Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., welcomed leaders of the Hispanic Federation including Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut State Director, and State Representatives Chris Soto, D-New London and Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, students, faculty and staff to a round of “fireside chats” at the second event in the series “Latinos in the Nation.”
President De Filippis welcomed the group on a very happy note. She began by remembering her first days at the College 9 years ago when she took a ride to Danbury. This was the beginning of what is now NVCC’s NEASC-accredited Danbury campus. “Today it is the most immigrant of our two campuses” she said referencing a thriving place where students speak many languages. The President summarized the successes that NVCC celebrates, naming key accomplishments that have impacted the communities served by the College. “NVCC is the only community college in Connecticut to grant over 1,000 awards at commencement for 6 years in a row. We have consistently balanced our budget, successfully obtained multiple grants including almost four million dollars this year alone to collaborate with three local high schools, hosted three Fulbright scholars, and with the support of Dr. Peter Jacoby, our Campaign Champion, raised over a million dollars in support of our capital campaign to furnish the new Center for Health Sciences. We engage! I am finishing my 9th year and feel that I have miles to go. We are counting on the Hispanic Federation and on you. If you have not contacted your state legislators, contact them and tell them community colleges matter. We need your advocacy and support.”
Waldemar Kostrzewa, Dean of Community Engagement at NVCC, introduced a letter from Waterbury Mayor, Neil O’Leary referencing his plea for advocacy on behalf of the college. “Tell them how important NVCC is for our community.”
“Community college matters” was the theme of the event. Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut State Director of the Hispanic Federation, invited the audience to be advocates for education, especially community colleges. She encouraged them to learn about the world of advocacy in order to unite students, neighbors, families and friends in a single voice. “Each one of you has responsibility to your community. Each voice is absolutely essential. Our delegation cannot do it without you.” Alvarez offered to teach a course on advocacy and President De Filippis referred her to Dr. Irene Rios-Knauf, Dean of Academic Affairs at NVCC for further discussion of this idea. Alvarez also introduced the Hispanic Federation’s new Program Coordinator, Jose Feliciano, at the event.
The Hispanic Federation is a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, Washington D.C., Connecticut and Florida, and a footprint throughout the East Coast, whose mission is to empower and embrace the Latino community. The program is aimed at creating a community of care to ensure student success and the Hispanic Federation advocates to shape the Latino agenda. Their Crear Futurosprogram has expanded college success for Latinos by helping 800 college students in 9 universities across three states to succeed academically. The first cohort of Crear Futuros students is currently at NVCC.
A question and answer period followed where students, faculty and staff engaged Representatives Soto and Reyes with questions about the budget process. The students also participated in round table discussions with the state representatives to continue the dialogue on the state budget and its impact on community colleges.