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Steve Nunez | Educating the lion’s share of students | News

If you’ve ever read my columns, you know that I’m a product of a community college and have worked for community colleges throughout my professional career.

I even got a doctorate in leadership from a community college.

I have always been drawn to the mission of community colleges, which is to provide affordable, accessible, and quality educational opportunities to the communities we serve, and I have always enjoyed that mission.

When I am asked to speak to local, state or federal legislators, economic development organizations or civic clubs, I get really excited.

Community colleges are my passion, and I look forward to sharing my personal experiences and discussing why community colleges are the best “invention” in higher education.

Honestly, I struggle to be succinct when given a pedestal to talk about community colleges.

I recently had the pleasure of enjoying the company of members of the Johnstown West End Lions Club. We spent the first hour together “breaking bread” and getting to know each other before I was asked to comment. I will freely admit that Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs are friendly rivals, but at the end of the day, both clubs have strong beliefs in community service and those in need.

If you visit the Lions Club website, the word “kindness” is everywhere – it’s the type of civic organization that I admire and respect. And I would become a member, but I’m a Rotarian so – you know, the friendly rival thing.

I’ve given many presentations in my career, but one tip is to find a way to actively engage your audience to increase engagement and focus. A new tool for me is to engage an audience using trivial questions – in this case, community college questions. and so on, I went and peppered the Lions Club members with stories about the community college.

• How many community colleges are there in Pennsylvania? 15.

• How many community colleges are there in the United States? 942.

• How many students are served by community colleges each year? About five million.

And you know you have their interest when they start asking questions back.

• Will your college credits transfer to a four-year university? Yes.

• What is Penn Highlands’ service area? Primarily Cambria, Somerset, Huntingdon, and Blair counties, but we also serve other central Pennsylvania counties.

• What is dual registration? High school students enrolled in both a high school class (for high school credit) and simultaneously in a middle school class (for middle school credit). Some Penn Highlands students earn their associate’s degree before graduating from high school.

And so on, until I realized I had held the Lions Club hostage for about an hour. My passion for community college put me in a feverish state and I had lost track of time.

However, the Lions Club was courteous. We took a few pictures, they gave me a nice certificate of appreciation and sent me on my way with handshakes and smiles.

In the end, I left a happy man who was well fed, made a few new friends, and felt invigorated talking about my passion to a large group of people. It was a great way to end the evening.

Meet at Penn Highlands.

Steve Nunez is president of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. He writes a monthly column in The Tribune-Democrat and at

Steve Nunez is president of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. He writes a monthly column in The Tribune-Democrat and at