Question: What advanced programs of learning are available to Cleveland students who are not being properly educated?
Dr. Alex Johnson: With respect to Cleveland students, we have a long-standing relationship with Cleveland Metropolitan School District. It has gone on for decades. There are a couple of highlights. Twenty years ago, we established the High Tech Academy. It was the first public high school on a college campus in Cleveland. The High Tech Academy involves seven high schools from throughout Cleveland. It is open to students beginning in the 9th grade. They must qualify. They have to be ready for College level English. We give them the opportunity to participate in an original program. We provide them with a boot camp to get them prepared to get into college level English. They come to us in the morning. They spend their time in the high school taking high school level courses. In the afternoon, they come to Tri-C and take College level courses. We have over 300 individuals involved in that program and we have maintained that number for the last two decades. Some of those individuals not only complete upwards to 23-30 credit hours but they get to affirm their Associates College Degree while attending high school. Many of them have gone on to not only represent High Tech Academy but also their high school. There is a real assurance their communities are very proud of them. We have a magistrate in the Cleveland Heights Court. This individual completed our program. We have doctors, individuals who have completed their education in Ivy League Schools such as Harvard. We had one young woman who completed her Associates Degree and a High School Diploma when she was fifteen years old. She will continue her education at Cleveland State and is already been admitted to Law School at Harvard. How much better does it get than that? We have centers in high schools where we work with individuals to get them ready for college. We have a number of different programs here at the institution, including a youth technology academy, which serves individuals throughout the County. The list goes on-and-on. Approximately twenty percent of our enrollment is made up of high school students. They come either through the specialized programs or through the dual enrollment program. We can do better. I think that the “Say Yes” program offers that opportunity along with other classes that we are offering here at the institution.
Question: You have a nursing program. Can you start on the basic level of becoming an STNA and continue to become an RN?
Dr. Alex Johnson:Yes!
Question: What similar programs does Tri-C offer in which you are able to become trained and receive a job immediately?
Dr. Alex Johnson: You mentioned the career ladder approach, which is embedded in some of our programs. You gave the example of nursing. A person can start by earning an STNA. They can become an LPN or a Licensed Practical Nurse. Ultimately, they can get an Associate degree and become an RN. Many of our health career programs provide that opportunity as well. A Medical Assistant, for example a Medical Laboratory Technologist, that individual starts with a medical certificate in high school and then moves forward and receives the Associates Degree in Phlebotomy and Sterile Processing, which are, certificate programs. Credentialed programs have the same opportunity. There are a number of different ways that an individual can start and receive the credential or certificate and then move into an Associate Degree program. Ultimately, they will land a job. In Greater Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the County has established three workforce intermediaries. The primary goal is to ensure that individuals in our core communities get the education and training that they need to get jobs in those areas. The Manufacturing intermediary was established 6-8 months ago. MAGNET and the Greater Cleveland Partnership established it. The second was awarded in health care and health careers, which were awarded two weeks ago. Cuyahoga Community College along with the Deaconess Foundation and Cuyahoga County are in charge of that intermediary. It mandates that at the end of the day we are responsible for meeting and convening with individuals who are philanthropists, training providers and who have jobs in one room, so that the individuals who need them are provided jobs and that they are offered to those who are truly in need so that they can benefit. The third intermediary is in Information Technology. I believe this is one of the signs that our workforce development system, which in the past has been fractured, is now coming together to promote the needs of individuals in those three distinct work areas and that is where the jobs are located.
Question: Is the message of Tri-C reaching Cleveland students?
Dr. Alex Johnson: Yes, it is, but we must do a better job. The message is reaching students but we must do a better job. We are such a rich institution with so many programs and services that have been supported by our kind citizens and their tax dollars. We do have a levy coming up on November 5. We can do a better job and we are doing a better job. Our enrollment has increased. It has increased because of individuals who have taken advantage of our workforce offerings. We imagine it is going to continue in that regard. We are the only community college in our region that had an enrollment increase.
Question: In what areas were the increases and where are the accelerated programs? Which of the accelerated programs are available to move through quickly?
Dr. Alex Johnson: A bunch of them! We have accelerated programs particularly in manufacturing, information technology, health care, areas of business and then in combination programs which we call megatronics and industrial technology. Electrical technology and manufacturing are the lucrative areas at this time. Guess what; as soon as they are given their certificates, they are immediately hired. Lincoln Electric, University Hospitals, Ford are partner organizations with Tri-C. The list continues because they are in partnership with us. We have an “Earn to Learn” program that allows them to be compensated while they are training and then have a full time job upon completion of the program. They can get the certificates in a shorter period of time, which means that they can begin work within a shorter period of time.
Question: As a leader in this community, do you feel that you have an obligation to reach the disadvantaged students in this city?
Dr. Alex Johnson: I don’t consider myself as a leader in the community. I just happen to be the President of Cuyahoga Community College. That is a powerful, powerful organization. Do you know why? It is not because of my leadership. It is in spite of my leadership. There is nothing virtuous about what I do. What is virtuous about the institution are the people who truly and deeply care about Cleveland and we are fortunate indeed to have individuals who have those qualities. In addition to our commitment to education and training, we see people who have a commitment to community engagement in a significant way. We do know that in some instances, we have been isolated and we have insulated ourselves because we want people to come to us. When we recognize that if we really want to carry out our mission, in a more significant way, that it is a must, that we have got to be in the community. The community is our oasis. It is our center. It is where we can do our best work. The way we do that, is not through our independent efforts, it is in association and to organizations of which I have already alluded to at this time. Olivet, Esperanza, CMHA, Jeffrey Patterson, Burten, Bell & Carr and Tim Trambel are people that we have to work with together. Any host or any number of individuals who really represent their community very well. The access centers, the centers in the high school and College NOW are just a few examples of the organizations we are working with now, Sigma Pi Phi Boule with Kenny Clemens. I have a unique partnership with that school for Africa- American males providing them tutoring in mathematics and English. I am helping them gain experiences, enriching life experiences, helping them to travel through visits to college, law offices and doctor’s offices. I am working with them to aid in developing their career paths. They are bright, bright children who need an opportunity. I tell them, “Don’t let your environment be a barrier! I know there are a lot of challenges, but there is a silver lining in every cloud.” I bring up my example that I grew up in the segregated south; A library the size of my conference room with a few books, a department store that would not allow me and my family to try on the clothes, a school where we received hand me down books and a church that was exclusively African-American. But within that environment I learned to praise the Lord! I read books that were at my disposal. Whether they were hand me downs or not or they were in that little library. I benefitted from not being able to try on the clothes because from my parent’s standpoint they laughed at me a long time because I had to buy them too big. However, every challenge has an opportunity so we have to let young people understand that despite the challenges that they see in their community, there are opportunities out there through people like me and through the opportunities that they might get through a place like Tri-C.
To be continued…