By Katherine Noll
October 19, 2012
What better perspective could a parent get than from a former student who went on to teach here at Northampton Community College and now has a son who is a freshman?
Parents of NCC students were invited to get the inside scoop on "The NCC Experience 2012-2013" from faculty, staff and current students at a panel discussion on October 18. The panelists talked about services available to students, extracurricular opportunities, athletics, service learning, and the international program.
New NCC President Mark Erickson warmly welcomed the parents, noting that he was "as new to the college as first year students are."
Vice President of Student Affairs Mardi McGuire-Closson moderated the event and introduced the panel, which included:
Donna Acerra, professor of communications
Stacy Beaty, biological science major
Deb Bohr, service learning administrator
Manny Gonzalez, director of international programs
Doug Heath, professor of geography and geology
Evelyn Galarza, Student Senate treasurer and biological science major
Luke Szoke, student athlete, business management major
What is unique about the NCC experience?
"It's our focus on student success," said Acerra, who is also an alumna whose son is currently attending NCC.
"It's how I can challenge the very best students while at the same time helping less-prepared students succeed and grow," Heath said. "Many of us on the faculty strive to do this."
How important is the first semester?
"It's crucial," Bohr said. "As a parent, the best thing you can do is be there, supporting, helping, and guiding so your child knows you are there for them."
Time management is key, especially mid-semester. "At this time, everything is due or there is a lot that needs to be done. Help them or tell them there are people here to help them with time management," Acerra said.
"You always have people willing to help you," Galarza reinforced her point. The biological science major said, "I give the support services here a glowing recommendation, especially the Learning Center. They are wonderful. It feels great to know you always have someone behind you."
"Now is the time to get help if you need it," Heath encouraged, while Acerra noted that the first person students should see if they are having problems in a class is the professor.
What is life like for an NCC student outside the classroom?
As a student athlete, Szoke spoke about the Athletics Department. "There are lots of sports to get involved here with. You have to work hard in both places, both in the classroom and for your team. That's what makes you a student athlete."
"There are so many ways to grow here outside of the classroom," Galarza added. "The Leadership Class, the clubs I belong to, they enhance my experience here."
"When I first came here, I thought it was weird so many students were wearing NCC shirts. I figured when I transferred to a four-year-school, that's when I would get the shirts," Beaty said. "Now I own an NCC t-shirt for every day of the week!" NCC was not Beaty's first college experience. "I didn't get the support or the opportunities I get here," she said, referring to her former school. "I was able to discover who I am here, what I am capable of. As a non-traditional student, it's not my first time at the rodeo, but it's my most successful one."
What is service learning?
"Service learning allows students to meet community needs while at the same time supporting what they are learning in class," Bohr explained.
Beaty recently returned from a fall break service learning trip to a high school located on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. There she helped set up a sustainable agriculture club and helped a student with essays for college applications. It wasn't her first foray into service learning, and it won't be her last. "Service learning has led me to presenting at a conference, winning an award and having my article published in a journal," she said.
Service learning has also been enriching for Galarza, who volunteered time with child care for a Hispanic center.
What is the international program like at NCC?
"When I was first asked to start the international program here, most community colleges did not have one," Gonzalez said. "We now have nine different programs and this spring alone we will have trips to Paris, Moscow and Denmark." He then talked about how the program strives to make the trips affordable for students, many who would never have the chance to go to travel abroad without it.
"We also have students here at NCC who come from all over the world. We're up to 42 countries this year," Gonzalez said. "These students return to their own country and are leaders." The trips and getting to know other students from far away places help NCC students broaden their horizons and exposes them to the global economy.
"I have best friends from all over the world!" Beaty chimed in, while Galarza said, "Making relationships with someone different from you is a really awesome experience."
"The students that are really successful are the ones that are very connected to the faculty and staff. Encourage your child to be connected and get involved," Gonzalez urged.
"For many students, their instinct is to dodge their teachers," Heath said. "They really should be taking the initiative to talk to us."
"I can't stress enough how much everyone here really cares about our students," Bohr added. "It's a huge part of who we are and I hope our students feel that and know that."
After a Q & A session, Dr. Erickson and McGuire-Closson ended the program by reminding parents how important they are. "You are incredibly important partners on this journey with your children," Erickson said, while McGuire-Closson stressed that "we want to make you feel as important as your students."
Parents can make sure they receive invitation to parent events like this by signing up for a weekly e-newsletter. A special reception for parents and alumni will be held before NCC's Community Chorus Holiday Concert on December 7. RSVP here.
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