Community College

Where Were They Then? (Success Stories Series)

(Source:  Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges,

The list below tells us where the successful alumni are now, but it also indicates the two-year colleges where they began their careers.  It is unlikely (although possible) that when Eduardo Padron entered Dade County Junior College, he said “One day I’ll be President of Miami-Dade Community College.” Or, that Gwendolyn Brooks said “One day I’ll be the nation’s Poet Laureate.”  But, that is where they are now.

Everyone has to start someplace.   The old saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” is true for all of us.  The “Notable Two-Year College Alumni” list shares with us that first step and where they were well into their journey.

Where are you?

Notable Two-Year College Alumni:
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner, Wilson Junior College
  • Eileen Collins, NASA Astronaut, Corning Community College
  • Jennifer Dearman, Intelligence Officer for the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas
  • Steve Francis, Professional Basketball Athlete, San Jacinto Community College
  • Fred Haise, NASA Astronaut, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
  • Tom Hanks, Oscar-winning Actor, Chabot College
  • Queen Latifah, Rapper and Actress, Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Jim Lehrer, National News Anchor, Victoria College
  • James McLean, State Representative, Arkansas State University Mountain Home
  • Kweisi Mfume, President/CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Community College of Baltimore
  • Captain Scott Moore, Pine Bluff Fire Department, Southeast Arkansas Community College
  • Eduardo Padron, President of Miami-Dade Community College, Dade County Junior College
  • Dr. Susan Patton, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, East Arkansas Community College
  • Nolan Ryan, Major League Baseball Athlete, Alvin Community College
  • Deborah Wieneke, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Benton County, NorthWest Arkansas Community College

From a “Writing Program” to Writing Books (Success Stories Series)

(reprinted from “Featured Alumni” at Pima Community College’s web site, 6.13.2011)

Nancy Turner

Nancy Turner’s name may be familiar to you as a Southern Arizona writer.  With four published novels, Nancy’s career is soaring.  An older student, Nancy says she never dreamed she could become a published writer, but her teachers at Pima [Pima Community College, Tucson AZ] gave her the belief in her ability and the courage to go for it.

Her first novel, These Is My Words, set in and around Tucson in the 19th Century, was published in 1998 while Nancy was earning her AA degree at the College.

She went on to earn a BFA at the University of Arizona while working on her second novel, The Water and The Blood, set in Texas and California during WWII.  Nancy is effusive in her praise of Pima’s writing program and “gives back” by periodically teaching at a writing workshop on writing and researching the historical novel.

Changing Careers at Any Age …

(reprinted from Schenectady County Community College AlumNews, Spring 2010)

After five decades in preclinical lab research, managing clinical trials, screening drugs, and collecting and processing data, JoanDembinski ’09 traded her business suit for a chef ’s hat and began attending SCCC as a full-time student in the Culinary Arts program. She graduated in May 2009 with an Assistant Chef Certificate in Culinary Arts. Having not had enough, she is back and working on her Associate in Occupational Science degree Culinary Arts, with a Baking concentration.

Joan has been interested in cooking since she was a child at the elbow of her mother in the kitchen. Joan says she is thrilled to have the transition from a business “where people needed medicine” to one where “people need to have good nutrition and meals.” The human relations aspects of both fields excite Joan, as do the intricacies of safety and sanitation.

Retirement is not a word in her vocabulary. Going back to school at age 71 is a challenge for anyone. “The first week I felt as if a train hit me,” she said. But she added that the transition has also been inspiring. “To come to SCCC as an older person, I found and enjoyed a welcoming atmosphere. Diversity is not only cultivated at SCCC, it flourishes. My experience after 50 years away from academia keeps me focused and thankful for the time spent at a wonderful school.”

Joan shares her testimonial about her love for the Culinary Arts program. “Without the excellent training and support from the superb instructors at SCCC, I would not be continuing on this pathway. They have opened up avenues of research, and continu- ing excitement in discovering ways to prepare and present nutri- tional meals. The dedication and care in which subject matter is presented is significant. Remembering and implementing skills brings a quiet smile as I remember the words and helpful hands from a caring chef….my thanks abound!”

