Letter to the Editor: Purposeful actions create hope

To the Editor:

This year, the Chinese New Year started February 12, two days before Valentine’s Day. Both events share in common the intentional connections among people and families, and the reaffirmation of love, unity, gratitude and caring.

After almost a year of COVID-19, these holidays are even more meaningful to me when I reflect on how my Northeast Iowa Community College family has served many in a fluid, uncertain and challenging environment. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. admonished, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Allow me to share a few examples.

Many NICC colleagues and students in our health care programs are frontline essential workers. They care for those who are afflicted by the virus, those living in long-term-care facilities and those who require other health-related services. Some took on extra shifts at work when there was a shortage of staff and/or an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Our Child Development Center colleagues continue to provide a safe and caring environment for the children on both campuses, so that their parents may continue to work or pursue an education. Through observing safety protocols, our colleagues kept the centers open. Our centers serve as a reliable resource for many families.

Last November, we hosted the 14th Annual Student Crisis Fundraiser and exceeded our target. Over the years, we became more aware of life’s crises, such as not having money for groceries or transportation, that would hinder some students’ learning process. The funds raised every year help the students navigate their crises and persist in their enrollment at the college. We retained more than 90% of the students who received assistance. As Mr. Booker T. Washington encouraged us, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

Throughout the pandemic, our colleagues who clean and maintain our facilities have done an outstanding job of sanitizing spaces and replenishing safety supplies. All the frequently touched surfaces are cleaned multiple times every day. These colleagues keep students, visitors, faculty and staff safer every day.

After we transitioned to remote teaching and learning last March, more than 100 colleagues volunteered to call our students to find out if they needed additional assistance. Some lacked the computer technology at home while others struggled with rent payments after losing their job, for example. The calls are part of our Care Calls program that we do every semester. It has worked well for us to identify and address barriers to education.

Our faculty colleagues adapted their teaching to the COVID-19 environment. Appropriate technologies were used to capture lectures and facilitate engagement with students. The Learning Center colleagues assisted our students both in person and through virtual meetings and tutoring sessions.

Our colleagues also share best practices with each other so that learning is less compromised in a challenging environment. Dr. Mary Hatwood Futrell said it well: “When the untapped potential of a student meets the liberating art of a teacher, a miracle unfolds.”

Early in the pandemic, our Business and Community Solutions colleagues also established a business helpline to assist businesses in our district to access COVID-related information, training and services. With our community partners, we have served more than 1,000 businesses. The helpline continues today where businesses now need up-to-date information about safety protocols and vaccination information.

As the Dalai Lama observed, “It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”

I am blessed to be surrounded by caring colleagues who demonstrate our mission every day. Our purposeful actions for and with those we serve create hope during COVID-19. For that honor to serve, we are grateful.

Liang Chee Wee, Ph.D.
President of Northeast Iowa Community College since October 2011

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