CSM students lobby lawmakers on importance of community colleges

College of Southern Maryland (CSM) students recently participated in Student Advocacy Day, an annual event hosted by the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) that allows students to share with their legislators the role community colleges in Maryland and how CSM is changing their lives.

“We have organized the day of defense of student rights for more than 20 years; it is a powerful event for students and legislators in particular,” MACC Executive Director Dr. Brad Phillips said in a statement. “For students, it’s an exciting opportunity to engage…and for lawmakers, it reveals the real impacts of their votes at a very granular level.”?

The virtual lobby day took place Feb. 15 after a morning kickoff event, where students heard from Maryland Senators Sarah Elfreth and Cory McCray, Maryland Del. Jared Solomon and Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Dr. James Fielder. CSM students then met virtually with members of the Southern Maryland delegation to share their personal experiences at community colleges and the impact of the proposed legislation on their lives. Key issues before the legislature this year are community college funding, transfer credits and financial aid.

“We appreciate the fact that we share the same mission at heart – for you as elected officials and for us who work at the CSM, we strive to serve all people within our communities and help the most vulnerable among us,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy to introduce the students. “That’s why our collaboration as partners is imperative.”

Throughout the afternoon, CSM students spoke directly with Maryland delegates Jerry Clark, Brian Crosby, Debra Davis, Rachel Jones, Edith Patterson, Susie Proctor, and CT Wilson, as well as Senators from Maryland Jack Bailey and Arthur Ellis. The students also spoke with a representative from Del. Matt Morgan.

“It’s incumbent on us to brag about the wonderful work we do at the community college, from certification, which sometimes takes a few months, to completing two years for transfer. We are here to support you in all aspects of this. I will support any initiative that will fund and continue to fund community colleges,” Patterson pledged. “If we can reduce any student’s debt load, that’s something we hope to do.”

CSM student Brianna Garcia of St. Leonard discussed the importance of financial aid for community college students and called on lawmakers to continue to fully fund them. Several financial aid laws aim to make student aid programs more accessible to community college students.

“I know how diligently you work to ensure that students in our community have the resources, tools, and educational experiences they need to truly help propel them towards their academic future and successful career. I commend the college for everything you have done, especially during this pandemic, just to make sure students still have access to education,” Jones said.

“I chose to attend CSM because it was the best choice for me and my family financially,” Garcia said. “It is especially important to me that you continue to support the Maryland Promise Scholarship because it is the only program in the state restricted to community college students. This is a need-based grant, and without it, many community college students simply could not continue their education. »?

For CSM student Bree Kekesi of Huntingtown, the most important issue was that lawmakers help equip community colleges with modern facilities so they can prepare for their future careers.

“Learning in an environment with state-of-the-art equipment is especially critical in healthcare,” Kekesi said. “It takes strong partnerships to help accomplish great things in our community, and that’s why it’s especially important that you support the Workforce Readiness Grant that will match private sector donations to colleges. communities for their technological needs.”

“We need to help the wider community learn about and understand the great work that community colleges do,” Proctor said. “I have a clear idea of ​​how [CSM is] transforming lives, not just for students. This has a ripple effect in families and the community.

Sofia West of Prince Frederick urged lawmakers to support community college funding in the governor’s proposed budget. The state budget proposal would provide parity in funding between the state’s four-year institutions and community colleges for the first time, but it still needs to be approved by the legislature.

“I’m an example of countless students who couldn’t get our license without starting our degrees at CSM,” West told the Southern Maryland delegation. “Please support the Governor’s proposed budget that funds Maryland’s community college operating and capital budgets and facility renewal grants. In doing so, you will be part of this historic moment that fully funds the community college formula. and keeps tuition affordable for working students like me.

“You can put me on the record, I won’t control exactly what goes into the budget, but I will vote for the budget once it’s tabled,” Crosby promised.

Student Rhey Gelly Mesowski, of Lexington Park, has called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would streamline the transfer process. Introduced transfer legislation would make it easier to transfer students between community colleges and public four-year institutions in Maryland.

“I’m going to be transferring to St. Mary’s College in Maryland with the goal of becoming a statistician/data scientist,” Mesowski explained. “The transfer of all my credits will be particularly important. Streamlining the transfer system will ensure that students like me don’t waste our limited financial resources on credits that aren’t going anywhere.

“Getting a good education and starting at community college is a great thing to do. The harder you work to achieve something, the more you’re going to enjoy it, so you keep working hard,” Clark advised.

Lawmakers responded with messages of support and encouragement for students.

“I am very proud of the students here. They explain very well why we have a bright future in southern Maryland,” Ellis said.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of you for moving forward with your education, and it’s our role as lawmakers to be there to help and support you,” Bailey agreed. . “You have support behind you, not just with Dr Murphy and the college, but here with us. Each of you is the future leader of our state and Southern Maryland and we will do what we can to support you.

Davis emphasized the transformative power of education. “I know what college can do, I know what happens when young people continue their education,” she said. “I want you to keep up the good work and lean on us as much as you can.”?

Wilson concluded with words of wisdom for students. “By going to school, you are investing in yourself. You are worth it, remember you are worth betting.

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