Embracing our Role as the County’s College

Several weeks ago, the Cumberland County Improvement Authority held the State of the County annual event and Business Expo on our campus at Cumberland County College. We welcomed more than 250 attendees to explore the businesses in our county and network with colleagues in the region. As part of this gathering, I spoke about how the College is embracing its role as the driver for higher education attainment, workforce development, and as contributing agent for economic development. I shared some of the ways we are doing this.

We are introducing several new initiatives and events this year. On December 8, we will hold the College’s first Open House. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to explore the range of academic degrees and workforce training programs that we offer at Cumberland County College. Prospective students and families will have opportunities to learn about college financing options, the value and savings associated with starting at our community college. In addition, prospective students will be able to sit in classes related to the degrees they are interested in pursuing.

This fall, we are launching an initiative called First to Go, or Primer-A-Ir in Spanish. This initiative targets students who are going to be the first in their family to go to college. We understand how scary the process of applying to and entering college can be for first generation students. We want these students to feel a sense of belonging in college and we want them to persist through completion. So, whether you are just graduating college this year or took some time off, we welcome you and will be there every step of the way.

For those who are not the first in their families to attend college, we have the Legacy Students program. We know that all it takes is one generation to lose the economic edge. Our student retention programs for legacy students focuses on ensuring that families don’t lose the gains they made with the prior generation.

We are also instituting mentoring and internship programs to ensure that students acquire professional experiences to build their resumes as part of their undergraduate studies with us. These programs are also intended to ensure that they are aware of proper business etiquette, know how to write a compelling cover letter, and how to market themselves on their resumes. We plan to draw on the expertise of local business leaders and retirees to help with mentoring our students.

Lastly, we are investing more in educating the adult learner population. Whether it is a specific skills-based training program or an associate degree, we want to raise the skills level within that group. There, we are targeting young parents, displaced workers, the unemployed and under-employed people, the previously incarcerated, high school and college drop-outs.

Our message is simple: it is never too late to start again and improve your economic plight.

Previously published in The Daily Journal on November 10, 2016.

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