March 15, 2019, Jersey City, NJ – It was just a three-day trip, but in some ways, it may be one of the most memorable and consequential trips Hudson County Community College (HCCC) Student Government President Rhoda Alaribe has made.
Ms. Alaribe accompanied HCCC President Dr. Chris Reber, Trustee Vice Chair Bakari Lee, Trustee Pamela Gardner, Vice President for Development/Special Assistant to the President Nicholas Chiaravalloti, and Alumni Trustees Alexandra Kehagias and Hamza Saleem to Washington, D.C. for the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) National Legislative Summit (NLS).
The annual event, which took place February 11 to 13, 2019, focused on communicating critical community college priorities with members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Delegations representing thirteen of New Jersey’s community colleges, as well as New Jersey Council of County Colleges President Aaron Fichtner, Vice President Linda Lam, and Events Assistant/Events Coordinator Jessica Britt were in attendance. More than 1,000 community college students and administrators from all across the United States were present, and the HCCC delegation was the largest from New Jersey.
The NLS was seen as an opportunity to expand relationships with New Jersey’s members of Congress, and to advocate strengthening Pell grants, investing in education and workforce development, supporting “Dreamers,” and reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.
The HCCC delegation prepared for their visits to Capitol Hill by participating in pre-Summit conference calls with New Jersey Council of County Colleges, studying the biographies of the elected officials with whom they would be meeting, and assembling packets with information on the student delegates and the federal support being sought for Perkins and Pell funding.
“Our students are wonderful, and Rhoda, Alexandra, and Hamza did a phenomenal job of making the case for HCCC and the New Jersey community colleges,” Dr. Reber said.
A biology student who began taking classes at HCCC in 2016 and will graduate in May, Ms. Alaribe was born in Nigeria and raised in England. Her plans for the future include becoming a Pediatric Geneticist, and she hopes to continue her education at either Yale University, Brown University, Loyola University, or Duke University.
"It was an honor to be asked to attend the Summit, and it was enlightening to learn how much goes into developing legislation,” Ms. Alaribe stated. She related that in meeting with Congressman Albio Sires and Senator Bob Menendez, she and the members of the HCCC delegation expressed their gratitude for the Congressman’s and Senator’s efforts on behalf of higher education, and spoke with them about HCCC students. “We let them know that we need increased funding to assist students and that some of our students are working two and three jobs, raising families and attending classes,” she said. “We stressed the fact that our students are from all over the world. We related that we are passionate about the fate of students who are undocumented and how unfair it is that our DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) students are living in such a precarious status when the United States is the only country they know as home.”
Ms. Alaribe credits the leadership, opportunities, financial assistance and academic support she has experienced at HCCC for making her the person she is today. “Because of HCCC, I have pushed ahead further than I ever thought I could go. The students are amazing, and everyone has been so helpful and encouraging,” she stated.