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Austin or Bust: Collin Students Head South For Community Colleges



Austin or Bust: Collin Students Head South For Community Colleges

February 8, 2007 - Collin County Community College District students will be a part of 1,500 statewide converging on the state capitol.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, more than 1,500 community college students will show Texas lawmakers the importance of community colleges in the state in terms of education and economic development.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., leaders of the Texas Junior College Student Government Association (TJCSGA) will be joined by state officials speaking from the steps of the Capitol. The event marks the second time that community college students have organized statewide to visit lawmakers.

Wearing ribbons with a slogan saying "Community Colleges are Essential," the students will stress that it is time for the state legislature to enter into a new compact with community colleges. Figures from the Texas Association of Community Colleges show that the 50 community college districts in Texas provide accessible, affordable, quality higher education to more than 70 percent of all first-time college students. Last year, Texas community colleges accounted for $13.47 billion in all annual earnings-the equivalent of 351,530 jobs. The association wants to safeguard and support the educational opportunities that keep Texans and industries working.

Stephanie Hall, a 25-year-old sociology major at Collin, believes the event allows students to exercise their right to hold dialogue with their elected officials and assemble for a common cause.

"I am very excited about going to Austin with my fellow students. I hope to get a better understanding about lobbying and the relationship our elected leaders have with their constituents," Hall said. "We, as U.S. citizens, have a lot of power if we choose to exercise it. I think a lot of people don't realize how much potential power we have collectively and as individuals if we only get involved. This class is about leadership growth, so I think it's fitting that we learn from our own leaders. I will most certainly pass on what I learn from this trip."

Collin student Chadi El-Khoury will attend the event.

"As a student representative, it is crucial that I voice my opinion on the importance of community colleges in today's society. I want to ensure that my legislators understand the difference that institutions such as Collin County Community College have made on the 548,000 students that are currently enrolled in community colleges across our nation," he said. "I am also looking forward to observing the House and Senate in session, and networking with students and professors from the numerous Texas community colleges that are expected to attend."

El-Khoury, a 19-year-old communication studies major, added that staying abreast of current social and political movements, and civic engagement, in general, is important in the collegiate arena.

"It is important for the younger generation to engage themselves in what is going on in their society," he said. "This event unites students who are passionate about their education and makes it possible for them to meet others who share similar interests."

The students will observe the House and Senate in session and visit their individual representatives and senators. The students and their legislative guests will continue their discussions at a lunch hosted by the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

In addition to TJCSGA, participants include students enrolled in community college honors programs around the state, members of the Texas Community College Teachers Association and the Texas Association of Community Colleges. The students will be asked to post their observations and comments about their day in Austin on their online forum at www.tjcsga.org.

Collin County Community College District (Collin) serves more than 41,000 credit and continuing education students annually and offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The only public college in the county, Collin is a partner to business, government and industry, providing customized training and work force development.