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Commitment to Student Success Focus of Virtual Legislative Town Hall

May 2022
June 2022
  • Shauna Connelly, Dr. Kathy Rentsch, Dr. Linda Maykel, and QCC President Luis G. Pedraja, Ph.D.
    Shauna Connelly, Dr. Kathy Rentsch, Dr. Linda Maykel, and QCC President Luis G. Pedraja, Ph.D.

Administrators, students and staff from Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) recently gathered with area legislators for the third virtual Legislative Town Hall, to showcase the innovative programs and community impact that QCC has provided to its students and the region. Moderated by Student Government Association President Shauna Connelly, the Town Hall focused on increased supports for students and a new program designed to encourage and support more people to enter the biomanufacturing industry pipeline.

This entry-level Biomanufacturing On-Ramp program offers entry-level technician positions, in partnership with Mass. Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) and the Mass. Office of Business Development (MOBD), and biopharmaceutical company AbbVie. A 10-week pilot program was launched in the fall of 2021, which included a group of English Language Learners (ELL) from QCC’s Adult Community Learning Center. Additional spring programs have also taken place. A recent graduate of the inaugural program, Lorena Hoxhalli, an immigrant from Albania, described the impact of the program.

“We took a lot from the program - knowledge, friends, confidence, and hope. I’m so happy that I was able to be a part of that program,” said Ms. Hoxhalli, who was offered a position at AbbVie after going through the workshop.

Another program making an impact on students is QCC’s SUCCESS program, which enhances student engagement through wraparound support services for historically underserved groups such as low-income students, students of color, and disabled students. The program is funded by the state SUCCESS Grant in partnership with the Mass. Association of Community Colleges, with the goal of empowering the most vulnerable community college students using a holistic, developmental advising model.

“I’ve managed to outgrow a shell of suffocating constraint and really shine at QCC, thanks to the help of advisors and staff. I've gained so much more confidence navigating the systems of higher education, and I feel comfortable reaching out and advocating for myself when I need something,” said QCC student Haley LaFortune, who has taken advantage of the program. 

Representative Mary Keefe noted the impact the College is having on the communities it serves.

“After coming through this difficult time, I think what I appreciate the most is the relational commitment of all of you to your students and being able to create that atmosphere of belonging. It's a great thing what our community colleges do and especially Quinsigamond, our Worcester community college,” Representative Keefe said.

QCC President Luis G. Pedraja, Ph.D. praised legislators for their support of the City’s only community college.

“You’re our greatest cheerleaders. We appreciate the support that you offer us day in and day out. I think it’s essential for the state to continue to invest in higher education and particularly in community college students who stay in our communities and are the heart of our communities,” he said. 

Other new achievements have included $2.5 million of QCC’s institutional portion of the Federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds that the College put toward a student debt forgiveness program; a partnership with the Central MA Agency on Aging to offer free dental services to local seniors; an expansion of the Brothers & Keepers Club, which offers mentorship for men of color into a full-time program, and an increase in services at the College’s Counseling and Wellness Office.

Additionally, QCC’s HomePlate Food Pantry and Resource Center has more than doubled in size and now has a state-of-the-art electronic software system that enables students to create prepackaged baskets of food, as well as diapers and hygiene products in a safe, contact-free way. The HomePlate Food Pantry and Resource Center has also partnered with local organizations to offer housing resources, legal aid, SNAP benefits, and nutritional workshops.

“It really strikes me how you (QCC) focused on ensuring the students’ success over the last two years, not your own success as a college, but making sure that the students who rely on you so much are cared for and it shows your dedication to the people, ” said Representative McKenna.

Attending the event were area State Representatives Natalie Higgins, Mary Keefe, David LeBoeuf, Joseph McKenna and James O’Day.