The Community Room at Montgomery County Community College’s West Campus in Pottstown overflowed with family and friends who applauded as 77 students received their General Education Diplomas (GED) during the fall GED graduation ceremony.
President Karen A. Stout. congratulated the students, praising their tenacity and determination to accomplish this goal.
“You make some of the best role models of Montgomery County Community College, because you have grit,” Stout said. “Grit is one of the most important non-cognitive skills necessary to achieve success. It means using your passion to accomplish your goal, in this case your GED. But it doesn’t end tonight with commencement. Continue your education, so you will have access to getting a job that will provide a living wage. We are proud of your grit.”
Chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners Joshua D. Shapiro echoed her sentiments.
“You are here tonight because of your determination and commitment,” he said. “You found empowerment in yourself to accomplish this, and it is not going to stop tonight. You have a brighter future ahead for what you have done and what you will continue to do.”
GED program coordinator instructor Raymond Ricketts said 735 students have graduated since the program started in May 2006, and the graduation rate is 88 percent.
The Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board funds the program, which is free to Montgomery County students, and is held at the West Campus. The fee for out-of-county students is $100, which includes the GED test.
Graduating from the rigorous five-week program gives students the sense of accomplishment they need to want to continue their education, especially for the student speaker Yolanda Sills of Pottstown, a 32-year-old mother of four children, who tried three times before passing the final examination.
“Tomorrow, I will be a college student,” she said, since enrollment for the college’s spring semester started on Oct. 25. “I am going to pursue a liberal studies degree until I decide what I want to do.”
Many of the graduates will continue their educations. Paige Wasniewski, of Pottstown, will start classes at the college in January to pursue a career in sports medicine, and Nickia Ford-Oquendo, Pottstown, is enrolled in the Culinary Arts program.
The Culinary Arts Institute is led by Director/Chef Christopher Tanner, who also served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony.
“There are three things that will help you to succeed,” he told the graduates. “Mentorship, passion and opportunity.” Tanner explained how mentors enabled him to shape his passion and achieve goals throughout his career. Now, he is serving as a mentor for the students in the Culinary Arts program.
The evening ended with final congratulations from Workforce Investment Board Chairman Harvey Portner, who has attended every GED ceremony since the program started.
The Montgomery County commissioners will attend the unveiling of Creative Montco’s 10-year-plan Thursday at Montgomery County Community College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell.
The 10-year plan is the result of a year-long effort to gather information, opinions and ideas about the arts and culture in Montgomery County.
The launch party will be held in the Parkhouse Hall atrium beginning with a networking session from 4 to 4:30 p.m.
A presentation of the plan will follow at 4:30 p.m. and a reception will be held from 5:15 to 6 p.m. The event is open to the public, but you must RSVP through http://creativemontco.eventbrite.com, or call (610) 313-9836.
“This is a truly worthwhile endeavor,” said Josh Shapiro, chair of the Montgomery County board of commissioners. “Montgomery County has an incredible reservoir of creative and cultural resources, and this effort to harness that energy to enhance economic development is a fantastic effort. Congratulations to all of those who worked so hard to prepare this plan.”
Supported in part by a major grant from the William Penn Foundation, along with support from the Montgomery County Foundation, Creative Montco is based on the belief that culture and creativity are among a community’s most powerful assets. The initiative, chaired by MCCC President Karen Stout, looks to leverage the county’s cultural and creative resources to enhance economic development through the implementation of a 10-year comprehensive plan.
More than 1,900 individuals from throughout Montgomery County have participated in the initiative through a series of town hall meetings, community conversations, survey responses, interviews, and social media and website feedback.
Montgomery County Community College President Karen A. Stout has been appointed chair of Creative MontCo, a civic initiative that strives to shape the cultural and economic future of Montgomery County’s diverse communities.
A passionate supporter of the creative arts, Stout recognizes that art is a powerful catalyst for change — one that can be used in building communities and civic engagement.
Under her leadership over the last decade, the College has placed a strategic focus on fostering the creative arts through its academic programming and through diverse cultural performances, lectures and exhibits, enjoyed by more than 10,000 community residents annually.
She has also overseen development of new workforce programs that prepare students for employment in the creative economy, also a focus of Creative MontCo.
Stout now brings her vision to Creative MontCo, where she will chair a diverse steering committee that represents the cultural, county government, business, education and philanthropic sectors in Montgomery County to better connect and leverage existing resources.
