The Parkland College Blog

Parkland SWFT Program Receives Funding for Second Year

The Support for Workforce Training program will be funded for a second year, supported by State Rep. Carol Ammons

Parkland College announced today that the Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) program has been refunded for a second year. In collaboration with the Illinois Community College Board and State Rep. Carol Ammons, SWFT will be able to continue to provide free, short-term training to underserved populations in the college's district.
Backed by a over $1 million Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant, Parkland's SWFT program aims to help more than 150 district residents move into high-demand careers with family-sustaining wages within a year or less. The WEI grant aims address historic underrepresentation of African Americans in high-demand, high-wage careers, thus requiring African Americans to comprise 60 percent of the population served by the SWFT program. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus with strong support from State Rep. Carol Ammons. 

“As Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, my most fervent goal is to increase access to education. Knowing that I contribute to tearing down the inequitable barrier of cost for so many looking to build a better future is what makes this work worth it," she said. "I have very much enjoyed watching Parkland implement its Workforce Equity Initiative put forth by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and I am proud to know they will be receiving financial support to continue this life-changing program. The Black Caucus remains committed to expanding access to education across the state and we thank Parkland for their partnership.”

Along with providing tuition, fee, and book waivers for training and stipends to help tackle higher education-access barriers, the initiative will address local workforce gaps and employment barriers in an effort to prepare skilled workers to move into employment upon program completion. Participants who are eligible and awarded funding will receive wraparound support services, such as academic counseling, career advising and workshops, and new this year is the incorporation of essential skills training.

Students may select from 14 Parkland College degree or certificate programs in four technical career categories: construction and manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and distribution, and business and IT services. Career options vary widely and include general construction and welding; office assistant, CompTIA A+, and Google IT professionals; sterile processing technician and CNA; and truck driver CDL and forklift, among others. Programs can be completed in a year or less.

Spring enrollment is underway. To begin the process, interested individuals should visit  

Those eligible for the incentives may include incumbent workers, unemployed persons, members of underrepresented minority groups, those receiving SNAP benefits and other need-based aid, recently incarcerated persons and ex-offenders, those receiving housing assistance, and others demonstrating financial need. 

The grant period began November 2020 and extends through October 2021.

For more information, please visit or contact the SWFT program office at 217/353-2150.

CobraVenture Pitch Showcase, November 16

Parkland to host CobraVenture Pitch Showcase on November 16

Aspiring student entrepreneurs from Parkland College will soon pitch their ideas before local venture capitalists and startup experts as they vie for more than $7,000 in monetary awards and the title of Parkland Student Entrepreneur of the Year. 
Parkland College's Entrepreneurial Network (PEN) will hold its second CobraVenture Pitch Showcase at 6 p.m. on Monday, November 16, live-streamed on the college's YouTube account. The contest will highlight students from the CobraVenture program's student accelerator lab, which launched in January 2020.

Viewers can visit for program details and the streaming link. Entrepreneurship Facilitator Marc Changnon will serve as emcee. CobraVenture's cohort includes students from a variety of academic programs who want to start their own businesses while still enrolled in college. A list of the students and their businesses can also be found at
Judging their capstone competition will be Dan Marker of Hickory Point Bank, Carly McCrory of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland’s Fine and Applied Arts department, Joan Dixon of the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, and Marissa Siero of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business.
The CobraVenture accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship. It features a collaborative workspace, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors. Participants in the 2020 have had the added challenge of navigating the complexities of the pandemic while still working hard to complete their business plans to become their own boss.
CobraVenture is funded through existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, Murray Wise Associates PEN Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. Parkland Community Education, the college's noncredit arm, is helping to plan and administer the workshops. The program is operating with oversight from an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and Parkland College faculty and staff, spearheaded by Stephanie Stuart, Vice President for Communications and External Affairs. 

GEER Up at Parkland College

Parkland College Announces New "GEER Up" Program

Parkland College announced a new tuition-assistance program, called GEER Up, which aims to expand access to Dual Enrollment classes for low-income, underrepresented, and/or first-generation high school students within District 505.

Funded by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER), the program will support Parkland College’s efforts to serve new and existing students from underrepresented groups throughout the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that they are able to access and find success in Parkland career programs. GEER Up aims to help these students transition smoothly to higher education through academic support, access to academic advising, and financial literacy coaching.

