

This is my video message I shared earlier today with LCCC students to welcome them to the new semester:

Commencement season is here – my favorite time of year! At educational institutions across the country, graduates are enjoying a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. As our country begins to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, those who achieved their goals during these trying times deserve extra praise and adulation.

At Lorain County Community College, we celebrated the class of 2021 with unforgettable tributes to our remarkable graduates. The graduating class includes 1,854 students earning 2,234 degrees and certificates, and an additional 365 graduates earning associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership – the largest class in the 25-year history of the program. The class of 2021 also includes 94 students who earned an associate degree during the same year that they are graduating from high school through the Lorain County Early College High School and College Credit Plus programs. What’s more, 46% of this year’s graduates are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

National and state leaders congratulate LCCC graduates

Our LCCC celebration kicked off virtually on May 15 with our 57th LCCC Commencement Ceremony. This streamed event featured keynotes by U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner. Having the nation’s and state’s senior higher education leaders speak directly to our students is an extraordinary testament to the fortitude and academic achievement of this year’s graduates.

In his highly personalized and heartfelt remarks, Dr. Cardona told LCCC graduates, “Go forward with courage, creativity and confidence.” It is sage advice for any graduate, and especially relevant for community college graduates at this moment in time.

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona
U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona

In reaching the milestone of graduation, our students demonstrated courage. They saw the opportunity of education and stepped boldly toward their futures. As they adapted to a new normal of zoom calls, virtual advising and so much more, they revealed a creativity that no other class in history has demonstrated. And by setting a goal and achieving it, they gained the confidence needed to tackle any challenge they may find ahead. In short, the class of 2021 is remarkably resilient and will make an impact on our world like no other.

Three graduates uniquely poised to impact our world are the first graduates of LCCC’s bachelor of applied science in microelectronic manufacturing (MEMS) program. In 2014, LCCC became the first community college in Ohio authorized to deliver an applied bachelor’s degree, and the only community college in the country to offer an applied bachelor’s in MEMS. Chancellor Gardner recognized this extraordinary milestone in his keynote remarks to the class.

“You are making history today,” Gardner said to the MEMS graduates. “To the class of 2021, congratulations on your emerging life of value as a college graduate.”

Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner
Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner

Students’ success inspires our community

As we celebrate the class of 2021, I’m inspired by our students’ stories, which are as diverse as the community we serve. There are traditional students who came to their community college after high school, like Akua Agyemang – who will transfer to Yale University in the fall. There are adult students who are creating a bright future for themselves and their families, like Sienna Wright; those who were laid off due to COVID and decided to take advantage of retraining programs, like Gregory Stocker. And students who decided it was time that their career aligns with their passion, like Lyn Bruno. Each of these students came to LCCC with their own goals. By meeting them where they were, our LCCC faculty and staff were able to help them get where they want to be.

Clockwise from top left: Akua Agyemang, Sienna Wright, Lyn Bruno and Gregory Stocker
Clockwise from top left: Akua Agyemang, Sienna Wright, Lyn Bruno and Gregory Stocker

Doors of Opportunity open to bright futures

In honor and celebration of our diverse graduates and their accomplishments, LCCC built a large-scale public recognition display we call the Doors of Opportunity. These 21 full-sized doors line a grassy median stretching nearly 450 feet – longer than a football field. Every propped-open door bears a different word, symbolizing the unique journey each LCCC student took to reach graduation day.

LCCC's Doors of Opportunity
LCCC’s Doors of Opportunity

By walking through the door, students not only found the right opportunity on LCCC’s campus, but the support and confidence to lead them into the next chapter of their lives. Every door includes an augmented reality video that shares the personal story of a graduate from each academic program. This innovative tribute celebrates each student’s resilient journey to become a college graduate. Many of our students face incredible challenges, and I’m honored that LCCC was there to help them reach their goals with services and support, delivered with an ever-present focus on equity.

With the graduation of the Class of 2021, LCCC is now 55.3% of the way toward achieving Vision 2025 strategic plan goal of 10,000 individuals earning degrees and certificates by the year 2025. These graduates are more prepared than ever to carve out their path in a new and changing world. Earning a college credential is a reliable way to move up the socio-economic ladder. With nearly half of our Class of 2021 graduates the first in their families to earn a college degree, the future of Lorain County and our entire region is looking brighter than ever.

