Olivet Boys and Girls Club Donates $15,000 for Student Scholarships

by Diane VanDyke

The non-profit organization, the Olivet Boys and Girls Club of Reading and Berks County, recently presented a $15,000 check to the Montgomery County Community College Foundation for student scholarships. The Foundation is adding an additional $5,000 to the scholarship program.

The combined scholarship funds of $20,000 will enable youth at the Olivet Boys & Girls Club’s Richard J. Ricketts Center in Pottstown to enroll and take classes at Montgomery County Community College. Currently, three students are receiving the scholarship funds and eight additional students have applied. The scholarships are used to cover the remaining costs of tuition and books not covered by federal Pell or other grants.

“We have overlapping missions to bring deserving students through the higher education pipeline and have them graduate without debt,” said College President Dr. Karen A. Stout at the check presentation.

“We are excited for the future of these young people. Thank you for this partnership,” said Dr. James Smith, Interim CEO for Olivet. “We will continue to find funding sources to provide scholarships to help level the playing field.”

The Olivet Boys & Girls Club has been serving the youth of Reading, Berks County and beyond since 1898 when it was started by William McCormick. Olivet is a chartered member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It incorporates many of the national organization’s youth programs into the local branches, including at the Richard J. Ricketts Center, 640 Beech Street, Pottstown, which is under the direction of Janice Burgess, the club director.

The College has had a growing relationship with the Olivet Boys and Girls Club at the Ricketts Center. For the past three years, students and staff of the College have volunteered to help at the Center on Martin Luther King Day of Service. Additionally, students have volunteered on their own to help at the Center.

Olivet Boys and Girls Club of Reading and Berks County presented a $15,000 check to the Montgomery County Community College Foundation on April 30 for student scholarships. The Foundation is adding an additional $5,000 to the scholarship program. From left, College President Dr. Karen A. Stout, Olivet Interim CEO Dr. James Smith, Vice President of West Campus Steady Moono, Ricketts Center Club Director Janice Burgess and Olivet Development Director Camille Stock. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Olivet Boys and Girls Club of Reading and Berks County presented a $15,000 check to the Montgomery County Community College Foundation on April 30 for student scholarships. The Foundation is adding an additional $5,000 to the scholarship program. From left, College President Dr. Karen A. Stout, Olivet Interim CEO Dr. James Smith, Vice President of West Campus Steady Moono, Ricketts Center Club Director Janice Burgess and Olivet Development Director Camille Stock. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery Selected for National Job Ready, Willing and Able Initiative

by Diane VanDyke

Montgomery County Community College is one of 17 community colleges from across the country selected to participate in Job Ready, Willing and Able Initiative (JRWA) to help train America’s workforce. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recently announced the Walmart Foundation will provide a $4.19 million three-year grant to support the JRWA initiative with $2.67 million directly supporting community colleges, including MCCC.

“Montgomery County Community College’s Center for Workforce Development provides high-quality business skills programs to meet the needs of individuals, businesses and professional organizations in Montgomery County and the local region,” said College President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “The Job Ready, Willing and Able Initiative will allow the Center to offer new courses that will enable students to gain viable skills needed for immediate employment opportunities.”

The JRWA initiative will provide middle-skill training, industry recognized credentials, and access to employment across varying industry sectors in each of the 17 communities.

As part of this initiative, MCCC will develop a pipeline through its existing Office Administration Program to create a non-credit, competency-based Office Assistant certificate. Students will enroll in three courses—Business Software Essentials, Microsoft Word Applications and Modern Office Management—to attain computer literacy skills, as well as the vital “soft” skills expected by employers in business environments. The certificate can be completed in less than a year, allowing students to quickly enter the workforce.

Additionally after completing the certificate, students will have the opportunity to pursue the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam for Microsoft Word 2013. This sought-after credential provides students with marketable skills that will further increase their chances for employment. Moreover, students who complete this certificate will have the opportunity to stack the courses into credit programs at the College, if they decide to continue their education in the Office Administration field and gain additional skills that will lead to new opportunities and higher salaries.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, office and administrative support occupations is one of the largest occupation groups in the Commonwealth. The Center for Workforce Information and Analysis projects 105 annual openings in this field in Montgomery County. Additionally, there is a growing need in the Montgomery County Region for general office clerks, with an expected 338 annual openings in the County and an estimated 14,620 total jobs in 2016.

