Feb 1, 2016 – Elected officials, business leaders, advisory board members, students, faculty, and other supporters came together for the annual Legislative Breakfast at Middlesex Community College, held Monday, February 1. The general theme of this year’s event was the MxCC student experience.
At the breakfast, Trenton Wright, coordinator of institutional advancement, and Dr. Anna Wasescha, president of MxCC, welcomed attendees who included state Rep. Catherine Abercrombie (D-83rd District), state Sen. Danté Bartolomeo (D-13th District), state Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd District), Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, state Rep. Noreen Kokoruda (R-101st District), state Rep. Matt Lesser (D-100th District), state Rep. Jesse MacLachlan (R-35th District), state Rep. Joe Serra (D-33rd District), and East Haddam First Selectman Mark Walter. Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, also gave welcome remarks.
During the event, MxCC students held a panel discussion discussing their experiences and challenges as students. Students involved in the panel discussion were Brittany Anne Doran of Deep River, James Fahey of Middletown, Daniel Ortiz of Meriden, Ben Palazzo of Meriden, and Meghan Schneider of Ivoryton.
One recurring theme from the student panel was the issue of accessible and timely public transportation to and from the College that lines up with class schedules and make regular attendance at classes more certain.
“I’ve been commuting to the Middletown campus and it gets inconvenient to be a student really fast,” said Daniel Ortiz, a liberal arts and science major who relies on public transportation from Meriden to the Middletown campus. He pointed out that a bus trip from Meriden to the Middletown campus could take over an hour or more and can get expensive when it takes place on a regular basis.
Although the College has been helping students get from the Meriden Center to the Middletown campus by offering free bus passes through the generosity of the CUNO Foundation, such a program does not exist for Middletown residents. In his remarks, President Ojakian spoke about his focus on working with MxCC and all of the community colleges to come up with a coordinated plan for transportation that can support Connecticut students going forward, since this is also an issue for students coming from other areas as well.
Another challenge presented by the student panel is juggling school and work. Students on the panel described their experiences working multiple jobs while taking on full course loads.
Brittany Anne Doran, a human services major from Deep River, is a full-time student who works three jobs. She also commutes to Hartford to do a legislative internship. “After working an eight-hour day at my internship, I go to work for 5 or 6 hours and that’s enough to pay for my gas for the week,” she explained.
At Middlesex Community College 80% of students work while they attend school. Though 68% of MxCC students receive financial aid, many students often work multiple jobs and are raising a family while they pursue a degree. This sometimes leads to a struggle to pay for food, while also paying for out-of -pocket expenses for their education such as textbooks.
One way that MxCC will be meeting the needs of students who struggle with food insufficiency is through the grant-funded Magic Food Bus project. Similar to a mobile food pantry, the Magic Food Bus will be located on the MxCC campus and will be stocked with food donations and staffed by student and community volunteers. The Magic Food Bus is expected to begin operations this spring.
Despite the challenges these students face, each student expressed a commitment to finishing their degree. They are also hopeful that legislators and community college advocates will keep these issues in mind as they wrestle with the State budget challenges ahead.