One-day summit at HCC Northeast sparks conversation on community success

Mar 28, 2014

Houston area community, civic and faith leaders gathered at Houston Community College Northeast for a “One Day Emergency Summit” led by Dr. Virgil A. Wood, a civil rights leader who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bishop James W. E. Dixon, II of the Community of Faith Church in Houston, Texas. Other summit leaders included Rev. William A. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher, president of HCC Northeast. This historical day was filled with lectures and panel discussions that covered a variety of topics that were of significant importance to the community including education, poverty and children of incarcerated parents. The focus of the day centered on developing a strategic plan for community success.

 Photo: Bishop James W.E. Dixon II, Congressman Al Green, Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher, Dr. Virgil Wood and Rev. William A. Lawson.

Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher served as the luncheon speaker and laid a framework for discussing strategies for supporting education in urban communities. In her presentation, she shared the success of NortheastCollege in providing education opportunities to community residents that empower them to obtain skills to find sustainable employment. Dr. Fisher provided an overview of a variety of programs that Northeast College offers to serve the community including dual credit and early college high school programs for youth as well as the numerous certificate and degree programs that lead to employment opportunities. She also acknowledged HCC trustees Eva Laredo and David Wilson who were also in attendance and thanked the board for their visionary leadership in supporting the growth of Northeast College.

Dr. Fisher also described the challenges that countless students in urban environments face. Among these challenges she noted that many students experience learned hopelessness resulting in lowered expectations for their own lives. Dr. Fisher went on to stress the teachers’ importance of understanding the cultural contexts of the students they serve while raising the expectations of these students. She suggested ways to address these challenges including encouraging and empowering students to take ownership over their own futures. She also rallied churches to encourage parishioners to pursue educational opportunities offered in their community. “We want to be a change agent. We want to become an advocate for education. What I say to you is act on the belief that all students can learn, they can succeed in school and they can demonstrate theacademic competency to achieve success,” says Dr. Fisher.

The day also included panel discussions, which featured panelists who shared their own experiences of community success in working with populations dealing with substance abuse and incarceration. Panelists included Dave Nichols, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Change, Nathaniel Moore Resident Services Manager of the Center for Sustainable Change, Dr. William F. Pettit, Jr. of 3 Principles Intervention LLC and Rev. Owen Cardwell, Jr. of the Family Restoration Network. Following the panel discussions, the audience had the opportunity to dialogue about solutions and a future plan of action.

Attendees found the day to be quite impactful. “What a great experience this has been,” says Rev. William A. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Many also noted the historical nature of this event as a catalyst for change within Houston. Future plans are underway tohold a more extensive conference, which will go further in depth with the issues discussed at the summit. HCC Northeast partners with the community to offer education and training opportunities. For more information, visit or call 713.718.8300.

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