“We are proud to continue our work with Walmart Foundation at a time when the nation is focused on middle-skill careers and opportunities. This initiative is a model for how community colleges can connect students with specific, sustainable jobs in their communities and contribute to long-term economic growth,” said Walter Bumphus, AACC president and CEO.

Working with the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, the College plans to reach unemployed populations to provide this invaluable training to fill the open office positions of the County’s workforce. Additionally, the College will work with the Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) program to offer this training to deserving students in the program.

The AACC selected the 17 participating colleges through a highly competitive process. Four colleges will be mentor colleges, with support from AACC, the National Association of Workforce Boards, AACC Affiliate Councils and industry associations. Mentors were selected from AACC’s 2008–2010 Workforce Economic Opportunity Initiative funded by Walmart Foundation and will provide additional guidance to 13 mentee colleges.

All colleges will work closely with local businesses, economic development leaders and the area workforce systems to collaboratively address the needs of the unemployed. The initiative aims to provide more than 5,000 unemployed adults with new skills, credentials and jobs.

The four selected mentor colleges are Arkansas Northeastern College, Arkansas; Northeast Community College, Nebraska; Umpqua Community College, Oregon; and Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia.

In addition to MCCC, the 12 mentee colleges selected for the JRWA initiative are Grossmont College, California; Community College of Aurora, Colorado; St. Johns River State College, Florida; Kirkwood Community College, Iowa; Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana; Hazard Community and Technical College, Kentucky; Jamestown Community College, New York; Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio; Northeast State Community College, Tennessee; Tarrant County College District, Texas; Snow College, Utah; and West Virginia University at Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Individuals in Recovery Find Success in ‘POWERful’ Program

by Alana J. Mauger

 Montgomery County Community College  celebrated the journey of 19 individuals who successfully completed the spring session of its innovative Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program on April 22 during a ceremony at the Central Campus in Blue Bell.

The POWER Program helps individuals in mental health recovery to successfully develop and reach their education and career goals through a two-credit college course that focuses on time management, basic computer skills, study skills, public speaking, college success skills, career assessment, resume writing and professionalism.

For the graduates, the POWER Program gives them the confidence and skills they need to take the next steps in their lives. Several participants reflected on their journeys during the ceremony.

“The POWER Program has given me the tools to succeed and has improved my confidence by 110 percent,” said Qiani Bennett, who described her decade-long “tug-of-war” with depression. “I will never forget the role this class has played in my journey.”

A mother of three sons, Bennett is enrolled in MCCC’s Human Services program for the fall semester.

POWER participant Leya Ross, who spoke about her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, will be joining Bennett in the Human Services program this fall.

“I will be a confident, productive and successful critical thinker. I will carry everything I have learned for the rest of my life,” she vowed.

Devon Heise was the final student to speak, sharing her emotional journey through years of drug abuse, incarceration, rehab and attempts at college.

“All of these failures piled up,” she said. “I somehow survived a grim reality that was so bleak.”

Going forward, Heise hopes to work with teenagers as a way to give back to those professionals who helped her.

“Instead of letting my past mistakes define me, they now influence who I am today,” she shared.

As part of the ceremony, 14 students were recognized for their achievements through the POWER Plus Program. These are former POWER participants who are now attending college classes or are currently employed as a result of completing the program.

“I felt my mind expanding and myself improving already during [new student] orientation,” said POWER Plus participant Bob Maddox, who is enjoying his Spanish classes at MCCC and hopes to one day become a translator.

Associate Professor of Psychology and POWER Program Director Diane Haar presented a POWER Advocate Award to Nancy Wieman, who is retiring from her post as Deputy Administrator for Montgomery County’s Mental Health Services after 28 years.

“Nancy has been at the forefront of the mental health recovery movement, and as a result of her work, the County’s program is not only a model for the state, but also for the country.”

In addition to Haar, the College’s POWER team consists of Program Coordinator/Advisor Lisa Barbiero, Community Liaison/Advisor Lori Schreiber, Peer Mentor George Rohde, Administrative Coordinator Dianne Johnson, Faculty Rose Regan, and Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Aaron Shatzman.

