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QCC Students Offer Valuable Insights at Legislative Breakfast

February, 2020
  • Dr. Pedraja addresses legislators at ACC's Annual Legislative Breakfast.
    Dr. Pedraja addresses legislators at ACC's Annual Legislative Breakfast.
  • QCC Student Government Association President Jorgo Gushi
    QCC Student Government Association President Jorgo Gushi
  • PTK Vice President Krystle “Mixhe” Bedrick
    PTK Vice President Krystle “Mixhe” Bedrick
  • Legislators, students, faculty and staff at the 2020 Legislative Breakfast
    Legislators, students, faculty and staff at the 2020 Legislative Breakfast
  • QCC student speakers from left: Mustafa Bowden, Tabithia Leber, Jorgo Gushi and Krystle “Mixhe” Bedrick
    QCC student speakers from left: Mustafa Bowden, Tabithia Leber, Jorgo Gushi and Krystle “Mixhe” Bedrick

Melodic sounds by Quinsigamond Community College student Yozue Davila and Music Program Coordinator Jose Castillo set the tone for the College’s annual Legislative Breakfast held on Friday, February 7 at the Harrington Learning Center. Over a dozen legislators or their representatives from across the region, in addition to QCC faculty and staff, spent part of their morning learning about what makes QCC so unique, from the people who can speak to this best – the students.

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society Vice President, Krystle “Mixhe” Bedrick,  gave an emotional and heartfelt accounting of her life as a first generation college student, whose experience at QCC she said, has been “wonderful and life changing.” She told those in attendance about an upbringing of intergenerational poverty. Today, poised to graduate in May with an Early Childhood Education degree, Ms. Bedrick is hoping to attend Smith College this fall.  Already the scholarships and awards are stacking up for her. She is the college's first Newman Civic Fellow, a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, and a recipient of the MLK Scholarship, Fuller Foundation Scholarship and the Roland Lajoie Scholarship.

“I never believed in my entire life I could attend college,” she said. “I stand before you having worked incredibly hard to be worth the accolades bestowed on me today.”

“QCC lifts you up and I’m proud to be a student here.  When I graduate from QCC I will be the first in my family to graduate college,” Ms. Bedrick continued, proudly adding, “I have Ivy League institutions emailing me!”

QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja told the legislators, “What we do here we do for our students. We are always striving to assist students in fulfilling their dreams.”

QCC’s Student Government Association President Jorgo Gushi, a bilingual engineering student from Albania, and a member of PTK, told the legislators of the metamorphosis he experienced when he began at QCC.

“QCC was the place where I grew as a student leader and individual,” he said.

Mr. Gushi is hoping to transfer to Worcester Polytechnic Institute or an Ivy League school in the fall to continue his education and told the legislators it is the pathway that QCC has paved for him that has transformed his life. “QCC is about far more than attending classes,” he said, noting that for him it was also about building confidence and acquiring leadership skills. “My voice was fostered by the QCC family. Many of the skills that are making me a good leader were developed and taught at QCC.”

Another student speaker, PTK President Tabitha Leber described her journey to QCC as a 21-year-old single mom who had experienced a debilitating, on-the-job injury and as a result could no longer work. Having to still take care of herself and child, she began working in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom and realized how fulfilling that was. A chance conversation with her daughter’s kindergarten teacher made her realize she wanted to become a teacher. She began taking classes at QCC part-time, while continuing to work for Worcester Public Schools. Today she is a full-time student, telling those in the audience of the amazing initiatives the College’s honor society works on such as the QCC Food Pantry and Resource Center and the PTK Live and Learn Greenhouse.

“We are so grateful for Dr. Pedraja who supports us through these initiatives, which helps students return to college and the community at large,” she said.

QCC Foundation Board President Dr. Linda Maykel addressed the inequity in the current state funding formula, which affords community colleges only 25 percent of higher education funding. She addressed the ways in which QCC is working to help students attend college by working to increase scholarships, expanding daycare, and even looking at an emergency fund for students who experience events that might preclude them from coming back to college.

QCC’s Student Trustee Mustafa Bowden, an immigrant from Libya, expounded on the issues students face, addressing one of the common obstacles – purchasing textbooks.

“Here we have the most dedicated, committed students who step over every barrier there is, yet the biggest barrier we face is paying for a $500 textbook,” he said.

Mr. Bowden went on to discuss the Open Educational Resources (OER) that offers students the ability to access online textbooks for free.

“This alternative will be an accessible way for our students to have better grades in college. I represent 7,000-plus students and close to 50 percent of them are facing hunger and close to 12 percent are facing homelessness insecurity. If we can take that $500 book cost away then no one will have to choose between a meal or the cost of a book,” he said. “We ask for your help, endorsement and support of the OER initiative so more students can pursue higher education.”

While President Pedraja explained the many projects and programs that are going on at QCC, he reminded the legislators of the quality workforce QCC has delivered to the Commonwealth, through the students of QCC.

“I’ve talked to employers who like having our students.They know our students are dedicated. It says a lot about what we are all about. We need to continue to invest in higher education to ensure the Commonwealth succeeds,” he said.

“Education is a way to release those bonds so that our dreams can be a reality. This can’t happen without legislative support,” Ms. Bedrick said, pointedly telling legislators, “Without this institution I would not be the person I am today.”