A commission unveiled its ideas Tuesday for keeping Hagerstown Community College essential and successful.
After eight months, the commission released its report with 17 suggestions for educating a community in which a college education wasn't stressed for decades.
Tom Newcomer, the owner of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, said that while he grew up in Smithsburg, the most likely career choices were farming or working at Mack Trucks.
But for some, HCC was and always will be a central component of Washington County.
Newcomer said his grandfather was in the state legislature when HCC was created 65 years ago, his uncle was in the first graduating class, his mother went back to school there as an adult, and he took classes there while a high school senior.
Newcomer was a co-chairman of one of four study groups working within the commission. His group looked at finances, facilities, human resources and technology support.
The groups had different purposes, but agreed that HCC needs to clearly communicate that its graduates succeed, its teachers are skilled and its programs are affordable.
"You've to get your story out there," President Guy Altieri said.
John League, the editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail, a co-chairman of the commission, said community leaders can help by being cheerleaders for education.
The consistent and sustained work of the commission reflected that attitude, said Carolyn W. Brooks, the immediate past chairwoman of the HCC board of trustees and the commission's other co-chairwoman.
"There is serious interest in the future of our community," Brooks said.
Richard W. Phoebus Sr., the current board of trustees chairman, said junior college — as two-year schools were known at the time — boosted and prepared him for later success, an experience replicated across America.
The other three study groups looked at students and student affairs; programs and educational support; and effectiveness and quality assurance.
At the commission's final meeting at HCC's Career Programs Buildings on Tuesday, participants shared what they thought was important — that financial aid keep flowing, that the academic curriculum "align" from high school to college, that college dig a deeper foothold in the local culture.
The commission's report, posted at www.hagerstowncc.edu/cfhcc, will go to the board of trustees, then be incorporated into HCC's Strategic Plan 2016, which will start next year.
The growing college also is about to distribute its annual Report to the Community, which summarizes the commission's work and the construction of a 65,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and mathematics building.
"We are just scratching the surface of what a community college can be," Phoebus said.