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Students of Paris Junior College readily took the opportunity to step up and help in the Paris and Lamar County Covid-19 vaccination effort started in late January. A majority of students in the PJC nursing programs were joined by students in the emergency medical services program, nursing and EMS faculty, and faculty and staff from PJC to assist in getting hundreds of people vaccinated over three Fridays at the Hunt Center.

In the past year, Paris Junior College has been weathering the Covid-19 pandemic while continuing to work hard for the success of our students, providing them important skills and training for their future.

Unlike many other colleges and universities, PJC maintained many face-to-face classes while offering other options for students who preferred to take classes remotely. PJC has safely offered face to face courses this fall and spring. The college plans to offer more face-to-face classes in the summer and fall and provide regular student activities and events.

Our faculty and staff have taken in stride Zoom meetings, safety measures and tracking reports, and life at PJC has adjusted to a new normal. The advent of vaccines gave our health occupation students a silver lining as they have worked the vaccination clinics, gaining valuable clinical experience they had missed at the beginning of the pandemic. On Fridays, you will find PJC nursing students and nursing faculty giving Covid vaccines during the Lamar County vaccines clinics. You will find PJC faculty, staff and retirees volunteering their time to work registration and data entry at the vaccine clinics. This manpower in partnership with the Paris-Lamar County Health District, City of Paris and the county have made it possible for so many residents to be vaccinated.

Student clubs moved to a virtual environment, and Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year college honor society, has now held two virtual inductions to welcome new members. We also held two virtual graduations to celebrate the tenacity and success of our students attaining credentials and degrees.

The NJCAA moved all competitive sports to spring seasons. Men’s and women’s basketball teams will start regional tournament play next week. Baseball and softball teams have been playing since early February. Men’s and women’s soccer seasons begin April 1.

Drama students have participated in virtual productions this year and will perform the plays in this year’s Dragon Playfest on the stage while being videoed. The videos will be streamed so that all can watch.

The local and national drop in enrollment has been a disappointment. Many of last year’s high school graduates decided to sit out a year. Studies show that many of them will never pursue a credential or degree. Not only does this deprive them of additional lifetime earnings, it deprives local business and industry of the skilled workforce we need to keep the region’s economy strong.

PJC will again offer scholarships covering tuition to one full-time class in the Summer I or II terms to all graduating high school students in the five-county service area. This should assist students in familiarizing themselves with college and hopefully encourage them to seek the skills that will give them more earning power in the future.

This pandemic has been hard on our students. Many have had difficulty dealing with the isolation and the economic hardships brought on by the pandemic. PJC has boosted spending on technology so students may check out laptops and is offering extra financial assistance for those struggling to meet all college expenses due to the pandemic. Faculty have been encouraged to reach out more often to ensure students take advantage of all available assistance.

The College continues to adapt and provide new opportunities. Last fall, PJC partnered with JobReady to offer online, non-credit courses through Continuing Education that provide short-term skill training. These short-term courses target jobs that are in high demand in this region. PJC’s partnership allows the college to offer this highly-sought training at a much lower cost than students would normally pay.

Paris Junior College is participating in the Texas Reskilling & Upskilling through Education initiative. TRUE is a collaboration between colleges and business partners across the state to rapidly provide well-designed short-term credentials ensuring displaced and underemployed workers are armed with the skills and credentials needed to fill high-demand industry needs that have shifted due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The college is analyzing local job demands and workplace skills that are needed to identify areas to provide short-term non-credit training that will culminate in an industry credential. The college is looking at manufacturing, health care and high-tech short-term training. The high-tech training will include such areas as cloud computing, networking security and AWS certification.

PJC is ready to play a significant role in preparing workers to meet the local business and industry needs. Reskilling and upskilling underemployed or unemployed adults and training high school students for jobs in demand is critical to the future of our area, and PJC is prepared to deliver this instruction. PJC staff will work with you to help you find a way to fund your education.

In May, PJC will hold graduation at Noyes Stadium as normal. Those who participated in the spring and fall virtual graduations are welcome to bring family and friends and walk across a stage to celebrate their achievements in person.

PJC has been here since 1924, thanks to some visionary community leaders back then. The college is oftentimes taken for granted locally because it has always been here. The vaccine clinics are only one example of what the college does to support the residents in our communities. PJC strives to make a difference and work toward the betterment of our communities every day.

Pam Anglin is the president of Paris Junior College.

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