Editorial: Community never fails to support GCC

  • The Greenfield Community College main campus building. Recorder File Photo

Published: 5/2/2018 8:00:31 PM

How is it that every year Greenfield Community College Foundation can raise more than $800,000 to support the two-year college?

Money talks, it is said. If that’s true, what does it say about GCC that hundreds of people every year find ways to donate as much as a million dollars to help further the college’s mission?

At the nonprofit foundation’s recent annual fundraiser kickoff, a current student and two alums offered an insight into the answer when they explained how the college played a role in shaping their careers and view of the world.

“That middle word ‘community’ is really key,” said new campaign co-chair Lindsay Stromgren, assistant fire chief in Amherst, whose connection to GCC goes back to his early boyhood when he visited the college where his father was a professor in the early years of the school. Stromgren returned to GCC for his associate degree in firefighting, which led to a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts.

Later, Stromgren became an adjunct professor teaching fire science at GCC, where he saw graduates go on to careers in firefighting, including the fire chiefs of Northampton and Easthampton.

“Graduates who become the professionals in the community, that’s what it’s all about,” Stromgren said.

Michael Heitke-Felbeck, after years of career drift, came to study engineering and chemistry, supported by Foundation scholarships. Soon he will be headed to UMass to continue his education. His story is so typical.

The college faculty and staff have worked every day, year in and year out, for 56 years, to provide hundreds of associate degree and certificate programs, to transfer students to four-year liberal arts colleges or to help them begin their careers as nurses, emergency medical technicians, police officers and more.

Annual enrollment is about 5,000 and the average age of students is in their mid-20s, which means that the school provides career and education advancement for lots of second-career people and older adults trying to gain their footing in a difficult world. In this way, GCC truly is helping its community.

Alumna Corrine Fitzgerald, now a prominent local real estate agent and past president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, shared a story of finding community and inspiration at the college.

She spoke about coming from eastern Massachusetts, unsure of what the college could bring her, but hoping to pursue art. An art class professor offered her some advice that changed her life, she said.

Since then Fitzgerald has used that advice to motivate herself and others through life. “The motto back then was ‘the right to think and the will to learn’ … This school had such a major impact on so many lives and it always will,” she said.

Every year we hear such stories of support and inspiration. It never ends. We hope it never will.

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