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Archive for March, 2009

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

     It is a stressful time for many of us.  All at once, we are filing our taxes, filling out FAFSA forms, studying, and working.  Many of us are filling out transfer applications.  The lucky ones already know where they’ll be studying in the fall.  But for many, the impending due dates mean that there are months of waiting ahead.  Uncertainty can be frightening.  Waiting for acceptance letters can be downright unnerving.

      Fortunately, the proposed economic stimulus package identifies students as a section of society that needs help.  While most Americans will see modest tax breaks, in many cases workers can expect an extra $13 a week, students will see much bigger tax returns next year.  College students — or their guardians — will see up to an extra $2,500 return for school related expenses.

     Nearly 7 million students will receive Pell Grants in the next year.  These grants will increase in value, nearly two thousand dollars, over the course of the next two years.  All said, the Federal government will invest approximately $32 billion in higher education over the next year.  Armed with this information, we can rest easier.  Wherever this year may take us, we will be better prepared financially for the challenges and costs that a college education brings us. 

Regards,

Jan Dominik Kargulewicz, Editor-in-Chief

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By Jan Dominik Kargulewicz, Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Nirmal Makadia, Staff Photographer

Photo by Nirmal Makadia, Staff Photographer

     WaWa is a part of Pennsylvania’s landscape.  Its history is our history.  Beginning as a foundry, the company we now know for coffee, gasoline, and sandwiches, made cannonballs for the War of 1812.  Later, it made fire hydrants.  Eventually, it evolved into a diaper business. 

    All of these steps seemed miles away from the convenience stores we visit so regularly today.  How a cannonball foundry becomes WaWa was a question answered by WaWa’s CEO, Howard Stoeckel, during his afternoon visit to MCCC’s Blue Bell Campus.  Mr. Stoeckel delivered a 45 minute address about the story of WaWa to a packed Science Center Auditorium.  The event was simulcast to the West Campus.

    Keeping a business private, Stoeckel said, allows for the opportunity to plan long-term.  This, in turn, allows for a company to remain in the market and evolve as the financial landscape changes.  Of course, many in attendance wanted to know more about the WaWa they knew.  WaWa’s are often the first place we visit in the morning.  They are landmarks when giving directions.  They are important parts of their respective communities.

    There are only 569 WaWas across five states.  Between those, WaWa sells nearly 200 million cups of coffee annually.  It prepares 60 million sandwiches.  It processes 75 million ATM withdrawals. 

    WaWa executives, seeing the potential to again evolve in the convenience business, began opening gas stations about twelve years ago.  Like their coffee and their sandwiches, customers immediately adopted the pumps as part of their day.  WaWa, having only 258 gas stations, sells about 1% of all the gas in the United States.  For now at least, it stops there.

    “We don’t want to be the biggest.  We want to be the best,” Stoeckel told the audience.  He explained that WaWa didn’t hesitate when it came to closing stores that didn’t meet standards.  Ownership in the company remains private with nearly 28% of the company owned by hourly and salaried employees.  

     “We don’t want to be public,” was a phrase Mr. Stoeckel repeated numerous times.  He laughed at the idea of having to worry about what faceless shareholders and, ultimately, the mood of Wall Street could do to the value of his company.  Stoeckel emphasized that he works for the employees.  If they invested their strengths and enthusiasm into the work, then they would ultimately do what was necessary to keep the company successful.

    WaWa probably continues to be the only convenience store that has made its way into the public lexicon.  Jonny Knoxville, of Jackass fame, has a WaWa tattoo.  The Bloodhound Gang song, “Pennsylvania,” ends with a chorus that finds singer Jimmy Pop asking, “…do you even know what a WaWa is?”  On the off chance that anyone in the audience didn’t, the address ended with coupons being distributed.  The coupons, good for one of WaWa’s new flatbread sandwiches, were one last example of how a company that is already so successful continues to evolve.

