Heather N. Thomas understands how an unplanned pregnancy can derail college plans. It happened to her.
Pregnant at 15, she soon realized that the demands of parenthood would make it difficult to attend college. She eventually earned her high-school-equivalency diploma and spent the next two decades working various jobs, mostly in the restaurant industry, before enrolling at Mesa Community College, in Arizona, in 2008.
Ms. Thomas, now a 39-year-old mother of six, has told her story to countless high-school and college students as part of a project she created to educate students on how unplanned pregnancy can disrupt their educational goals and how they can prevent it.
Since President Obama made college completion a centerpiece of his higher-education agenda, there has been no shortage of projects, by foundations, college administrations, nonprofit organizations, and even state legislatures, designed to increase the number of degree and certificate holders in the United States. But one group has been conspicuously silent on the issue—students.
That changed with the creation of the Community College Completion Corps, a student-led project to raise awareness of the importance of college completion, not only for students but also for colleges and the communities they serve. The corps is spearheaded by Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society at two-year colleges, but it is the honors students who design and carry out projects on their campuses.
The projects run the gamut, including Ms. Thomas’s effort, a summit about campus resources, and one-day pledge drives (students sign a pledge to get their degree or certificate). The plan is not to create one-time projects but rather to enmesh them in campus culture.