Last week, I attended the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. and joined 1,000 other community college trustees, presidents, and other leaders to advocate for increased funding and resources to support community colleges. The summit was convened by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) with support from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Top priorities for AACC and ACCT for 2015 include federal funding for community colleges and students, funding for the Pell Grant Program, Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act reauthorization, veteran students, the DREAM Act, higher education tax provisions, and extension of the TAACCCT Program, along with promotion of President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal.
PCC Governing Board Members Scott Stewart and Mark Hanna attended the summit and meetings on Capitol Hill, along with Michael Peel, Government Relations Liaison; Amanda Kaminski, Advanced Program Coordinator, Grants Resource Office; and two exceptional student leaders, Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez. We met with Senator Jeff Flake and Representatives Raúl Grijalva, Martha McSally, and Ann Kirkpatrick. We also met with the staff of Senator John McCain’s Office. We emphasized continued support for the Pell Grant Program, adult education, and workforce development programs such as TRIO for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Grant agency meetings were also held with the U.S. Department of Education.
In addition to the meetings on Capitol Hill, the summit included many group meetings and sessions focused on the economic and workforce development role of community colleges. Sessions included distinguished speakers including: Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor.
Secretary of Labor Perez highlighted Pima Community College and his recent visit to our Aviation Technology Center in January during his speech for the closing of the summit as an example of successful efforts to address unemployment and economic development.
I presented the 2015 Government Relations Award to Rachel Gragg, former federal policy director of the National Skills Coalition. Senator Al Franken was presented with 2015 National Education Service Awards for his ongoing support of community colleges.
In addition, we were honored to be invited as guests of Congresswoman Kirkpatrick to attend the dedication of a statue of the late Senator Barry Goldwater unveiled in Statuary Hall. House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator McCain, Representative Grijalva, members of the Goldwater family, and many other congressional leaders were in attendance for the dedication ceremony.
I want to thank Michael Peel for his great work in organizing and facilitating our congressional visits. I also want to thank Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez for the leadership they displayed with our legislators as they recounted the positive impact of PCC on their lives during this critical time for funding for community colleges at the federal and state levels.
Alec is studying Mechanical Engineering. His is a member of the PCC Governance Council, Native American Student Association (NASA), Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASA), Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), and STEM-related clubs such as Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). He plans to study Engineering at UA.
Yaritza is studying Nursing. She is an Upward Bound student from Desert View High School and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She is currently a TRIO student, an Upward Bound tutor, Amigos de Pima scholarship recipient, and a PCC Merit Scholar. Her GPA is 4.0 and she is pursuing a Nursing Degree through the PCC/NAU-BSN program.
Pima Community College is incredibly fortunate to have such strong student leadership to represent the College in the best possible ways.
For more information about the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit, go to www.acct.org.