BCCC grad completes a nearly 40-year journey to an associate degree

Runae Freeman is relishing her latest achievement.

On June 4, 2016, Freeman received her associate of applied science degree in allied human services from Baltimore City Community College (BCCC). She couldn’t be happier.

“This has been a journey, a very long and arduous journey,” she said. “But the benefits of finishing something like this are enormous.”

The conferring of an associate degree was the culmination of a nearly four-decade-long pursuit for Freeman. Her focus and commitment personifies what BCCC students are all about.

The students come from all walks of life and overcome unique challenges as they approach graduation. Whether they are juggling school and parenting, returning to a classroom environment for the first time in years, coping with physical and mental challenges, or persevering through personal tragedy, these students are defying the odds and setting positive examples in their communities.

The College awarded 515 associate degrees and certificates at its 2016 commencement ceremony on June 4, 2016 at the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric. On June 11, 2016, the school will present 51 students with their high school diplomas at its annual Adult Education Programs Commencement at the Fine Arts Theatre on the Liberty campus. Many from the Class of 2016 overcame poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, health problems, homelessness and other obstacles.

By the time she was 19, Freeman, a Chicago native, was a single mother of five— three girls and two boys. She dropped out at the age of 16 to focus on raising her kids. It was a struggle. She took whatever odd jobs she could find and even had to go on welfare before meeting her husband of over 30 years, Roger, who helped tremendously to lessen the load.

Freeman, 53, and her husband did an outstanding job raising their family: All five of Runae’s children finished high school and went to college.

“I continued to thrive through my children,” Freeman said. “What I didn’t get, I made sure they got.”

But being a full-time mom left Freeman with no time to complete her education. When she and Roger moved to Baltimore from Atlanta in 2010 at the suggestion of her son, Peter Smith (who serves on the Anne Arundel County Council), with her kids all grown up, Freeman was finally free to fulfill her personal goals.

The first step for Freeman, who has been totally blind in her left eye since she was a toddler, was getting her GED. Going back to school after so many years was intimidating, but she was determined.

In May 2012, Freeman enrolled in the BCCC GED Test Preparation Program and passed her exam later that year. Then in 2015, she earned a certificate in allied human services from BCCC. Freeman now has an associate degree in the same discipline, with a concentration in addiction counseling.

This fall, Freeman will attend the University of Baltimore to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human services administration. She says she is most proud of the example she is setting for her children and 14 grandchildren.

“I don’t ever want my grandchildren to go through what their grandmother went through and miss so many opportunities,” she said.

Freeman says she owes a lot to her instructors at BCCC, which she calls “the perfect place to put your life back in order.”

“My goal is to go as far as I can go,” she said. “My motto is, ‘Don’t let your past define your future.’ No matter what you’ve done in your lifetime, you should be able to get up, pull it together and move on.”

BCCC celebrates National Robotics Week

Students in Baltimore City Community College’s Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program are learning how to maintain and operate modern robots.

Program Coordinator Yun Liu says a major part of the curriculum is having students build Lego Mindstorm robots with light, ultrasound, touch and sound sensors.

“Once finished, the robots should be able to follow lines, hear noise levels, and detect obstacles,” Liu said.

BCCC Robotics student Emmanuel Lewis, 18, of Loch Raven, says it is the authenticity of the Robotics program, which gives him confidence he is on the right path to becoming a technician capable of programming and repairing robots in different applications.

“This program goes in-depth. It gives you a chance to experiment with equipment you’ll actually be using on the job,” said Lewis, who aspires to start his own robotics engineering company.

During this week’s seventh annual National Robotics Week celebration (April 2–10, 2016), BCCC focused its efforts on encouraging more students, particularly more women and minorities, to become Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) professionals and enroll in the BCCC Robotics/ Mechatronics Technology Program— a gateway to top bachelor’s degree programs in engineering at nearby institutions including Morgan State University and Capitol Technology University in Laurel, Maryland.

In addition to daily social media outreach, the college’s National Robotics Week campaign featured a Twitter chat during which Associate Professor of Mathematics and Engineering Michael Kaye answered questions about the BCCC Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program and the career outlook for electro-mechanical technicians.

“As the only two-year college in Maryland that offers an associate degree in robotics technology, BCCC is committed to preparing students for careers in the rapidly expanding industry of automated manufacturing,” said Kaye. “The need for minorities and women mechanical engineers and electro-mechanical technicians with broad skills is becoming more crucial as demand increases for engineers to design and build new robotic equipment across multiple sectors.”

Established in 2010 by Congress and the iRobot Corporation, an American advanced technology company specializing in building robots for home and defense/security purposes, National Robotics Week stimulates interest in robotics and other STEM fields through school events, competitions, and other learning-focused activities.

Robots continuously revolutionize ways in which people conduct everyday activities. A pillar of 21st century American innovation, Robotics Technology is positioned to produce an array of next-generation products in manufacturing, health care, national defense and security, and transportation in the coming years.

