GARY | Jill Biden said she was inspired by the partnerships that Ivy Tech Community College has developed with local and national employers to prepare students for success in the workplace.
Biden, wife to Vice President Joe Biden and an educator for three decades, was flanked by Secret Service agents as she arrived by motorcade to tour the college's Gary campus and meet with college officials and a few handpicked students.
Biden was accompanied on her tour by Jane Oates, assistant secretary for employment and training with the Department of Labor.
Biden, who is working to highlight the critical role that community colleges around the country play, said she has visited seven states to see how colleges are preparing Americans for the workforce. Biden said she was particularly impressed with what Ivy Tech has done through its "dual credit program" by reaching high school students.
Whiting High School senior Benjamin Araujo, 18, who has earned 38 credits through Ivy Tech, said he never expected to get an opportunity to meet Biden. Araujo, who was in Ivy Tech's industrial technology classroom in the south building, told Biden he's enrolled in the Ivy Tech Steelworker for the Future program and plans to major in chemical engineering.
When Biden asked if he was encouraging his friends to get into the program, Araujo responded that he tells them the program is great and he's getting "hands-on" experience.
Biden met Kevin King, 39, of East Chicago, who graduated from the Steelworker for the Future program in December. King told Biden he did an internship at ArcelorMittal last summer and joined the company full time as a maintenance mechanic a month ago.
King also told Biden he had an opportunity to go back to school through a federal program provided by the Obama administration.
Biden ended her tour of Ivy Tech in the electrical room and met with Janice Gregory, 54, of Gary. Gregory, who also participated in the Steelworker for the Future program, initially graduated from Ivy Tech in 1980 with a drafting degree. She was laid off in 2008. Determined to get a degree in industrial technology, Gregory went back to Ivy Tech and was admitted to the program. Gregory, who will graduate in May, already has been hired at U.S. Steel.
Biden hugged Gregory after she heard part of Gregory's story.
Gregory, who demonstrated a robot that could be used in industry, said she thought Biden was very "warm and friendly." Gregory said she initially had butterflies in her stomach at the thought of meeting Biden but became more comfortable as she talked to Biden about her work experience and the value of Ivy Tech's partnership with U.S. Steel.