Supported in part by a major grant from the William Penn Foundation, Creative MontCo is based on the belief that culture and creativity are among a community’s most powerful assets.
The initiative will generate even greater community benefit from these resources, through the groundwork and implementation of a comprehensive plan.
The origins of Creative MontCo trace to 2008, when a small group of interested leaders began exploring cultural needs in the county and the possibility of a comprehensive planning effort to leverage change. An arts summit at Montgomery County Community College in July 2010, demonstrated community interest, and broader community engagement began in October 2011, with an open town hall meeting at the Ambler Theatre.
Through March 2012, the community will be engaged in a large-scale, ground-up process to solicit ideas and participation from a broad range of stakeholders.
Activities will include interviews, discussion groups, informal community conversations, surveys and interactive participation through the website and social media. Creative MontCo’s leaders believe that this breadth and depth will not only sharpen their understanding of what is valuable and possible, but will also lay a foundation for shared implementation of the strategies arising from the planning effort.
For more information about Creative MontCo and to learn how to participate, visit www.creativemontco.org.
Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is scheduled to host a ceremonial ground breaking for its brand new Culinary Arts Institute, located at the Towamencin Town Square complex, on March 23.
“The Culinary Arts Institute of Montgomery County Community College is just one example of the many high demand programs and certifications the college offers as part of our commitment to enhance workforce development opportunities and to promote the economic advancement of the county,” said Karen A. Stout, MCCC president.
Slated to open its doors in 2013, the Institute is positioned to be the premiere training resource for future culinary and pastry arts professional in this growing industry.
The National Restaurant Association anticipates significant industry growth through 2021, resulting in 28,200 new culinary jobs in Pennsylvania and 1.4 million new jobs nationwide.
“By developing our Culinary Arts Institute, we are able to expand the College’s existing Culinary Arts program. This means we will be able to prepare a greater number of students for careers in an industry that has viable employment opportunities, both now and in the future,” Stout said. “The Institute will have the capacity to enroll up 350 students over the next five years.”
Students will be able to select from a wide range of programming options that best meet their professional goals. Degree-seeking students can concentrate in Professional Culinary Arts or Professional Baking and Pastry Arts within the curriculum. Classes will taught in 11-week semesters that run continuously throughout the year, which means that full-time students can earn an Associate in Applied Science degree in less than two years. A one-year certificate program is also offered.
The Institute’s courses and programs are designed to be flexible, with both day and evening hours, which enables returning adult students, like Joseph Jay Bullick, to pursue their dreams.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own restaurant,” said Bullick, a current Culinary Arts student who works as a day shift security officer at the Montgomery County Courthouse. “The fact that the College offers an evening program will help get me there.”
The Culinary Arts curriculum emphasizes hands-on, lab-based learning in a professional kitchen setting, balanced with academic courses and cooperative internship training.
Aligned with best practices in culinary education, the on-site program director, career coach and academic advisors will work directly with students from start to finish – from application through graduation to employment – to support their success.
The Institute will also support variety of non-credit leisure cooking and professional certification classes. Examples include basic catering, cooking technology, meeting and event planning, professional bartending, culinary occupational ESL, and ServSafe certification instruction in both English and Spanish.
Located in the Towamencin Town Square complex near the Lansdale exchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the 15,000 square-foot facility will feature four state-of-the-art kitchens and equipment, three SMART classrooms, a retail shop for coffee and baked goods, and a first floor patio for dining and grilling.
As March celebrates Women’s History Month, Montgomery County is looking to honor the women that serve the county. With one important figure, Commissioner Leslie Richards, the county is strongly represented by women.
On March 28, the county will hold a Women’s History Month luncheon at the Plymouth Country Club. The event is set to start at 11:30 a.m. and will end roughly at 1:30 p.m.
“Every year during the month of March, events are held across the country to acknowledge and recognize important accomplishment of women and the impact they have on our communities and contemporary society,” said Laurie O’Connor, director
of Children & Youth.
Richards will recognize local residents who helped to shape the lives of girls and young women in the community.
Panelists at the luncheon include Dr. Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College, Dr. Amy Sichel, superintendent of Abington School District and Sue Soriano, Montgomery County leader and mentor.
