Our VEX Robotics State Champions — Meet the Ladies

STEM, CTE, STEAM, etc. All are acronyms used for various educational programs So no doubt, many of us educators are familiar with them.  STEM, of course, is Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; STEAM is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, CTE is Career Technology Education.

The acronym (which is not really an acronym) that I am blogging on today has to do with the acronyms above – it is VEX! As in VEX Robotics. Here is what the VEX Robotics Website says:

The VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is the ultimate STEM activity for middle school and high school students (ages 11-18).

Each year, an engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, use the VEX Robotics Design System to build innovative robots designed to score the most points possible in qualification matches, elimination matches and Skills Challenges. In addition to having a great time and building amazing robots, through their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition and their work within their team, students will learn many academic and life skills.

Now, you may be wondering, why is he blogging on robotics? The answer is simpler than you think. We at MCCC sponsor several robotics teams: we provide space for them on campus, and host regional and state competitions on campus. Oh, but it gets even better! One of our middle school teams,  Team 3547A consisting of Marissa Harrison and Tessa Garlipied entered the State competition by winning the Excellence Award and went on to become state champions! I had the pleasure of meeting these two young ladies (yes, I said ladies) last week as they prepared for their next competition.

We are proud of Marrissa and Tessa and are grateful to their mentors and coaches (who include some of our own students and faculty). This time the state of Michigan, Next, the nation, then the world!

Courtesy and Civility — Food for Thought

Courtesy, politeness, decorum, good manners, civility; call it what you will, but it all has to do with how we treat others.  That’s what’s on my mind today as I prepare for my next meeting. Every individual, no matter that person’s position or station in life deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Please ponder these rhetorical questions: What is the right way to respond to someone if we disagree with that person? How should students behave in class? How should we interact with individuals we do not know when we pass them on campus or in public? How should we begin an email message? Should we have private cell phone conversations in public? How do we maintain the appropriate decorum when using social media? When is it appropriate to raise your voice, especially in a professional setting? Is it that difficult to say “please”, “yes sir/ma’am”, and “thank you”?

Just think about that….

September 11th Anniversary

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  I can’t believe it has been 14 years already.  Terrorists hijacked four planes and killed almost 3,000 people on American soil in just one day.  Truly a day that will live in infamy!

As we mark the 14th anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, let us not forget the families of those who died on that day.  Let us also remember that terrorism is still alive and well. Al Qa’ida, ISIL, Boko Haram, and many others are still plying their trade and committing atrocities all over the world, and yes, even here in the United States.

We must remain vigilant as we mourn the deaths of so many. The terrorists will not relent, because they are driven by one of the strongest emotions of all – hate. I know of only one other emotion that is stronger than that – love.

A Humanitarian Crisis — Seeking Panelists

As I have watched the humanitarian crisis/human tragedy of refugees and migrants unfold in Europe over the last few weeks, I know that I am not the only one who needs a better understanding of the situation.

I have known, been friends with and mentored refugees in the past. I have visited and lived in countries and areas where refugees go to seek succor. For many years, I served as the President (a volunteer position) of the non-profit African Community Center in Grand Rapids, MI – an organization that focusses on assisting refugees primarily from Africa. As I watch and listen to the news, here are a few questions that come to mind: what differentiates a “refugee” from a “migrant”?, how did we get to this point?, what happens if these refugees find no refuge?, should the European countries be obligated to accept these refugees?, where is that critical breaking point?, what role should the United Nations play here?. These and many more questions come to mind.

We are seeking individuals who have some opinions, thoughts, experiences, or knowledge about any of this to join us in a panel discussion in the near future. You do not have to be an expert, and we would appreciate a diversity of opinions. Faculty/staff, students and community members are encouraged to respond to my email or blog and they will be contacted with possible dates and times.

This is a part of our Current Affairs and Diversity Series, as we at MCCC continue to illuminate, edify and educate our community.

An Investment in the Future ….

On several occasions as I walked through an airport or drove through a city where there was renovation or construction, I have seen signs that say, “Please pardon our progress”. These signs, I assume, are placed in these places because the renovations/construction causes individuals to be inconvenienced, so it is way of assuring them that  the inconvenience, while temporary, will have a long term positive impact.

In a few months the MCCC campus will see construction signs in some of our buildings. We are about to embark on some major renovations to our HVAC system. Needless to say, some of us will be inconvenienced. Some of us will be temporarily displaced in the name of long-term progress as we renovate (including asbestos removal) and rewire our older buildings for the new geothermal HVAC system. This project will pave the future for generations to come. This is an investment not only in our future, but also in the future of students and members of our community who are not even born yet.

On September 9, 2015, we will hold a town hall meeting to explain the various phases of this project.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

What makes an individual interesting? Is it their qualifications, education, activities, or something else? I would venture to say that it is all of the above plus character, demeanor, and a series of other … je ne sais quoi…X factors.

