*This commentary by Dr. Cynthia Bambara, ACM president, originally appeared in the April 20, 2020 edition of the Cumberland Times-News.
April is National Community College Awareness Month. Normally, I would be writing to highlight the importance of education and career training programs that community colleges – the people’s colleges – like ours provide. As one of Maryland’s sixteen community colleges, I would share stories of our graduates, celebrate successes of our transfer students, and tout our economic impact using carefully researched facts and figures. But these are not normal times.
Instead, I want to express my gratitude for the women and men on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic, including but not limited to: healthcare and pharmacy professionals, first responders and law enforcement, parole and probation staff, corrections officers, social workers, small business owners, farmers, restaurant staff and delivery drivers, grocery and store personnel, sanitation workers, journalists, and active military and National Guard members. With the increasing spread of COVID-19 in our region, we are all increasingly dependent upon you.
From our virtual classrooms and offices, we value the daily risks you are taking to care for our community. For many of you who are ACM alumnus, we are especially proud of the role our college played in your education or training.
ACM is continuing to educate and train tomorrow’s workforce in hopes that we never see a healthcare crisis of this magnitude ever again.
With Stay-At-Home orders in place for our Maryland and Pennsylvania campuses, we are finding small ways to meet the needs of our region and students during this crisis.
While our Allied Health and Science instructors donated gloves, masks, gowns and face shields to UPMC Western Maryland, our Respiratory Therapy instructors provided two ventilators to the Maryland Department of Health. Through the Maryland State Emergency Plan, the ventilators will be sent to where the need is greatest.
For our own students experiencing financial hardships, the ACM Foundation established the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund thanks to the generosity of several big-hearted donors. We expanded our campus wifi signal for students to use from their vehicles for remote instruction.
None of these minor efforts can compare with the sacrifices of those on the frontlines.
While I am confident that we will come out on the other side of this pandemic stronger, please know that I appreciate your efforts today to keep us well.