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By Alex Short, Staff Writer

      The world is currently in the midst of an economic meltdown, and frankly, no one knows quite how to fix it. The evening news anchors, fearing the term ‘depression’ entirely, have filled their broadcasts with euphemisms and nervous laughter, hoping for the economy to fix itself. It won’t. As much as I’d love to delve into the complications of economic theory and what the future holds for our beloved country, it seems more appropriate to further discuss the tuition crisis and how it relates to our economic turmoil.  

      With the job market becoming more and more competitive and the value of college degrees becoming more valuable, the price of college tuition is naturally rising far past the reach of most lower and middle class citizens. This has led to the increased interest in community colleges and public universities instead of private institutions. At Montgomery County Community College specifically, in the last year, our Central Campus has witnessed an increase in new student enrollment of 16.78%  and 15.88% at the West Campus; these vast increases are highlighted by e-learning students, totaling an increase of 28.97%. MontCo just offers a glimpse into a national phenomenon that is occurring in each corner of the country, and which will continue to do so until the process of paying for college is radically altered.

      President Obama ran for office with major promises, concerning students specifically was his commitment to fix the educational system. His campaign promised a $4000 tax credit for all students and the creation of a Community College Partnership Program, which his website plans will “help schools determine what skills and technical education are needed to help local industry; […] expand new degrees for emerging fields; and […] reward schools that graduate more students.” 

     Whether or not these are the foundations for fixing the tuition crisis, it is certain that they are a step in the right direction.  Still, it concerns me that these proposals could possibly fall to the wayside with the extreme economic crisis in our country. Only time will tell.

      In lieu of the recent stimulus package making the rounds in Congress, it should be noted that students of community colleges, like all of us here at MontCo, are directly affected by the appropriation of funding Congress has chosen to pursue to alleviate our economic crisis. Rarely does one have such a vantage point to witness history in the making. On the 16 of February, the final stimulus package was passed by both chambers of Congress, only after altering the original bill to eliminate $3.5 billion for higher education improvement and $12 billion in cuts for school districts and public institutions in general.

      In a time like ours, when the influence of community college education has been increasing rapidly in recent years, such spending cuts are nonsensical and should have been much more carefully considered. Community college officials immediately reacted to the alteration in the bill with disappointment, noting that community colleges are one of the primary sectors of higher learning in this country, as well as one of the largest sources of workforce training.

      In addition to federal funding reaching out to community colleges (albeit with a short arm), Pennsylvania Governor Rendell has recently proposed $10 million in grants for new students entering the community college system in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, President, Dr. Joe Forrester, “In recognizing the even greater need for investments in our citizens and their education, despite the difficult economic times, the Governor’s proposals will have a strategic impact on the Commonwealth’s economic recovery now.  These investments will also enable community colleges to continue preparing Pennsylvanians for jobs critical to the Commonwealth’s future economic viability and competitiveness in key businesses and industries.” This state funding will certainly aid the educational system in Pennsylvania, but not all states are experiencing this governmental assistance, and will have to rely solely on the now-cut federal funding to expand their schools for the rising student enrollments. Whether or not the funding will match the needs of the students is yet to be seen.

      Finally, the government is catching up with the increasing needs for community college students. However, that does not necessarily mean that some students deserving of an education will fall by the wayside. Our own President, Dr, Karen Stout, was recently quoted as saying that students leaving the college due to unpaid tuition bills is on the rise, and sadly, these students will likely not return to the educational system. It is up to our government to recognize this tragedy and make sure that no matter what the financial situation, any student in Pennsylvania, and our country, has the right to higher education. The next decade will show which direction our country takes on this issue, but I for one hope that finances will never prevent anyone from obtaining the education they deserve.

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By Tara Durkin, Staff Writer

        Four and a half year old Alyssa Strouse has been enrolled at the Montgomery County Community College’s Children’s Center for two and a half years. Her dad, Andrew Strouse, a nursing student at the college, has conveniently been able to drop his daughter off and go to class, but “it’s much more than babysitting,” says Strouse. He says he likes that the children are taken to plays put on by the college and have gone on tours through the music studio. Having sent his older children to other programs, Strouse says he has noticed a big difference in the quality of care and education at the Children’s Center.

