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How Community College Changed My Life

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood discusses his experience attending Canton Junior College and the upcoming White House Summit on Community College.
Ed. Note: On October 5, Dr. Jill Biden will host the first-ever White House Summit on Community College.  You can join the conversation about improving community colleges across the country right now by participating in our online dialogue, or tell us how community college has changed your life.

Years ago--I won't say how many--I enrolled at Canton Junior College, and commuted to class. It was local; it was inexpensive; and it was less of an investment for a young high school graduate who hadn't yet mapped out his future.

In those days, Canton J.C. didn't even have its own building; it was housed in four rooms of Canton Senior High School. But Canton has grown since then, becoming Spoon River College, getting its own building, and expanding into four different physical campuses and a thriving online component.

That development perfectly mirrors the growing importance of community colleges across America. On October 5, that growing importance will be recognized as Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, hosts the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges.

I think this summit is a terrific idea, and I hope you’ll tune into it. Because, were it not for my time at Canton, I would never have decided to become a junior high school social studies teacher. And had I not taught civics, I would never have decided to get involved in local politics.

And, if I hadn’t become involved in local politics, I would never have been elected to Congress and made friends with a fellow named Barack Obama, who eventually appointed me to my current job as US Secretary of Transportation.

Now, I can't say that attending a community college will necessarily lead you to a Cabinet position. But I can say that my experience at Canton helped me find my way in the world. And I can say—without any doubt—that as you begin considering higher education, community colleges offer a tremendously valuable opportunity.

So, please, tune into the White House Summit on Community Colleges this October 5th. You just don't know what you might learn.