Watch Secretary Cardona’s full keynote to the LCCC Class of 2021.

Watch Chancellor Gardner’s full keynote to the LCCC Class of 2021.

April is Community College Month, providing a moment to broadly share the important impact of our nation’s community colleges.

Lorain County Community College was founded in 1963 to provide access to higher education for every person in Lorain County, regardless of their educational attainment or socioeconomic status. During the past 58 years, LCCC has impacted one in four Lorain County residents, equivalent to more than 50 percent of households, and conferred more than 50,000 degrees. And a recent focus on expanding high school dual enrollment through College Credit Plus has led to 43 percent of Lorain County high school seniors graduating with LCCC college credits, saving families $4.5 million in tuition during 2020.LCCC Community College Month

As we celebrate National Community College month, I’d like to share what I believe makes LCCC, and other community colleges throughout our nation, so essential to creating a vibrant community. While our open access policy is a fundamental component of community colleges and has contributed to our large-scale impact on Lorain County families, it is the depth of our integration into local communities that sets our type of institution apart.

LCCC has maintained at its core, a student-centered philosophy. This means, that instead of expecting students to be “college ready” we focus on being “student ready” and meeting students where they are. This same approach also exists at the core of our work within the community. Whether creating partnerships with local non-profits or building a network of employers to help design relevant and effective academic programs to meet talent needs, we approach this work by also meeting companies and organizations where they are. Collectively, this has woven LCCC throughout the fabric of our community. In fact, I love to point out that “unity” is at the heart of “community” in Lorain County Community College. Unity is in our name, in our work, and in our hearts.

This sustaining impact on our county has been made even more profound during the trials of the past year. While the coronavirus pandemic has kept us physically distant for more than a year, LCCC has helped to maintain our community’s togetherness and move our region forward. In this era of rapid change, we found new ways to deliver classes, connect with community organizations and provide pathways to economic recovery for those hit hardest by the pandemic and economic crisis. In essence, we have met the community where they are – blending our culture of rapid adaptation with our culture of care to best address these evolving needs.

Locally, like many regions in the country, the most pressing need centers around solutions to COVID-19 related job loss. Our response was to work with industry and quickly scale up our Fast Track training program, which has helped many people, like Simone Yalanty, find new hope.Simone Yalanty leans on a railing on the LCCC campus

The Fast Track program focuses on in-demand fields such as business, computer and information technology, healthcare and manufacturing – well-paying industries with projected job growth in the coming years. Students are able to quickly retrain for a new career, earn a short-term certificate and make important connections with employers looking to hire – all in 16 short weeks and tuition free.

Over the course of the past year, more than 400 people earned credentials through the Fast Track program. And nearly half of those people are continuing their education with LCCC or the University Partnership. This program, and others like it are already making an impact on Lorain County’s workforce.

Just like Fast Track is designed with the end goal of sustainable employment in mind, our University Partnership helps local residents earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees with significant cost savings – often averaging $74,000 in savings. With more than 100 programs offered through 14 partner colleges and universities, the University Partnership has successfully raised the educational attainment in Lorain County since 1995. And this May, we will honor the first graduates of our applied bachelor’s degree in Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems.

Ingenuity and the ability to quickly adapt are hallmarks of LCCC and of our region. By listening to the true needs of our community, we have learned much, with still more ground yet to cover. But as we begin to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, I feel hopeful. Our community is reshaping its future, making purposeful changes in a forever-altered world. I pledge that LCCC will continue to serve as a leader and catalyst to help our students, our economy and entire community emerge stronger and better.

February is Black History Month and as I spend these weeks remembering, reflecting, listening and learning about the many leaders in our history, I am even more solidified in Lorain County Community College’s commitment to support Black students, and all underrepresented groups, as we strive for equity in all we do.

It’s LCCC’s promise to stand firm to challenge injustice in all forms and to facilitate positive change within our community. This process begins at home, with our own students, faculty, staff and administrators. It’s work we have been doing for years, and I am proud of the progress we have made thus far. I also acknowledge there is still much to be done.

