State legislators, city and town officials, students and corporate partners participated in a Town and Legislative lunch forum on March 14th at Capital Community College (CCC).
The forum, held at the College’s Walter J. Markiewicz’ Community Room, focused on Capital’s career advancement programs involving The Hartford Financial Services Group and Travelers and a panel of students and graduates.
CCC Chief Executive Officer G. Duncan Harris, Ed.D led the discussion and described the college’s role in a “Hartford renaissance” that includes public and private partnerships and community outreach initiatives at the downtown campus on Main Street. “We view the college as a key cog in the movement,” he said.
Mark Ojakian, the president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, praised the college, citing opportunities for Capital students thanks to collaborations with business and cultural neighbors. Ojakian also said Capital was the first Community College to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP education and training funds offer recipients tuition-free training in a range of occupations. The program is now available at all 12 community colleges.
The Hartford’s Jodi C. Greenspan, Associate Vice President and Claims Chief of Staff and a member of the Capital Community College Foundation, said Capital students are earning their degrees and beginning careers at the insurance company through an apprenticeship program supported by Connecticut Department of Labor
Insurance apprenticeships provide tuition and paid work experiences for associate degree candidates. Upon graduation CCC students receive a nationally recognized credential and move directly into a job. Because of the success of a first cohort of CCC students, The Hartford is rolling out similar programs in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Minnesota.
Sharing their experiences about Capital and careers in insurance and health care were four students and graduates. On the panel moderated by John Thomas, CCC’s Career Advancement Program Coordinator, were George Annan-Kingsley, an art therapist at the Bloomfield Health Care Center and Gillian Walcott, a community health navigator at Trinity Health Medical Group (Saint Francis Hospital). Annan-Kingsley and Walcott earned certificates in social work and community health at CCC’s School of Work Force and Continuing Education. Jeffrey Safo-Darko (’19), a Travelers EDGE intern, and Spencer Williams (’19), a UnitedHealthcare intern, are completing studies in the College’s Career Advancement Program
Ojakian and Harris cited the fiscal challenges faced by Capital and other community colleges over the next several years without new sources of revenue. While a new state budget introduced by Governor Lamont keeps funding the same for the state’s community colleges with no further rescissions, Harris said Capital faces a challenging fiscal year at the forecasted funding levels.
Through reallocations and the pursuit of new grants and contributions, CCC is implementing new services to improve student retention and graduation rates, including child care options for student parents, a food pantry in partnership with Foodshare and establishing an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Center that will link students with housing, personal finance and health resources.
Legislative bills under consideration in the 2019 session to lower tuition costs (SB 273) and provide child care support for student parents were shared at the forum. SB 273 , favorably reviewed by the Higher Education and Advancement Committee, would enable in-state recent high school graduates at community colleges to graduate without student loans and encourage residents to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. SB 934 ,unanimously approved by the Education Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee, would expand the federally funded Care4Kids program to student parents enrolled in community college academic programs.
Local and state officials attending Capital’s forum included Hartford State Representatives Joshua Hall and Brandon McGee; State Representative Rick Lopes, representing Newington and New Britain, and; State Representative Bobby Gibson, representing Bloomfield and Windsor; Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford Superintendent of Schools; Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeathamBrown; Dr. Larry Deutsch, Hartford City Councillor; Carolyn Harris, aide to Hartford Council President Glendowlyn Thames, and; David Grant, representing Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. Also participating were Merrill Gay, executive director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance; Bernie Michael, Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association; Raina Giddings, Investor Relations Director, MetroHartford Alliance, and; Tara Spain, vice president and COO of The Travelers Foundation. Joining Dr. Harris and Jodi Greenspan from the CCC Foundation Board of Directors were Anthony Barrett, John Perkins and the Rev. Y. Trevor Beauford.
The College’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1985 to raise funds and manage endowment funds, annually supports CCC town and legislative forums when the state legislature is in session.
Capital Community College enrolls 3,315 (fall 2018) in associate degree and certificate programs with transfer opportunities to four-year institutions. One of the most ethnically diverse campuses in New England, CCC is designated an Hispanic Serving Institution. Over 75% of students reside in Hartford and eight surrounding communities, including East Hartford, New Britain, West Hartford, Manchester, Bloomfield, Windsor, Wethersfield and Newington.