Westchester Community College has grown to become more than just the county’s largest educational institution. It is a true community unto itself, reflecting the cultural and economic diversity of the area. The institution is a living, breathing part of Westchester that goes beyond the influence of a typical college and affects the lives of all who enter its doors. It is a showcase for the best of Westchester.
Westchester Community College has always been about accessibility, but no more so than in the past several years. The college’s extraordinary role in providing affordable, quality education to the community dates back to 1946 when Westchester Community College first opened its doors on a small urban site in White Plains. Several years later, the main campus moved to its current location; a vast 218-acre location in Valhalla, where new buildings boasting state-of-the-art facilities dot the vibrant green expanse of the grounds. Each year, approximately 24,000 students come to the college to prepare for new careers, to improve their lives, to have fun, and to reach for their dreams. Many of them attend courses at this main campus with its state-of-the-art library, a bookstore, and astounding technological resources including thousands of computers at our various locations. But in addition to the main campus, the most visible sign of our link to the community, has been our unprecedented off-campus expansion. We opened full extension sites in Mount Vernon, Yonkers, and Ossining, while doubling the size of our Peekskill Center. A true community college not only offers courses, but it becomes a real part of the community. We can think of no better way to illustrate this commitment than through our expansion into the areas where you live.
On the main campus in Valhalla, we have opened the Gateway Center (2010), which serves hundreds of students including New Americans who are seeking education and training for the workplace. In 2013, we opened an expanded and renovated Student Center. This $19 million project included a new cafeteria and cutting-edge classrooms.
You may be one of those who is interested in the college as a means toward change in your own life. You have picked the right institution to help you make that change. Each year at graduation, the President join the college’s Board of Trustees on stage as we look at more than a thousand smiling faces representing those who will be leaving the college better prepared for a successful future. You can see the new county resident who took our English as a Second Language courses and then moved on to an associate degree, the former homemaker who decided to take time out for herself and is now ready to reenter the workforce, the young student, just two years out of high school, who saved tens of thousands of dollars on her education and is now about to transfer to a 4-year institution, and the middle-aged student who is switching careers in midstream and is now prepared for a second chance for success.
They all are success stories, each in their own way. Together, they form our hope for the future. Whether they have taken one or several of our thousands of day, evening or weekend credit or non-credit courses, we know that Westchester Community College has played an important part in their lives. It can play such a role in your life, too. Our alumni include Peter Herrero, the owner of Sam’s of Gedney Way restaurant; Dwayne Kelly, a Fordham University student paying his way with a $90,000 scholarship earned while he was at Westchester Community College; and John Egan, a Broadway star.
The college’s impact goes beyond that of an institution which provides the means for success through courses for members of the community. On a typical day at the college, you can see any of our 300 community volunteers sprucing up our Native Plant Center gardens or helping international students improve their study skills. You can see festive revelers attending our Italian Club’s many lectures and festivals. You can see older members of the community attending our Collegium workshops, intensive learning workshops for mature adults taught by their peers. You can see hundreds of members of the community flocking to the main campus for our annual President’s Forum or the famous Friday Night Film Series or any of our Smart Arts cultural offerings. You can see members of the business community attending Professional Development Center sessions to improve their skills
Again, many know the college as Westchester’s largest educational institution with more than 60 Associate Degree and Certificate Programs leading to employment or transfer opportunities at some of the country’s leading colleges and universities. True, that is the primary purpose of the institution. But its scope goes beyond to include its role as a cultural mecca and a means toward connecting to the place we live; a true resource for community involvement.