Now in her sixth semester, Joan has earned a 3.99 GPA. She works as a member-worker at Honest Weight, a food co-op in Albany, and at Yono’s Restaurant. Rather than taking advantage of scholarship money available to senior citizens, Joan pays her tuition and donates to the College’s scholarship fund.

“I’m enjoying my journey. Whatever the destination, it is irrelevant. Follow your dreams. Do what you love to do.” And, as her mother once told her, “never stop learning.”

Higher Education is “Hot in Cleveland”!

by Dr. Mark Giuliano

Why Cleveland Rocks

Looking for a job with great pay and future security? Don’t want to miss out on America’s economic recovery? Then a post-high school education should be a part of your plan. Take a look at what is happening in Cleveland, Ohio right now.

It’s no coincidence that today Cleveland is considered America’s comeback city.  Huge investments and developments in higher education, and students willing to capitalize on them,  have helped Cleveland garner such accolades as the Nation’s Medical Capital, Top 10 Metro Region for Economic Recovery in the U.S. (49th internationally) and Number Two for Growth in Manufacturing jobs.

The Nation’s Medical Capital

Cleveland’s growing prominence as the nation’s hub for medical research and treatment has driven-up the demand for high-tech workers throughout North East Ohio.  And it’s not just physicians who are needed but skilled medical professionals. The demand for technicians and medical assistants to billing specialist and health care managers are energizing schools like Cleveland State University (CSU) and Cuyahoga Community College (TRI-C) to offer a bevy of world class health care and medical technology courses and programs, as well as offer grants and other funding opportunities to motivated students.

The renowned Cleveland Clinic, Metro-Health, and University Hospitals and the health care industry in general account for the second largest gross regional product (GDR) in North East Ohio, and one of the highest industries for employment.  Whether it’s a specialty certification, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, post-high school training is the key to unlocking a career in health care today.

High-Tech Manufacturing Jobs in the City that Rock and Roll Built

Not to be outdone by the medical industry, however, manufacturing is still the largest contributor to the GDR and it is partially responsible for the recent rise in employment levels in North East Ohio.  In 2010, Cleveland added another 4900 manufacturing jobs to the region.  A GED or high school diploma isn’t going to put you into one of these high-paying professions, however.  New manufacturing jobs in Cleveland tend to be to be of the high-tech variety.  In fact, the term “job” may not even fit anymore. The needs in manufacturing are for professionals who hold “occupations” – high-tech machine and computer operators, for example, or bio-medical designers, engineers and manufacturers.

In part, post-high school education is driving Cleveland’s economic success and growing standard of living.   It should be driving yours, too!

Mark Giuliano is the Senior Pastor of the Old Stone Church on Public Square and is a member of the Downtown Cleveland Improvement Corporation. He blogs at

Second Chances

There are many people out there who did start college (at varying levels) but did not complete the degree program. The following article discusses students who took the leap and returned to school. Colleges are giving returnees the opportunity to finish what they started. Perhaps this article is talking about you?

Click here to read article.

Can’t Find a Parking Space?

Community Colleges continue to find creative ways to expand their availability.  In a previous post (“Need Flexibility?” 2.1.10), I listed how Community Colleges were scheduling midnight and early morning classes to accommodate the growing student population.

A recent article in “The Chronicle of Higher Education” details the efforts of Wake Technical Community College to meet the needs of its community by holding afternoon classes.  The article states: “Open only to recent high-school graduates who intend to attend full time and transfer to four-year institutions, the program will guarantee admission to required courses and allow for three-day weekends.”  What this means is, the morning and evening classes that were accommodating the Non-Traditional Student’s (NTS) work and family obligations were congested with traditional students.  This change alleviates the congestion allowing more availability for the NTS.

If you had planned to take a class, but were discouraged by waiting lists and parking problems, check with your local Community College and see if there have been any recent changes.  They are doing their best to help you with your decision to return to school!

Click here for full article.

What do “they know?”

