Friday, September 13, 2013

RSC Northern Hosts US Department of Education Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier

DoEAssistant Secretary  Brenda Dann-Messier and
Rio Salado College President Chris Bustamante
 listen as students share their experiences.
US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier visited Rio Salado College Northern last night to sit down with students, adult education leaders and policy makers. Dann-Messier's visit was part of the 2013 "Strong Start, Bright Future" Back to School bus tour being conducted by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Dann-Messier began her visit by observing and visiting with students in a Student Success Seminar. She then led a roundtable discussion by asking each participant about the challenges they faced and the type of support they needed to be successful.

"I am here to listen and learn," Dan-Messier said.

Rio Salado College Bridge Pathway students, Ashley Haas-Bazzi, Darrellen Birzer, and Stephanie Carroll were the first to share their experiences.

Haas-Bazzi is a recent graduate of the Integrated Basic Education Skills Training (IBEST) program in Dental Assisting Technology. She earned 24 credits in dental assisting technology while simultaneously preparing for her GED.

"There were a lot of ups and downs," Haas-Bazzi said, "but with the help of other students and the instructors I was able to make it through."

Birzer is a participant in the Adults Achieving a College Education (ACE) scholarship program as well as an IBEST graduate. Birzer is currently working in a dental office and plans to become a dental hygienist.

"I got started when my kids were in school," Birzer said. “I’m now working toward an associate degree and hope to get in a dental hygienist program."

Carroll, who was Rio Salado’s 2013 GED Graduation speaker, stressed the importance of being a role model for her children and the opportunity to have a second chance.

"I am pursuing a degree in elementary education, and my kids now want to go to college too," Carroll said.

Dann-Messier also heard from adult education as well as local community and government leaders on the importance of collaborative partnerships, education funding and the future of adult education in Arizona.

As the meeting came to a close, Dann-Messier shared her own thoughts on the matter.

"We need to view education as an investment, not an expense," Dann-Messier said. “We need to increase the capacity to provide high quality services. We need to make sure the message is clear that there are pathways for adults to go on to college."