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photo of Chancellor Lassiter and students in Washington

For immediate release — March 7, 2011

(DALLAS) — When Mr. Smith went to Washington (remember that movie?), he was on a mission: He wanted to represent the “folks back home” who trusted him to speak on their behalf.

Two students from the Dallas County Community College District went to Washington recently to visit with their own elected officials and to share with them the importance of the education and opportunities they receive through DCCCD.

Frisco resident Matthew Detweiler of Richland College and Lancaster resident Gwendolyn Stallsworth of Cedar Valley College attended the 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit in the nation’s capitol; the event was convened by the Association of Community College Trustees, with the support of the American Association of Community Colleges. Detweiler and Stallsworth accompanied DCCCD’s chancellor, Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr., and the district’s vice chancellor for public and governmental affairs, Justin Lonon. They all wanted to share their concerns over federal funding cuts to higher education as the nation faces tough economic times.

More than 1,000 community college students, trustees, presidents and higher education leaders advocated for increased funding and resources that would support community colleges in their efforts to address unemployment and economic development during the summit.

“The Dallas County Community College District has worked aggressively to accommodate the increased demands of recent years while we maintain the highest standards possible for our students,” said Lassiter. “We have added classes, new programs and facilities, and we also have extended our hours. However, without continuing federal support, we cannot meet the needs of our students. It is vital that we urge our members of Congress to support local community colleges, and meeting face-to-face is the best way to show how serious we are.”

The DCCCD delegation met with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, plus staff members for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Kenny Marchant. College officials also attended group meetings and sessions throughout the three-day event, which focused on the roles that community colleges play in economic and workforce development as well as the increased attention on the need to help more students complete degrees, certificates or successful transfers to four-year colleges and universities.

Detweiler, who will graduate in May 2011, had stop-and-start careers in both higher education and the business world after he finished high school. Now a nontraditional college student at age 26, he is fully involved in campus life, is the international president of the community college academic honorary Phi Theta Kappa, and serves as the student representative on the DCCCD Foundation’s board of directors. “I hope to transfer to Cornell University, where I plan to study communications,” said Detweiler. “After I receive my master’s degree, I hope to return to the community college that has changed my life so dramatically in Dallas, Texas.” The future faculty member works full time for a manufacturing company close to school and fills his days with work, classes, studies and homework in order to fulfill his dreams.

Stallsworth, a U.S. Navy veteran, has been employed by Boeing for 10 years. She currently manages repairs for a variety of domestic and international airlines. Previously a student at North Lake College, Stallsworth now attends Cedar Valley College, where she is vice president of service for the Alpha Zeta Omicron chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. She is involved in several community cleanup projects, leadership workshops, city council meetings and environmental sustainability seminars. Stallsworth is pursuing an associate degree in business administration from CVC; her plans include earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration, a master’s degree in constitutional law and a juris doctorate in law and government. Her goals include providing leadership for the next generation of Americans and serving as a U.S. district attorney.

“During a time of high unemployment and concerns about America’s competitive future, why are we compromising on educational opportunity? Education is a proven gateway to success, as both Matthew Detweiler and Gwendolyn Stallsworth can attest,” added Lassiter. “Without a restoration of or an increase in funding levels for our state’s community colleges, we are putting our citizens and our state at further risk. This summit gave us an opportunity to bring this message directly to the people who make decisions at the top in Washington, D.C. We are speaking with one voice and making sure we are heard.”

For more information, contact Ann Hatch in the DCCCD office of public and governmental affairs at (214) 378-1819.

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Press contact: Ann Hatch