This past Wednesday, I attended the Department of Education’s third of four regional community college summits at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. These summits are being held across the country to follow up on the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges hosted by the President and Dr. Biden at the White House last October. As Dr. Biden said then, the White House Summit was only the beginning of our national outreach and efforts to demonstrate how community colleges are critical to educating the best, most competitive workforce in the world.
This week’s summit focused on the ways community colleges are partnering with businesses across the country to develop training and education programs that meet business and regional economic needs. Participants heard from several industry representatives about how they value a community college education, and how they are working to make sure their employees succeed both in the workplace and in the classroom.
One student named Leighton brought the crowd to its feet when he shared the details of his own experience, and the ways in which a partnership between his school and a local business gave him the chance to succeed where he never thought he could. While working part-time, his employer supported his education by paying tuition and building his confidence in his leadership skills. He is scheduled to graduate with his associate’s degree this May. Leighton is now a manager overseeing a shift of 11 employees, has significantly increased productivity on that shift, and plans to pursue his baccalaureate in elementary education.
Community colleges are places where Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and income levels have that opportunity to pursue the American dream. Dr. Biden, an educator of 30 years, has always said that community colleges are America’s best-kept secret. But the word is getting out. From renowned education experts, to CEOs and national policy makers, people are sharing stories of success and inspiration happening in community college classrooms and at businesses across America.