CCC President Talks Life Changes and New ProgramsLast Edited:
CCC President Dr. Yves Salomon-Fernandez is flanked by students Marshawn McShan (left) and Lissbeth Jimenez.
The last 16 months have been a whirlwind for Dr. Yves Salomon-Fernandez, president of Cumberland County College (CCC).
In June 2016, she was selected by the CCC Board of Trustees, over an excellent field of candidates, to steer the college into a new era of intellectual and educational prosperity.
Backed by the full support of her husband Stephen and their two children, Salomon-Fernandez uprooted her family from Massachusetts and transported them to Cumberland County so she could begin implementing her laudable vision: catapulting the students of the college and the citizens of this community toward a bright and prosperous future.
In May 2017, Salomon-Fernandez was formally inducted as the seventh—and first woman—president of CCC, which also coincided with the college’s golden 50th year anniversary celebration.
At this juncture, Dr. Yves, as she is affectionately called by many, feels completely wedded to the college and the area.
“The first year was getting to know Cumberland County, its people and their aspirations for the county,” says Salomon-Fernandez. “Not just for the youth, but also for the adults and their vision of what we can become.
“I really focused on developing relationships for the college from a professional standpoint with external stakeholders and people who are friends of the college,” she adds. “I also took the time to learn about the needs and wants of our students and faculty.”
While dealing with the chaos that ensues when making drastic life changes, Salomon-Fernandez naturally has continued her responsibilities as a mother. With her husband’s treasured assistance, she has worked hard at helping her family adjust to the area.
“This year, I definitely feel more settled,” says Salomon-Fernandez. “My family and I are starting to feel a sense of home. We bought a home and we now have friends and people that we hang out with.”
And now that she is feeling comfortable with the people and her surroundings, CCC and the Cumberland County community at large are beginning to reap the benefits of her innovative ideas.
“One thing I am proud of is that we’ve been able to extend and expand our range of pre-collegiate programs,” says Salomon-Fernandez. “Cumberland County College has started the early college high school [programs] with CCTEC and Vineland High School and we also have the Carver program with Bridgeton High School.”
The early college high school programs allow students to earn their high school diplomas and their associate’s degrees while they are still in high school. This gives them an opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degrees faster than students who do not participate in these programs.
Another forward-thinking idea of Salomon-Fernandez’s has recently materialized after more than six months in the making.
“We just started the Child Watch program with the YMCA,” she says.
We’re about to launch the Cumberland Inspires Tour.
This concept was instituted to give students—who are also parents—a safe and affordable option to send their children to be taken care of while they are in class. The prices for this program range from no charge to $2.50 per hour.
“A lot of people may want to go to college but may not always be in a position to do that because of child care [difficulties],” says Salomon-Fernandez. “To be able to provide that accommodation so that people can go to school is an [awesome achievement].”
Laura K. Latorre, J.D., student development advisor for gainful employment and retention at CCC, concurs.
“Our focus is on our students,” says Latorre, “and with the Child Watch program, this helps tear down another barrier that may prevent a student from attending CCC.”
Another program that will be beneficial to CCC students deals with their physical as well as their intellectual well-being.
Earlier this month it was announced that Cumberland County College made an agreement with Inspira Health Network and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA to help its students and employees maintain a positive health outcome and mindset at an economical rate.
“Cumberland understands the importance of physical fitness,” said Salomon-Fernandez, in a statement released by the college. “This collaboration is intended to promote a healthy lifestyle leading to higher student success, higher attendance and higher productivity in the workplace.”
The new initiatives that have been implemented under the direction of Dr. Yves during her brief tenure do not end there.
She has astutely observed that an inordinate amount of Cumberland County’s best and brightest young students leave the area after high school, never to return.
The college president is attempting to find a cure to the phenomenon she calls the “brain drain.”
“We’re about to launch the Cumberland Inspires Tour,” reveals Salomon-Fernandez. “Basically, it’s getting people who are from Cumberland County [and have achieved success], to go to schools and other different venues to talk to kids about going to college.”
Dr. Yves believes if educated young adults stay in the county it will enhance the area’s prospects of positive growth, exponentially. However, she understands this is no easy task.
“It’s not just a challenge for the college, it’s a challenge for the entire county.”
