Chris Gray, Ph.D.

Founding President | Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

I’m not now nor have I ever been particularly passionate about grammar, but I do find it interesting the way words work. Particularly in English, because it’s such an amalgamation of different languages, words are actually quite fascinating.

Today’s word is “champion.” Traditionally used as a noun, a champion is understood to be someone who wins or enjoys success at a given task. When used as a verb, however, it’s a bit different; the focus shifts. Used in this way, to champion an endeavor is to advocate, support, or bring something to fruition. It’s about passionately advocating for an issue or idea that holds great significance or importance. It involves actively engaging in efforts to bring about positive change and rallying others to join in the mission. Regardless of the impetus, championing a cause requires dedication, perseverance, and the ability to inspire others. If you remember your grade-school lessons on parts of speech, “champion” is an action verb. And in this case, that could not be more true!

Why the grammar lesson? Well, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we’re drawing closer to graduation – it’s less than a month away at the time of this writing. During our first commencement ceremony, we will award Empower Erie with an honorary degree. They have been championing EC3 from the very beginning, and their tireless dedication literally willed us into existence. This token of our appreciation is given in recognition of how their work and dedication have changed our county for the better.

At its core, championing a cause is an expression of inherent values and beliefs. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the world and leave a lasting impact. From the very first, Empower Erie has been an advocate for those who may not have had a voice, standing up and fighting for something the county has never seen. It was a momentous undertaking, and it was anything but easy. Regardless, Empower Erie worked tirelessly to channel its energy and passion into meaningful action and refused to quit until EC3 was a reality.

One of the key aspects of championing a cause is raising awareness. In many ways, this was a hard sell. Colleges are expensive endeavors, but they are a means by which the community invests in itself and its future. Empower Erie’s work acted as a catalyst and mobilized others to see the possibilities and chase them. Through its work, EC3 emerged as a force that cannot be ignored, and what a wonderful result ensued! 

Empower Erie made what was once a dream into a reality, and they deserve all the recognition and accolades possible for their vision and determination. Without their tireless championing, we would not have been able to open our doors when we did. It was a long battle, and it did not go without opposition. If you’re not super familiar with the history, these videos are a great place to start. Nevertheless, they persisted, and they overcame. And in the end, we have changed Erie County’s history and its story – forever. 

From the very first, Empower Erie has been committed to the idea of champions and how our students need champions both in and outside of the classroom. We hired our faculty, staff, and administrators with this goal in mind. And two years later, as we continue to work on preparations for our commencement ceremony, we still need champions within the community. We need you to share what you know about the good work being done; we need you to help ensure that Erie County residents are aware of this fantastic option to change their lives. Our doors are open to all, and we realize the privilege it is to change the course of our students’ lives. Today and always, we remain in Empower Erie’s debt! Thanks to them, we are here: the community’s college.