I started my own academic career as a student in a community college and it was there that I discovered a passion for learning and, later, for teaching. I recognized then and still recognize today the power and need for the community college. An article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Community College Changed My Life" adeptly describes the reasons why students find hope in a community college and why teachers are drawn to teaching there:
Community colleges are crammed with the most inspiring people I have ever met. Our students come from around the corner and across continents. They are the boy or girl next door. They are the midlife adult just laid off. They are refugees from war, poverty, substance abuse, or a life of violence. They may have done well in high school, or they may not have completed high school at all.
We all need to get to know those students, not just for their benefit (although there is that), but for our own. Many of them continue to four-year institutions. Others become our nurses, radiology technicians, dental hygienists, automotive technicians, emergency-service personnel, child-care providers, and much more.
To be honest, though, many of them do not go on to their dream careers or to further education. Some drop out because of personal challenges. We lose others because of policies that ignore or diminish their experiences, including a financial-aid system that assumes a student is of the traditional college age, a welfare system that emphasizes low-wage work over education, and a K-12 system that distributes money inequitably to schools.
When we lose students, we also lose out on their unfulfilled potential. Through teaching and writing, I hope to promote discussion about these and other issues affecting community-college students and affecting our community, hence, affecting us all.