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Montgomery College President, MC Biotech Student, Participate in Conversation with Dr. Jill Biden and the Prime Minister of India as Part of President Biden’s Investing in America Tour

The Investing in America tour is meant to highlight investments in workforce training for critical industries such as infrastructure, clean energy, semiconductors, and biotechnology

This afternoon, Montgomery College President Dr. Jermaine F. Williams and MC student Williams Ochoa participated in a moderated conversation organized by the office of the First Lady of the United States and held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Alexandria, Va. The event was part of President Biden’s Investing in America tour and featured Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime community college professor, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of India. The conversation was moderated by NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan.

In a statement this morning, the White House said: “During the tour, President Biden and leaders across the Administration will travel directly to communities benefitting from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. This includes communities seeing new manufacturing and clean energy investments spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS and Science Act, new infrastructure projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, small businesses and families saving money on high-speed internet as a result of the American Rescue Plan, and more.”

Describing Dr. Biden’s role on the tour, the statement added, “The First Lady will highlight career-connected learning and workforce training programs and partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and universities with employers.”

Among his remarks, Dr. Williams discussed Montgomery College’s partnership with the National Science Foundation.

“To the National Science Foundation—thank you. Since 2012 Montgomery College has received awards totaling $6 million,” Dr. Williams said. “Most recently, we received the Advanced Technological Education grant to increase the number of biopharmaceutical technicians. We aim—with seven major biotech employers and other partners—to increase the enrollment of high school students and those traditionally underrepresented in biotech. With support like this from the NSF and the CHIPS and Science Act, America’s 1,000 community colleges are ready to do more—to deliver homegrown talent for homegrown jobs for a strong America.”

Dr. Williams also shared the story of two MC graduates who have gone on to work in the biotech industry including Jackie Flores, an MC graduate and an operations manager in cell therapy for an industry leader that went on to develop Covid vaccines. The other is Maria Jose Cardenas, an alumna who attended today’s conversation. Cardenas now serves as the manager of a life science product company’s PCR group and teaches specialized lab skills for the College.

“Jackie, Maria and Williams (Ochoa) needed an affordable, high quality, post-secondary education at an institution that enables them to juggle their complex lives—work, family, and school—and to earn a credential,” Dr. Williams said. “… A credential with economic, social, and community impact. As Dr. Biden knows well, that’s what America’s community colleges do.”

Ochoa’s remarks included details about his personal journey. In 2011, his mother brought him and his sister to the United States from El Salvador. He is the first in his family to graduate from high school and a first-generation college student. When it came time to decide what to study, Ochoa says he searched online, stumbled upon biotech, and “hasn’t looked back.”

In his remarks, Ochoa highlighted the impact Montgomery College has had on his life:

“Montgomery College has allowed me to flourish at my job, once again allowing me to be the first in my family in many areas. I am on track to finish my apprenticeship in about a year, at which time I will have three and a half years of relevant bio-manufacturing experience. I will be 21 years old and earning 75,000 dollars annually. Not many people at my age or generation can say that,” he said. “These opportunities in the Biotechnology industry are here every day, open, and eager to be filled. However, I think we need to be much better at presenting these opportunities to the upcoming generations. Awareness is the first step toward success for any opportunity. Being aware of the options in emerging 21st century careers, like mine, will make the generations following me go above and beyond what we thought was possible. It was an honor to be here with you all today and I will forever be grateful for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences.”

Dr. James Sniezek, dean of instruction for the College’s Chemical and Biological Sciences programs, says the guidance and mentorship students receive from faculty allows students to flourish within the biotechnology industry.

“Excellent technical instruction by our faculty including Dr. Collins Jones, who attended the conversation at NSF, and Dr. Lori Kelman… Their leadership is yet another boost for our current students, like Williams, and our graduates, like Jackie and Maria, as they take on their new roles in the biotech field.”