As we prepare to close the 2020 academic year, I want to express my immense gratitude for all your hard work and resilience. To our faculty, instructors and staff – Thank You – for everything we have accomplished together. Your strength gives our system hope as we continue to meet hardship with courage and navigate what is surely the most unusual year we have ever faced.
We have had an incredibly challenging, unanticipated, and unprecedented past few months. I want to commend all of you for your swift transition to a new way of working and your unwavering dedication to supporting our students. We have all had to learn and grow alongside our students while continuing to provide services to support the whole student – including food and shelter, technology, emergency funds, and other critical supports. Because of you, we are still open, still accessible and most importantly still providing a path forward for students. Through your perseverance and dedication, our 13 institutions proudly awarded over 10,000 certificates and degrees in May. With the implementation of the new Bridge to the Bachelor’s Degree program, we know we can improve on those numbers.
We have come together to address the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis because we share a common purpose and a common concern for our students and our communities. In the same way and for the same reason, we must work together to address another long-simmering issue that threatens our mental and physical health and, like COVID, impacts some of us disproportionately. We have all watched the coverage of recent conflicts between law enforcement and individuals that led to tragic deaths and we have seen communities come together in solidarity asking for change. For some members of our student and employee community, the sadness and the grief they feel has only added to the stress, fear, and anger already caused by COVID. In an effort to help all members of the CCCS community address those feelings, I am working with your presidents to create a day off from work to rest, to recover, to reflect, and to educate ourselves about the different ways in which we are seen by others and the way we perceive the world in which we live. Friday, June 19th, will officially be a day off for CCCS employees, including those at our 13 system colleges.
Coincidentally, Friday, June 19th, is Juneteenth, an important day in African-American history. Some of you may not be familiar with Juneteenth while others have celebrated it for years. Although the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery was effective on January 1, 1863, it only applied to states then in open rebellion against the US. Enslaved people in border states like Texas did not learn of the Proclamation and were not freed until the Civil War ended in the summer of 1865, and Union troops traveled to Galveston, Texas where, on June 19th, 1865, the end of slavery was announced. Since that day, Juneteenth has been celebrated and is now officially recognized in 47 states. Please spend part of your day on Friday educating yourself on this history, the era of segregation and Jim Crow that curtailed Juneteenth celebrations and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that revived them, particularly in southwestern states like Texas and Colorado. Also consider what you can do to help address making our world a more just and equitable place for everyone.
I wish you, and your families, good health in these summer months. For the faculty and students leaving us for a few months, enjoy the time away. For the staff and others remaining on campus or remote for the summer, I hope you have the opportunity to embrace a slightly slower pace, catch up on projects, and plan for the year ahead. If you have a few more minutes to spare, consider also watching the attached video which highlights some of our successes over the past year.
My best wishes to all of you.