Message from Dr. Belinda S. Miles: Open, Moving Along, Looking Ahead – November 13, 2020
November 13, 2020
Community colleges open the doors to higher education for many with limited means but unlimited potential and aspirations. Since last winter, we have been working mightily to keep this opportunity open in the face of extraordinary challenges caused by COVID-19 – sickness, death, and economic turmoil. Currently, we are witnessing a resurgence of these awful forces in Westchester County. Amidst constant flux and occasional confusion, we reaffirm a core principle that guides our purpose: community colleges are higher education’s accessible and affordable pathway to opportunity. If we don’t succeed, our economy and our society will suffer.
We have taken several proactive steps to keep our doors open and simultaneously safeguard the health of those who come to campus for teaching, learning, and accessing essential services. We have a steadfast commitment to social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing. For college employees and students coming to campus, we are testing for COVID-19 once per month. It is a necessary step to catch cases of COVID-19 with no apparent symptoms. We take these actions to protect ourselves, our colleagues, and our loved ones.
The Pandemic Response Team has recently announced a change to the testing process that starts next week for all students and employees who access any of our facilities. Please carefully review the information so you are prepared when you are contacted by an employee of Westchester Medical Center to schedule a testing appointment. The small number of fall semester classes that require hands-on instruction and are taking place in-person will continue after the Thanksgiving break through the end of the semester on December 21. Individuals in these classes will follow testing guidance for that period. Be on the lookout for communications from the Pandemic Response Team with important information about testing requirements for returning for the winter term and spring semester.
While we readjust our responses to the pandemic, we gratefully acknowledge and prepare for important acts of service. This week we celebrated Veterans Day and we recognize the service of our student-veterans, faculty, staff, and stakeholders, and extend thanks to the families and loved ones who support our veterans. Our student-veterans recently collaborated with American Legion Post 1038 in Valhalla and the Montrose VA to create a touchless, drive-in food pantry for local veterans and their families. In addition, more than 100 student-veterans are invited to participate in “vet-2-gethers” and other programs sponsored by the Student Veterans Club and the Veterans Resource Center at Westchester Community College. As a Veteran-Friendly campus, we are committed to assisting veterans reach personal, professional and academic goals. We thank our Veterans Resource Center personnel for engaging our student-veterans through robust programming as well as “buddy checks” that offer more individualized contact with students. Here are links to useful information.
As we are persevering, we continue to look for ways to fortify our culture and our community. One opportunity we have is to engage in a socially distanced service project. The Staff Council Helping Hands Team is working on plans for a project to gather and distribute items to individuals in need in our community. Nikki Rutledge is spearheading the initiative and will be in touch with information on the project and how to be involved.
We are open, we are moving along, and we are looking ahead. Community colleges can play a leading role in post-pandemic economic recovery. We are training the next generation of skilled workers needed for the workforce including first responders, healthcare workers, culinary artists, and hospitality managers who are diligently finishing labs on campus. Also included are the thousands of students who are engaged in studies across the curriculum via remote learning. And we look forward to welcoming all the new students who will join us in spring 2021 and beyond who will be part of this talent pipeline. While we are immersed in persistent uncertainty, we can rest assured that our purpose is as important as ever and will persevere.
Dr. Belinda S. Miles