BY TAYLOR ROBINSON
At the most recent board of trustees meeting on July 28, Monique James, Washtenaw Community College’s associate director of economic and community development, gave a presentation highlighting the successful partnership WCC has had with the Harriet Street Community Center in Ypsilanti for the last 20 years and its partnership with WCC at Parkridge Community Center since 2012.
“WCC’s involvement at Parkridge reflects our commitment to community development and serves as a pathway for academic partnerships, careers, college readiness, entrepreneurship, job skills training and adds to the educational viability of WCC in the community,” James said.
Not only does the center benefit the surrounding community, but through work study programs and internships from WCC, U-M, Eastern and Wayne State, the college students are able to contribute to their future careers by working with the children in after school mentoring. They assist the younger students with homework, nutrition, exercise, and most of all, they have fun while doing it.
“They (college students) are able to get some of those life skills as well as supplement their education,” James said. “That’s something that’s really important and key to having the WCC presence in the community.”
Owens Price, a 55-year-old current WCC student from Ypsilanti, participated in an internship through Eastern while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in social work. Although he’s completed his internship, it impacted him so much that he continues to stop by the center often.
“I learned how to get along with people who I wasn’t really familiar with and I learned how to get along with the kids. You know, dealing with kids can get kind of crazy sometimes,” Price said laughing. “But they knew once they got here, they had a place that was structured.”
Larry Curry, a 63-year-old WCC student from Willow Run, works 20 hours a week at the center through WCC’s general fund and he agrees with Price that it’s an enjoyable learning experience.
“It’s needed,” Curry said. “And the parents who let their kids come here know it’s a safe environment and their kids are going to be looked after. They know we’re going to make sure they get their snacks, have a little fun and get their education.”
WCC’s Community Development Manager Anthony Williamson and James work closely with what programs are offered at the center and are particularly interested in making the students aware of future college opportunities. They recently brought the children to WCC’s campus for a tour on July 31.
“What I found out from the kids is that a lot of the students don’t know a lot about the programs at WCC and what they can do,” Williamson said. “But I think for the most part it’s that whole exposure of going to college…They will go back home and share the information with their parents and know they can go to WCC.”
James hopes to take this even further and have some representatives from admissions and from financial aid visit the center and talk with the students and their parents about the process for admission.
“To form that connection early is very important and so the campus tours are just one of the many ways in which we really want to continue to keep WCC in the forefront as a viable option,” James said.
Over 20 organizations have partnered with Parkridge which shows a strong support from not only the surrounding colleges but also from the surrounding community. At the center is a large garden grown by the children through the help of local non-profit organization Growing Hope. Growing Hope was originally established about 12 years ago by current mayor of Ypsilanti, Amanda Edmonds. The goal is to teach children about nutritious foods and how to actually produce them from “seed to plate.”
“The academic impact and community impact of WCC at Parkridge is priceless,” James said. “WCC is a key resource in the college efforts with shaping our future and providing opportunities for student and community success.”