U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, OP ED

Community Colleges Assisting Communities in Times of Need

America isn’t great because she has streets made of gold or monarchies in high castles. America is great because in times of crisis and need, her people rise to the occasion, respond with acts of compassion and individuals do just as much as the state to defeat the enemy and ensure the wellbeing of others. As our country continues to battle this virus and we experience the height of its impact, stories of helping others, giving back and servant leadership abound. One of the pillars of my life has always been community and now, more than ever, our community leaders are stepping up to make a difference.

I recently held a Zoom call with presidents from Kansas’ 19 community colleges. Earlier this spring, with only a few days’ notice, these colleges were all forced to take their classes online, shut down classrooms, residents halls and dining facilities and help students safely return home. The loss of revenue these colleges has accumulated thus far is in the millions. But the message from the presidents on our call wasn’t one of anger and despair. Instead each of these colleges have found their own way to give back to their communities, help those in need and retool their resources and services to become assets and lifelines. As a community college graduate, I could not be more proud of these college and their commitments to their communities.

One president on the call said it best, “When others take the victims’ approach, we take the victors approach and look for ways to help.” Nearly all of the colleges on the call had donated personal protective equipment and medical equipment – including ventilators – from their classes to their local hospitals. Others had opened their residential halls to medical professionals and first responders who need a place, away from their homes and families, to rest between shifts or offered rooms to the hospital in the event multiple residents needed to be quarantined and isolated.

The schools are doing all this while rewriting class syllabi and transitioning classes – including those that require hands-on instruction – online. Their staff remains on payroll and most have committed to paying employees through the end of the school year. In most communities, college administration is now part of daily planning and response calls and every president on our call was more than ready to help their communities however possible.

In this difficult time, it is easy to get wrapped up in the bad news and hardships we are all facings. But my call with these college presidents reminded me just how powerful individuals and community leaders can be. These men and women have done this without asking anything in return or seeking the applause they deserve. I encourage you to follow their Facebook page – Kansas Association of Community College Trustees – to learn for yourself the many ways these colleges are helping their communities. I want to thank President Alysia Johnston and all of the staff at Fort Scott Community College for their tireless work on behalf of their students and the community. Keep up the great work.

U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D.

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