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What You Told Us: Community College Changes Lives

We asked you to share your thoughts on the President's proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students across America. Here are a few of the inspirational stories that we received.

Last week, we asked you to share your thoughts on the President's proposal to make two years of community college free for students who keep their grades up. With community college students making up 40 percent of the Americans enrolled in higher education, the President’s plan is projected to benefit around 9 million students each year – saving the average full-time community college student $3,800 a year in tuition expenses.

From sharing your own story, to telling us why community college is important to our country’s future, we were overwhelmed by your responses. Americans from across the nation shared how their time in community college shaped their lives and gave them opportunities to do things they had never thought they could do.

Here are a few of the inspirational stories that we received:

Gloria M: Fulfilling a Doctor's Dream

Dr. Gloria M.

"I always wanted to go to college, but becoming pregnant at 17 caused my dream to be deferred...As a single mother, I experienced many struggles and triumphs, but my dream never died.  It would take 21 years for my prayers to be answered. At the age of 39, I was given the opportunity to return to school, and that journey began at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA. I was the first in my family to go to college. Mt. Sac helped me to gain the necessary confidence to continue my educational pursuits. Today, I have a B.S. in Psychology, an M.S. In Marriage and Family Therapy, an M.S. in Clinical Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Community colleges are so vital in giving students positive educational experiences that can transform their lives."   -Dr. Gloria M.


Celestial S: A Nursing Degree at Age 58

Celestial S.

"I'm a registered nurse and my career centered around healing the sick and keeping healthy populations healthy. Public schools and community colleges were responsible for my education, for which I am very grateful. This photo is of me and my daughter on the day I graduated from nursing school, at the age of 58 years." -Celestial S.

Meredith D: From Receiving Food Stamps to Receiving a Degree

"As a young mother, I lived in low-income housing and received food stamps while I worked a low-wage job. I went back to school at Lane Community College while working and earned the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree. From there, I enrolled in a four-year university and then completed graduate school. I now give back to my community by teaching at an elementary school serving students in poverty. This year, I was nominated for the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce's Champion in Education Award. Without the flexibility of a community college, I never would have dreamed of working and going to school while raising three kids. Community college helped me achieve my goals. Now my daughter attends LCC." -Meredith D.

Casey M: Stepping Foot in a Classroom for the First Time

Casey M.

"In 2004, my grandfather wrote me a letter that would change my life. 'Casey, go to community college,' he wrote. When I began college, I was honestly scared. I had actually never set foot in a classroom because I had been home-schooled my whole life and earned my GED, instead of a high school diploma....On our first day of class, our English professor, Sabrina informed us of our final paper requirement – a 10-page paper – which was met with a wave of nervous groans from the students. “Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “After a year here, you’ll be writing 10-page papers like it was nothing.” I thought she was lying just to be nice to us, but she would prove me wrong.

...The instruction, encouragement, and guidance I received at my community college led me to transfer to Mount Holyoke College, where I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2010. It let me complete my master’s degree at Columbia University, Teachers College. It led me to be a student representative at the first-ever White House Community College Summit, where I listened and discussed community colleges as a pathway to a baccalaureate degree. It led me to work in education policy in Washington, DC. And it led me to pursue my doctorate degree at the University of Maryland, where – thanks to my own community college experience and my experience at the White House Community College Summit – I am pursuing doctoral research on transfer articulation policies between community colleges and four-year universities." -Casey M.

Awilda A: Serving Our Country, Then Getting Three Degrees  

Awilda A.

"G.I. Money helped me afford pay for courses at Lehigh Carbon Community College.... I had never believed I was smart and it wasn't until I attended LCCC that I got bitten by the 'I can be whatever I want to be' [bug] as long as I attend school and get great grades. I graduated in '96 from LCCC, Fordham in '98, Lehigh in 2000, earned my ESOL certification, and my K-12 principal certification. I am smart and very proud of my efforts over the years, but it was believing I am smart that continued to drive me. As principal, I'm giving it all back in hopes to inspire others."  -Awilda A.

Adele T: From Homelessness to a College Degree

"I started homeless with my two sons in a shelter for battered women on the day after Thanksgiving, and ended up as Phi Theta Kappa All USA Academic First Team Chair for Community Colleges. [I] graduated suma cum laude and continued [on] to gain a Bachelor's degree. Now I manage projects and teams for a major aerospace company in the U.S. This was only possible because of the accessibility and affordability of the college. They believed in me and encouraged me to be my best. I gladly pay my taxes and give back where I can. Today, my son attends that same community college." -Adele T.

Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts on the President’s community college proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students across America. You can learn more about the proposal by clicking here