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Op-ed: Success stories show how Salt Lake Community College makes a difference

Published October 17, 2015 3:00 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Assuming the role of president of Salt Lake Community College over a year ago was a huge privilege. As I've listened to the national conversation escalate over the important role of community colleges, I have deepened my knowledge and respect for the enormous, diverse and transformative impact that SLCC is having in our own backyard through the stories of the students we serve.

Last May, Sam, a first generation college student and SLCC graduate, completed his first year of graduate school at Columbia University. In high school Sam thought he wasn't "college material." Because his parents hadn't had the opportunity to attend college, Sam's knowledge of the college application process was limited. By chance, he tried one developmental math class at SLCC his first semester. With positive feedback and personal attention from his faculty member, he tried a few more courses the next semester. His academic confidence lifted, Sam continued at SLCC, graduated with honors and transferred seamlessly to the University of Utah where he earned a degree and served as student body president. Sam represents just one of the 70 percent of SLCC graduates who benefit from SLCC's transfer education mission toward helping them find a pathway to a four-year degree.

After serving 14 years in the military, Darlene started a career in the concrete business but couldn't make ends meet. As a single mom of two, Darlene enrolled at SLCC and earned two degrees in two years, including one in the high-tech field of non-destructive testing. Darlene's new career takes her all over Utah, inspecting components on bridges, fuel tanks on trucks, even equipment at nuclear and geothermal plants. Now she provides a strong living for her and her family. Darlene represents 642 student veterans receiving an education from SLCC, recognized consistently as a top 10 college by Military Times for our service to veterans. She also represents the 30 percent of students who attend SLCC to take advantage of our workforce education mission.

Carlos, a new student for Fall 2015, successfully completed our PACE program at West High School. Carlos began the program four years ago as a ninth grader. He committed to taking a strong academic schedule, maintaining a high grade point average, achieving 90 percent attendance and exploring career options during the summer for four years. In return, Carlos arrived at SLCC with a two year guaranteed scholarship. Thanks to partners such as Zions Bank, Questar, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and others, SLCC has provided this clearly financed student pathway. Carlos is one of 152 students in the PACE pipeline as part of SLCC's access and affordability mission.

With her father, Emily dreamed of a gathering place for coffee and conversation in the Sugar House community. After her father's death, Emily wanted to carry on the dream's legacy, wanting to create a public space with great menu items. After opening Sugar House Coffee, Emily enrolled in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at SLCC, which helped her construct a successful business growth plan. Six months after her graduation, Emily had increased revenue by 14 percent and employees by 20 percent. Emily, alongside owners of Feldman's Deli, PopArt, KRCL, Camp K and Paletti, represents the 219 small business leaders who have completed the short-term, grant-funded training program, strengthening our local businesses and demonstrating SLCC's community engagement and economic development missions.

Throughout the year, I've applauded our committed faculty members who, concerned about the growing costs of textbooks, are using low- or no-cost online educational resources for entire courses. As of this fall, this initiative will have saved students $730,000 on textbooks. By spring semester the savings will surpass $1 million.

To realize Gov. Gary Herbert's 66 percent by 2020 goal, we must open our doors more widely to Utahans who have historically been underrepresented in higher education. Our West Valley Center opened its doors this fall and currently enrolls 377 students with immediate geographic access to higher education.

Salt Lake Community College is a comprehensive community college with no plans to deviate from that path. We educate and train more than 61,000 students each year at 10 sites and online. Our students' stories exemplify the diverse and impactful influence we have — an intellectual path, a strong second career, enhanced business savvy, a place to shine, free learning resources and an open and affordable door to college.

I encourage students, parents, community leaders, philanthropists, and industry partners to actively understand and support the role of Salt Lake Community College. I also thank our state's legislators for their support and encourage their continued investment in education, and in particular, in Salt Lake Community College.

Deneece Huftalin is president of Salt Lake Community College.






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