Montgomery County Community College and the Office of Montgomery County Behavioral Health/Development Disabilities provide funding for POWER and POWER Plus Programs, which also receive support from the Huston Foundation, Patricia Kind Foundation, the OddFellows of Philadelphia and other private foundations. However, the programs are in need of funding to continue next year.

Individuals interested in the POWER program may obtain a referral from their mental health or school provider or may self-refer.  For more information, contact Community Liaison Lori Schreiber at 215-461-1151 or lschreib@mc3.edu or Program Advisor Lisa Barbiero at 215-641-6425 or lbarbier@mc3.edu.

POWER and POWER Plus Program participants and staff at April 2014 graduation ceremony.  Photo by Sandi Yanisko

POWER and POWER Plus Program participants and staff at April 2014 graduation ceremony. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery Builds Financial Literacy Model with ‘Next Generation Learning Challenges’ Grant

by Alana J. Mauger

Montgomery County Community College has received a $100,000 grant to build on the success of a financial literacy prototype, developed as part of the inaugural Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI) cohort.

Last May, MCCC was one of seven institutions selected for the inaugural cohort. Each institution received $50,000 to design and launch a technology-based support program, specifically created to improve completion rates, the quality of student learning and the time it takes for degree completion. Last week, each of the seven institutions from the initial cohort received the next phase of funding, $100,000, made possible by a grant from EDUCAUSE through Next Generation Learning Challenges.

After participating in NGLC’s three-day workshop in July, MCCC’s team of eight faculty and staff was given three months to develop a prototype based on the College’s initial proposal to improve first-time students’ understanding of financial, civic, and digital literacies through the creation of a “New Literacy” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

“Students cite ‘financial concerns’ as the top reason for dropping out of courses, especially during the first two weeks of a semester. Therefore, in order to make significant gains in student retention and completion, we must first improve our students’ understanding of financial literacy,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president, MCCC.  “Our team has done outstanding work in building a pilot that has already helped hundreds of students strengthen their understand the financial aid process.”

After engaging students through focus groups and surveys, MCCC developed “Montco Money Matters,” a module that introduces students to the concept of paying for college. By working with content, media, technology and design experts from across MCCC, the team produced a multi-channel module that includes video displays, social media and face-to-face engagement, along with an online course-like experience.

The 30-minute, self-guided program introduces students to concepts of financial aid, loans and grants; highlights the long-term implications of loans and future debt; and makes them aware of other resources, like scholarships, to help pay for college. The program incorporates open-source and original content, including a computer-generated tour guide, short video clips featuring actual MCCC students, and links to off-campus resources that allow students to delve further into topics of interest.

A total of 425 students actively engaged in the pilot program during a seven-week period during the fall 2013 semester. Of those, 95 percent of students who provided feedback indicated they will recommend the online resources to others, and 80 percent said the course will influence future academic decisions. In addition, feedback revealed that student loans and scholarship information were the most valuable topics covered, and money management is a topic on which many students would like more information.

With the prototype completed and funding secured, MCCC’s next step is to build out additional modules under the umbrella of financial literacy. These modules could address topics such as cash management, budgeting, shopping for textbooks, transportation, loans and debt, among others. The College also hopes to make “Montco Money Matters” accessible to school districts within Montgomery County and to the general population at large.

In addition to Montgomery, six other selected schools are part of the inaugural NGLC BMI cohort, including Austin Peay State University, Ball State University, Charter Oak State College, SUNY-Empire State College, Harper College and the University of Maryland-University College.

Check out some of the videos from Montco Money Matters:

Videos by Matt Porter and Alana J. Mauger

‘Bridging Historias’ Program to Enhance Humanities Courses

by Diane VanDyke

By participating in a two-year “Bridging Historias” program funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, Montgomery County Community College’s Dean of Arts and Humanities Michele Cuomo serves as the administrative lead for the grant, and in doing so, will have the opportunity to provide resources to faculty to expand Latino/a studies in humanities courses offered at the College.

“Latino history and culture is an extremely important part of American history and culture. ‘Bridging Historias’ provides faculty and administrators with an opportunity to learn more on the subject from leading historians, which will in turn provide greater student access to this important and compelling area of study,” says Cuomo.

“Bridging Historias” is a faculty and curriculum development program directed by the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning in partnership with Queensborough Community College. The program addresses the importance of Latino/a culture in American history and is designed to expand the teaching of this topic across the humanities disciplines.