Striving for Equity

Guiding LCCC in our pursuit of equity is Achieving the Dream (ATD), the nation’s most comprehensive organization in advancing student success and equity. LCCC joined ATD in 2011 and is one of only 11 colleges to earn ATD’s Leader College of Distinction status. In 2020, LCCC was named the Leah Meyer Austin winner, ATD’s top prize reserved for network colleges that show greatest, sustained improvements in student outcomes and student success. Through working with ATD, LCCC has made great strides in narrowing equity gaps for students in underserved populations.

Each February, ATD hosts the DREAM Conference, a convening of more than 300 member colleges that allows us to come together to share successes, learn from challenges, and get inspired through student stories. This year, a student who shared her remarkable story was LCCC’s own Nikita Johnson. Nikita was named a 2021 DREAM Scholar – just one of eight students in the country to receive this honor.

Nikita’s story is one of resilience, struggle, power and beauty. A single mother to four children, Nikita is breaking the cycle of poverty for herself and her family through education. She’ll earn her associate of arts this May and will continue through LCCC’s University Partnership with Youngstown State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. Watch the video at the end of this post to learn more Nikita via her autobiographical poem “I am from.”

By drawing on her own strength and resolve, Nikita came to her community college to reach her goal of improving her circumstance. It was through LCCC’s Equity Team that Nikita found her voice and a passion for sharing her story as a way to help others. The Equity Team includes faculty, staff and students who work to ensure that LCCC’s commitment to equity is achieved through improving success for students from marginalized and underrepresented populations.

Learning from the data

The Equity Team is one way we are tapping into the voice of students as we fulfill the college’s mission to serve all people of Lorain County. That mission goes back to LCCC’s founding in 1963; however, it was in 2011 that we began to truly understand the need to shift our focus to the big picture of equity, campus culture and student success. It was then that LCCC joined Achieving the Dream and began to dive deeply into student data, dissecting from all angles and applying a lens of equity.

Through this process, we discovered significant achievement gaps between minority students and white students. Not only were Black and African American students not earning degrees at the same rate as their white peers, they were also not persisting from semester to semester in the same ways.

Seeing those statistics was a lightbulb moment for our institution. Once the data illuminated the inequities, we became laser-focused on addressing them. The more we peeled back the data, the more obvious it became that it was time to completely rethink how we approached student success. As a response, we turned our campus culture upside down. Instead of waiting for students to be college-ready, we became a student-ready college.

Shifting our culture

This new mindset led to a holistic model of student services that fosters student success. We rebuilt academic pathways, redesigned our advising model, and focused on building wrap-around services that support the whole student. We call it our Culture of Care. And it’s working.

In the decade since that initial dive into the data, graduation attainment for LCCC’s Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx students has nearly quadrupled. Across the board, students in all demographics are now graduating at more than twice the volume they were 10 years ago.

A major component in closing equity gaps is the expansion of LCCC’s College Credit Plus (CCP) and dual enrollment programs for Lorain County high school students. These popular programs allow high school students to earn college credit at no cost to their families– with many easily accessible options including college classes taught inside local high schools. The CCP and dual enrollment programs are so successful that last year 43 percent of all Lorain County high school graduates earned LCCC credit before they graduated high school. That includes nearly 25 percent of Black/African American high school graduates and 26 percent of Hispanic/Latinx graduates.

That early touch point builds momentum for students – many who are the first in their family to attend college. In fact, 85 percent of Lorain County high school graduates who earned LCCC dual enrollment credit continued in higher education (compared the national average of 70 percent of high school students who immediately enrolled in college) – including 27 percent who continued with LCCC after high school.

As an ATD Leader College of Distinction and the 2020 Leah Meyer Austin award winner, I am proud of the progress LCCC has made in closing equity gaps. But we won’t stop here. I am committed to continually evolving our Culture of Care, with a focus on equity and student success. This means actively listening to our students and understanding the barriers they face. And it means we must continue to honestly and openly talk with our students and community, even in difficult discussions.

I’m so proud of how far LCCC has come in the past decade. It’s humbling to lead a community college where faculty and staff demonstrate unprecedented level of compassion and care for our students. We are helping to make every student’s dream real, now and for decades to come.


