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PCC contingent takes over Capitol Building for the day to showcase importance of its work
Story and photos by the Community Relations Team.
On Feb. 17, the college hosted its Day at the Capitol, which attracted hundreds of supporters to Salem’s Capitol Building to tell the “PCC story.” The day was a dramatic way for the college to thank legislators for investing in higher education and show how it is a critical part of the state’s education and economy. There were House and Senate floor courtesies for leaders like Interim President Sylvia Kelley, Sylvania President Lisa Avery and Poppie the Panther, the school’s vaunted mascot.
Statistics showcase PCC’s importance to the state. The college, which enrolls almost 90,000 students every year, ranks in the top-10 in the nation for associate degree completion. Its tuition is roughly half that of a four-year university, and three-quarters of residents polled across PCC’s 1,500-square-mile district said that they or a family member have taken a class at the college at some point. The college’s vast district represents more than a third of Oregon residents who have access to its four comprehensive campuses, eight training centers and 200 locations.
“In this past year, with conversations around tuition-free community colleges we’ve heard national references of a ‘Camelot Moment’ for community colleges,” said Rob Wagner, associate vice president for College Advancement at the event’s luncheon. “What we do know is that the paradigm and the thinking about community colleges is shifting and it’s spelled out in the data. Because community colleges are a cause, you here today are our frontline champions in changing hearts and minds.”
Below are reflections by the college’s Community Relations team, a group of staff charged with telling PCC’s story every day.
First ‘PCC Day’ special for new staff
By Celina Baguiao, Sylvania Campus
I attended my first ever lobby day on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when I participated in Portland Community College’s Day at the Capitol.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I was nervous. I was told that I was going to be paired with students and I would help navigate them through the day. When I met my group I learned that these were students who understood the political environment of education enough to volunteer their time to tell their PCC story. They weren’t forced to be there: they wanted to be at the Capitol for PCC.
I was impressed with the students as they were the opposite of what I was when I was in community college.
One was a non-traditional student who had been laid off multiple times at retail jobs. He finally said enough was enough and enrolled in school. Now he is close to transferring and has a stellar GPA. Another student I was paired with identified herself as a low-income student who works part-time to pay for her apartment, while going to school. She loves PCC! She was the most enthusiastic member of the team and was proud to be attending the event.
At times as an administrator, I get bogged down in the day-to-day operation of work and I can forget that what I am doing is benefiting students and the community, in ways that I can’t even imagine. Wednesday was that reminder of the great work that can be accomplished at community colleges and the impact that PCC has on its students and the community. Spending time with students and hearing how thankful they were for PCC, renewed my energy.
Legislators demonstrated great knowledge about college mission
By Janis Nichols, Rock Creek Campus
This was my first PCC Day at the Capitol and I was truly impressed by the quality of PCC’s engagement and by how our teams were received by members of the 2016 Legislature. Without exception, State Senators and House members were genuinely interested in the stories our students shared. They asked excellent questions, demonstrated a knowledge of PCC and its mission, and encouraged all of us to keep up the good work. I think our students left Salem knowing that there are people from all across Oregon who will fight to keep higher education accessible and affordable. Can’t wait until next year.
PCC’s pivotal role realized in Capitol
By Abe Proctor, Cascade Campus
Something that has stood out to me during my time with PCC is the tremendous reservoir of goodwill that the larger Portland community holds toward the college. This realization has only been reinforced by the three PCC Day at the Capitols in which I have participated. In Salem, just as in Portland, there is a deep understanding of the pivotal role that PCC plays in the educational, economic, and social health of our city; an instinctual grasp of the fact that PCC is an indispensable component of our collective civic life. This understanding was evident in the warmth with which we were received by our legislative delegations in Salem, and the enthusiasm and support they displayed not only for the job we do but for the priorities we champion.
I don’t know how things work in other state legislatures, but I can’t help feeling that we are fortunate in the extreme to have representation that so fully embraces the place that PCC occupies in the fabric of Portland life and, beyond that, the role we play in the fulfillment of the social contract itself. This is how things ought to be – community college, state government, and citizens, working together to form a more perfect union.
Pride in watching college’s impact on students, community
By Chabre Vickers, Southeast Campus
The 2016 PCC Day at the Capitol started out with hundreds of PCC students, staff, and faculty all dressed in turquoise, ready to share our PCC Pride! College leaders helped us all get ready to share our stories and build a larger narrative for the reason we are all proud to be a part of Oregon’s largest higher learning institution.
While the day at the capitol wasn’t my first Lobby Day, it was going to be my first time sharing why I am proud to be a part of PCC and how I have seen an impact not only in my life but those of our students, staff and larger community.
Our crew was led by Southeast Campus President Jessica Howard and filled with a few legislative interns from PCC’s Legislative Internship Program, the first of its kind for a community college here in Oregon, as well as a Dean of Students, an IT Director, and a few international students. The tie that bound our entire group together was that we were all eager to share why PCC has made a difference in our lives.
Our group was tasked with meeting with Senator Michael Dembrow, Representative Alyssa Kenny-Guyer and Representative Barbara Smith-Warner. We shared with the legislators how PCC was the only option when tuition at a university wasn’t going to meet their family’s budget, and how PCC’s student services removed barriers when the concept of college was entirely new for their family. One student’s perspective truly impacted one of the legislators when he shared his story of “not wanting to be just another statistic” and now serves as an intern at the City of Portland and is taking a full course load at PCC Southeast. His future is bright and “filled with opportunity.”
PCC Day at the Capitol was more than fun, it was inspiring and galvanized a small group of folks to not only share their story but advocate on behalf of a local institution that continues to make room for those who are ready to take the next step and better their future.