LaPreece Thomas is a 2018 Lorain County Community College graduate. After 25 years of corporate office work, the proud mother of five and grandmother to two decided to chase a dream – one that sparked unexpectedly when she took her daughter to summer camp at NASA. She went back to school to earn a degree in mechanical engineering.
She knew school wouldn’t be easy for her. At 47 years old, coursework, studying and tests had become a distant memory. She was still working full-time in the corporate world and would have to juggle credit hours and internships. And as those of us with grown children know, you never stop being a full-time mother. But the advisors and professors at Lorain County Community College were well-equipped and ready to welcome LaPreece to her campus. She participated in a program called SAIL (Students Accelerating In Learning). It’s based on the City University of New York’s Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs (ASAP) successful model, where over 50 percent of new students graduate with an associate degree in three years.
The SAIL program is focused on one thing – getting students to the finish line with a degree that has labor market value. It’s a multifaceted, integrated, and long-lasting program that provides an array of intensive and intrusive wraparound services and support, like gap tuition scholarships, free textbooks, grocery and gas gift cards, along with mandatory advising and tutoring.
Though every aspect of college life was foreign to her and life struggles met her at every turn, as a member of SAIL, LaPreece said she “never felt lost” and that all she had to worry about as she worked toward her dream, was “making my grades.”
“I believe that’s how community colleges should function – fostering success for everyone. Every student’s dream matters and it’s our responsibility to meet them where they are. And that means we have to apply high-tech innovations to support our high-touch environment.” – Marcia Ballinger
To learn more about Lorain County Community College’s transformation, gaining them national recognition from AACC as the top Community College in the country for excellence in Student Success, read the full version of this post in Ferris State University’s “Perspectives” publication available here.
Marcia Ballinger, President of Lorain County Community College
Marcia Ballinger, PhD, has more than 25 years in community college leadership roles that have advanced student success, workforce and economic development, strategic planning, and institutional advancement. Dr. Ballinger was named as the 5th President of Lorain County Community College in 2016. She serves as co-campus lead for the Completion by Design project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has recognized LCCC as a National Innovator in Increasing College Completion. Additionally, she provides leadership for LCCC’s Achieving the Dream initiative.