      Strouse is right about that difference. The Children’s Center has been enrolled in the Keystone STARS early learning quality initiative program since it started in 2004; recently they received a STAR 4 rating. STARS stand for standards, training, assistance, resources, and support. According to the department of public welfare, to reach a STAR 4 level, a program must meet nationally recognized standards in the fields of staff education and professional development, early learning environment, partnerships with family and community and leadership management. Participation in the Keystone STARS program is voluntary and while many daycare programs are certified with the department of public welfare, not all are certified for early learning.

      For program director, Debbie Ravacon, a STAR 4 is well deserved. She has been in the industry for thirty years, and received her master’s degree in early education at Pacific Oaks. She says this will help the center in many ways. Ravacon is proud of the recognition and says that parents will know that their children are in a quality environment. One of the main benefits of the STAR 4 ranking is the merit award that comes with it. Ravacon says this award will benefit the staff and training.

      Ravacon says she is proud of her dedicated staff and the effort they put in to ensuring a STAR 4 level program. “They are committed to providing a quality program” says Ravacon. She says all of the lead teachers and three out of the four assistants have degrees in early childhood education. Ravacon is not the only person who appreciates her hard-working employees. Diane Krats, a medical lab tech student at the college who’s 5-year-old daughter Sophie attends the center, says she is happy with the attention the staff pays to her daughter. She says Sophie loves all of her teachers. Another parent, Kelly Greene, who’s husband works as an archive librarian at MCCC, says she is happy with the supportive environment that the teachers provide for her 3-year-old son Tommy and his classmates.

      Ravacon is working hard to keep a high standard for the children in her program. She says that early childhood education is the most important thing for children today. According to Ravacon children in a quality program “learn how to function in a group and with other people.” This is important in a world where many children are negatively affected by many outside, societal factors. Ravacon is happy to participate in programs like Keystone STARS and says if the government invested more money in early childhood programs it would result in less money spent on unemployment and prisons.

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By Kerri Hughes, Staff Writer

recyclemania-20091

      “Going green” doesn’t just mean carrying around those cute reusable bags when grocery shopping. That’s why MontCo is participating for the second time in “Recyclemania.”  I had the opportunity to talk to Susan Hauck in our IT Department about this friendly national competition. “Recyclemania” is Susan’s special project. Each year, colleges around the country participate to see who can recycle the most. The competition began in 2001; the most involvement at the time came from private universities. Now community colleges are gaining more involvement. Last year, the first year that MontCo became a participant, MontCo placed 8th in waste minimization. 

     Recycling is an innovative and fun way to take better care of our campus, and our planet. Some easy ways to be involved include simply thinking about your trash and recyclables. Our campus provides many dumpsters and trash cans for specific items. Before you throw away that plastic soda bottle or that unsatisfactory test, remember that those items, along with glass, cardboard boxes, and the like, are recyclable. So think about your trash and let’s all aim for first place. Recycle on!

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Photo by Nirmal Makadia, Staff Photographer

Photo by Nirmal Makadia, Staff Photographer

Flutist Keith Marks performed as part of the Pan African Festival on Feb. 18 in the cafeteria at the Central Campus.

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By Jeremy Coughlin, Staff Writer

    Working to lower carbon footprint is the name of the game over at the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Coalition. Through awareness campaigns and impressive local lobbying, the Coalition is getting stunning results, not only from drivers like you and me, but also from the large municipal organizations like PennDOT and SEPTA. 

     GVF attends events that allow them to educate people about carbon footprints, like MontCo’s Freshman Orientation.  The Coalition has helped the school to educate students and is also the group responsible for having changed the bus schedule and route.  

     But the Coalition doesn’t only just work with schools, it also works with local businesses.  Through a database of information regarding employees, the Coalition is able to pair up employees who work together and live close by to form carpools. Without a doubt, this company of nine people with over one hundred partners, is just trying to make the world a better place, one less car at a time. 

     The GVF is currently looking for an intern; whether you’re a freshman or sophomore with a concentration in environmental studies or not, feel free to apply. For more information, contact Carissa Pleiss at cpleiss@gvftma.com or 610-354-8899.

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