Spring 2020
Postcards from Maine's community colleges

This is a special edition of our quarterly newsletter. Traditionally it is filled with news from around the system about our remarkable students and faculty. It's a space to share with you our newest and most innovative programs, accomplishments of our students, and our partnerships with Maine employers to provide Maine people w ith the skills and e ducation they need to prosper in today's economy.

Thanks to our talented and resilient faculty, staff, and students, all of those things are still happening, but, as is true for everyone, COVID-19 has dramatically altered our world. With an incredible generosity of spirit, our college communities have moved as one to adjust virtually everything about how we do business to ensure that our students can continue to progress towards their educational goals.

An d at the same time, faculty, staff, and students are committed to doing what they can to address the challenges that COVID-19 presents-within our local communities and across the state. They are donating masks and gloves to emergency responders, respirators and other equipment to hospitals, food to the hungry and their expertise to the fight. You can read about those ongoing, heroic, efforts in the media, or by following MCCS and the colleges on Facebook, or read the news sections of the college websites.

But the postcards from the colleges we're including in this special edition of the newsletter are intended to capture the quieter moments of how we, as a community - as a family - are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Right now, there is nothing more important.

David Daigler
MCCS President
SMCC: Respiratory Therapy on the front lines  

Southern Maine has been hit hardest by COVID-19, and health care professionals have sprung into action, particularly those with experience treating patients with respiratory issues. Here, the director of the Respiratory Therapy Program shares her experience in these early days.

The COVID -19 crisis has called to arms all members of the respiratory therapy community. Here at SMCC, graduates and current students of the respiratory therapy program are working hard at hospitals here and across the nation. Our graduates are specially trained in the management of patients in respiratory distress, and those requiring mechanical ventilation.

Our current class of 2020 is responding to this unprecedented situation in an amazing way: Even with the suspension of their clinical placements, and no requirement to work, they stay on the job. They could sit this out, but they're not.

A key player at SMCC is my colleague Kathy Roy-Gosselin. A respiratory therapist herself, Kathy is the director of Clinical Education for our program - and acting president for the Maine Society for Respiratory Care. You may have seen her being interviewed on the news recently - she's been working tirelessly to educate the public about the role respiratory therapists play and the shortage of respiratory therapists in Maine and nationwide.

Our graduates' response has left me humbled. From the frontlines of this pandemic, they've taken the time to tell me how they felt prepared to deal with this crisis because of their training at SMCC. I know I speak for program faculty by saying we are equally proud, and respectfully worried about all our alumni and current students in these challenging circumstances.

Stay safe!
Heather Higgins, MS, RRT
SMCC Respiratory Therapy Program Director
WCCC: Career ready 

Medical Assisting students from WCCC continue to serve the medical needs of Washington County. Congratulations to Abby Gibbs (center) who finished her clinical training in March and was hired immediately at Down East Community Hospital (DECD). Abby is pictured here with her new colleagues at DECD, Family Nurse Practitioner Jordan Porter and fellow WCCC alumna Cindy Rier, a certified medical assistant.
CMCC: A championship bid to remember

The Lady Mustangs had a red-hot season going this year, winning their 4th straight USCAA National Championship Game and then - on March 11, one of the last "pre-COVID" days in Maine - playing and ultimately falling 79-61 in the title game. Here, Kristen Huntress, guard on the Mustangs 2019 USCAA National Championship Team, writes about what it was like to be in the thick of a winning season one day, and in a pandemic the next.

Competing in the National Tournament is an experience of a lifetime. Being able to represent not only CMCC but also the state of Maine at the national level is an honor. Most of our competition is against four-year colleges and being able to compete, year after year with these schools, is a testament to how successful our program is. This year was definitely a year to remember.

When I woke up on March 11th, the day of the National Championship game, I was filled with many emotions; nervous, excited, anxious, and a little sad knowing that this would be my last collegiate basketball game. Little did we know, just hours after the completion of our game, we would be grateful and lucky that we were even able to complete our entire season with many of our family and friends in attendance.

After losing the National Championship game, the bus ride home was anticipated to be long and quiet as we dealt with the loss.

It was far from that.

That ride home was when our eyes were truly opened to how serious COVID-19 was becoming. Many winter athletes were not able to complete their season as the NCAA, USCAA, and other organization canceled their tournaments. Schools were starting to announce the transition to remote learning, businesses were closing, the NBA suspended their season, the President shut down international travel and more and more people were being diagnosed. We soon found ourselves in the scary position of transitioning our thoughts from losing the game to educating ourselves on COVID-19.
NMCC: Reflection 

Renée Chalou, a nursing student at Northern Maine Community College, wrote this poem about an afternoon hike she took with her teenage son. They were, she said, feeling cooped up under new self-isolation rules, and pondering "the fog of whateverness" that surrounded them.

