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AACC Goes to the White House!
White House Students
Gary Pollard, Ginny Quillen and Dr. Dawn Lindsay
NSC Grant Gives Students Solid Footing in Chosen Career Paths

Following an invitation from Vice President Joe Biden, a group of 17 AACC faculty, staff and students joined Dr. Dawn Lindsay on Sept. 29 for an event celebrating the Community College Job-Driven Training TAACCCT Grant Competition at the White House. AACC is the lead college in a 10-college $19.7 million U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grant, which funded the creation of the National STEM Consortium (NSC). AACC is also the lead college for the Cyber pathway within the grant and a partner school for the Mechatronics pathway.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off the ceremony, followed by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez who said “Community Colleges are the secret sauce to 21st century job-driven training.” Secretary Perez then introduced Ginny Quillen and Gary Pollard, AACC students who recently graduated from the NSC program and now both have well-paying entry-level positions in their chosen fields. Both had the opportunity to share a little about their stories.

Virginia “Ginny” Quillen, 49, of Edgemere

Ginny Quillen
Virginia “Ginny” Quillen

A single mother who had been laid off from her job as a Human Resources payroll manager, Quillen had always been interested in the world of cybersecurity. But with bills and responsibilities, she could not afford to pay for the education. The NSC program, she says, gave her the opportunity she needed.

“Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and something happens and it pushes you to something else,” she says.

She earned an Information Assurance and Security certificate this spring, as well as certifications in A+, Network+ and Security+ and a Cyber Technology certificate. Today, she is earning $52,000 a year working for Rockwell Collins/ARINC as a network operations incident manager and says she couldn’t be happier.

“It was something I was interested in and passionate about learning, and now I get to go to work every day and do it,” she says of the program and her new career path. “I tell people every day, I love my job and I love coming to work.”

Gary Pollard Jr., 41, of Annapolis

Gary Pollard, Jr.
Gary Pollard Jr.

Gary Pollard Jr. is a U.S. Army veteran who had been laid off after working in the telecommunications industry for 14 years. He was already a full-time student at AACC studying business administration through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) when he learned about the NSC grant and applied. In May, not only did he graduate with his associate degree in business administration, he also earned a Cyber Technology certificate as well as his A+, Network+, Security+ and CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate) industry certifications.

Pollard, married with a young family, says the NSC program opened his eyes to more opportunities than he thought possible.

“The program allowed me to reinvent myself,” he says. “The skills I have gained have allowed me to build a foundation where I can go in any direction in cybersecurity.”

Just two days after participating in the White House event, Pollard began a new position as a network technician for VAE in Reston, Va. Now making $60,000 a year, he is supporting the computer infrastructure for the U.S. Naval Academy. Not only is his salary far more than the $17.50 hourly wage he was bringing in before his new job, Pollard says the program has made it possible for him to earn $15,000 more a year in this entry-level position.

On Oct. 2, the White House also posted his story to its blog and sent out an email from Pollard to its more than 4 million subscribers. To read Gary Pollard, Jr.: "One American's Perspective," check out

After addressing the audience, Quillen and Pollard jointly introduced Vice President Biden, who then addressed the room of about 100 attendees, including several Maryland community college presidents. The clear theme throughout was that community colleges are the economic driver for the nation.

Among AACC’s attendees were two additional students, including one who earned a certificate in Mechatronics. All four are now gainfully employed in their fields, making salaries that have significantly improved their lives.

You can watch the full ceremony from Sept. 29 here. Visit AACC’s Photostream on Flickr to see more photos from the event.

To learn more about The National STEM Consortium’s programs at AACC, visit Cyber Technology or Mechatronics.

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