Remarkable Resilience

As we begin a new semester at Lorain County Community College and a new calendar year, many are anxious to close the door on 2020 and return to “normal.” While I agree that last year presented a number of challenges that we continue to face, this is also a time of great discovery. Albert Einstein said, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.” This year we have come together in new ways to meet unprecedented challenges. In doing so, we have created innovative opportunities and solutions. So, instead of a “return to normal,” I am optimistic and energized about a new, better future ahead.  This level of enthusiasm comes from the remarkable resilience I’ve witnessed from our students, our campus and our community.

Learning by Listening

With so much noise in the world right now, one of the most powerful actions we can take is to actively listen to those we serve. Listening allows us to not only determine how we can best fulfill our values to educate, adapt, lead and inspire; it allows us to reflect upon what has enabled our students and our community to persevere.

The resiliency of our students is inspiring, but it’s not surprising. LCCC students have bold goals and they have grit – that special strength of character that allows a person to dig deep during the most trying times and persist. Over and over again, our students break barriers and move boldly to determine their own futures. For some, that means changing plans in order to stay safe and save money in uncertain times. For other students, it means seeking career training in a new field after losing their job or juggling the role of mother, student and employee all at once. Whatever the circumstances that bring students to their community college, all have the opportunity to continue their education to earn a bachelor’s or a master’s degree from LCCC’s University Partnership.

The grit our students show is astonishing, however, grit alone is not required to find success at LCCC. Helping students break barriers is in our DNA. That’s why we made strategic changes based on direct student feedback, identifying the challenges that are impeding their academic progress – such as food insecurity and mental health needs. So, we extended hours and increased virtual appointments for both the Advocacy and Resource Center and the Commodore Cupboard food pantry. With the help of our community, we expanded the availability of emergency aid for students. Additionally, I’ve committed that every student will have access to the technology they need for their classes. These measures and more are working, as we see students persist from semester to semester, even during a global health crisis.

Mission Moments

What’s more, many students are shining their resilient lights outward into our community, lifting spirits and bringing hope in dark times. Students in LCCC’s Psi Beta psychology honor society spread kindness and joy to residents of a local nursing home. Recent nursing graduate Alexis Costello warmed the hearts and hands of those in need through a glove donation drive. And countless other students donated to food and clothing drives. I call these acts of caring “mission moments” – the true embodiment of LCCC’s mission in action. These students used their grit to continue their own education and found the strength of character to uplift others in need, doing their part to create a vibrant community.

Here’s more about Psi Beta’s mission moment:

Reimagining LCCC

Over the past year I have listened to our students through virtual coffee chats, surveys and open forums designed to check in and identify ways we can improve as an organization. However, I recognize that while our students are an extension of our community, there are many others that we serve in different ways that we hold equally close such as our community partners, local employers and citizens.

When I became president of LCCC in 2016, I leaned in hard on this conviction:
You can’t lead a community that you don’t love, and you can’t love a community that you don’t know.

I believe the best way to get to know a community is to ask questions. At the start of the pandemic, we reached out to each student to assess their needs. Based on their feedback, we were able to build or expand services to support them. Now, as we move past the emergency response phase, we rely again on our most basic principle: listening to our community to understand how to best serve their changing needs and help seize opportunities that will make our community stronger.

For this purpose, I reopened our strategic visioning process in a phase we call Reimagining LCCC. We last updated LCCC’s strategic plan in 2019 – just two years ago. But it is clear, given the events and accelerated change of the last 10 months, it was time to reconnect and better understand how this moment in time can and will shape our future. During the past three months, we hosted 54 Reimagining listening sessions with more than 500 stakeholders, including students, employees, community and industry partners and citizens. Each provided important feedback on how Lorain County Community College can best fulfill our mission as the community’s college going forward. This process will continue with a refreshed vision and plan emerging later this spring.

Listening and responding to our community’s needs is who we are; it’s why we were founded as the first community college in Ohio in 1963. For nearly 60 years, the college has delivered on that promise, through the most prosperous times as well as the most challenging times. It is my promise that LCCC will continue to listen, adapt and act to prepare us for the best and brightest future we can imagine.

Season of Compassion

This Thanksgiving season, I want to take a moment to reflect upon this past year that has been filled with acts of kindness, collaboration, perseverance, innovations, and most of all – compassion.

I encourage each of us to look for the shining lights, acts of kindness that bring out the best of our community, our students, and our campus. Together, we will make it through stronger than before.