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

My previous blog entry, dated 5.3.10, discussed what “I can’t” really means, i.e. usually “I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how.” But what about when someone says “You can’t”? Does that translate to them as “They don’t want to” or “They don’t know how”? I’m not so sure about that.

My own personal experience, and the experience of those whom I have interviewed is, “They don’t want YOU to.” When you go against what has been accepted in your circles, you are expanding the rules of acceptability. (see blog entry dated 2.15.10, “Breaking the Cycle”) If you go to college, and they haven’t, they may wonder, “What does that say about them?” But, you cannot live your life for other people. Those other people are not inside your head.

You have your own dreams and goals. You have your own curiosities. Sometimes you need to forge ahead with blinders on so that you do not see the actions of those on the periphery. Maybe you just want to take one course to see if you can do it. That is a challenge you have laid down for yourself. Maybe one course will answer your questions. Maybe one course will raise even more questions.

The fact remains that your life is lived by you. Those other people are merely looking on. However, who knows? Your simple, yet brave, example may be the catalyst others need to take the plunge themselves. That would be a nice byproduct of your new venture, but certainly cannot be the central reason. Do it for you. Do it because you can.

I Can’t

By Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Have you ever said to yourself, “Maybe I’ll go down to the Community College and take a couple of courses this year”? Often this thought occurs as a New Year’s resolution. Sometimes signing up for a course over the summer, or on-line, seems like a good idea. Then, it hits. The mother of all obstacles: “I can’t.”

There’s an old saying that goes: “’I can’t’ usually means ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘I don’t know how.’” If the idea of taking a course or two has been rolling around your head like a marble in a can, then the “I don’t want to” response would not apply. However, “I don’t know how” can be a real obstacle.

If you have never taken a course, the process of enrollment can seem a bit intimidating. The whole idea of signing up, buying the appropriate textbook, and walking into class on that first day can be scary if you have never done it before. But, isn’t that true with most things? We tend to be afraid of the unknown.

Perhaps school seems inappropriate. By that I mean – your age. What if you are someone over 50, or 60, or 70 … and so on? The funny thing about education is that it never really stops. Human beings are, by nature, curious creatures. We do tend to seek out answers to our questions. Looking for those answers can be a little frustrating, too, if you have never been shown the “how-to” of research. (Research is all about asking the right questions.) College can help you learn how to pose a question and then go exploring for the answer. That exploration is actually a fun and rewarding process. There is no substitute for the epiphany – that “ah ha!” moment when the answer is discovered.

If you are motivated to begin that process of discovery, then the process of enrollment is a minor step along the way. And, as with most things, once you do something you have never done before, doing it again becomes easier and easier.

Think about it. If your “I can’t” is actually “I don’t know how,” remember the other things that you didn’t know how to do at one time. You CAN do college – any time, any place, any age! Go for it!

Community College: No Longer America’s Best-Kept Secret

Written December 14th, 2009
Categories: Community College
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Posted by Dr. Jill Biden on August 07, 2009 at 10:33 AM EST [Dr. Biden is an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College]

“I wanted to share an essay I wrote last week about an issue that is close to my heart: community colleges. I am thrilled that President Obama has asked me to spread the word to as many people as possible about the value of these institutions. As I write in my essay, I have seen firsthand how these institutions serve as a gateway to opportunity for so many Americans. I hope you enjoy it.

Here is a short snippet:

I have been an educator for 28 years, and I have taught in the community college system for more than 16 of them. I don’t have to look any further than my classroom to see the power of community colleges to change lives. For years I have welcomed students to my classroom from many different educational, economic and cultural backgrounds, and seen how the community college system puts them on the same path of opportunity.

I have seen how community colleges fill important gaps: granting two-year degrees, teaching English to immigrants, providing vocational skills training and certification and teaching basic academic skills to those who may not yet be ready to pursue a four-year degree.

It’s also hard to ignore the financial advantages. In today’s challenging economy, community colleges are an increasingly affordable way for students from middle-class families to complete the first two years of a baccalaureate degree before moving on to a four-year university.

Read the full essay here.

- Jill”