Each April, our nation celebrates the role of community colleges. In 2021, community colleges are faced with aiding in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a regional community college, Chesapeake College is well-equipped to help the residents and businesses of our region recover from the pandemic and emerge stronger.

As health professions students learn in our labs again and student athletes return to competition this spring, we see signs of hope at Chesapeake. We look forward to in-person — though altered — commencement ceremonies in May for both our 2020 and 2021 graduates. Planning is underway for more in-person classes in the fall with increased activity on campus scheduled in the summer.

The past year has been a difficult one for students around the world, and ours are no exception. Despite dealing with illness, loss, isolation, and uncertainty our students persevered. They kept pushing forward because they believe in a brighter future.

Our student body is diverse with individual needs and goals. We support the dreams of all with a variety of programs. Chesapeake offers classes for those who need English as a Second Language or to earn a high school diploma through GED. We serve local industry and individuals with workforce training designed to efficiently prepare students for careers in health care and skilled trades. Still, other students begin their journeys at Chesapeake, transfer to four-year universities across the country, then go on to earn doctorates or law degrees.

While serving currently enrolled students is our primary focus, serving the community at large is central to our mission. Chesapeake is critical to the educational development and economic viability of the Eastern Shore. By tending to both needs, Chesapeake can lead our region to better days ahead. We enthusiastically accept this responsibility and are grateful to have the continued support of our five counties.

In the last year we have served our community through our partnership with University of Maryland Shore Regional Health by hosting drive-thru COVID-19 testing on our campus. This month, UMS will open a COVID vaccination site on our campus. Chesapeake nursing students are providing support to the vaccination site.

In the coming months, our Cambridge Center – located in the heart of downtown – will be the site of an American Job Center to serve the needs of Dorchester County residents.

With new grants and funding sources available, more students will receive financial assistance for both transfer programs and workforce training at Chesapeake.

Chesapeake is ready and able to help the Eastern Shore recover from the last year and build a better future.

Community colleges see a community need and respond quickly to help solve the problems. We find a path forward and bring our communities along. Like our students, we’re better than still standing. We’re standing strong and moving forward.

Dr. Clifford Coppersmith is president of Chesapeake College.

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