Tag Archives: Adult Education

Realizing the American Dream

With new citizens Viri and Simin

With new citizens Viriviana and Simin (right)

Earlier this week, I joined with business, education and government partners at an important announcement by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild: Tucson would join more than two dozen major U.S. cities in the Cities for Citizenship initiative.

The mayor explained that people who want to become U.S. citizens can face educational and financial hurdles, and that Cities for Citizenship would support those who want to take on the rights and responsibilities that citizenship entails.

The announcement was made at the College’s El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center. It was an appropriate venue, as PCC has for years been a provider of effective citizenship education.

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After the announcement, Xail Hernandez, a PCC instructor in English Language Acquisition for Adults who also works with our AmeriCorps program, shared information.

Our citizenship classes are part of our Adult Basic Education for College & Career division. All of our classes, including citizenship classes, are free and open to everyone. This year 366 students received more than 3,300 hours on Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship instruction at classes taught at the El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center, El Rio Learning Center, and the 29th Street Coalition Center, as well as several area libraries.

simin-and-teacher

Simin and Linda, a volunteer citizenship instructor

Citizenship instructors are trained volunteers who get ongoing support and professional development.  We have some who have volunteered with us for over 15 years.

About 60 of our students have become citizens this year, and two were acknowledged during the announcement of the initiative.

This topic is personal for me. My mother came to the U.S. from South Korea in the 1960s, seeking her vision of the American Dream. My family’s story is, at its essence, similar to hundreds of millions of stories in our great country. As one speaker put it, virtually all of us are descended from immigrants.

PCC is eager to help provide the education component to the Cities for Citizenship initiative. We are proud to join with the Mayor’s Office, Chicanos Por La Causa, Citi, Vantage West Credit Union, Pima County Library and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to empower new citizens who contribute to the ongoing prosperity and sustainability of our nation.

Report to the Community

This month’s edition of PCC Spotlight, the College’s e-newsletter, contains my annual Report to the Community.
Some of the topics addressed in the Report:
  • Accreditation: We have submitted a Notice Report to the Higher Learning Commission, a key step in regaining the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor.
  • Fiscal stewardship: I put into perspective PCC’s budget, property tax rates, and tuition for 2016-17.
  • Student success: We are making strides in improving and expanding pathways for students at the beginning of their education journey.

Pima’s Adult Education Division:  Responding to the demands of a new age

GroupI was privileged to attend the beginning of a new era at the College recently.  I was among about 50 students, educators and community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, for the announcement that Pima Community College Adult Education has become Adult Basic Education for College and Career (ABECC).

As Dean of Adult Education Regina Suitt said during the announcement ceremony, Adult Education’s focus on student success remains unchanged.  Pima’s Adult Basic Education division will continue to be the county’s No. 1 provider of Adult Basic Education, High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation, GED testing, instruction for adults learning English and job skills training. The new name reflects the opportunities for adult learners to use an HSE as a launchpad to transition to vocational training or further academic achievement.  With 88,000 adults in Pima County lacking an HSE, the need is great.

Regina highlighted the story of Linda Langston, who is benefiting from the College’s development of diverse academic pathways that extend beyond an HSE. Linda has completed our Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) and received a Behavioral Health Services certificate. IBEST is a nationally recognized instructional model that boosts students’ basic skills while they attend an occupational program.  In the BHS/IBEST program, basic reading, writing, and math skills are contextualized into the BHS course content, with ABE and BHS instructors co-teaching the program.

Linda

Linda Langston

Linda earned a 4.0 GPA in her program and recently won an Arizona Association for Life Long Learning, Adult Literacy Week contest. “Pima removed so many roadblocks for me,” she said, adding that she intends to pursue employment in social work.

Grijalva

Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Student Dominique Lewis and May 2015 graduate Israel Gonzalez Jr. echoed Linda’s story of transformation through education. Rep. Grijalva put ABECC’s intensified focus into eloquent perspective. As our economy responds to the employment demands of a new age, integrated education programs become essential for our students, he said.

Regina and her team of staff and instructors within Adult Basic Education for College & Career are meeting the demands of the 21st century workplace. I thank them for their work to serve our students and community.

 

A healthy civil society

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The signing on May 4 of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization (PCICEO) furthers PCC’s commitment to student success, community engagement, and diversity.

In light of ongoing economic challenges, public education institutions in Arizona and across the U.S. need to grow relationships and devise strategic solutions with community partners regarding resource development. PCC has enjoyed a long relationship with the Pima County Interfaith Council through PCC Adult Education and other connections. Both PCIC and PCC place a high priority on the value of jobs that pay a living wage, so residents can remain in the area and provide the foundation for a stable community.