And throughout it all, you can count on your community college – Lorain County Community College.

Celebrating nurses in 2020 and beyond

There are some things in life that are meant to be. The designation of 2020 as the Year of the Nurse is one of those things. Even before the coronavirus pandemic struck in early 2020, this year was designated as the Year of the Nurse by the World Health Organization in honor of the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Nightingale revolutionized the nursing world with a focus on the patient experience and delivering medical care to the highest standards. While medical technology has advanced considerably over the past two centuries, what has remained constant is the need for high quality-health care in our communities, and for local people to have access to education programs in healthcare fields.

The need for local nurses

Providing our region with top-notch nursing programs close to home was so important to our community that when Lorain County Community College was founded in 1963, nursing degrees were among the first programs offered. Over the years, thousands of local residents have earned nursing credentials from LCCC, including the associate degree in nursing (RN), Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA). Our LCCC programs are delivered by world-class faculty members who are experts in their field, including 60% of LCCC full-time nursing faculty members with a doctoral degree.

Additionally, LCCC’s University Partnership delivers advanced degrees in nursing from Ohio universities, including Ohio University (RN to BSN), Youngstown State University (bachelor’s in allied health), and Western Governor’s University (RN to BSN, and several options for master’s degrees in nursing). These programs from LCCC and the University Partnership are tailored to meet the needs of local hospitals and healthcare organizations, leading to a high employment rate for LCCC graduates.

In fact, in just the last 10 years, more than 2,400 people have earned nursing degrees from LCCC. And because 85% of all LCCC graduates live and work in the region, the students trained on our campus become the nurses serving our community. Each day, LCCC nursing alumni answer the call to help their friends, family, neighbors and strangers navigate some of the most challenging health issues. This is true every year, but it is especially true this year, the Year of the Nurse and the year of COVID-19. Here is a video we created to thank our healthcare workers and first responders and show support during these trying times.

Nursing students adjust to changes

As the pandemic rages on, nurses have continually sacrificed themselves in service of others. And it’s the nurses who are coming up in the field – those who are taking on their training with the knowledge of what lies ahead – for whom I feel the utmost gratitude. To see our current healthcare crisis and feel compelled to step up to the challenge is truly remarkable.

Not only do LCCC’s nursing students face a career path that is evolving daily, they also are navigating an education landscape that changed overnight due to the pandemic. In the face of these changes and so many more, our LCCC nursing students have doubled down on their resolve to help others through their education in the nursing field.

Danielle Wagner was in her final semester of the LCCC nursing program when the pandemic hit Ohio full force in March. Despite changes to the delivery of her classes, Danielle felt an urge stronger than ever to complete her degree and help others during this trying time. Danielle graduated in May 2020 with her associate degree in nursing as part of the largest graduating class in the history of LCCC.  She passed her state exams soon after and is now working in her dream career at University Hospitals’ main campus in the neuro ICU stepdown unit. Earning her nursing degree at LCCC was challenging, but she says her professors pushed her to be the best and she is now applying those skills to help patients every day.

Danielle Wagner shows off her graduation cap
Danielle Wagner earned her associate degree in nursing in May 2020

Danielle was one of 91 nursing students to earn their associate degree in May 2020. The graduating class also included Yecenia Rivera, who followed in the footsteps of her son, Anthony, who earned his nursing degree in December 2019. With decades of experience at various levels of nursing, Yecenia was excited to continue her life’s passion of caring for others. Beginning a healthcare career during a pandemic wasn’t a concern for Anthony. In fact, he says he’s thriving as an RN at Mercy Hospital in Lorain, where he has been working since March.

Yecenia Rivera and her son Anthony in their graduation caps and gowns
Yecenia Rivera and her son, Anthony

Current LCCC nursing student Carys Trubach also said the pandemic has shown her she chose the right career. Carys is on track to graduate in December and she can’t wait to get to work. She aspires to work in oncology, bringing relief and care to cancer patients. Thinking about her career, she says, “I look forward to helping patients each day through their hardest days.”

Carys Trubach in a graduation robe
LCCC nursing student Carys Trubach

Students like Danielle, Yecenia, Anthony and Carys have great role models throughout their education. The LCCC nursing faculty has worked around the clock to maintain the highest standards while observing COVID regulations for class sizes and social distancing. Our faculty members have proven to be role models outside the classroom, as well. In March, LCCC paramedic instructor and LCCC nursing graduate AJ Gray left the safety of her home and traveled to New York City, where she worked for two weeks in a field hospital helping COVID-19 patients.

As this unforgettable year nears a close, we look to the future as nearly 90 new RNs will graduate from LCCC in December. These resilient students will enter the workforce well prepared and more determined than ever to make a positive impact in our community. The future is unknown, but the stories of these brave women and men give me hope. I know that no matter what challenges lie ahead, our community will continue to rely on skilled nurses to keep us healthy and safe – and LCCC will continue to provide the education that prepares those nurses for their careers.

To learn more about how Northeast Ohio is celebrating the Year of the Nurse, visit the web page hosted by Case Western Reserve University. The page includes a new blog posted each day from a local nurse, including many LCCC graduates and current students.

Recent months have brought rapid change in nearly every area of life, work, and education. And while it can be easy to focus on the challenges, I find it is important to pivot to the positive. In this age of acceleration, Lorain County Community College is proving to be more adept than ever at serving the evolving needs of the community and our local economy.

A path to economic recovery

One of the many ways we do this is through certified apprenticeships and Earn and Learn models. These customized programs are developed through close partnerships with local industry and allow students to earn a wage and gain job experience while they complete their credentials. As the workforce reels from layoffs brought on by the pandemic, many students cannot afford to delay earning a paycheck while they retrain for a new career and these programs meet that need.

Students post by an ambulance.
Students in Ohio’s first paramedic apprenticeship delivered by LCCC.

LCCC’s employer relationships are especially important in our country’s current financial climate, as many people find themselves needing to retrain for a new career. A recent column in the New York Times highlighted community colleges’ role in economic recovery, with employer partnerships representing a critical piece of the puzzle. Community colleges can and must bridge the gap to train a new workforce, partnering with employers and innovators to train workers for careers that meet local needs and pay good wages. At LCCC, this is one of the things we do best.

Celebrating Manufacturing Month

As we begin Manufacturing Month, LCCC is celebrating more than 20 years of successful apprenticeship programs with local industry, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors and the United Auto Workers union (UAW). We also celebrate many new apprenticeships and Earn and Learn programs that are changing the way students train and the way companies recruit talent. In the past year alone, LCCC has developed new apprenticeships in several manufacturing areas, including masonry technology, pipefitting and boiler making.

Many of our programs connect students to careers with employers in the Lorain County Manufacturing Sector Partnership (LCMSP). This employer-led group is growing the talent pipeline while increasing opportunities for job-seekers. To highlight the many benefits of manufacturing careers, LCCC is partnering with LCMSP for a virtual Manufacturing Month event for students and adults on October 22.

Manufacturing and beyond

Expanding the idea of apprenticeships beyond manufacturing careers is of utmost importance as our region navigates the current economic climate. To best serve additional students and the local economy, LCCC is trailblazing new focus areas for apprenticeships, such as health care and computer information systems. In fact, just this semester LCCC launched Ohio’s first paramedic apprenticeship with LifeCare Ambulance, Inc.  In 2019, we introduced the state’s first State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA) apprenticeship.

LCCC is a trailblazer in many areas, and our Earn and Learn model is no different. LCCC delivers Ohio’s first and only microelectronic manufacturing (MEMS) applied bachelor’s degree offered by a community college, as well as associate degree and certificate programs, with paid internships serving as a key component of the curriculum. The college also offers Earn and Learn programs in automation engineering technologies and cyber and information systems. Each program gives students the opportunity to make meaningful connections with local employers who are looking to hire skilled workers, and many students are hired full time by those same employers upon graduation.

Earn and Learn programs can be life-changing experiences for students. MEMS student Corbet Keith landed a full-time job in the MEMS field while still enrolled in his associate degree program. And tool and die apprentice Louis Bernard discovered his passion for learning through LCCC’s partnership with Elyria Plastic Products.

The roots of apprenticeship and manufacturing run deep in Lorain County, and LCCC is proud to help advance manufacturing throughout the 21st century. Through apprenticeships, Earn and Learn, and other partnerships with local employers, we will continue to develop programs that benefit students, businesses, and the local economy.