INA, Ill. (Sept. 20) – U.S. Department of Education officials met with Rend Lake College students, administrators and staff Wednesday on campus as part of the department’s cross-country Back-to-School Bus Tour.
Sue Liu, special assistant for community colleges in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, said her visit at RLC was an enriching stop in the USDE’s “Education Drives America” campaign to learn about best practices and needs at community colleges across the U.S.
“This is the best part of my job. I get to go around the country and talk to students. We know, for sure, that the best ideas do not come from Washington,” Liu told a group of around 15 RLC students, many of whom are part of the college’s Student Transfer And Retention Support (STARS) program.
She heard from each student about where they come from and why they chose to go to a community college. She asked what was that “light bulb” moment that made them decide to enroll at RLC.
“I want to be better than what people expect me to be,” a young woman said after telling about growing up with major financial hardships. Another woman said she wants proof of her accomplishment, not just to show potential employers, but to be able to answer the question, ‘Where did you go to school?’
“For me ... coming from a family where education wasn’t established beyond a high school diploma ... it’s been so rewarding to share [where I went to college] with others.”
Liu asked them what advice about college they give to students or someone they mentor.
“This is a great school,” a student replied. “I tell them, ‘While you are here, use the resources.’ There are really great resources here for them.”
“Do what makes you happiest,” another said. “No one can take your education from you. You have to learn who you are and where you want to be.”
Liu asked for some recomendations she could take back to Washington, D.C. The majority responded that programs, like STARS, should be available to more students.
When meeting with RLC’s administrators and staff, Liu heard about best practices put in place to make students successful and a little about how the college operates in areas like recruitment, retention and completion. She heard about RLC’s dual credit program, tutoring initiatives inside and outside the classroom, recruitment, and more.
The meetings on the Ina campus – coupled by RLC President Terry Wilkerson later joining U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller for a discussion at Continental Tire the Americas in Mount Vernon – put the spotlight on Rend Lake’s student services and partnerships with local business and industry.
Liu said it was an “enriching” experience. She said they gathered some good feedback for the USDE.
“I was so impressed and amazed by the students I met with today, in terms of their experiences and where they came from ... how much perseverance they’ve had in making sure they got to school ... continued ... and having really strong goals for themselves in education and their future jobs. That was one thing that struck me about this visit.”
Another, she said, was the college’s strong support system and student advocacy that’s in place. The next back-to-school bus stop for Liu is Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke. Those interested can follow the “Education Drives America” tour on Twitter using thehashtag #edtour12, or visit the Department’s bus tour blog. To receive media advisories, press releases, notifications about postings to the blog, and other special updates during the tour, subscribe to the Department’s Education Drives America e-mail updates by clicking here.