Baltimore City Community College president Gordon F. May talks about developments at the school. (Lloyd Fox Baltimore Sun video)

It was disappointing to see The Sun emphasize the negative aspects of Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) in a recent article, while telling an incomplete story of the remedies being made to correct them.

Throughout the past year, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) has demonstrated exceptional progress in refocusing its academic programs and workforce development plans.

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I currently serve on college's President's Advisory Council, but my affiliation with the BCCC community dates back to 2008, when I attended the school, earning my associate's degree in business management in 2011. Having seen the institution from a variety of positions, I can attest firsthand to the meaningful strides taking place at the college.

Internally, BCCC has been receptive to mandates from the Maryland General Assembly and has quickly worked to integrate the state legislature's guidance into its institutional priorities. The installment of new leadership, whose varied backgrounds include those with high-level experience in the mayor's office and Baltimore City Schools, along with new voices on the board of trustees, has brought with it fresh perspectives that will aide the college in adapting to the needs of its students.

Already, BCCC has partnered with the Department of Public Works for seven apprenticeship programs and launched a business incubator to house entrepreneurs and utilize the talents of both students and faculty. Additionally, it is the first community college in the state of Maryland to participate in the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) initiative. This summer 90 rising high school sophomores took classes at BCCC. This is an effort that serves to benefit both the college and the city's public school system.

BCCC's recent successes are also shown in the data. Every one of the most recent year's graduates who sat for licensing exams in the areas of physical therapy, dental hygiene, respiratory care and practical nursing passed their assessments. Similar success has been seen in student class performance, where course pass rates in the 20 highest enrolled courses have increased by 7 percent over the past five fall semesters.

These achievements are the result of constant attention to the quality and relevance of BCCC's offerings to students. One recent objective has been to focus on strategies to strengthen the pipeline of students from city schools to BCCC and adequately prepare them for transfer to a four-year institution and entry into the workforce.

To meet these goals, BCCC has retooled its student services to provide greater support for students as they continue their educational goals. The college has also improved course placement and developmental studies programs that will help students spend less time in remedial courses and begin enrolling in credit-earning courses sooner. Additionally, BCCC has expanded the number of signed agreements with local employers to secure internships, job training and job placements for students.

Partnerships such as the one discussed above make clear the need for buy-in from stakeholders across the city in order to truly improve the quality of our city's community college. From the outside, community leaders have been engaged with finding ways for BCCC to be more attractive to prospective students. I recently had the opportunity to work alongside neighbors in the 45th Legislative District to obtain funding for the "Robert Dalton Scholarship Fund," which gives priority to students who reside within the district. In addition, Mayor Pugh recently announced plans to provide free tuition to city schools' graduates who enroll at BCCC. I applaud the mayor for her bold approach to make college more accessible to city residents. This type of forward thinking is necessary to meet the demands of students who are ready and willing to partake in a skills-driven job market.

As we look for ways to improve our city, we must be able to recognize where we can do better, but we also have to acknowledge where progress is in fact occurring. To that end, BCCC needs our community's support, not unfair criticism.

Community colleges like BCCC provide students with the skills required to improve their standing in the workforce or serve as a transition between high school and a four-year degree. All told, when our community college is at its strongest our city is better for it. I remain committed to working with all stakeholders toward that goal. I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly, business community and elsewhere to join these efforts in support of BCCC. Together we can continue to build upon the achievements that are already evident.

Cory McCray is a Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing the 45th District, which encompasses Northeast and East Baltimore City.

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