The Wayne County Community College District in Detroit (WCCCD) will host its inaugural Urban Community College Summit, bringing together a variety of stakeholders to identify strategies to strengthen educational and economic mobility for students attending urban community colleges nationwide.
The Summit is the brainchild of Dr. Curtis L. Ivery, the longtime chancellor at WCCD who has emerged as a national leader on issues relating to student success, particularly involving young men of color.
Ivery said that the Summit – which will encourage dialogue between community college educators, secondary school educators, civic and community organizations and municipal, state, and national agencies – will serve as a call to action to discuss the many problems that beset urban communities.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen worse, and I say that with profound sadness because I would like to think that we’ve made some progress, but I worry about the next generation,” said Ivery, who presides over a community college that has more than 70,000 students enrolled in credit and noncredit classes spread across five campuses. “And I don’t want to be pessimistic, but my goodness, when I see the kinds of social constructs and barriers that we continue to deal with, I can’t be as optimistic as I’d like to be.”
In an interview with Diverse, Ivery said it’s impossible to discuss the challenges that community colleges in urban areas face without addressing poverty and a broken K-12 system.
“When we talk about concentrated poverty relative to education, relative to health care, the lack of daycare for students we serve, we find that people are so uninformed,” said Ivery, who noted that despite steady progress across the years, the Detroit region, and indeed the nation, still have a long way to go to make substantial inroads.
“We are talking about a broken K-12 system for the last, say 20 years,” said Ivery who is the author of numerous books including Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Wisdom and Strength for Young Black Men. “We’re getting those students from K-12, so we’ve had to be very strategic in terms of how to ensure some positive outcomes for that student population.”
Education observers note that Ivery has been creative in his approach to educating youngsters throughout the region. For example, when Detroit filed for bankruptcy and school districts were unable to pay the fees for high school students to enroll in college courses, Ivery waived the fees to allow high school students to continue to engage in the dual enrollment program.
In this regard, Detroit has been at the forefront and has a story that he said needs to be shared.
“Detroit is the epicenter. If you want to know anything about what’s going on in urban America in terms of education or any other social construct that we all should be concerned about, we need to study what’s happening in this region,” said Ivery. “While we are making some progress in the region, and you can say there has been a turnaround, we still have a lot of important issues to address.”
Ivery said that the Summit will provide an opportunity for thought leaders and stakeholders to formulate some actions to address the disparities, and he plans to release a White Paper following the convening.
“We can really create some neat conversations around this topic,” said Ivery, who added that a robust discussion of poverty will guide the daylong event.
“You can’t talk about education and expect all of these great outcomes without examining what comes out of concentrated poverty,” he said. “We have pockets of real poverty that continue in this region. So that will be on the table at every point.”
For more information about the Summit, visit: https://www.instituteforsocialprogress.org/events/detroit-urban-summit-iii-national-conference-integration-civic-engagement-educational-equity-future-american-democracy/
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson