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Letter: Community College Students Can Aim High

The competition and mystique that surrounds the effort to gain entrance to four year colleges and universities by graduating high school seniors is almost a blood sport. To hear some parents and students talk, it is almost a matter of life and death, or at the worst, embarrassment.

The implication is that if a student is not accepted to a suitable four year institution all is lost. There is obviously no hope for this student. And what in God’s name are mom and dad going to say at the various cocktail and graduation parties they will be attending? Will there be that pregnant pause when they say their son or daughter is heading to the local community college?

In today’s world of ever increasing prices for higher education, how does one measure value, in both education, and the cost of  tuition? Is there real value at our community colleges?  And can these students excel to highly technical careers from these “modest” beginnings?

I’d like to introduce Eileen Collins and Robert Gibson. Both of these folks are former New York state residents. Eileen is from Elmira, New York and Robert is a graduate of Huntington High School, right here on Long Island. These two very talented people have a number of things in common. Not only are they both former New Yorkers but they are both community college graduates. But what is so unusual and special about that?

What is incredibly unique about these two is that they both built upon successful community college experiences — Ms Collins at Corning Community College in Corning, New York and Mr. Gibson at Suffolk Community College here on Long Island — and went on to join NASA and command missions in the Space Shuttle program. For those too young to remember, the U.S., in the not too recent past,  did have an active manned space program. In fact, Eileen was the first woman to command a space shuttle flight and Robert commanded a total of four flights. This information is easily accessible on NASA’s website. Can you imagine that? Now how is that for accomplishment?

So what does this all mean? It means that if you are a person of intensity and are willing to work you can be a success. And it doesn’t have to come saddled to high amounts of student loans. And in today’s world of ever increasing undergraduate college costs there are other alternatives to high tuition institutions that can produce the same results.

John Napolitano