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Area Legislators Kick-Off “Go Public!”


Posted on Friday September 30th 2011

Getting a degree from the Massachusetts public higher education system is a great education and a great value, GCC students tell members of the Greenfield Community College delegation. Juliana Aprileo, a dual-enrolled student who completed her high school degree at GCC and is now taking classes in preparation for transfer to UMass Amherst, told the members “I’ve done all of my real learning here and it helped me become the student I wanted to be.”

In response to the “Go Public” effort by Representative Thomas Sannicandro and Senator Michael Moore (Co-Chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education), GCC President Bob Pura, students and alumni met for breakfast last week with Representatives Paul Mark (D-Dalton), member of the Higher Education Committee, John Scibak (D-So Hadley), chair of the Joint Committee on Public Service, and an aide to Representative Denise Andrews (D-Orange) to talk about their experiences.

Representative Mark spoke to the group about his own educational journey that began with a community college education and ended with both law and doctoral degrees. Like many students in public higher education, he worked and attended school at the same time to finance his education and appreciates the effort needed to do both things well.

The goal of GO PUBLIC! is to create a new platform to market Massachusetts’ public higher education to prospective students, families and guidance staff and to give Massachusetts legislators a vehicle through which to promote public higher education to their constituents and through their local media. Today’s discussion gave the delegation the chance to hear firsthand about the impact this public higher education setting had on a diverse cross section of students.

GCC’s current Student Senate President, a mother of three who hopes to follow her mother’s footsteps by transferring to Smith College, Melissa Seaman was clear that she is getting so much out of every class and felt very connected and supported here. Representative Scibak responded that he can feel that “GCC is a community.”

Both current GCC Student Trustee Michael Lewis and GCC alum Thom Burden, who is now employed in his field following successful completion of a Renewable Energy Program degree at GCC, spoke of the deep challenges of finding a job during a down economy and the importance of programs that train people for new employment opportunities. “I lost my job,” Burden said, “came to GCC, did an internship at, and ended up being employed by, Sandri Energy. It works!”

Students Rich Riddle, who is in his 50s, and Emily Eaton, who arrived at GCC right after finishing high school two years ago, shared how GCC is providing the pathway to learning more about themselves and finding the dreams that will take them to their next steps. Eaton noted that her dreams “got bigger” after taking classes and finding her voice.

President Pura and Representatives Mark and Scibak discussed the ways that public higher education is funded, as well as some alternative strategies for increasing revenue for Public Higher Education. All were in strong agreement about the level of support the Governor and Western Mass legislative delegation continually show for public higher education. The students and legislators were clear in stating “we have to make sure the doors remain open to all.”