Gateway to College Receives $10,000 Grant from PECO

by Diane VanDyke

Montgomery County Community College received a $10,000 PECO grant on Sept. 3 to support the College’s Gateway to College program. The funds will be used for textbooks, transportation, meal subsidies and other costs not covered by the program.

Gateway to College is a national initiative that helps students who have dropped out of high school or are not on track to graduate to earn a diploma and college credits. In November 2012, MCCC was one of only 43 colleges in the country and only the second college in Pennsylvania selected to participate in the Gateway to College National Network. In September 2013, the College launched the program, which is held at the college’s Central Campus in Blue Bell and West Campus in Pottstown.

“Montgomery County Community College is committed to helping students succeed, and the Gateway to College program provides students with a supportive environment where they can complete their high school requirements, graduate and attain their post-secondary credential,” said College President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “We appreciate PECO’s generous investment and ongoing support of our work and our students.”

In its inaugural year, the Gateway program had 50 participants and 11 graduates. This year, 55 students are enrolled, including returning and new students. Eighteen school districts and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board partner with MCCC and refer students for the program.

“Education is invaluable, and we know how important it is to help students develop skills that prepare them for future success,” said Mike Innocenzo, senior vice president and COO, PECO. “PECO has been a proud partner of Montgomery County Community College since 2005, and this is one of many programs we have supported to help improve access to higher education for local high school students.”

For Upper Moreland High School student William Dobnak, the Gateway program gave him a second chance to achieve his true potential.

“I was failing my classes in high school,” Dobnak told the incoming Gateway students at orientation. “I barely passed my sophomore year and was at risk for failing my junior year when my school counselor told me about Gateway. Being here and taking classes 8on a college campus helped my stress level and overall happiness.”

The college environment and caring professors and staff made all the difference, he said, noting that his GPA after his first term in Gateway is 4.0.

“We deeply appreciate our partners—the school districts, Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board and PECO—and their investment in this program,” said Dr. Stout. “Programs like Gateway to College not only transform lives but create a ripple effect of positive benefits for the community and local and state economies, too.”

For more information about Gateway to College, contact Director Keima Sheriff at ksheriff@mc3.edu.

From left, PECO Senior Vice President and COO Michael Innocenzo, Director of Gateway to College Program Keima Sheriff, student William Dobnak and College President Dr. Karen A. Stout. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

From left, PECO Senior Vice President and COO Michael Innocenzo, Director of Gateway to College Program Keima Sheriff, student William Dobnak and College President Dr. Karen A. Stout. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

EITC Funding Helps Qualifying Families with Preschool Costs

by Alana J. Mauger

The Children’s Center at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is offering subsidized preschool education to low-income families for the 2014-15 academic year through Educational Investment Tax Credit (EITC) funding from North Penn United Way.

Funding is available for children ages three and four with a household income that is under 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and who live in the North Penn or Souderton school districts. Those who qualify will have 70 percent of their weekly child care tuition covered. Funding is available on a first-come, first served basis and is open to current MCCC students and members of the community.

To learn more, contact Children’s Center Director Debbie Ravacon at 215-641-6618 or dravacon@mc3.edu.

The Children’s Center, which is located at the College’s Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, is a fully licensed child care center that is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). It is recognized by NAEYC as an exemplary early childhood education program in the nation for its work to engage diverse families, has a top Keystone Stars rating of four, and is a consistent recipient of the Start4 Merit Award.

Research identifies cost and accessibility to affordable child care as reasons why lower-income students do not complete college. The Children’s Center supports Montgomery’s strategic goal to expand access to education and increase student success by offering accessible child care at discounted rates and flexible schedules to maximize affordability.

For more information about the College’s Children’s Center, visit mc3.edu/student-resources/child-care.

Registration for accelerated fall semester classes, which start on Sept. 24 and Oct. 15 at Montgomery County Community College, is going on now. Visit mc3.edu/Fall2014 to learn more.

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.