Editorial: Greenfield Community College’s reputation spans globe

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura, left, and long-time educator Kit Carpenter, right, flank speakers Johanna Hoogendyk and Abou Sarr at the college's annual fundraising campaign kickoff April 13. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Published: 5/2/2017 7:35:56 PM

When the time comes every year to ask residents of Franklin County and beyond to donate their hard-earned money to the Greenfield Community College Foundation, there’s never a shortage of poster children to make the case.

That the foundation found two more such alums willing to sing the college’s praises didn’t surprise us.

What did surprise us was that almnus Abou Sarr of Senegal — in his testimonial address to the GCC Foundation annual fundraiser kickoff — said a friend in that west African nation specifically told him to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to go to Greenfield Community College.

“You can get a great education there,” he recalled his friend saying.

We know many people throughout the Pioneer Valley and southern Vermont who share that view, but west Africa? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

The college’s past and present students regularly assert that GCC made a measurable difference in their lives, opening career and life choices not possible otherwise.

Sarr graduated in 2013 with his associate degree. While in school, he learned English and then pursued a career in engineering.

“I have no doubt in my mind that GCC was there to build that foundation for me, changing my life,” said Sarr, who came to America because his wife was pursuing her doctorate here.

GCC’s approximately 300 faculty and staff members work with roughly 2,000 full- and part-time students each semester. Students can earn associate degrees and certificates in about a dozen different fields. Popular programs include Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities, Health Professions and Business, and Management and Marketing. The students get the kind of close mentoring and help that a student-teacher ratio of 12:1 can afford.

The college, founded in 1962, serves the community in many ways. It directly educates its students, and therefore shares in the contributions those students make to the community as they move on in their lives. GCC pumps millions of dollars into the local economy in payroll and purchases.

And, Campaign Co-chair Nicole Fahey, a 2002 graduate and current counselor for substance abuse and mental health at the Franklin County House of Correction, speaks about the resources the college offers to the community, including programs for inmates to help them pursue a degree and turn their lives in a positive direction.

Another alum, Johanna Hoogendyk, spoke to that quality of support. “At GCC, you arrive and you don’t feel you’re worth it, but they tell you you’re worth it,” she said. She left GCC to get a degree at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, and later this year is headed to New York for graduate school.

The college’s mission statement asserts “Lives change for the better every day at Greenfield Community College.”

Stories like Sarr’s and Hoogendyk’s prove that statement to be more than a marketing pitch.

To help preserve the quality of education they both found in this rural corner of Massachusetts, the GCC Foundation raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to supplement what the school’s tight state funding provides.

This year, the foundation hopes to raise $180,670 by May 31 in the public portion of its campaign toward its final $800,000 goal. Every dollar represents an investment not only in the lives of individual students but also in the future of our community; we encourage everyone who can donate to give what they can.

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