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College Completion: New Lives, More Dreams, Better Success - April 2012

photo of North Lake College students

For immediate release — April 9, 2012

(DALLAS) — When Miguel Guzman helped his father pour concrete for the new satellite campus of Eastfield College in Pleasant Grove, he never dreamed that he was building the foundation for his own education — literally. Several years later, he is proud to be an Eastfield College student at that campus, where the former veteran is taking classes and working with veterans services coordinators to learn more about financial assistance he can receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a determined student, according to people who know him, and he wants to complete his degree and graduate from college — the first member of his family to do that.

Guzman, who plans to work in the criminal justice field and attend EFC’s police academy, recalled his journey from military service to college student. After he was injured on base during his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, he returned to Pleasant Grove and went to work at his father’s business. “My father and I worked on the construction team that laid the foundation for this building (EFC’s Pleasant Grove facility). They told us it would be a college campus, and I dreamed about what it would be like to go to class each day,” said Guzman.

When the economy faltered and work in the construction field became sparse, Guzman’s father encouraged him to go to school. He recalled that conversation during a recent college event where he pledged to finish his degree. Guzman said, “He asked me: Do you want to continue working in bad weather? Or do you want to go to school and better your life? I told him that I did not want to be 40 years of age and doing this work — working for an $80 paycheck when the weather had been bad.” That’s when he decided to enroll at the college he helped build.

photo of Mountain View College students

Guzman was one of almost 1,000 Eastfield College students who participated in one of several “Agree to Degree” ceremonies — events that helped cement their intentions to complete their associate’s degrees or certificate programs.  In Texas and across the United States, college completion rates are declining.  The Dallas County Community College District — with the help of its seven colleges — is encouraging students to finish their degrees. 

At Eastfield, which is part of DCCCD, students signed a certificate that indicated their desire to complete their credentials; staff members and student volunteers will work with those “Agree to Degree” signees, encouraging them to reach their academic goals. Participants included athletes, students served by the TRIO program, and students who are part of the Educational Talent Search, DCCCD’s Rising Star program and the Lakeview Centennial High School dual credit program.  Students were given the option to sign up at one of the four ceremonies held in February and March, or they were able go online to participate.

Other students who attended the Eastfield College-Pleasant Grove ceremony shared their goals, dreams and commitment with EFC staff members, said Dina Sosa-Hegarty, dean of outreach and student success.  “Some want to be teachers, doctors and law enforcement personnel.  One student who is studying in our auto body program attended the event.  He is only two classes away from completing his degree. He was all smiles as he learned more about the process of filing for graduation,” she said.

During a two-week period, five DCCCD colleges held completion events: Cedar Valley College on March 21, “Commit to College”; Eastfield College, March 20-22, “Agree to Degree”; Mountain View College, March 22, “I Commit Day” and also March 29 at Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School, located at MVC; North Lake College, March 27, “Commit to Complete”; and Richland College, March 30, “Commitment to Completion.”

DCCCD is encouraging all students to sign this mass pledge as they agree to complete their degrees or certificates, and members of the academic honorary Phi Theta Kappa organized and staffed the events as they served their fellow students.

The Mountain View College completion event at Trinidad “Trini” Garza ECHS was held as part of Early College High School Week activities.  DCCCD Trustee Wesley Jameson attended, and the high school seniors — with their parents present — signed “Committed to Completing” pledges.  Approximately 100 parents, students and staff members participated, and the pledges they signed (with a photo from the event) will be displayed in MVC’s Treetop Gallery until it becomes part of a permanent exhibit later.

Richland College held a “Commitment to Complete” rally, which drew 200 students, who signed their pledges, too.

For more information, contact Amy McDonald in the Eastfield College marketing office by email at amymcdonald@dcccd.edu or by phone at (972) 860-7180; or Ann Hatch in the DCCCD media relations office by phone at (214) 378-1819 or by email at ahatch@dcccd.edu.

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Press contact: Ann Hatch
214-378-1819; ahatch@dcccd.edu
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