Aaron Miller: How you can support a local dream factory

On the north side of town, there is a dream factory. It may seem fantastic, and I’m not sure I would believe it without seeing it myself. But I have been a part of it for a while now. And I know it to be true.

The dream factory, a community college … that’s where I work. Each semester, I see students achieve their dreams. They earn a degree and get a job they had once only dreamed of. And some doubters have even discouraged them, telling them it was impossible. But these students are undeterred; they change the course of their lives.

After graduating, they embark on a new career, earn a great living, and give back to their community. I’ve had many students who were the first in their family to earn a college degree. They have changed the course and trajectory of their entire family. The graduates often fulfill the dreams of their parents or grandparents seeing their descendants walk across the stage and earn a college degree.

Yes, I’ve seen dreams come true. And I am fortunate to play a small role in the journey of many students through the years. The dreams are as diverse as you can imagine. After starting at Ivy Tech, our students have gone on to become artists, nurses, pilots, engineers, farmers and business owners. It’s been amazing. Other students have gone on from Ivy Tech, transferring to four-year colleges in Indiana. Some of my former students have now completed graduate degrees. But, none of this could happen without your help.

Ivy Tech follows in a tradition started by our nation’s founders. In the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, they established the principles of the new territories to be added to the nation, including present-day Indiana. They knew that knowledge was essential for a good government and the happiness of citizens. In the Ordinance, they wrote, “schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Later, in 1862, Congress passed the Morill Land Grant Act, creating more colleges, “in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” Today, Ivy Tech has taken up this mission of an accessible, low-cost education.

Most of our students face some incredible challenges on their way to achieving their dreams. They often have to balance work and personal obligations while going to class. And an unexpected obstacle like a car that won’t start, a medical bill, or food insecurity can derail their plans. Sadly, some of our students don’t have someone standing in their corner who can lend a helping hand. The college has emergency funds available to help students, so a flat tire or coming down with the flu doesn’t end the dream of earning a degree. This is where you can save the day. You can be the hero.

On Tuesday, April 23rd, the college will be celebrating Ivy Tech Day, raising money to support our students. All money raised will go to help students overcome these unexpected barriers. It’s a chance to pay it forward like you might do at the drive thru. Except instead of giving someone a free coffee, you can help turn the impossible into a reality.

You can join us throughout the day on campus and see all the college has to offer. We will have food, raffle prizes, and live music starting at noon. You can also donate online. To help us celebrate, the city will be turning the Robert N. Stewart Bridge Ivy Tech green for the day. If the bridge is green, that’s the cue to help our students overcome an obstacle.

Thank you for helping our students make their dreams come true.

Aaron Miller is one of The Republic’s community columnists and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He has a doctorate in history and is an associate professor of history at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus. Send comments to [email protected].