Helping Community College Students Get Back on Their Feet

What do an out-of-work mother, a high school dropout, a woman in the middle of a career switch, a professional musician, and an African immigrant have in common? They are all are trying to carve out a successful future by going back to school by attending or aspiring to attend St. Louis Community College (STLCC). After speaking at the National Council for Continuing Education and Training/National Council for Workforce Education’s Joint Annual Conference last Tuesday, I stopped by STLCC to tour the college’s Nursing Simulator Lab and to hold a community roundtable with students, college officials, and local employers.

Dann-Messier and STLCC Students

Brenda Dann-Messier (in green) with STLCC students.

STLCC and consortia partners throughout the state of Missouri recently received a $20 million grant under the  Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program. The program supports partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop programs that provide pathways to good jobs, including building instructional programs that meet specific industry needs.

Officials at STLCC are using the grant to expand partnerships with area hospitals that provide clinical training and future employment for students in the school’s nursing program.

The Nursing Program at STLCC has done an outstanding job of developing effective partnerships between students, educators, and employers.  Their collaboration model is critical to getting people back to work during these tough economic times. While some of the students were in the school’s nursing program, some were still trying to get their GED so they could begin their postsecondary education. For many of the students, getting to where they are today wasn’t easy, but they’ve persevered in the pursuit of their dreams.

One woman, for instance, lost her family mortgage business and was forced to sell her home while another student aspired to one day get her PhD after dropping out of high school several years ago. They had the common goal of completing the education necessary to achieve their newfound path in life. None of them could afford to attend a more expensive state school and were thankful for the many opportunities provided by STLCC.

“I couldn’t have gone back to school if it weren’t for STLCC,” said one student. “They have been instrumental in helping me get back on my feet.”

Brenda Dann-Messier is the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.