Dr. Jill Biden Visits TMCC

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden meets TMCC Nursing students.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Samantha Ramirez was one of a few TMCC students in its allied health and public safety programs who met with First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, during a scheduled visit to the William N. Pennington Health Science Center on March 9. Ramirez, like many TMCC students, faced financial and personal challenges during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but thanks to financial aid such as American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) funds, she was able to meet both her personal and professional goals. 

“We’re so grateful for the APR funding– because of that, we are able to use equipment in the classroom that we will use in the field,” she said. “For me personally, the HEERF funding was such a blessing because it enabled me to go to school and take care of my family–two things which can be difficult to balance.” 

Dr. Biden was joined by Acting Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Angela Hanks, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak,  Nevada Lt. Governor Lisa Cano Burkhead, Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Chancellor Melody Rose, NSHE Regents, TMCC President Dr. Karin Hilgersom as well as TMCC faculty, staff and students for a tour of the Health Science Center to see firsthand the opportunities that students in Northern Nevada are embracing, and that lead to high-demand careers in our community. 

TMCC received over $14 million from the American Rescue Plan’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and has spent almost $7 million of this funding on direct emergency grants to students. TMCC also used this funding to continue supporting staff and students’ technology needs.

“Community colleges like TMCC are critical for building Nevada’s workforce and economic future. Today’s tour highlighted healthcare degrees,” said Governor Sisolak, who would explain that considerable attention has been placed on expanding the number of students choosing to receive STEM degrees, with 30,000 students statewide completing those degrees since 2018.

And yet, programs that align with community and workforce needs paired with robust academic and other support services are part and parcel of TMCC’s 50-year history, which also began with public safety and allied health programs.

“TMCC has a long legacy of supporting student success, and in doing that, we are also serving the community by training students in careers that we need in order to thrive. I am so grateful to Dr. Biden for meeting our students today and hearing their stories of how the American Rescue Plan helped to support them in the pursuit of their personal and professional dreams,” said TMCC President, Dr. Karin Hilgersom. 

Increasing Opportunities in STEM Education

With laboratory spaces for the nursing, EMT/Paramedic, and Radiologic Technology programs, the Health Science Center is where students in these certificate and degree programs receive hands-on training that can lead them seamlessly into a career. Yet, even with the thoughtful instructional design, overcoming barriers to access education has never been more rife with challenges than it is today. 

Savannah Terrana, a student in Radiologic Technology, shared how the ARP and HEERF funds helped her to meet her educational goals at TMCC during a final presentation of Dr. Biden’s tour. 

“Like millions of other college students, my life was dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “I was unsure how I was going to pay for the rest of my education. As a part of the American Rescue Plan, I received a HEERF Grant for $1500, which was a game-changer for me. It paid for my Fall 2021 semester, which enabled me to focus on my education.” 

As a result of these additional supports, Terrana not only improved her academic performance, but was also able to secure a position in a local hospital as a radiologic technician. “I’m ready to graduate in two months, and I owe a lot of that success and confidence to the HEERF grant,” she said. 

Although Terrana will graduate in Spring 2022, she plans on continuing her education at TMCC to earn additional training and certification in advanced medical imaging technologies. 

Building a Better America

During her closing remarks, Dr. Biden said that the building blocks of a better country come from the roots of education. “One year ago, we passed the American Rescue plan. I’ve spent the last few days touring Arizona and now Nevada, visiting businesses, community colleges, and a community health center... ‘Building a better America’ means... investing in our workforce, and for working families to have the opportunity to train for great jobs.” 

Nearly a thousand students from Northern Nevada each year enroll in Allied Health and Public Safety Programs. These include programs included on the tour of the Health Science Center–Nursing, Radiologic Technology and EMT/Paramedic– but also students who pursue certificates and degrees in Dental Assisting, Dental Hygiene, Dietetic Technology, Veterinary Nursing, Certified Nursing Assistant, Clinical Laboratory Specialist and other Public Safety program like Fire Technology and Wildland Fire.

“Schools like TMCC and programs like these change lives,” said  Dr. Biden. “Every person who benefits–who is better off today than where they were a year ago–passes that benefit along.”