CSM Students Ask Elected Officials for Full Funding of Community Colleges in State Budget

Keynote Speaker Said Years of Self-Doubt Ended After First Week of Class at CSM

When College of Southern Maryland student Angela Majors finished her keynote speech to representatives from Maryland’s 16 community colleges gathered in Annapolis for Student Advocacy Day Feb. 9, the crowd rose to their feet, some wiping tears from their eyes, to applaud her story of transformation.

The standing ovation was a first for Majors who says that one of the reasons she wants to become a social worker one day is to inspire and encourage others.

By the response from her remarks, she is already doing that.

“I watched as students from around the state nodded in agreement to parts of Angela’s speech that seemed to resonate with them,” said Michelle Ruble, CSM’s director of student life and athletics and advisor for the La Plata Student Association. “Her words hit home for many.”

Hundreds of community college students from around the state, including 15 from CSM, came to Annapolis to meet with elected officials to urge support and the full funding of community colleges in the Governor’s FY2012 budget. Their message, overwhelmingly, was that community colleges provide accessible, affordable post-secondary education and training, and that students’ success depends on support they receive from their elected officials.

Majors’ message was personal. She was told by a high school guidance counselor that she should consider a trade, “because I would not survive in an academic program,” Majors recalls him saying. “If there was no hope for me going to college, what was the point of high school?” A few months later, she dropped out of school.

Majors spent years bouncing from one dead-end job to another until age 31 when she learned she was expecting a child. “I was single, unemployed and uneducated,” she said.

She needed to make a positive change in her life, she said, the kind of change that starts with education. She enrolled in classes at CSM, and after getting over the anxiety of returning to school found that she not only enjoyed college but excelled. “I was full of self-doubt and panic-stricken my first week at the College of Southern Maryland,” Majors said. One week at CSM was all it took, she said, “by the end of it, I was right at home.”

Majors is a full-time criminal justice student and the president of CSM’s National Society of Leadership and Success.

“The College of Southern Maryland has provided a true turning point in my life and helped to secure a future for my son and me,” said Majors, adding, “In my opinion every American citizen deserves the wonderfully life-altering experience that a community college can provide them.”

             Majors’ story may be unique, but her success story that she’s experiencing through the community college is one common within Maryland.

Community colleges in Maryland serve more than 150,000 students in credit programs and an additional 275,000 in workforce-related continuing education certificate programs, according to H. Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. Over half of all Maryland residents who attend college in Maryland do so at a community college, Whitlow said, adding that more than 85 percent of all community college graduates remain in Maryland after completing their studies.

Community college graduates who remain in Southern Maryland to fill workforce needs was one of the topics CSM student Joe DeNavas spoke of with his representative Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (District 27). Meeting in Miller’s office in the State House following the morning rally, DeNavas, of Dunkirk and vice president of CSM’s  Prince Frederick Campus Student Association, said that many opportunities have opened up to him since becoming a student at CSM.  “I perceive myself to be a lucky person, but I know that not everyone else is as fortunate as I am,” he said. DeNavas singled out CSM’s new Nuclear Engineering Technology (NET) degree program as a great opportunity for Calvert County residents to get good-paying jobs with the county-based power company allowing them to live and work in the same community.

“We have partnered with Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant to expand the NET program. Our new building, which will open summer, 2012 will have approximately 3,000 square feet devoted to the NET program,” said Prince Frederick Campus Executive Director of Student Services Jody Simpson.

 “You are blessed to be going to such a great community college,” Del. Sally Jameson (District 28) told CSM students gathered in the East Wing of the Miller Senate Office Building. “Southern Maryland delegates take tremendous pride in not only the facilities at CSM but also in the students. You are our future workforce,” said Jameson.

In addition to Jameson, students from Charles County met with Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (District 28) and Delegates John Wood (District 29A) and Peter Murphy (District 28). “We have seen an 18 percent increase in enrollment on the La Plata campus,” said Ruble. “We came to thank the delegation for their ongoing support and for the funds to renovate and expand classrooms and labs in the Business Building (BU) on our campus.”

St. Mary’s County students Lora Clarke, Kellee Johnson and Venice Miller met with Sen. Roy Dyson (District 29) in his offices, thanking him for his support of the new Wellness and Aquatics Center on the Leonardtown Campus. “The center is an asset not only to CSM students, but to the community at-large,” said Leonardtown Campus Executive Director of Student Services Regina Bowman-Goldring, adding that the college is embarking on collaborative initiatives with St. Mary’s County public schools and local agencies to enhance health and wellness programming.

A day that began with CSM students seated in the chairs used by their lawmakers, ended with students hopeful legislators returning to the chamber seats to vote on the full funding of community colleges, will remember the students’ personal stories and aspirations.

Student testimonials are at the heart of the Student Advocacy Day efforts. To view these stories, visit www.mdacc.org/StudentAdvocacy or http://www.facebook.com/MDACC.