*This Letter to the Editor by Dr. Cynthia Bambara, ACM president, was shared with local media outlets in April. It appeared in the Cumberland Times-News website on April 18 and in the print edition on April 20, 2023.
Imagine the United States without community colleges.
Where would 10.2 million people (according to the American Association of Community Colleges) learn were it not for the country’s 1,038 public, tribal and independent community colleges? Where would millions more Americans attend public forums, lectures, cultural events, low-cost health clinics, or job fairs?
Each April during Community College Month (#CCMonth), we’re asked to give pause to consider the invaluable community resource that is our nation’s two-year institutions. Community colleges provide affordable, equitable, high-quality educational opportunities. With no SAT or ACT test requirement, they welcome everyone to learn, grow, and achieve their goals.
This year’s theme for this Community College Month – “Smart students attend community colleges” – is truer than true in my experience. I have met thousands of brilliant, hard-working, and goal-oriented students during my tenure at Allegany College of Maryland. These learners of all ages and lived experiences select ACM for its range of credit and noncredit offerings, affordability, robust scholarship program, and small college environment. From them, we learn volumes about perseverance, resilience and dedication.
As the leading regional hub of higher education, we help individuals embrace learning across the entirety of their lives, from Early College/Dual Enrollment classes to post-career enrichment activities. We assist adult learners in gaining their external high diplomas or GEDs, academic degrees, certificates, and workforce credentials. Our career preparation and family literacy classes, challenging academic degrees and workforce credentials and training programs, and employer training classes empower individuals and economies, both locally and across the country.
If I can share one success story with you, it’s the story of a second-generation ACM graduate. He, like roughly 92-95% of Maryland high school students, enrolled through his local community college for Early College/Dual Enrollment classes. From that start at ACM, he continued his education at our Cumberland campus. After graduating with an associate degree, he accepted a position in the medical field where he was quickly recognized by his employer for his outstanding work and compassion. This particular student transferred his ACM credits to a four-year institution. I was delighted to learn that he is now enrolled in a terminal degree (doctorate) program. Through the course of his career in healthcare, I have no doubt that he will improve the lives of countless other individuals.
As Community College Month activities wind down, I think of this student and the role we’ve played in his journey as well as the impact of all two-year institutions. If ACM has played a significant role in your life’s story, I encourage you to share that with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.