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Rising up horizontally

Help GCC continue to make a difference

It was my privilege to attend the recent kickoff celebration for the GCC Foundation 2013 Annual Campaign “Changing Lives Through Education.” This gathering of individuals, whose lives were touched by GCC and are now supporters or students or college employees or alumni or, in many cases, some or all of the above, represented the heart of this community’s support for our community college.

The event was uplifting and inspiring — hearing the remarks of our Honorary Chair Skip Hammond, Co-chairs Beth Lorenz and Joe Ruggeri, GCC President Bob Pura and especially the personal story shared by current student Michael Lewis, every person in the room was affected and felt empowered and prepared to begin their work fundraising for the annual campaign.

As this yearly effort to raise money to help our college serve its mission and change lives for the better every day kicks off, I am struck again by the depth of passion and commitment by those who have signed on to serve as volunteer fundraisers for the campaign. Over and over, when someone agrees to help, we hear a variation on the same message: “GCC helped me and/or my mother/father/son/daughter/sister/brother/neighbor/friend/employee/employer change their life.”

They name the degree or certificate attained or the job skill learned or the confidence built or the relationships established that each contributed to that person’s growth and ability to begin their new life. And now those same people are in our work force, serving as an important team member in a small business or a corporation, in a hospital or doctor’s office, in a public safety field or as an artist — ready to give back.

And the way this group of volunteer fundraisers is giving back is by making their own donation to the annual fund and next asking some of their neighbors to do the same is inspiring.

By coincidence, although the timing of this lends credence to the assertion that there are no coincidences, I heard a news story on NPR’s “Morning Edition” the very next morning after this powerful event. It told the story of Parveen Pehman, a Pakistani woman who headed a Karachi-based research project center that aids in the development of impoverished communities. Ms. Pehman used an expression that made me stop pouring my coffee and focus on the radio while she spoke — she said that people need to “rise up horizontally.”

Rise up horizontally — meaning people rise together, helping those around them. “Once you rise up horizontally,“ she said, “you take everybody with you. If you rise up vertically, you will rise but then nobody will be there for you.”

That message resonates as strongly in the Pioneer Valley as it does 7,500 miles away in Pakistan. We are in this together and every time someone makes a gift to the GCC Foundation in support of our community’s college, they are rising up horizontally, taking our students with them and elevating the student, their family and our entire community.

So, if you happen to know Al and Mary Siano in Greenfield, Chris Harris in Northfield, Lorna Peterson in Amherst, Art Schwenger in Heath, Marina Goldman in Montague, Bob LaPalme in Westhampton, Steve Schechterle in Gill or any of the 75-plus people who give their time to help raise money for GCC, don’t be surprised if you hear from them asking for your support of the GCC Foundation annual fund. Their outward request may be for you to make a monetary gift to this year’s campaign, “Creating Change Through Education” in support of students but the real gift will be the collaboration amongst us to rise up horizontally, helping change lives and, in the end, being there for each other.

And, of course, you can start to rise horizontally with your community right now by making a tax deductible gift to the GCC Foundation at any time online at www.gcc.mass.edu/foundation/give. Every gift helps. Every gift makes a difference.

Regina Curtis, Class of 1986 and now the executive director of Resource Development & GCC Foundation at Greenfield Community College, lives in Warwick.

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