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PJC students visit with legislators at Community College Day

Published or Revised March 11, 2015

Community college day

Rep. Dan Flynn, HD 2, took the students from PJC on a tour of the Capitol building. Shown from left, in front, are Katlin Taylor, Nathan Slinkard, and Lisa Dawes; in back are Lavelt Page, Jeramy Howell, PJC President Dr. Pam Anglin, Stephanie Bradford, PJC Student Life Director Kenneth Webb and Rep. Flynn. The same group is shown below with Rep. Gary VanDeaver, HD 1.

Paris Junior College students from Paris, Greenville and Sulphur Springs carried their stories and requests last week to legislators in Austin on Community College Day, joined by thousands of their fellow students from around the state.

Students attending were Stephanie Bradford, Lisa Dawes, Jeramy Howell, Lavelt Page, Nathan Slinkard, and Katlin Taylor. They were accompanied by PJC President Dr. Pam Anglin and Student Life Director Kenneth Webb.

“We had a great Community College Day at the Capitol,” said Dr. Anglin. “Over 2,000 community college students participated this year. Our PJC students were outstanding and did a wonderful job telling the community college story and how the opportunities available at PJC make a difference in so many lives.”

A rally on the steps of the Capitol drew large crowds, despite less than ideal weather, to hear from legislators, student government representatives and college leaders on the importance of community colleges to the future of Texas. Then PJC students got to meet with Rep. Dan Flynn, HD 2, and Rep. Gary VanDeaver, HD 1.

“I had an incredible experience,” said Slinkard, a student at the PJC-Greenville Center. “I am so glad I was selected to represent my school. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting with Rep. VanDeaver, who we learned had attended our junior college (PJC)! Our small group discussed why we enjoy PJC, how it is affordable, and how much we want our legislators to keep it affordable. We also met with Rep. Flynn (who I voted for). He gave us a two-hour personal tour of the Capitol. I also enjoyed talking with my school’s president during the event and the other fine students that were selected from PJC.”

“It was interesting that Rep. VanDeaver started as a teacher and I want to be a teacher,” said Lisa Dawes, a military veteran who has returned to college. “I believe he was genuinely interested in what we had to say. Mr. Flynn wanted to show us what he did, to take an interest in what he was doing for us. He took us behind the rope in the House chamber. What I took away is that there are leaders up there who are genuinely concerned for their people and not just for themselves. I did hate missing my classes because I love being a student, but I came back wanting my son and daughter to understand that their education can take them places that they never imagined.”

“I had great fun,” said Bradford. “It was wonderful to meet other dedicated students and the representatives. I loved the beautiful capitol.  Representative Flynn was amazing and kind. He gave us a tour of the House Floor, which was a unique experience, as we were the only college allowed behind the rope. I enjoyed the entire tour. The most important thing I learned was how human our representatives are.”

“This was the trip of a lifetime,” said Taylor. “It was amazing to meet our state representatives and share with them the importance of public education. It was very moving to see how ardent students and teachers from all around the state were about education and state legislation regarding education. Dr. Anglin and Mr. Webb are both very passionate about not only that, but also the students and their futures. I’m very thankful to them for giving us the opportunity to attend Community College Day.”

“It was nice to see the involvement of Dr. Anglin with the representatives to keep prices for tuition low,” said Howell. “They told us it is rare for a college president to go down there on behalf of students. I think it’s a great thing for us to tell them our stories. There’s a quote: ‘the cure for cancer could be behind the mind of someone who can’t afford an education,’ and community college gives people that opportunity to boost their self-confidence. I didn’t do so well in high school, was not very motivated. I came to PJC, I don’t owe any debt and I’m vice president of the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, and very involved with that. You put hard work and effort into it, you go somewhere, and community colleges are tailored to help people to succeed. That’s what’s awesome about it and I loved going down there and showing the representatives that it opens the door for people to succeed. It was a life-changing experience for me.”

For the past decade, the Texas Association of Community Colleges has worked with student groups, faculty members, and college administrators to host Community College Day at the Capitol. The day provides an opportunity for nearly 2,000 community college supporters to come to Austin and participate in their state government.

“We went down there to ask that junior colleges be funded,” said Page. “I’m 26 years old and a returning student, so it’s been great for me to come to PJC. You’re not a number here, everyone knows you, from the president to the instructors, if you want to be known. That’s what I was trying to relate to the state representatives. I would recommend this before a university, especially for kids coming from low-performance high schools. If I had a choice between university and PJC now, coming out of high school with no scholarship, I would pick PJC. I want a degree without a tremendous amount of debt afterwards and spending the first few years of your career paying it off. That’s what I was trying to get Rep. Flynn and Rep. VanDeaver to see. I know it won’t help me, this is my last year, but it’s not about me, it’s about the future and everyone coming after. We had people come before us to pave the way, and we’re trying to help upcoming college kids.”

PJC students brought important information to the attention of service area House and Senate members with the following requests of the Texas Legislature:

To align workforce needs and employee skills, continue & enhance funding for both the Skills Development Fund and the Jobs & Education for Texans program.

To fund success, the Texas Legislature should provide $2.011 billion for community and technical college instructional funding as recommended by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; continue the new funding strategy from the last legislative session which provides $50 million for the 2016-17 biennium and $1 million/college district for core funding:

Also, student success points should be at least funded at the rate for the 2014-15 biennium.

To maintain college readiness, the state should continue funding for the New Mathways Project. To assist transfer and articulation, the use of common course numbering system at all public higher education institutions should be required.  To support Texans in community colleges, provide sufficient funding for Adult Basic Education.

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