GEER Up will assist current high school students interested in Dual Enrollment classes but unable to participate due to extenuating circumstances and increased financial restraints. For students interested in selective admissions Health Professions programs, GEER Up presents an opportunity to meet required prerequisite or placement criteria. The program will provide eligible students up to $2,500 in assistance for tuition, fees, and books/technology in an award package determined by the student’s program of choice.

“Part of our mission as a community college is to ensure that all members of our community have access to the tools for success, no matter what barriers there might be,” said Stephanie Stuart, Vice President for Communications and External Affairs. “We know that the financial burden of this pandemic has not impacted families equally, and that access to dual enrollment for low-income high school students has become much more limited. With GEER Up, we want to provide the opportunity for all students to get a head start on college and successfully transition into post-secondary education and training so they can achieve their dreams.”

As part of the program, students can enroll in one or more Parkland courses plus 3 credit hours of student support coursework including First Year Experience (FYE), which will help students transition from high school to college. The program will serve 100 total students for the Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 semesters.

Applications for the GEER Up program are due December 11. While all high school students may apply, first priority will be given to high school seniors. Applications will be accepted after December 11 based on space left in the program. Applications are available and submitted at Courses begin in January. Academic advising is available to students immediately upon application.

For more information, please visit or contact the Early College Office at or 217/353-2663.

Parkland Professor Wins Statewide Community College Faculty Award

Dr. Franklin Gallo Awarded 2020 "Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member"

Parkland College choral director Franklin Gallo, DMA, has been selected by the Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) as the 2020 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member Award.

Gallo was one of three recipients of the 2020 ICCTA Outstanding Faculty Awards in October. Parkland’s Faculty Professional Development Committee had selected Gallo to be Parkland’s ICCTA Outstanding Part-Time Faculty winner earlier this spring, which nominated him for statewide consideration. Gallo will be presented with this statewide award during Parkland's October 21 Board of Trustees meeting.

Gallo is the director of Parkland’s Chamber Singers, a group that has grown from six students to more than 25 in three years and includes music majors, non-majors, high school students and adult community members. Gallo described the benefits students receive from participation in the musical group.

"In classrooms where the three artistic processes—creating, performing, and responding—are central to the enacted music curriculum, students develop lifelong musical skills and understandings that foster social and cultural understandings, respect, and self-awareness,” he said.

Beyond his work with the Chamber Singers in the rehearsal studio and on stage, Gallo teaches Introduction to American Music and Music Appreciation courses. He has provided professional development for primary and secondary educators, recently presenting sessions at a state choral music conference for pre-service educators at the University of Illinois and attending an international symposium on music education.
An accomplished instructor, director, and composer, Gallo led mass choirs at Parkland’s first-ever High School Choral Festival in January 2019 and again in January 2020. He has initiated and helped to implement two innovative programs used by the college’s music department for recruitment, ongoing collaboration with local high schools, and as a charity fundraiser.

Parkland College Releases 10th Day Enrollment Report

Official 10th-day enrollment numbers for the Fall 2020 semester

Parkland College has released official 10th-day enrollment numbers for the Fall 2020 semester.

The report shows strong enrollment gains in the final weeks leading up to classes. Originally trending 30 percent down two weeks before the start of the semester, Parkland's 10th-day figures show final fall enrollment down 11.5 percent with a total headcount of 5,758 students. Kristin Smigielski, the college’s dean of enrollment management, explained the school’s rally on enrollment figures.

“Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic caused students and prospective students to delay decision making,” Smigielski said. “As fall deadlines neared, we saw more students making the decision to register for classes.”

In response to the pandemic, the college budgeted for a 20-percent enrollment dip this fall and shifted delivery modes to online and hybrid formats. Final enrollment numbers have exceeded the budgeted projections by over 8 percent.

Additionally, while most student-population ratios remained steady from last fall, the report presents a 12-percent decline in the High School population, representing a drop in early-college enrollment from Fall 2019 to Fall 2020.

“We know that for many high school and home-schooled students, enrollment in early college classes is the first step in their journey to becoming a full-time college student,” Smigielski said. “We are monitoring this shift in enrollment and will continue to work toward finding ways in which Parkland College can provide additional access and support to students during these uncertain times.”

Smigielski also noted that the percentage of diverse student populations held steady in relation to other enrollment populations compared to Fall 2019. “We are glad to see these percentages did not dramatically shift. We want to ensure we are serving the community across all student groups, and particularly in low-income and diverse students populations that may be harder hit in times of health and economic crises.”

A full 10th-day enrollment report for fall 2020 may be viewed at the website under Institutional Accountability and Research.