Electro-mechanical technicians, who operate and test robotic equipment, earn a median annual wage of about $53,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They typically need either an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate to gain employment. As demand increases for engineers to design and build new equipment in various fields, so will demand for highly skilled electro-mechanical technicians.

STEM jobs are growing at a faster rate than non-STEM occupations, iRobot says, and BCCC is helping to meet this demand.

The college’s Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program offers extensive training in electronics, computer and mechanical controls, pneumatics, data acquisition and hydraulics related to industrial robots. In two years, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Robotics Technology and transition directly into a bachelor’s degree program.

Students in the BCCC Engineering/ Technology (ET) Scholars Scholarship can receive up to $4,150 per academic year. The deadline to apply for the fall 2016 ET cohort is April 15, 2016. In addition to Robotics, ET programs at BCCC include engineering transfer, computer information systems, and computer-aided design and drafting.

BCCC voting machine demonstration nets new voters

Since 2008, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), through its partnership with the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, has registered more than 2,500 voters (and counting) through on-campus voter registration drives held during the school year.

With the onset of the 2016 presidential and mayoral elections, the BCCC is busy ramping up its effort to register more student voters and familiarize them with the new process for casting ballots on Election Day.

BCCC hosted a voter registration drive on February 2, 2016, which gave students and others an opportunity to test out Maryland’s newly revamped voting system, presently being converted from touch-screen equipment to machines that produce verifiable paper records. The event was held in conjunction with the Baltimore City Board of Elections.

“It’s very different, more than I was expecting,” Kelvin Howard, 20, one of a number of BCCC student-athletes who visited voter information tables in the Student Atrium, said of the new voting equipment. “I thought it was going to be a simple pen-and-paper-and-scanning process. It’s something new and modern. It’s really cool.”

During early voting, according to the State Board of Elections website, all voters will use a ballot marking device similar to the touch screen machines Marylanders have used in recent years. The device prints voters’ selections onto a paper ballot card. Voters will then review their ballots and insert them into a tabulation device. The ballots will automatically drop into a secure ballot box. Come Election Day, voters will have multiple options to choose from. Some voters, including those with disabilities, will use ballot- marking devices to mark and print their ballots; others will mark pre-printed paper ballots by hand.

“The new system does give people the reassurance of having a paper copy of their votes,” said Lois Hybl, a League volunteer. “It is a learning process, but the Board of Elections has been doing a good job of showing how it works.”

The new voting machine demonstation at BCCC was one of eight planned by the Baltimore City Board of Elections. The effort presented a perfect opportunity for the College to recruit more young voters.

The College and the League will hold another voter registration drive at the Liberty campus in March.

Year Up Baltimore graduate lands job as operations engineer

Tyson Lin didn’t exactly know what he wanted to do with his life after finishing high school in 2014.

Lin, 19, wasn’t sure if he would be able to pay for college, or even if he wanted to enroll right away. He took a job at a clothing store shortly after graduating but became annoyed by his own complacency.

Lin’s sister suggested he apply to Year Up Professional Training Corps Baltimore based at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC). He was skeptical at first: The idea of receiving free training that can lead directly to good employment— essentially, being paid to attend class— seemed too good to be true. Nevertheless, Lin applied.

Fast forward a year later and Lin now works full time as an operations engineer for AOL. He intends to continue his college education this summer. Lin is glad he joined Year Up.

“The [Year Up] staff really knows what works. They’re committed to helping us become better professionals, better people,” he said. “They really want the best for you.”

Lin was among 19 members of the Year Up Class of January 2016— Cohort 9— who graduated on January 29, 2016. Keynote speaker at commencement, OneBaltimore chair Michael E. Cryor, delivered what Year Up Baltimore executive director Roland R. Selby Jr. called “a powerful message— uplifting and encouraging for our students.”

The ceremony culminated an intensive, yearlong program during which underserved but highly motivated young adults, ages 18-24, are groomed for meaningful careers at reputable companies and get a jump start on their college education— all at no cost to them.

Year Up was founded by former technology entrepreneur and Wall Street banker Gerald Chertavian in 2000 with the goal of “bridging the opportunity divide,” by providing urban young adults sidelined by socioeconomic inequities the support, skills and experience needed to reach their potential.

Year Up participants must have a high school diploma or GED. For the first six months, students learn employability skills in a classroom setting. Over the next six months, they complete internships with a Year Up corporate partner. Students earn college credits and stipends during both phases of the program.

Eighty-seven percent of Year Up participants in Baltimore are Baltimore City residents, recruited from a pipeline of area social service and neighborhood organizations, high schools and the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. They have access to the same resources as any other student of the college.

“We’re not just given internships. We have to earn them,” said Alexus Martin, 18, a member of the Year Up Baltimore Cohort 10, which will graduate next year. “It’s all part of the high-expectation, high-support system Year Up uses to shape students into sought-after professionals.”

“We want to give them the tools to succeed and get them to understand this is a continual process. When you enroll in Year Up, the expectation is you will begin working after completing the program and continue to pursue an education,” Selby said.

