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Columbia Inspired

Changing the Landscape

Aug 17, 2023 06:59PM ● By Bethany Good

Tyreek was a great student but working nights while trying to complete his degree started to wear on him. He was exhausted in every way, and his grades began slipping. Dr. Daria Willis often saw Tyreek asleep on the sofas in the student lounge. Eventually, she asked him what was going on. He said, “I'm an adult student. I worked hard to raise my grades and got my act together. But I don't have enough money for the spring semester.” Would Dr. Willis be able to help Tyreek?

Dr. Willis is the president of Howard County Community College (HCC). She has a vision to make college education and career training more accessible for students of all income levels and backgrounds. HCC serves a diverse population, including those suffering from poverty and other systemic issues.

According to HCC, 46% of the students taking credit courses have received financial aid to help cover tuition costs. Of the students receiving financial aid, 52% were at or below the poverty line. “Our opportunity here is providing what our citizens in Columbia need to get themselves out of poverty, to retool and reskill, to provide a family wage and break that cycle of intergenerational poverty,” says Willis.

Students who work full-time, have families to support, and live in poverty have challenges. Dr. Willis sees the struggles these students face on a day-to-day basis. “Many students are just one disaster away from being unable to complete their degrees or certificates.” Dr. Willis and HCC work to provide wraparound support to ensure these students have everything they need.

Student services and programs at HCC include:

●     Basic Needs & Food Pantry

●     The Family Study Room

●     Counseling Services

●     Wellness Center

●     Sexual wellness clinic

Dr. Willis was able to help Tyreek by enrolling him in two support programs at HCC. The Silas Craft  Collegiate program (which maximizes academic achievement through personal coaching, academic support, and smaller class sizes), and Howard P.R.I.D.E (an award-winning program that provides life-enhancing mentorship for Black male students). Tyreek also qualified for a grant that helped pay for the next semester.

“When I see these students on campus that have again been courageous enough to come to me and say, ‘Hey, Madam President, I need something.’ I can't say no to that, right? Because they have the desire to do better, and we want to be able to support them with that.”

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