October 5th is a monumental day in the history of the U.S. Yes, it is my daughter’s one month anniversary in kindergarten. Yes, I will pack her an unbelievable lunch and note telling her how proud I am of her. It is also the day of the first ever, White House Summit on Community Colleges. As a full-time faculty member in Teacher Education at Anne Arundel Community College, located in Maryland, I am elated to attend the summit.
Some would think comparing my daughter’s educational anniversary to the summit is fruitless. Some might think the two have little in common. However, when I step back and look more deeply, are the factors that make them both so invaluable really that different? The obvious, they both involve formalized education. I might even say they are like bookends – kindergarten – the start of a more formalized education, and college – perhaps the loose latter stage of that progression. Looking deeper, I see more. I see, in any level of education, the need for collaboration; the need for stakeholders like families, parents, students, teachers, community members, businesses, and politicians to come together to discuss their educational observations. I also see an opportunity, in both environments, to complete a needs assessment for what students and accompanied stakeholders need now and in the future. Successes in both educational environments come from committed educators who understand and employ evidence-based, best practices to support the needs of their students. Like most successful programs, causes, and businesses, there is a fervent need, in both educational environments, to think strategically and develop clear action plans to foster student success.
The White House Summit on Community Colleges, in my humble opinion, is taking place to do just that – collaborate with a multitude of stakeholders, assess current and future needs, and gather evidence from committed educators (and their educational allies) in hopes to, within the very near future, formulate strategic plans, based on proven educational practices, to move this fantastic nation forward. Education and our schools make the newspapers, blogs and movie theaters consistently. What I have not seen much of in the last decade (and before) is a national discussion on the important role community colleges play in educating U.S. Americans. The White House Summit on Community Colleges, I believe, is historically ground-breaking.
Now, as I excitedly prepare for October 5th, I have much to consider; menu planning for a five year old and how best to make my voice, and the voice of my colleagues - full-time and part-time faculty - heard at the White House Summit on Community Colleges.
Jennifer Lara is a Professor of Education at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD