As best-selling author and youth advocate Wes Moore prepares to address college leaders at the 2017 AACC Convention next month in New Orleans, he briefly chatted with CC Daily about his key message points.
You grew up in a city like many of the students that community colleges serve. How was education a game changer for you?
My journey through education was critical to developing my attitude and identity. Growing up attending private school, I felt stuck between two worlds, which contributed to a confused sense of direction. I may not have understood it then, but this taught me early on how important education is for creating expectations and a focused outlook. It wasn’t until my mother sent me to military school that I experienced the comprehensive support and examples of leadership that expanded my beliefs and sense of purpose. I am very grateful my mother made sure I had that learning experience because the civic focus I learned is what fueled my pursuit of strong learning communities in the future. Education must be looked at as a holistic, communal experience if we truly want to support driven youth with a sense of personal responsibility.
What advice would you give a young man or woman at a pivotal point in their educational and personal journey to pursue?
We are a product of our expectations. Something that has stuck with me since attending military school is that you can’t hit a target you can’t see. If we have a clear idea of what we want and a sense of purpose, we will do the work to make it happen. So, it is critical that we spend time developing and defining our objectives according to our values. I would also challenge anyone to pursue only what he or she is passionate about, because that is what fuels greatness, and greatness should always be our aim.
How can community colleges provide better “service” to their communities?
It is as much a service to physically help the community, as it is to teach our students why it is important. We should all want to live in communities filled with people motivated to work for each other, because it makes all our lives safer and more productive. Community colleges have the advantage of a student body that is mostly local and familiar with the surrounding area, so it is a great opportunity to feel how service enriches home. I am a firm believer in including students in the conversation; so ask what students need to be more involved. Work from issues students are passionate about and connect them to related service opportunities in the community. By helping students discover new ways to be involved in the community and reflecting on these experiences, community colleges can nurture a positive sense of duty and purpose.
As high school graduation rates are rising, more students are leaving college early. This usually happens in the first year because students don’t have the support they need for a successful transition into college. We want our students to be supported and motivated to succeed because we want to build successful, driven communities. To that end, our team has developed a suite of comprehensive tools to address the academic, financial and social challenges of our freshmen. The program aids students with in-person mentorships and online resources, ensuring a stable net of support through their first year that will increase retention and graduation rates.