The program started in September 2013 at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, with 42 selected community college faculty and administrators from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania. The program includes six full-day seminars with guest lecturers at CUNY. Participants also use an online program for reading, discussion and further development of programs to incorporate the Latino/a perspective.

Montgomery County Community College celebrates all diversity and is committed to building and supporting a diverse community and maintaining a campus climate that embraces differences.

According to 2010 census results reported on Montgomery County Planning Commission’s Data Portel at http://www.montcopa.org, Montgomery County’s growing Latino/a population has more than doubled since 2000, increasing by 18,991 for a total of 34,233 persons. This growing segment comprises 4.3 percent of the County’s total population of 799,874 in 2010.

First Student Graduates from Gateway to College Program

by Diane VanDyke

Brittany Harding of Hatboro-Horsham School District completed her high school requirements and received her diploma.

Brittany Harding of Hatboro-Horsham School District completed her high school requirements and received her diploma.

Montgomery County Community College’s Gateway to College Program hosted its first Awards and Graduation Ceremony recently at its Central Campus in Blue Bell.

After participating in the Gateway to College program for the fall semester, Brittany Harding completed her high school requirements and received her diploma from Director of Curriculum Dr. David Weber on behalf of the Hatboro-Horsham School District. It was a proud moment for Harding and her family.

“After I became a mother, people told me I would not be able to finish school,” Harding said. “But, my daughter inspired me. I want the best future for her, which means I have to finish my education and get a steady job. . . Making the decision to follow my dream is one I will never regret.”

Now that she has completed this first milestone in her educational journey, Harding looks forward to taking college courses during the 2014 Spring semester at Montgomery County Community College. She plans to get her associate’s degree in Mathematics and then get her bachelor’s degree so she can be a math teacher.

Harding is one of 21 students in MCCC’s first Gateway class that started in September 2013. MCCC is only 1 of only 43 higher education institutions in the country (and one of only two in the state) selected to participate in this program, which offers at-risk high school students a second chance to earn their diplomas and pursue college degrees. To date, 13 school districts and the Workforce Investment Board have partnered with MCCC, creating one of the largest collaborations in the Gateway program.

“My Gateway students are some of the most resilient and capable young people I have had the pleasure of supporting on their academic journey. Many are faced with incredibly difficult life circumstances yet they consistently attend school, participate in a rigorous learning environment and meet the expectations of the program. While this program is designed for students who are at-risk of not completing high school, my students prove that if given the opportunity to excel they can and will rise to the occasion. They are dreamers who have found a dreaming space at the MCCC GtC program,” said Keima Sheriff, MCCC’s Gateway program director.

In addition to celebrating Harding’s milestone achievement, Sheriff, along with Gateway Resource Specialists Lori Davidson and Esau Collins and MCCC Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Kathrine Swanson, recognized students for their achievements. Fourteen students completed the Foundation Semester portion of the program and will now transition as mainstreamed college students and continue taking classes while learning to work more independently.

The students with the highest GPAs were Brittany Harding (Hatboro-Horsham School District) and Dejah McMillan (Pottsgrove School District).  Carlas Rich (Phoenixville Area School District) and Khary Harris (Norristown Area School District) earned the Most Improved (GPA, attendance and attitude) awards.  Marcus Gordon (Pottsgrove School District) and Rosemary Lux (Norristown Area School District) received The Most Determined awards.  Isaiah Heverly (Phoenixville Area School District) and Peter Edwards (Norristown Area School District) received The Change of Heart (improved approach to learning). Anthony Hall (Phoenixville Area School District) and Amber Keys (Norristown Area School District) earned The Most Courageous awards. The Perfect Attendance award was presented to Dejah McMillan.  The overall Gateway to College award (GPA, attendance and participation) was presented to Rachel Voltz (Upper Merion School District).

Several students were recognized as Gateway Achievers (average GPA of 2.5 or higher):  Dejah McMillan, Faith Owens, Anthony Hall, Marcus Gordon, Rachel Voltz, Rosemary Lux, Amber Keys, Khary Harris, Brittany Harding and Yasmin Rich. The 14 students who completed the Foundation Semester and are transitioning to mainstream college courses are: Khary Harris, Amber Keys, Rosemary Lux, Yasmin Rich, Michael Sharky, Nicole Snyder, Rachel Voltz, Marcus Gordon, Anthony Hall, Isaiah Heverly, Alexandra Johns, Dejah McMillan, Faith Owens and Carlas Rich.

