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Roxbury Community College celebrates its 50th anniversary

Mandile Mpofu
Roxbury Community College celebrates its 50th anniversary
(from left) Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, RCC Interim President Jackie Jenkins-Scott, and Professor Anita Hill of Brandeis University. PHOTO: Phuong Tang, Roxbury Community College

In its more than 50 years of existence, Roxbury Community College has established itself as an institution dedicated to providing quality education to its community. The college opened its doors in September 1973 after years of community activism, welcoming 400 students to a modest campus on Blue Hill Avenue.

In 1985, RCC broke ground along the Southwest Corridor, finding its permanent home in the heart of Boston’s Black community.

RCC Interim President Jackie Jenkins-Scott PHOTO: Phuong Tang, Roxbury Community College

“Many people have come to this institution over the 50-plus years of its existence, and so it’s kind of a jewel and a gem for the community,” said Jackie Jenkins-Scott, RCC’s interim president.

RCC commemorated its 50th anniversary throughout 2023 with a series of community events and conversations. The year-long celebration culminated in a jubilee gala Saturday at the Omni Hotel in the Seaport, where lawyer and author Anita Hill delivered an inspirational speech.

Hill, a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University, spoke of divisive recent campaigns and legislation to ban Black history books and discussions in schools.

Dianne Wilkerson, left, and Jean McGuire at the RCC 50th anniversary golden jubilee gala. PHOTO: Phuong Tang, Roxbury Community College

“These are tough and very challenging times,” she said. “And education is at the center of those challenges. There are forces that are well funded, who would like to remove our presence in higher education. This is a real threat.”

She emphasized, however, that in the midst of the difficulties, it’s important to recognize the value of schools like RCC.

“Let’s celebrate the vision that people here had of what community education can be,” said Hill.

Jenkins-Scott said the milestone anniversary has been an opportunity to celebrate RCC’s history and legacy, acknowledge its innovations and look toward the future.

“This college has always tried to be relevant to the community that we serve and that we live in,” she said. “So as this community changes and the needs of the community change, we’ve tried to grow with those needs.”

(from left) Dr. Richard O’Bryant, Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond, Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond, Judge Leslie Harris, Betty Francisco, Kiara Rosario, Paul Francisco, Anita Hill, Izzy Marrero, Nadine Boone, Jackie Jenkins-Scott, Nadine Boone’s guest, Sheriff Steve Tompkins, Anthony Samuels, Eva Mitchell, Robert V. Ward Jr, Omari Jahi Aarons, Gregory King PHOTO: Phuong Tang, Roxbury Community College

Jenkins-Scott shared several things the school has to look forward to, including the launch of a Business Innovation Center to help businesses thrive, grow and develop. The school is also renovating a decades-old vacant house that will serve as the Center for Economic and Social Justice, announced Saturday at the gala. On the academic front, Jenkins-Scott said RCC will continue to enhance its workforce offerings by strengthening its life sciences, health care and arts and culture programs.

She said she wants students to graduate feeling that they got an education that propelled them forward.

“We hope that our students leave here understanding we all have a part in paying it forward so that they have a commitment for this college to continue to be here, to be of value to future generations of students,” she said.

Keith McDermott, Cheryl McDermott and Steve Tompkins attending the RCC 50th anniversary gala. PHOTO: Phuong Tang, Roxbury Community College

Tashanea Whitlow is one of the alumni who walked through RCC’s doors as a student and left a changemaker. Her professors and her program prepared her for a successful career in broadcast media, she said.

“I always tell people, ‘At RCC, what you put in is what you get,’” she said. “I know that a lot of community colleges sometimes get a bad rap, but I feel like when you go there with the intention of learning and taking in the experience that you have a beautiful outcome such as mine.”

Today, Whitlow is an anchor at Fox 5 in New York City, where she co-hosts the morning show, “Good Day Wakeup.” She has worked at the Black News Channel, CBS and WWLP-22 News and WBZ in Boston. She also serves as a board member of RCC’s Broadcast Media Technology program, working on initiatives to reach students of color.

Among the celebration attendees was former RCC student Margaret Evans.

“I’m here because I don’t know where I’d be without Roxbury Community College,” said Evans.

As a teenager, Evans was driven to the workforce early by her father’s death, she said, but entering RCC was a step upward and forward.

After studying early childhood education, and getting into social work, Evans said, she eventually made her way into working for the federal government.

“I just retired from the Treasury Department,” she added. “I received an award from [Treasury Secretary] Janet Yellen.”

At the event, RCC Foundation board members announced that they had raised more than $6 million at the evening celebration, which ended with music and dancing.

Education, Jackie Jenkins-Scott, RCC, RCC 50th anniversary, Roxbury Community College