In my regular interaction with students and youth, I always ask them, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” A pilot? That’s what my 13 year-old tells me he wants to be. A physician? I know a few of those and have been treated by many. A lawyer? I know several of those and fortunately have not had to be defended by any. A tennis coach? I can only dream. A musician? I sing, but only in the shower. All worthy professions, but what does it take to achieve any of that?

Just two days of ago, on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, I was privileged to have sat next to a gentleman that I consider the most interesting man in the world (no, not that guy in those television commercials!) This soft-spoken scholar of a man is in his early seventies, was with his family – two young children (the youngest was 10) and a wife who was obviously much younger. That is interesting enough, but there is more. He was born in the Caribbean – a black man, one of eight children, and educated at Cambridge University in England, where he currently resides, after having lived in. It gets more interesting. I was intrigued when he mentioned that he and his wife run tennis camps in England (I am a tennis fan, I try to play and follow all the tournaments on the internet). By the way, the flight was 8 hours and we did not talk all the time, our conversation was limited as we watched movies and slept part of the way (I did, but he never appeared to have shut his eyes for a second, nor did he ever get up to use the restroom – I did a few times).

He began our conversation by emphasizing the importance of education, so he captured my attention right away. He preempted many of my education lines, but I managed to get in, “education is the cure for poverty, key to success and roadmap to prosperity”. He told me that he trains individuals who want to teach to obtain certification in order to do so. You see, in England one must pass a rigorous certification examination to teach at any level. Then, as I continued to coax information out of this gentleman, he informed me that he was trained as a medical doctor, practiced as a gynecologist for over 20 years, and then decided to move out of that profession, so he became a lawyer! Oh, there is more! Besides that he is a musician and a pilot! He flew cargo planes for years before going to Cambridge, and still flies to this day. Mind you that he released all this information bit by bit, not all at once.

I say “Dr. G” is the most interesting man in the world not because of his qualifications and numerous achievements, but especially because of his self-effacing attitude, modesty, and humility. That’s how I want to be when I grow up.

Turning Point Program — COMPASS Prep Comes to MCCC

There is absolutely no doubt that an individual who is better prepared for an examination, or for that matter anything, will invariably do better than one who is not. This simple concept applies to sports, examinations, and anything in life. Period.

When I was in the classroom as a professor of economics, I NEVER gave my students an examination without first reviewing the material with them. NEVER! I would set aside time outside of the classroom when I would go over the important material, emphasizing the critical concepts that they needed to retain in order to fare well. It has been many years, but I have many of my former students who find me on Facebook and tell me how much they appreciated how I impacted their lives. Indeed, some of the statements (positive) have brought me to tears. As I have gotten older, I have begun to pose the question, “what would I want for my own children?” No doubt I did for those students that I mentored and nurtured what I would have wanted for my own kids.

What is unfortunate about many of the students who come to institutions like MCCC is that they are not like my kids; they are more like what I was when I was younger. My children are privileged, they have never had to do without, they are not first generation, and they were not unprepared for college. I, on the other hand, was first generation, I lived in the ghettoes of Baltimore, I faced extreme poverty (on my own after I left home – my parents were not poor, but I became poor), and I was unprepared for college.

Knowing all this about myself and realizing that a higher education would cure my poverty, open the doors of success, and provide me with that ticket to the middle class, I decided, prior to enrolling in college to prepare myself for it. So, I spent months preparing for the SAT and more time preparing for the placement test that I knew would determine which classes I took in college. My preparation paid off. I tested out of mathematics, and out of English 101. Had I not prepared, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would have ended up in remedial/developmental mathematics and a lower level English class. That is the power of preparation. I recently paid for my daughter to take a GRE preparation course – preparation makes a difference.

As a college president who has been where many of our students are, I understand and can empathize and sympathize with them. That statement begs the question: what are we doing about it? MCCC, in collaboration with the Learning Bank, has created the Turning Point Program. Turning Point is a test preparation program for the COMPASS and GED. This is a great start for those who want to achieve college success. The program meets on campus in the CTC on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and at the Learning Bank on Mondays through Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. it is FREE and open to the public, especially MCCC students who want to improve their placement test scores. In addition to this, MCCC also offers COMPASS test preparation through our Corporate and Community Services for $25. Furthermore, all students who register for classes at MCCC are provided with information on FREE TUTORIALS and practice tests for the COMPASS and ACT. One such example is http://www.act.org/campass/sample.

No doubt, students who take advantage of these services will fare better, be less likely to be placed in developmental courses, and be well poised for success. Please tell everyone you know about these services that MCCC provides to our community. Availing themselves of these services will not only enrich and transform students’ lives, but make MCCC a better institution and help take the entire community to the next level.