For an educator, graduation is one of the happiest, most-rewarding times in the year. Such is the case for me as well.
When preparing for the presidency several years ago, I asked a mentor, “Why would anyone want to be a community college president?” I asked that question in the midst of learning about the politics of making decisions, resistance to change, organizational conspiracies, loneliness of leadership and my favorite realization – community college administration is a contact sport.
I was reading many a case study to help me understand the very different and difficult job of presidential leadership. Each study reviewed distracted my focus on a deep sense of calling to the presidency. Until, that is, I asked the question, and the response was simply: “Wait until you preside over your first graduation. You will shake the hands of those students who have overcome the struggles and plights of life in order to walk across that stage, smile and say with their eyes, we made it.”
JCC’s graduation ceremonies May 19 and 20 reflected the conclusion of many months and years of hard work for more than 550 students. Goals to complete a course of study and receive a college degree were met with cheers, more encouragement and much optimism as one educational chapter closed for the 2014 graduates.
But with the closing of one chapter comes the opening of another for these graduates, and Johnston County will be all the better for their determination. Because of its support of education through JCC, the county now has another pool of qualified candidates for employment opportunities in vocations such as medical assisting, pharmacy technology, sonography, radiography, accounting, Spanish interpreting, criminal justice, early childhood education, fire protection, industrial systems, emergency medical science, nuclear medicine, nursing and information-technology networking, among other discipline areas.
All of these areas are represented now by graduates such as Anna Tolar, who is the 2014 President’s Award recipient for outstanding scholastic achievement and leadership qualities, and Latifah Nixon, who received the 2014 Citizenship Award for leadership, service to fellow students and participation in extracurricular activities. Margaret Raynor won the 2014 Academic Excellence Award, having been nominated by a faculty member and selected on the basis of academic achievement.
We can be certain these newly minted members of the labor market will bring a positive impact on our local economy with exponential return on the investment made. Some studies show a return of $4.50 in higher future income for every dollar a student invests in education. The average return on investment for taxpayers is better than 11 percent.
Graduation 2014 at JCC was no different from the first I experienced as president in 2010. It confirmed, yet again, my friend’s admonition. And we aren’t done. This year, as a result of all JCC program efforts, there were at least 600 or 700 hundred more reasons I want to be a community college president. Godspeed, graduates. Make us proud.
David N. Johnson is president of Johnston Community College.