By SARAH GALZERANO and REBECCA KOLIMAGA
Promises to yourself are undoubtedly the most important promises. You have given yourself an obligation that can reignite your determination for success. About six years ago, President Obama recognized that the national average for graduation rates at community colleges was decreasing, and he began the C4 (Community College Completion Corps) Campaign. Cumberland County College President, Dr. Isekenegbe, joined this campaign two years ago. Once a year, CCC’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) sets up tables around campus, and holds an event with guest speakers, to ask students to commit themselves to their graduation.
Five hundred students signed last year, but this year the goal is 1,000 signatures. Between 700 and 800 signatures have already been collected, and PTK and administrators are eager to reach their goal. Sharon Kewish, CCC English professor and PTK advisor, spoke about former students when she commented, “…they knew [college] was important, but they didn’t think about how they’re making a commitment to themselves, not to us, not to anybody else. They’re committed to themselves.”
Students that drop out of college could be facing financial, family, health, or academic issues. It could be a decision between going to work and going to class. A family member may need copious amounts of support, or a student’s health may not allow that student to attend class anymore. Some students have the ability to graduate, but they are struggling academically. CCC has resources such as Project Assist, EOF, tutoring, mentoring, and scholarships, but it isn’t always that simple. Sometimes students have to drop out, but it is imperative for those students to remember that they can always come back.
Kewish said, “It might be one year later, it could be four or five years later, but I’m always glad to see them come back.” Cumberland County College’s C4 Initiative is designed for students to make a commitment to themselves that they will graduate. There is no time constraint; students don’t have to graduate in two consecutive years. The promise that students are making are meant to drive them towards the future they want, despite how long it takes.
According to C4 Campaign and PTK, more than 3 million jobs are unfilled in the United States, because students are not obtaining the education or credentials needed. These jobs provide livable wages and yet they are unfilled. A college degree can close the gap between a student’s desired job and their current employment situation.
CCC Board of Trustees Chairman Keith Figgs expressed the importance of this pledge on Thursday, Oct. 30, at CCC’s C4 Initiative assembly. He said, “You’re still going to be wondering, ‘Am I going to get through these exams? Am I going to get through all these papers? Am I going to get through all of the course requirements?’ The answer is yes because you are committed.”
Your commitment is not only to graduation; it’s to your future. Some students are unsure of what they want to do after graduation or what they want to do with their degrees. Kewish said, “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it [her degree]. I wasn’t sure I wanted to teach, but I knew literature was going to be my focus.” Kewish had switched majors four times in her first two years of college, but she graduated with a degree in an area she loved, even though she was unsure how she would use the degree.
Student Social Service major, and PTK chapter president, Chelsea Charlesworth, was asked why she thinks it’s important to graduate. She said, “I think college completion is important because when you’re in college you are actually getting educated, you’re not just receiving a piece of paper with your name on it, saying you have a degree in this or that. You’re also learning a lot about yourself, which is important too.”
The C4 Initiative is not a promise to know what you want to do with your degree or your life. It’s a promise that you will graduate. A student’s signature on a C4 form represents their determination, dedication and desire to graduate.