Message from Dr. Belinda S. Miles: Elevating Our Students and Community – May 7, 2021
May 7, 2021
Community colleges prepare students to fully participate in our society as well as the nation’s economy. The Truman Commission established community colleges, in part, to “integrate vocational and liberal education.” Toward that end, we instill in our students the ability to think critically, listen actively, and communicate effectively in order to participate fully in our democratic society. During this final week of classes, we reflect on the power of our curriculum to enlighten, engage, and empower our students through exposure to the arts, humanities, and a range of studies that expand their critical thinking skills and give them a broader understanding of themselves and the world around us.
Our charge also includes preparing students for careers that will allow them to support themselves and their families, as well as serve the economic needs of the region and the nation. Westchester Community College excels in this matter. More than 20% of WCC students who begin their academic journey from the bottom fifth of the income quintiles end up in the top fifth later in life, placing WCC 21st out of two-year colleges in this ranking. The success we have in elevating our students is indicative of our success in preparing a regional workforce that will keep our community competitive as the nation re-emerges from the pandemic and its ensuing economic fall-out.
Our role in preparing this vital pipeline of skilled workers is appreciated by companies and foundations locally and nationally. Organizations such as Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation and The Wiener Philanthropies have made significant contributions in support of our efforts and our students. Most recently, the PepsiCo Foundation has partnered with WCC.
On Thursday, Peter Wilcox of PepsiCo joined me to celebrate a groundbreaking initiative that will enable many of our students to complete their education and get on a fast track to a great career. With missions and objectives in alignment, PepsiCo Foundation has turned to community colleges as their partner to address issues of inequality and create opportunity through a most generous scholarship program specifically for our Black and Hispanic students.
Recognizing the challenges Black and Hispanic students face in our current education system – and that the path to equitable economic opportunity includes equitable education – PepsiCo launched a $40 million scholarship and professional mentoring program to support these aspiring and graduating community college students. The program is designed to help students pursue and succeed in higher education and gain training and skills for jobs in growing fields. The PepsiCo Foundation Uplift Scholarships at Westchester Community College will support 80 Black and Hispanic students preparing for careers in information technology in each of the next two years with scholarships of $2,500.
This week we also celebrate a range of community heroes!
- National Nurses Week kicked off yesterday and we honor all our nursing students – some who are set to enter the workforce following graduation next week. During these challenging times our nurses and healthcare workers are going above and beyond to provide outstanding care and attention to so many in need. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) extended the Year of the Nurse and Midwife into 2021 “because of the impact of the pandemic and the increased visibility of nurses’ contributions” (ania.org). Our graduating nursing students will celebrate their Pinning Ceremony on May 14. Watch your email for details on this special event. Thanks, as well, to our outstanding nursing faculty and staff members!
- Public Service Recognition Week celebrates public servants at the local, state, and federal levels who answer the call to serve their communities and help to improve the lives of others. This work may not always be easy, but it is meaningful and makes a difference, especially in the lives of our students.
- And thank you to all our faculty members, mentors, and others who do so much to encourage students along their pathway during this Teacher Appreciation Week. Your commitment to your discipline matters. Your work matters. You, more than anyone else, have the most potential to build minds and futures, and truly change lives.
Take a moment to give a big Viking shout out to our students who will take finals next week. Please continue to support students at special events and end-of-semester celebrations. We acknowledge the stress on our students (and us!) at this time of year and urge you to encourage, support, and show empathy where needed. Remember that the personal counseling office, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Academic Support Center may be helpful resources.
In closing, last evening, I had the pleasure of extending greetings to our LGBTQIA+ students during our annual Lavender Graduation ceremony. First held in 1995 to honor the achievements of graduating students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other, this special event celebrates our students and their scholastic achievements. Thanks to Dana Hirsch and Student Involvement for sponsoring this experience for our graduating students.
And on Thursday, May 13, at 6 p.m., we celebrate the culmination of your work and our students’ achievements during our 73rd Commencement Ceremony. Thank you for making this possible for our students and community. Watch your email for the event link.
I extend greetings to each of you for a lovely Mother’s Day weekend!
Dr. Belinda S. Miles