Nationally, 85 percent of Year Up students are either employed or attending school full time within four months of graduating. Seventy-five percent of Year Up Baltimore students complete the program each year, and many of them land jobs. Other January 2016 graduates have IT jobs at Johns Hopkins Hospital, CareFirst, and Maxim Healthcare Services, among other companies.

Interfaith Peace Rally at BCCC makes strides toward bridging divides

With Islamophobia and other sensitive issues building tension and creating divides across the nation, the Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) Muslim Students Association is doing its part to help local leaders promote harmony, unity and ethnic diversity.

It all started with the vision of the group’s president Devone Delly: to bring college students and community members of all faiths together to show solidarity in light of recent incidents. That vision was later brought to fruition during a conversation Delly had with BCCC President/CEO Dr. Gordon F. May and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot during an October event on campus.

Delly, 21, a legal assistant major, visited other local colleges, universities, churches and mosques to share his idea. The result: Delly had organized an Interfaith PEACE Rally on campus.

“I believe that by treating someone with respect, you are creating a better world,” Delly told those in attendance at the rally, which took place Tuesday, December 22, 2015. “The energy you give off affects those around you tremendously. When you wake up in a positive mood, in a positive state of mind, one that is loving, caring and compassionate, you will pass that energy on to the next person.”

BCCC students and alumni, college leaders, political figures, and others gathered to express what peace means through speeches and poems, and discuss respect of different cultural backgrounds and religions. “Extremism exists in all religions, so this is not new, whether it’s Christianity, whether it’s Judaism, whether it’s Islam,” said Anwer Hasan, chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. “We have to work together to eliminate the extremism.”

The main goal of the peace rally was to help dispel negative perceptions of Muslims in light of the burgeoning war against Islamic extremists and opinions being expressed in the media. “I’m a Christian myself, but I do have lots of Muslim friends,” said Veronica Jones, a member of the BCCC Student Government Association. “I think it’s very

unfair that they’re afraid to go outside of their homes.”

The Muslim Students Association, which currently is made up of about 20 members, also sponsored the rally to advocate local leaders’ call for peace within the Baltimore community, particularly throughout the Freddie Gray trials. Matthew D. Minson, legislative director for State Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office, presented the group with a proclamation of recognition for organizing the peace rally.

“An important part of my role as president and CEO is to advocate for our students who have made me extremely proud with this initiative,” BCCC President and CEO Dr. Gordon F. May said. “This interfaith peace rally is a perfect example of the value we bring to our students and the communities we serve.”

BCCC students impress in National Ethics Bowl Regional Competition

Last month, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) came quite close to advancing to the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition.

Despite not moving on, the students representing BCCC at a daylong Two-Year College National Ethics Bowl regional competition November 21— Crystal Santiful, Joseph Jones and Aaron Laciny— say they are proud of how they competed and came away feeling more confident in their public speaking abilities and much more adaptable to high-pressure situations. The event was held at the University of Baltimore Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics.

“To me, what makes their achievement even more impressive is they’re not philosophy majors,” said Moses Wamalwa, 22, who coached the BCCC Ethics Bowl team. “In this competition, you had to know the philosophies. You had to know the ethical theories. Our students had to learn a semester’s worth of information in a matter of days. I had faith they would do well but I had no idea they would make it as far as they did.”

BCCC was among nine institutions vying for a spot in the 2016 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Championship scheduled for February 21, 2016 in Reston, Virginia. Anne Arundel Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County–Essex also took part in the competition.

Shaking off some early jitters, the BCCC team proceeded to accumulate the second-highest point total in the competition (563), bested only by Harper College of Palatine, Ill. (616.5), which won its second consecutive regional title and its third since the competition for two-year institutions was introduced. Harper went unbeaten in the regional round, but the BCCC team held its own against this more experienced group.

Hundreds of undergraduate students in teams across the U.S. and around the world compete in 10 regional Ethics Bowl competitions each fall to earn an invite to the national competition, which just recently began including junior colleges. Competitions focus on cases developed by experts affiliated with the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. Students must be able to demonstrate their ability to understand the facts of a given case, articulate its ethical principles, present an effective argument on how the case should be resolved, and respond effectively to differing viewpoints presented by the opposing team. Although the competition can be intense, teams are encouraged to show each other respect and courtesy while debating topics. Teams argue and defend their moral assessment of complex, contemporary ethical issues. Topics at the center of debate in last month’s regional round included the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights in light of the Freddie Gray case, and the morality of forcing juvenile cancer patients to undergo chemotherapy following the ruling in the “Cassandra C.” Connecticut court case.

“The competition was very intimidating,” said Santiful, a General Education major at BCCC. “Our opponents were well prepared. But our team chemistry was our strength.”

The students hope their performance in the Ethics Bowl will help increase interest in the BCCC Ethics and Values Club. With enough support and increased membership, Wamalwa said, the club seeks to become more involved in the community and establish scholarships for its members.