“It is an honor for me to be sitting up here and it being my first month celebrating,” said Richards. “We don’t have to look back that far for women who have really made an impact in history.”
Richards also has company on the board as Lauren Lambrugo joins her on the stand during each commissioner’s meting.
“Two out of the five people up here are women,” said Richards. “I have to say I am very proud to have played a roll to appoint our first woman as chief operating officer. Looking around the county as well, I am thrilled we have seven female judges on our county courthouse and it continues to grow with every election.”
The county also has six female officers.
“Women now outnumber men in American colleges,” said O’Connor. “That is a very recent phenomenon. The right to receive education was a struggle for many women throughout the years. This year we will hold our fifth celebration of the contribution of women in shaping global history.”
Richards believes that having diversity in county government is highly important.
“Having a government that is reflective of the diversity of the county is very important,” said Richards. “Obviously having a gender balance where women voices are heard and men’s voices are heard and listened to. I look forward to the event.”
Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) celebrated the opening of its new University Center recently, expanding its West Campus to the “former AAA East Penn building” at 95 South Hanover St., and building on its vision to create a thriving urban campus in downtown Pottstown.
First introduced in 2006, MCCC’s University Center offers an entrepreneurial approach to expanding higher education opportunities for residents of the Tri-County region. Through partnerships with four-year institutions — Albright College, Chestnut Hill College, Temple University and Villanova University — students can choose from eight bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees and one graduate certificate.
During the event, MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout addressed the importance of expanding access to higher education opportunities for the region.
“Before we introduced the innovative University Center model, our graduates had to travel to the greater Reading and Philadelphia areas to continue their education in baccalaureate and graduate degree programs. However, for many of our students and community members in the Tri-County region, this commute simply isn’t possible,” she said. “Therefore, the University Center becomes more than a place where our partner institutions lease space to teach their classes on our campus. It becomes part of a much larger pipeline in terms of building student access to higher education.”
Charles Roberts, alumnus of both MCCC and Albright College, shared his personal educational journey through the University Center.
“I cannot begin to tell you where I would be without having the University Center. I was able to attend class as a working adult and as someone who could not attend class the traditional college way. I may never have attempted a bachelor’s program unless the University Center existed,” said Roberts, who has since earned a master’s degree from Gwynedd-Mercy College and who works in MCCC’s Enrollment Services department.
Lex O. McMillan III, president of Albright College in Reading spoke about the longstanding relationship with MCCC, describing it as a “thriving, healthy partnership.”
“Montgomery County Community College has the largest onsite degree completion programs of our satellite campuses,” he told the roomful of attendees. “In the 2011–12 year, 6,135 credits were transferred from MCCC, and 130 Albright students are enrolled in the degree completion program [at the University Center].”
The University Center project is made possible through a public-private partnership and lease agreement with Vesper Property Group, the building’s owner and developer.
The new 10,500 square foot facility includes six classrooms with smart and videoconference technology, a student lounge and reception area. The entire facility is secured through electronic card access, and a front desk concierge is available to greet students and answer questions.
In addition to creating a new home and identity for the University Center, the new facility frees up existing classroom space at MCCC’s North and South halls — space that is greatly needed to accommodate an unprecedented 60 percent enrollment growth at the West Campus over the past five years.
Montgomery County Community College’s Board of Trustees approved the institution’s 2012–2013 operational and capital budgets during the board’s monthly meeting.
The budget, which reflects the $5.25 million cut announced by the Montgomery County Commissioners on June 6, calls for an increase of $9 per credit hour for in-county residents, along with a $1 increase in fees, for a total percentage increase of 8 percent. This brings the cost of one, three-credit course to $405 for in-county residents, and it brings the annual cost for full-time students to $3,240 (12 credits per semester) or $4,050 (15 credits per semester).
“The Board recognizes that the College cannot offset a 25 percent budget cut from the County on the backs of our students, and that any increase in tuition serves as a barrier to higher education,” said Karen A. Stout, president. “The board — and the entire College community — remain committed to preserving our mission of student access and success, and upholding the values on which the College was founded.”
With the increase, student tuition will comprise more than 55 percent of the College’s operational budget, compared to only 36 percent a decade ago. Meanwhile, the County’s contribution has fallen to less than 20 percent of the overall budget, and its investment per student resident has been cut in half over the last decade.
Despite the increase, MCCC’s tuition is positioned below the median rate when compared to other community colleges in the Commonwealth and is the lowest rate among community colleges in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region.
