March 23, 2018
Commission Update

Sharing how PA's community colleges are responsive to the needs of the local communities they serve.

News from Pennsylvania's community colleges

A great example of how community colleges are offering new programs to meet local workforce needs can be found in western Pennsylvania with the partnership between the Community College of Allegheny County and Sharon Regional Medical Center.

The 11-month program will train advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs) with the skills needed to become paramedics at the Sharon facility. Graduates of the program will also have the opportunity to receive advanced standing toward completing CCAC's paramedic associate of science degree program.

The program fulfills a workforce need in the northwest region of the state with an 80-mile void of paramedic education that has led to a shortage of paramedics.

Do you ever see special effects in movies or television, and wonder: How does that happen?

Well, one person who can definitely explain it is Donna Bigoski Caruso. Donna, who holds an associate of science degree from Luzerne County Community College, is a producer at Nth Degree Design & Visual Fx Inc., a company filled with creative professionals who create special effects for film and television.

Their work has included a Star Wars project, a series for Animal Planet, as well as projects for theme parks, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, PBS and National Geographic. Donna's role is project management, acting as the liaison between the client and the artists in the studio. "The firm's creative team of artists take digital medium to new levels, such as taking simple sketches to elaborate stereoscopic 3-D scenes," Donna said.

Donna attributes much of her skills for broadcasting with what she learned while at Luzerne County Community College, such as storyboarding, filming, set design, editing and post production work, and public speaking.

Once a high school dropout, Brian Savage credits much of his success in turning his life around to the education he received at Reading Area Community College.

Brian obtained his GED at RACC and worked toward his associate degree in liberal arts before transferring to another institution in Pennsylvania and earning his bachelor's degree in computer science. He started his own website design business and had an opportunity to work at Amazon in Seattle, but turned it down to lead RACC's website development program. 

N ow an associate professor, Brian challenges his students to realize their hidden potential. "I will now spend the remaining years of my career fostering success in students by encouraging them to pursue a greater quality of life and a satisfaction of self-worth," he said.

Brian's road to success was not smooth. While working toward his associate degree, he said he literally lived out of his car for two years. He credits not only the education he received at RACC, but taking advantage of the college's work-study program and forging great relationships with professors and staff. "They believed in me...embraced me...and encouraged me," Brian said.

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