March Fog

and there we were,
atop the little neighborhood mountain,
having trudged through some unfamiliar
Photo by Renée Chalou, NMCC nursing student
snow-covered terrain to get there.
and instead of the view that stretched
for miles towards the west,
Katahdin looming as a landmark,
a familiar beacon of Maine-ness,
we could barely see past our
outstretched mittens.
but we knew the view was there,
and we knew we'd see it again,
but there we sat for a moment,
together with somebody I love,
somebody I will care for
through all of this, whatever this is,
until whenever and beyond.
and we slid back down to earth,
beneath the fog of March air,
and went home,
where we still couldn't see
many of the familiar beacons
of our lives,
but we knew they were still there,
within this fog of whateverness
and we knew we'd see them again.
until then we would stay together,
through all of this, whatever this is,
until whenever and beyond.
#togetherathome #love
EMCC: This is not a drill
Amanda Austin, an EMCC student, is one of two winners of the George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship who was just weeks into her semester studying at The Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Forced to return to Maine early, she self-quarantined on the SMCC campus before returning home. Here she shares her thoughts on an education abroad, interrupted.

Ross Castle, near Killarney
I've been home in Maine for nearly two weeks now, in quarantine and adjusting to our new reality along with the rest of the world. I've been using this time to decompress and make peace with everything that's happened to the world, and to me personally, in the last few weeks.

I watched this virus race across Europe. Its unrelentingly nature shut down the whole continent.

Ireland seems very well prepared for the outbreak. They produce almost all of their own food, medicine, and supplies. Many an Irish person said with pride the borders could close and they'd still have everything they'd need indefinitely. It was said with pride - a reflection of a people who survived the plague, the troubles, the potato famine, colonial rule, civil wars and everything in between.

I would have liked to have stayed in Ireland, but then the U.S, State Department announced that U.S. citizens should return to the States. It was one of the scarier moments in my life. It was time to go, racing to outrun governments closing boarders and airports shutting down.
Goodbye, Ireland. I will be back.

Flying home in those chaotic days was surreal. Empty airports, shuttered restaurants, employees packing up perfumes and alcohol in the duty free shops and massive airliners with just a handful of passengers. Landing in Boston was a shock. Walking outside the terminal, I was horrified to see crowds of people walking around like it was business as usual. Few people were wearing masks and gloves - unlike the people I'd just left, who were weeks deeper into the crisis.

It was like flying in from a war zone and realizing that America was woefully unprepared for what was coming its way.

In the long days of quarantine, I've been wondering: Why was this happening while I was away from home studying abroad?

I now believe, deep in my soul, that I was supposed to bear witness both in Europe and here at home. We are living a historic moment. The whole world now has a new set point. Going forward everyone's lives will be defined as before COVID-19 and after.

This is not a drill.
EMCC: Home cooking
Taking a break after filming an eggs Benedict demo video in my home kitchen to post for my hospitality students online.

Though I love my kitchen, I sure do miss our EMCC kitchen filled with laughing culinary students. My dog doesn't quite get my cooking humor as well as they do...

Chef Kara van Emmerik
Sous Chef and Instructor, EMCC Culinary Arts
KVCC: Meeting the need

Across the system, colleges are donating masks and gloves and whatever is needed to help first responders. At KVCC, these ventilators normally used by respiratory therapy students were delivered to MaineGeneral during this time of need.
YCCC: Putting students first 

Weeks before most Maine residents were sheltering in place at home, YCCC's Danielle Ebbrecht, Director of the Student Success Commons was in self-quarantine at home with her daughter who had returned home from an education abroad program in Italy. That put her weeks ahead in thinking about how to do her job from home, and when the entire Student Success Commons team had to shift to working from home, she was ready to help the entire nine-person team transition.

The Student Success team meets online with new YCCC President Michael Fischer (center).
Here at YCCC's Student Success Commons, we have two key "pillars": a no-appointment-necessary philosophy, and a commitment to providing students with multiple opportunities to study together with their peers and a tutor.

So how do you do either of those things when moving the Student Success Commons online?

When it became clear the campus was closing and we had to move to remote everything, the staff used a mashed up combination of SKYPE, FaceTime and GoBoard (a math tutoring platform) so we could all brainstorm together. We talked about the two pillars and thought how would it ever be possible to duplicate our model online?

Within 30 minutes, the tutors had designed an online Math Tutoring Main Room SKYPE channel - a place where tutors are waiting to help students that drop in for math tutoring and can receive assistance with just one question or can review entire concepts. Combined with SKYPE or ZOOM tutoring for science, writing and online support, we successfully duplicated one of the most important Student Success Commons qualities: No appointment needed, come as often as you would like and stay for as long as you can.

We have also been able to provide study groups in several classes including Statistics, Basic Math for College and Computer Applications insuring that even in a pandemic, students still have the opportunity (via ZOOM) to study and learn in community.

Ultimately, we would much rather be meeting with our students in person, but with the combination of Zoom, SKYPE, GoBoard, email, FaceTime and texting, we are meeting students' needs in a new way without compromising our core values.

Danielle Ebbrecht
Director, Student Success Commons
Maine Community College System
207-629-4000 | info@mccs.me.edu | www.mccs.me.edu
323 State Street |Augusta, ME 04330

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