Alex Johnson, President, CCAC
The Community College of Allegheny County is continuously improving.
At Allegheny Campus, the steel beams of the K. Leroy Irvis Science Center serve as a visible reminder of this progress.
Once the science center is complete, West Hall will be reconfigured into a state-of-the-art fine and performing arts center. And that is just the beginning. Improvements at all of our campuses and centers will accommodate up-to-date workforce development programs and increase the safety, functionality and beauty of our college.
Quality facilities contribute to quality programs, but the proof of those programs is in the outcome. If our graduates are able to successfully compete for productive, family-sustaining careers, if transfer from CCAC to four-year colleges is seamless—we are then ensuring that every student has a chance to succeed.
And thanks to our participation in highly selective initiatives like Achieving the Dream and the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, we know we can accomplish and improve upon these outcomes.
Of course, we must also preserve the affordability of a CCAC education. Our advocacy at the state and county levels of government is paying off. It now appears that proposed reductions in state support for community colleges may be reversed by the legislature. Allegheny County remains a staunch supporter of CCAC, bravely increasing our funding at a time when some community colleges in the commonwealth face reductions in their county funding.
Yet, we also recognize that we can no longer rely upon our government allocations as we once did. So, with the leadership of the CCAC Board of Trustees, the CCAC Educational Foundation, the CCAC Alumni Board and an illustrious campaign steering committee, we have launched one of the most aggressive fundraising campaigns in the history of community colleges. Imagine & Achieve: The Campaign for the Community College of Allegheny County, is a $40 million effort combining private gifts and competitive public grants for facilities and scholarships. Already, we are at nearly $33 million of that total.
This achievement is the result of countless staff, like those in our foundation and advancement areas, working behind the scenes to make Imagine & Achieve happen.
And I applaud our faculty. They have been affected by our financial challenges in recent years, but they have taken our cost containment measures in stride, continuing to excel and innovate in the classroom and fighting diligently on your behalf to ensure that you have every opportunity to succeed.
And what does that success look like? It looks like each one of you, our graduates, in this hall tonight. Every year, I share a few brief examples from the graduating class to give a snapshot of your successes. Here are three.
A single mother of seven, Carla Brown excelled in her studies despite facing many challenges, including domestic violence, her daughter’s teen pregnancy, eviction, and homelessness. She would rise each morning at 5:00 a.m. to board the PAT bus with five of her children, get each child to school and make it to class at CCAC. The family would spend the evenings at the local libraries, before returning late at night to the shelter in which they were living. Today she will be recognized for earning an Associate of Science in Biotechnology.
A recent recipient of the 2012 Newman Civic Fellow Award, Kirk Thoma enrolled at CCAC after his job at the nonprofit where he was working was eliminated. A volunteer golf coach and tutor and active with his church, Kirk plans to attend Slippery Rock University this fall on an All-Pennsylvania Academic Team for Community Colleges Scholarship to study sociology. His goal is to work with at-risk youth. He will receive an Associate of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences.
President of the CCAC Alumni Board, Betty Lyons is a CCAC alumna three times over, earning credentials in 1993, 1997 and 2012. She also serves as a member of the Steering Committee for Imagine & Achieve. Betty is currently employed by the Steel Valley School District, where she works with both regular and special education kindergarten students.
These stories are indicative of the breadth of experiences each of you has brought to this institution. Some of the graduates may have asked a moment ago why I was focusing on what we are doing at CCAC to benefit future students.
Betty’s experience as a three-time graduate of the college helps to reveal why. For many of you, this may not be your last experience at CCAC. As you continue your career, you will return to improve your skills, broaden your perspective and enrich your lives.
Please remember that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
Everyone, please join me in congratulating the CCAC Class of 2012.