Aaralyn Huhn was accepted by the University of Michigan and other four-year institutions, but she decided to start her higher education at Washtenaw Community College because of the tremendous cost savings.
The respect and support of that decision by Ann Arbor Skyline High School counselor David Almassy played a key role in him winning the fifth annual WCC Bridge Award. In her nomination of Almassy, Huhn recalled him speaking up at a pep assembly to amend another administrator's comment to seniors about going off to live in dormitories the following year.
"Almassy always spoke up for us community college, trade school and military students and that meant a lot," Huhn wrote in her nomination. "He was one of the only people that — while I was stressing about how am I going to pay for college — looked me in my eyes and said, 'You know, community college is just as good if not better,' and made me realize I could get scholarships and go mostly (tuition-free)."
Huhn, an aspiring pediatric nurse, introduced Almassy and presented the award to him at the college's annual High School Partner Breakfast held on Friday, Dec. 8. She took the opportunity to thank him for "showing complete excitement and pride in my choice to attend WCC" at the high school's Decision Day event for seniors.
“It's a big honor to win this award. I've never won an award before and it totally caught me off guard," Almassy said. "I'm really glad that it was this one, in particular, because I got my start at a community college, so this is extra meaningful.”
Almassy attended Mott Community College in Flint before transferring to Spring Arbor University, where he earned a master's degree in counseling. He has worked as a counselor at Skyline for six years after previously serving as an Ann Arbor Public Schools substitute teacher and supporting the Ann Arbor YMCA as a program director and camp counselor.
“Generally, I speak to a lot of students who have a good idea of where they want to go, but not really why they want to go there,” Almassy said. He added that he sees pathways for students outside the traditional four-year institution, advocating various educational paths and emphasizing the importance of finding the right fit.
He begins advocating for community college as a cost-saving measure well before high school students start thinking about graduation, noting that four-year institutions are a very expensive place to "find yourself."
“I really try to encourage dual enrollment because the options you have (at WCC) are a lot wider than what we can offer," Almassy said. "It allows students to kind of dig in and find some things they might enjoy without having to invest the money."
Huhn is currently working on prerequisite requirements before applying to the WCC nursing program. She plans to save additional money by completing 90 credits at WCC's low tuition rate as part of a 3+1 articulation agreement with Eastern Michigan University, where she'll complete just 30 credits to earn a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing.
Besides low tuition rates, WCC has free resources available to all students and many different ways to get involved on campus.
“Student Services helped me find an apartment, and the free food from WCC’s Emergency Food Cupboard offered to students, like a can of soup, can be surprisingly meaningful,” Huhn said.
She noted the caring and comfortable environment that faculty, staff, and fellow students have created on campus. Additionally, she said the small class sizes and the diversity in classrooms are a plus.
Previous WCC Bridge Award Winners