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2017 May 19 - 08:22 am

Pushing Our Own Agenda, Singing Our Own Praises

 As the month of May enters its second half, mothers are celebrated in much of the world. Rhéa, the grandmother of the gods and the mother of Zeus, was among the first progenitress (!) of life to be so fêted in Ancient Greece, and American, Canadian, Belgian, and Swiss mothers all get their day mid-May. 

And in postsecondary educational institutions in the United States, more than 70 percent of single parents who are studying for a degree are women. The Institute for Women's Policy Research, in Washington, DC, reported in January, 2017, that these women typically “have especially limited financial resources” and suffer, consequently, “especially low rates of degree attainment.” 

But in an era when, as USNews contributor Randi Weingarten called them, “cruel and craven” federal government budget cuts have been suggested that would jeopardize the already carefully balanced funds that mothers have to pay their way through school while caring for their children, we at the community college must make ourselves more mother-friendly than ever.

In a Prezi presentation, English 101 student Christi Tran reminds us that we have always been—and we must remain—the most affordable, most accessible, and most career-preparation-friendly of our nation's educational opportunities. Tran cites paralegal studies, respiratory and occupational and physical therapy training, and pre-engineering and pre-med preparation, besides information technology certifications, as being enormously successful routes to rewarding remuneration available at the community college.

Indeed, an Inside Higher Ed report from May 11 indicates that although slightly more than half of Americans no longer see a college degree as a necessary ticket to getting a good job, 82 percent of survey respondents stated that a community college education “is definitely worthwhile.” Interestingly, the Institute for Women's Policy Research reports a similarly high percentage of the populace favoring the community college as the go-to place for access to such programs as child care, “women helping women”, “adult career pathways”, and financial aid. 

And so, rather than bemoaning the political decisions being made about us, we must continue to push our own agenda and to sing our own praises, as well as the praises of our students, students like this one of my own:

“I am old,” this current student has written to me in frustration about her skill at dealing with the technology required in her online-delivered course in French language and culture. “I am 68 years old, and I come from Vietnam. I never had to use a computer before.” This student, a mother whose children have left home for work and their own lives, has car-pooled with others of her Little Saigon neighborhood to a center where our college offers multi-lingual assistance in dealing with the overwhelming obstacles that taking classes “at a distance” have posed. At the college, she has met with others in similar socioeconomic circumstances: Poor, overwhelmed, left behind on low-tech islands of their own ethnicity as their high-tech offspring move off and away in a very American, independent way. The students help one another, and college staff acts as interface.

“I see now,” my 68-year-old student friend writes in her final, “réflexions” piece for me—online!—”...that I can do things that I thought that I would never do. I thank this college of the community, I thank you, my professor, and I thank this country of human liberty.”

We are all mothers? Yes.

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