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Students Advocate for Funding Community Colleges

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On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, dozens of students from each of Maryland’s community colleges virtually met with elected officials to advocate for state money to support community colleges. Student Advocacy Day provides students with a platform to connect with their legislators and remind them of the importance of fully funding community colleges: providing affordable access to quality higher education.

To start the day, students and leaders from all 16 community colleges virtually met for a Kickoff Rally. Howard Community College student Jazmiera Smothers was one of two students selected to deliver a speech during the kick off event. In her speech, she shared how a personal tragedy sparked a fire in her to pursue a career in health care, but financial insecurity became a roadblock.

“…Here I was again, wanting to make a difference in the world but being held back by the lack of financial stability to be able to do so,” Jazmiera said. “Howard Community College may have seen their scholarship as just another one, but for me this was the start of my dreams coming true in honor of my baby boy.”

After the rally, Dr. Daria Willis, students, and other campus leaders met with Howard County state lawmakers and their staff. They shared their experiences, challenges, and how community college helped them pursue their goals. While meeting with legislators, student Crystal Herrera emphasized how when faced with financial barriers, community colleges offer affordable education.

“My junior year of high school, I had a friend who planned to attend a four-year school who told me their tuition was around $20,000 a semester. It kind of unmotivated me to go to college, but it also pushed me to be a better student and take AP classes so I could graduate faster,” said Crystal Herrera. “I ended up only applying to Howard Community College my senior year and got into the honors program which helped me through scholarships and later got into Ambiciones which further helped me pay my tuition.”

Student Nathan Sanchez built on what Crystal shared, saying his Ambiciones advisor helped him navigate college as a first-generation student. Now he’s in his last semester at Howard Community College and feels prepared to transfer.

“Having an advisor help me find which courses I should take and what will help me transfer has been really great,” he said. “It’s really nice to be at HCC and have the support available to me.”

For student Siera, college didn’t seem like an option as a first-generation student raising two kids. Thanks in part to student support programs at HCC, she’s on her way to earning her second associate degree.

“College didn’t seem like an option for me at all due to learning challenges and finances, and as a mom raising two children. It didn’t seem possible,” said Siera. “At HCC, I was able to get support through programs like Career Links, scholarships, and it feels like I’ve had someone help me at every step of this process. It’s been an amazing help and again, I never thought I’d be here.”

After each session, Lawmakers thanked students for their willingness to share their stories and assured them that they would support community colleges and keep them in mind during their legislative session.

“All of us, Senator Lam, Delegate Ebersole, Delegate Feldmark and myself, we are just so proud to have HCC in our district,” said Delegate Terri Hill, representative of District 12. “We are so extraordinarily amazed and proud of the students who come through HCC and appreciate that you took your time today to spend it with us and help us get to know HCC better.”

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