Sharing optimism about our future on the Shore
April is Community College Month and I would like to share a few thoughts about the current status and role of Chesapeake College in our community. As we emerge from the pandemic and its related impact on the country and as we continue to deal with both systemic and cyclic economic challenges, community colleges are doing their part to address critical needs as well as ongoing challenges affecting our way of life.
Rising costs, inequities in access, and even the value of higher education are part of the national conversation. There are, no doubt, issues that must and will be addressed by institutions of higher learning.
My work as President of Chesapeake College gives me a broad view of our college’s role in our community. I’m optimistic about the future of this region and Chesapeake’s role in it.
After years of instability brought on by the pandemic, we already have much to celebrate in 2023 and look to a brighter future. Chesapeake opened the 2023 Spring Semester in January with a credit enrollment increase and our noncredit program enrollment is also growing.
We’re celebrating this increase here at Chesapeake, of course, but residents of the Mid-Shore should see this as a positive sign for the region.
This enrollment uptick shows that people are investing in their futures. These students are betting on their own abilities and determination. They believe that if they work hard now and over the next few years, they will see a return on their investment of time and energy. We consistently review community needs working with our private sector and public sector partners, business and industry, our public school systems and our local and regional political leaders to gauge how we should be responding to local needs as well as the interests of our students. We enjoy unparalleled support from the community we serve and we are grateful for that.
We recently celebrated the community support our students receive from our donors at our annual scholarship luncheon. This academic year, the Chesapeake College Foundation awarded more than $490,000 in scholarships to Chesapeake students thanks to our generous donors.
Our donors include individuals, families, businesses and charitable organizations. These donors share a belief in our students and the community college mission. Hearing the guests’ conversations was an inspiring reminder that our students and their benefactors have a shared optimism about the future and opportunities through education.
I’m grateful that Chesapeake College also has the support of our local, state and national leaders that view us as partners in building a strong community and economy on the Eastern Shore.
This year, thanks to local partnerships, high school students from Caroline, Kent and Talbot counties are enrolling in the TRiO Upward Bound program on our campus. Federal grants brought the program to our campus to help first-generation college prospects achieve success. Whether they choose to enroll as freshmen at Chesapeake or attend a four-year university, these students will begin their higher education journeys at Chesapeake and will be more confident and better prepared for college thanks to their experiences here.
At the state level, Maryland Blueprint for Education legislation has given community colleges a vital role to play in supporting and expanding opportunities for K-12 students to earn early college credits as well as career and industry certifications. In this effort, Chesapeake is glad to partner with the Workforce Investment Board and all five Upper-Shore school systems.
Nationally, Sen. Ben Cardin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen visited Chesapeake’s campus together. Their visit underscores their consistent support of our mission to the region. The senators secured $1.2 million in Congressionally Directed Spending for workforce training at Chesapeake College in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus funding bill.
The $1.2 million in federal funds will support expansion of Chesapeake’s popular welding program. Through Chesapeake’s program, students learn skills for high-demand jobs in the region. Program expansion includes a mobile welding training lab designed to reach students where they live and work.
Funds will also be used for the creation of an Advanced Manufacturing Program that will provide training in Computer-Aided Design, Computer-Aided Manufacturing, Computer Numerical Control Plasma, Computer Numerical Control Router, 3D printing, universal laser systems and robotics.
In his remarks on our campus last month, Sen. Van Hollen called Chesapeake College “one of the treasures of the Eastern Shore.” We agree. Chesapeake is a treasure born of the resources of the Eastern Shore.
As good stewards of these resources, we are developing and enhancing our programming to help individual lives and the economic health of the Eastern Shore.
With workforce training programs and seamless transfer degrees, we ensure great opportunities for all.
Community colleges provide open access to affordable higher education that allow people at all life stages to reach their goals.
While optimism alone can’t solve problems, it fuels growth, improvement and innovation.
As you see all that is happening at Chesapeake College, I hope you will share my optimism about our future here on the Shore.
Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith is the president of Chesapeake College.