Recipients of the Gateway to College Achiever Awards included (front row, from left) Dejah McMillan, Faith Owens and Brittany Harding and (back row, from left) Rosemary Lux, Khary Harris, Anthony Hall, and Rachel Voltz. Standing with the group are MCCC Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Kathrine Swanson (left) and Gateway Program Director Keima Sheriff (right). Missing from the photo are Marcus Gordon, Amber Keys and Yasmin Rich.

Recipients of the Gateway to College Achiever Awards included (front row, from left) Dejah McMillan, Faith Owens and Brittany Harding and (back row, from left) Rosemary Lux, Khary Harris, Anthony Hall, and Rachel Voltz. Standing with the group are MCCC Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Kathrine Swanson (left) and Gateway Program Director Keima Sheriff (right). Missing from the photo are Marcus Gordon, Amber Keys and Yasmin Rich.

BLOG Gateway 2

Montgomery County Community College hosted its first graduation and awards ceremony for its Gateway to College program on Dec. 19, 2013. Photos by Sandi Yanisko

Innovative Program Makes ‘POWERful’ Impact on Individuals in Recovery

by Alana J. Mauger

Montgomery County Community College celebrated the journey of 28 individuals who successfully completed its innovative Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program during a December ceremony at the Central Campus in Blue Bell.

The POWER Program helps individuals in mental health recovery to successfully develop and reach their education and career goals through a two-credit college course that focuses on time management, basic computer skills, study skills, public speaking, college success skills, career assessment, resume writing and professionalism.

For the graduates, the POWER Program gives them the confidence and skills they need to take the next steps in their lives. Several participants reflected on their journeys during the ceremony.

“The POWER Program has allowed me to experience how to interview and write a resume, and I want to continue my studies and work toward obtaining a better job,” shared Jordon Giraldi, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. “I look forward to trying new things.”

Recent high school graduate Lea Lavelle aspires to start a foundation that partners sick children with animal companions – a passion that developed from her own experiences with Pets for Companionship following multiple surgeries for a brain tumor.

“I want a career where I help animals because they have helped me so much,” she shared. “I want to earn my associate’s degree [at MCCC] and then transfer.”

Michael Soder shared his journey to the POWER Program, which led through addiction, incarceration and, now, recovery.

“The POWER Program helped me gain confidence, and now I know I will amount to something,” he said. “The most important thing is the friendships I made.”

Paul Sirianni shared excerpts from journal entries he wrote while incarcerated as a teen.

“One thing people can’t take away from you – it’s hope,” said the creative writer, encouraging his classmates to push themselves past their “mental walls.”

As part of the ceremony, 14 students were recognized for their achievements through the POWER Plus Program. These students are attending college classes or are currently employed as a result of their participation in the POWER Program.

“When I completed the POWER Program last year, I had a sense of purpose,” shared POWER Plus participant Jacob Reeder. “Now, I am a support to those around me, and I look forward to getting my degree [from MCCC].”

The POWER team includes Director/Faculty Diane Haar, Program Coordinator/Advisor Lisa Barbiero, Community Liaison/Advisor Lori Schreiber, Peer Mentor George Rohde, Administrative Coordinator Dianne Johnson, Faculty Byron Goldstein, and Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Aaron Shatzman.

Montgomery County Community College and the Office of Montgomery County Behavioral Health/Development Disabilities provide funding for POWER and POWER Plus Programs, which also receive support from the Huston Foundation, Patricia Kind Foundation, the OddFellows of Philadelphia and other private foundations. However, the programs are in need of funding to continue next year.

Individuals interested in the POWER program may obtain a referral from their mental health or school provider or may self-refer.  For more information, contact Community Liaison Lori Schreiber at 215-461-1151 or lschreib@mc3.edu or Program Advisor Lisa Barbiero at 215-641-6425 or lbarbier@mc3.edu.

POWER and POWER Plus Program participants from December 2013 graduation ceremony.  Photo by Sandi Yanisko

POWER and POWER Plus Program participants from December 2013 graduation ceremony. Photo by Sandi Yanisko