The University Partnership Program at Lorain County Community College began in 1996 as the first of its kind in the state of Ohio. The goal was to provide the opportunity to earn a bachelor or masters degree on the LCCC campus. Today, the Partnership offers close to 40 degree programs from eight different colleges or universities on the LCCC campus. The University Partnership has made a difference in many lives. Here is the story of one.
In a few short months, Stephanie Smith will graduate with bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Cleveland State through LCCC’s UP Program. “It has meant the world to me,” said Smith about the University Partnership.
Smith is 32-years-old. She graduated from Amherst High School in 1994 and started taking classes at LCCC. “I was a full-time student during the day and worked full-time at night,” she said. It did not work. Smith left school. Eventually, she started working on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company in Lorain and Avon Lake. Her family has a long history at Ford. Her grandfather and father both built careers and supported families at Ford. “I love the Ford Motor Company,” said Smith. But she found that she wanted something more. “I was standing on the assembly line for 10 hours a night,” remembered Smith, “and all I could think about was being a lawyer.” So, six years ago, Smith took action. Ford offers education funds to their employees and Smith took advantage. For six years, she would take a couple of LCCC classes a semester. Last May, she earned an associates degree from LCCC. In July, she took the educational buyout from Ford and enrolled as a full-time student in the University Partnership program. “I don’t want an uncertain future,” said Smith. “Ford can take my job at anytime but no one can take an education away from me.” It was not an easy decision for Smith. She was encouraged by her co-workers to stay with Ford but she was supported 100% by her family to pursue her dreams. Smith chased the dream with great passion and will earn her bachelors in just four semesters. She was on the fast track. “Yea,” she said with a great laugh, “the real fast track!”
Next fall, Smith will enroll in law school. She is hopeful to be accepted at the Marshall School of Law in Cleveland. Today, she works three days a week as a clerk at a law firm in Elyria. “I work in criminal law and I really enjoy it but I’m not sure which direction I will go just yet,” she said. This past spring break, Smith was selected by Cleveland State to participate in “The Columbus Seminar.” The seminar was open to only 20 students from CSU. They spent a week in Columbus learning, first hand, the ins and outs of state government. “It was spectacular,” she said noting that the experience peaked her interest in politics.
Looking back, Smith is thankful for many things. She is thankful for Ford, her family, her own drive and Lorain County Community College and the University Partnership. “LCCC is my everything,” she said. “Without an associates there is no bachelors and I would not have been able to pursue the bachelors without the UP program.”
If you are interested in what LCCC’s University Partnership has to offer, please visit the University Partnership at LCCC.