Salomon-Fernandez is keenly aware that it takes a collaborative effort from multiple entities for any idea to come to fruition and she’s done her best to immerse herself within the community in order to connect with people and businesses who are aligned with her vision.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by CCC faculty and staff.
“Dr. Salomon-Fernandez has re-established relationships with community partners through our workforce development programs [and helped to initiate] the First to Go program,” says Renee Post, assistant professor of Communications Arts and Humanities at CCC.
“Prior to her coming on campus, I think we were somewhat isolated from the rest of Cumberland County [in a manner of speaking],” adds Latorre. “I see the college more connected to the community than ever before due to [Dr. Yves’] extensive visibility on and of campus.”
In another effort to get students to attend CCC, the college has combined with ClearBridge Media, a local full service media agency in Millville, to introduce the “Yes You Can” ad campaign. This is a full-fledged multimedia attempt to persuade prospective students that CCC is truly the place to be. Campaign ads can be seen online, on billboards and local television stations.
“I think the campaign will empower youth and adults to imagine what kinds of future they can have,” says Salomon-Fernandez. “It will remind them that Cumberland County College is affordable and that we take their success seriously.”
According to Dr. Yves, there is one improvement that stands just a tad above the rest: “What I’m most proud of is the free Farmer’s Market that we started because it’s a collaboration with our farmers. We’re a farming community, so to have our farmers committed to ensuring that our students have fresh fruits and vegetables [is greatly appreciated].”
Sam Pepitone and Bill Nardelli are two of the local farmers who have donated their food, time and expertise in advancing this honorable cause.
“Their magnanimity and generosity is to be commended,” says Salomon-Fernandez, who adds that she is genuinely thankful to all of those in the community who are helping her achieve the goals she envisioned for the college when she became its president.
“The biggest thing an institution needs to thrive is cohesion and I have to say we have a strong sense of cohesion here,” says Dr. Yves. “Our county freeholders have been very supportive [and] our board of trustees, the foundation board, the college and everyone here.”
According to Donna M. Perez, new chair of the CCC Board of Trustees, there were myriad reasons why the members of the board chose Salomon-Fernandez to be the new steward of the college, and they are still delighted by their decision.
“The way she articulated her ideas won over a lot of people,” says Perez. “And, the way she was able to think outside of the box helped propel her into the position.”
In the eyes of many, Dr. Yves continues to impress. “I think that she has the best interest of the college, its employees and students at heart,” says Latorre. “She is constantly looking out for the greater good.”
The plethora of initiatives and programs that are being implemented with Salomon-Fernandez at the helm all lead to one empowering destination.
“Our commitment to student success is eternal,” she says “And we intend to create [a positive] environment where they can thrive and succeed.”
Donna M. Perez: CCC Board of Trustees Chair
It takes a collaborative effort from a diverse group of community members to help the ideas of Dr. Yves Salomon-Fernandez, Cumberland County College (CCC) president, reach a state of actualization.
Donna M. Perez, financial consultant at Wells Fargo Advisors and chair of the CCC Board of Trustees, plays a major role on which plans will be put into action and which will be dismissed or tabled for discussion at a later time.
And like Salomon-Fernandez, Perez and the board’s goals include ensuring that CCC students receive the best education they possibly can and to help them make their dreams of success become a reality.
“The Board of Trustees priority has always been the students and doing what’s best for them,” says Perez, who became chair in May 2017. “Our duties are operational. We help set policy in conjunction with the CCC administration and we also help in promoting CCC’s mission throughout the community. We’re ambassadors for the college.”
Although the board’s main objective is to assist the students who attend CCC, they are also in the business of helping community members who are looking for alternative ways of earning an honest living without having to receive a college education.
“Not everyone needs a four-year degree,” says Perez. “We are aware that there are jobs that need specialized training and certifications, and the college wants to be in the forefront of helping the county’s population receive that training.”
To that end, the college has been working on implementing adult learning initiatives while partnering with the county’s Workforce and Economic Development Board.
“The college meets with area businesses to help identify their training and talent needs,” says Perez. “We also work with these businesses to build the curriculum to help them meet those needs.
“We believe we’ll be able to help [community members] garner good-paying jobs and we’ll be able to help businesses by giving them a larger pool of talent to draw from.”
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