The new coalition with PCICEO, a broad-based, non-partisan organization that serves as the educational arm of PCIC, gives an opportunity to collaborate on a wide range of initiatives. A promising project is support for Advocates for PCC, a new group started by students, in a major voter registration campaign for students centered on the National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) in September. Other topics that may be explored by PCC and PCICEO are community training and education, multi-level advocacy, and more. Taken together, the initiatives can foster a healthy civil society

Thank you to Michael Peel, Government Relations Liaison for PCC and a PCIC volunteer, for pulling this effort together. Several community leaders from PCICEOand PCC spoke at this event, including Kevin Courtney, Lead Organizer, PCICEO; Deaconess Marjorie Hrabe, St. Mark’s Methodist; Reverend Sharon Ragland, Pastor, St. Mark’s Methodist; Reverend Tom Tureman, SDS, Pastor, Most Holy Trinity Catholic; Reverend Delle McCormick, Pastor, Rincon Congregational UCC; and Monsignor Raúl Trevizo, Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Tucson and Pastor, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

In addition, PCC Student Leader Nick Meyers spoke on behalf of the new Advocates for PCC group, and Mireya Escamilla, Assistant Program Coordinator, Adult Education for PCC and a former Adult Ed student, spoke on behalf of Adult Education. Our combined efforts will ensure successful future collaborations designed to prepare PCC students for effective advocacy, civic engagement and community leadership.

Defining our mission

Futures

PCC is committed to serving the needs of the community. A critical piece of this commitment must be serving the needs of the individual.

That was one of the insights emerging from the 2015 Futures Conference, which I had the privilege of attending on April 13. Approximately 100 community members and employees enjoyed a spirited discussion about a wide range of topics, including access, success, program excellence, stewardship, and more. The information gathered at the conference will inform PCC planning, and my thanks go to Assistant Vice Chancellor Nicola Richmond and her staff in Planning and Institutional Research for organizing an event that produced many great ideas. [A PowerPoint presentation from the conference is available on our website.]

Our inaugural Futures Conference, in April 2014, was devoted to strategic planning, as well as defining six directions for the College to pursue over the next two to three years. This year’s Futures Conference focused on our mission – our reason for being, the answer to the question, “Why does PCC exist?” [Our current mission statement is “to develop the community through learning.”] At the conference, one argument was made that the best answer regarding mission was “to serve every individual, every day.’’

However our mission is defined, it must drive PCC to success in ways that benefit our diverse students. One might need Adult Education, another Developmental Education. A student seeking the skills for gainful employment is best served if we successfully align Career and Technical Education curriculum with the needs of business and industry and offer short-term, stackable credentials. A student looking to obtain a bachelor’s degree makes it incumbent on us to improve connections with K-12, colleges and universities to ensure seamless transfer. A student balancing work and family obligations needs PCC to provide robust online programs.

I began and ended the conference with personal stories of students who succeeded at PCC after taking long and winding education journeys that sometimes tested their resolve. One of our former students graduated from a local high school, served in the military and graduated from college, yet could find work only as a server in a restaurant. “I did everything right,” she told U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez when he visited the Aviation Technology Center in January 2015, yet still had not reached her career goal. Then she found, on the ground, a piece of paper with information about Pima Community College. She got her start at PCC through that scrap of good fortune, completed our rigorous Aviation Technology program, and now works at Bombardier.

Every path to PCC is a bit different, but student success at PCC should be a function of effective systems, not serendipity. Our mission and vision statements, which will compel change at the College, should be the result of a transparent, inclusive, evidence-driven process. Working together, PCC can help individuals achieve their goals so that collectively they form the foundation of a stable, prosperous community.

National Legislative Summit

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Raul Grijalva

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Raul Grijalva

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.

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

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.

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Martha McSally

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Martha McSally

Plenty to be thankful for

El Rio 1

My visit to the El Rio Learning Center today reaffirmed that the College provides access to a phenomenally wide spectrum of community members.

I met students in a High School Equivalency preparation mathematics class, where I tried to impress upon them the need for everyone to have a solid grounding in math in order to make sensible financial choices, whether for a family or for a large community college such as PCC. I also met students in our Refugee Education and English Language Acquisition for Adults programs. The refugee-students came to us from Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bhutan and the Congo, among other nations. To a person, they were grateful for the opportunity to restart their lives in the U.S.

Similarly, our ELAA students were both diverse in background and unified in their appreciation for the opportunities PCC affords them. They are learning English to get better jobs, start a business, volunteer in their children’s classrooms, or improve communication with their loved ones; two recently became U.S. citizens.

The key point to remember is that although they come to us from around the globe and from all walks of life, these folks are Pima Community College students. In their desire to improve their circumstances through education, they are no different from anyone else at PCC. I recognize the enormity of the College’s ability and responsibility to affect individual lives, and am thankful that PCC has the opportunity to serve them.