More COMMUNITY, less college

Catharyn A. Palomino
Assistant Professor of Communication

I have had the joy of teaching at both a four-year university and a community college. Though both offer uniquely different experiences, I have learned more about the value of a community college education as an instructor, than I ever could have when I was choosing a college.

I shamefully admit that when I was in high school, I assumed that the students who went to a community college did so because they could not get into a four-year university. In my middle-class college-educated home environment, I just did not understand why anyone would go to a community college.

As a community college instructor, I became aware of the myriad of reasons why someone would choose a community college. Community college students often make that choice because of its affordability, convenience with work schedules, or simply because of the smaller class sizes and instructor attention. Many community college students are living demanding lives outside of their classes and simply need more flexibility. Almost none, in my experience, were not able to get into a four-year university.

One such student was OR. She came to class regularly and always participated and added so much to our discussion and activities.  As I got to know her better she began letting me know more about her world. She had a four-year-old daughter who frequently showed up during our virtual classes and would talk about work and all the things she was juggling to be in class each week.  Community college allowed her more options for her demanding life.

Community college students tend to have grit and real-life experiences and those commonalities connect them to each other. Sometimes we get so focused on the word “college”, that we forget to emphasize the community aspect. My students have been single moms, immigrants aiming for better opportunities, recent high school graduates who are unsure of what they want to study, and many coming to class just after they’ve worked their factory job.

I am proud to say I have become a passionate advocate of community college.  Teaching at one has opened me up to the value of diversity more than ever. When people ask me what teaching at the community college is like, without hesitation I say, it’s just like on Sesame Street, “These are the people in your neighborhood…the people that you meet each day.”

THIS is the community college.

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