The board also approved MCCC’s 2012–2013 $7.8 million capital budget, which is composed of existing debt service and leases and includes obligated county and state funding of $3.3 and $3.4 million, respectively.
The approved budgets incorporate a combination of measures to offset the funding deficit, including elimination of high cost/low enrolled programs, careful management of personnel costs, efficient scheduling management and continued identification of opportunities for cost containment.
The operating budget is also built on the anticipated restoration of the proposed state budget cut. With this restoration, funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania comprises approximately 24 percent of MCCC’s 2012–2013 operational budget.
The College will also pursue entrepreneurial and public/private partnership opportunities that can be self-sustaining or revenue generating. MCCC’s new Culinary Arts Institute, along with its Lively Arts Series and Children’s Center, are successful models of this approach.
“The Board’s outstanding stewardship of College resources over the past 46 years puts us in a position of financial strength and enables us to keep going in spite of these devastating cuts,” Stout said. “However, if this erosion of public funding continues, the future landscape of higher education in Montgomery County will look significantly different.”
During the meeting, Board Chairman Michael J. D’Aniello appointed a new ad hoc committee “for the development of future funding strategies.” The committee is charged with providing an historical perspective of legislative authority and community college funding, and with developing a series of strategies to preserve and enhance MCCC’s financial ability to meet its mission. The committee will meet August through November.
Twenty Montgomery County Community College students accompanied College President Karen Stout to Harrisburg earlier this month to ask legislators to support capital funding for community colleges.
Currently, Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for 2012–13 does not provide capital funding for community colleges, although it includes $150 million commitment for capital funding for state colleges and universities and state-related universities. This is the fourth year the state’s 14 communities colleges have not received any capital dollars.
Meanwhile, enrollment continues to grow at community colleges, as students seek affordable college education and as displaced workers, like John D. McKillip Sr., Gilbertsville, seek new skills and training for re-employment.
Laid off by his employer and unable to find a job without a degree, McKillip decided to start a new career and enrolled in MCCC’s radiography program.
However, as he noted in his speech during the rally opening on the rotunda steps, radiography equipment, as well as other technology and modern classrooms, requires capital funding.
“The technology in my future profession is constantly changing and improving, providing patients with state-of-the-art medical care,” McKillip said. “If community colleges are not afforded funding to keep up with this type of technology, residents in the state of Pennsylvania will suffer with an underprepared medical workforce.”
President of Community College of Allegheny County and the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges Alex Johnson, as well as other student speakers, echoed McKillip’s statements.
“We cannot continue to train and educate students for jobs of the future in classrooms that resemble the past… Throughout the state, employers are asking community colleges to design courses and curriculum around their needs for workers, however funding limitations have not allowed for this growth,” Johnson said.
Following the rally, MCCC students visited legislators to advocate for capital funding.
Participants included: Christopher Bickings, Birdsboro; Christine Chiodo, Glenside; Emily Curry, Cheltenham; Jade Countryman, Macungie; Jesse Evans, Lower Gwynedd; Brian Gallie, Pottstown; Traveon Henry, Collegeville; Brittany Jones, Norristown; James Lavin, Pennsburg; Ben Litman, Harleysville; John McKillip, Gilbertsville; Sarah Munson, Harleysville; Emily Phipps, Blue Bell; William Reynolds, Gilbertsville; Shanae Roberts, Limerick; John Roddenberry, Pottstown; Dominga Rush, Pottstown; Rebecca Stern, Norristown; Jessica Stewart, Pottstown; and Iris Wang, Norristown.
During the visits, the students shared their experiences at MCCC.
“Most of us work full-time or part-time jobs while we go to college,” said Sarah Munson, Harleysville, to Sen. Robert Mensch. “As a result, we already have strong work ethics. This is the type of work ethic you want for America’s workforce, and the type you want to invest in.”
For Gilbertsville resident William Reynolds, MCCC is enabling him to step out poverty.
“I grew up in a family that lived on welfare,” he said. “The College is giving me the opportunity to improve and break the poverty cycle. The money you invest in community colleges will help save money that you would have had to spend on other programs. Community colleges help people like me have better lives.”
As more students find opportunities at community colleges, the increased enrollment puts a strain on the facilities.
