Students Advocate for Community Colleges in Annapolis
More than a dozen Howard Community College students joined students from across Maryland Tuesday in Annapolis to meet elected officials and enthusiastically advocate for state money to support community colleges.
Wearing HCC sweatshirts and smiles, students kicked off Student Advocacy Day at spirited rally led by the Maryland Association of Community Colleges in the Miller Senate Office Building. There, they heard from area lawmakers, who thanked them for coming and encouraged them to stay involved in the political process.
HCC students like Sarah Jamerson embraced the moment, saying she was thrilled to travel to Annapolis, meet fellow community college students, hear from lawmakers who shape HCC’s future and share why she thinks community colleges need ongoing state support.
“I’ve benefited from services provided for students with disabilities,” the social sciences student said. “I’m graduating in May, but I’m here to advocate for funding so the college can continue to provide those services.”
Students also heard from Morgan Barton, a single mother and part-time student seeking an associate degree in early childhood education at Carroll Community College.
After the rally, students, HCC President Dr. Kathleen Hetherington and other campus leaders met with Howard County state lawmakers and their staff members.
A key topic of discussion was BRFA – the budget reconciliation and financing act – which Governor Hogan has enacted in this budget session, essentially slashing community college funding in half. Students wore “No BRFA” stickers and asked lawmakers to oppose the budget cuts.
Other topics discussed: supporting community college capital budgets, bills to prevent community college students from losing credits when they transfer to state four-year colleges, funding operating expenses, and more funding for disabled student services. Students also shared their personal experiences at HCC.
Jamerson shared how the scholarships she received from Senator Clarence Lam and Delegate Terri Hill helped her pay for two classes, putting her on track to gain her associate degree.
Student Kourtney Douglas said after enrolling at a private, four-year college, she ended up $65,000 in debt. She was able to re-start her college education at HCC, thanks to affordable tuition, an on-campus job and scholarship and grant money.
“It was important to me that when I started again, I had support,” she said. “I got that at HCC. HCC is really the backbone of the community. It’s the community’s college.”
Jamal Stennett, a mom of four and hospitality management student, asked senators and delegates to fund the college’s operating budget – which helps fund her part-time work in the student life office and allows her to pay her tuition.
Jessi Quezada, non-native English speaker and mom of three who is studying criminal justice, shared how HCC has supported her as she improves her English skills.
“When I went to class, the teacher said, ‘Come on, sit down right here. This is your house. We will help you,’” she recalled.
Udochi Elendu, who moved to the United States from Nigeria, added, “The professors are so welcoming.”
And international student Farrah Razzak told legislators how HCC’s new Serenity Room, which provides a space for students to meditate, pray and quietly reflect throughout the day, has made her feel even more welcome on campus.
Lawmakers thanked students for traveling to Annapolis to share their experiences and assured them they would keep community colleges top of mind during the legislative session.
“We’re trying to do everything we can here at the state level to get you the resources you need,” Delegate Courtney Watson, a former HCC trustee, said.