The lack of capital funding is preventing MCCC from moving forward with much-needed projects to support highly demanded, growing programs.
At the Central Campus in Blue Bell, the college needs funds to renovate the physical education building into a Health and Wellness building to update and house the health and physical sciences, including the nursing, dental hygiene and medical assisting programs.
At West Campus in Pottstown, the College needs funds to complete the proposed Environmental Science classrooms and laboratories in the former PECO building at 140 College Drive.
Collectively, Pennsylvania’s community colleges have a list of shovel-ready projects that exceed $100 million.
“Not one of these projects will move forward under the Governor’s budget proposal,” Johnson said.
It is official. It will cost more to attend Montgomery County Community College this upcoming semester.
The college adopted its budget for the school year, which includes an 8 percent increase in tuition for students.
Just a month ago, county commissioners announced they would cut more than $5 million to the college. The commissioners received a recommendation from Chief Financial Officer Uri Z. Monson.
Monson and his office have looked at every expense from the county, trying to figure out what will save money for the financially-troubled county.
“We work on a calendar budget as you know,” said chairman Josh Shapiro. “The college works on a fiscal year budget. In the past, commissioners, at times through a letter from the chair to the community college president, indicated what the commissioners would be providing in the budget and at other times, would pass a resolution and say what they would be doing.”
The prior administration did stress how important it was to not cut money in the middle of the school year. Now with school out for the summer, the new administration stepped in and told the college early that they would be funding the school with much less than usual.
“Our CFO provided a letter to [college president] Dr. Stout based on his recommendation for he would recommend to the commissioners when we do our budget in December,” Shapiro said.
While working on the new budget, the county could give more money next year. Right now the county contributes less than 20 percent of the college’s overall budget.
“We were serious when we said cuts were going to be made,” said Shapiro. “We are not singling out the community college. It just so happen that they needed some direction from the commissioners at this time relative to the timeline that they passed the budget.”
The new operating budget, slightly more than $72 million, calls for an increase of $9 per credit plus a $1 increase in fees. A three-credit course is now $405.
The county recently decided to give its county workers a raise that was promised to them.
“We have begun our zero based budgeting process which in no doubt yield savings and further cuts and it is just a reality of times that we are in,” said Shapiro. “We believe collectively that investing in the community college is an important thing to do, but we are also constrained by the fiscal realty of today and the situation that we inherited and that leaves to tough decisions that needs to be made.”
The higher cost of education still puts the college below most of higher educational institutions in the area.
“Even with the tuition increase the board has passed, they are still below the regional average and below the other regional colleges,” said Shapiro. “It is still a good bargain and still an incredible value for students to attend Montgomery County Community College.”
William E. Trueheart, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream, Inc. will deliver the 2012 Commencement keynote address to Montgomery County Community College graduates on May 17 at 7 p.m.
Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count is a national network of 150 institutions dedicated to improving student success and completion.
Established in 2004 by the Lumina Foundation and its partners, Achieving the Dream is considered the most comprehensive non-governmental reform movement for student success in higher education history.
In 2011, MCCC was designated as an Achieving the Dream Leader College for its commitment to student success and sustained improvement on key student achievement indicators.
Specifically, the College was commended for its work to improve student outcomes in developmental courses, its development and launch of a Minority Male Mentoring Program, and for its use of data to make informed decisions about teaching and learning.
“Dr. Trueheart’s selection as Commencement speaker supports the College’s strategic commitment to improving student access, success and completion,” said MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “Our work in this area is transforming the education – and the lives – of our students, many of whom will graduate in May.”
As president of Achieving the Dream, Trueheart participates in a number of national organizations and initiatives, including the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation National Advisory Committee for Completion by Design; the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Statistics Pathway Steering Committee; and the Gulf Coast Partner Achieving Student Success National Advisory Board, among others.
Trueheart holds a B.A in political science and economics from the University of Connecticut; an M.P.A. from Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government; and an Ed.D. from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.
Prior to joining Achieving the Dream, Trueheart served as president of Bryant University in Rhode Island. He also held several positions at Harvard University, including the Office of Governing Boards associate secretary and the assistant dean and director of the Master of Public Education Program, as well as several administrative posts at the University of Connecticut.
MCCC’s 45th Commencement ceremony returns to the College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell for 2012 after being held off-site at the Valley Forge Convention Center in 2010 and 2011 because of campus construction.