Courtesy of Elissa Welle.

First Lady Jill Biden joined Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) in Royal Oak, Mich., Friday afternoon to speak about President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. They were greeted at the Royal Oak campus of Oakland Community College by the Royal Oak High School marching band. 

Biden spoke about her fondness for community colleges, having taught at community colleges in Delaware and Virginia since 1993. She told a story of a student who returned to school at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Ma. after struggling with drug addiction. The student graduated as valedictorian of her class and was accepted to Brown University to complete her four-year degree. 

“(Community colleges) don’t judge,” Biden said. “They welcome everyone, and they meet students where they are. They offer flexible class schedules. So if you have a job or you’re raising kids, or maybe you’re taking care of your parents, you can still get a quality higher education right here in your hometown.”

Biden highlighted how President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan attempts to end systemic inequities and strengthen neighborhoods. The plan includes rebuilding school buildings, initiatives to end child hunger, universal preschool beginning at age three and two free years of community college available to all. 

Cardona emphasized the importance of community colleges and said he believes passing the Build Back Better agenda will make education “accessible for all.” 

“Community colleges are the backbone of this country’s growth and the future economic prosperity of our country,” Cardona said. “We know that.” 

Julia Schettenhelm, LSA junior and Communications Director for the College Democrats at the University of Michigan, told The Daily that the organization supports Biden’s plan. 

“We believe that the Build Back Better Plan, especially the provision that provides 2 years of free community college, provides opportunities for people that are essential to not only bettering the lives of the people who live here, but bettering our country as a whole,” Schettenhelm wrote.

The University’s chapter of College Republicans did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment in time for publication.

The visit concluded a four-day tour by Cardona through five states in the Great Lakes region, during which he met with students and school administrators from preschools to universities. 

The tour — known as the Return To School Road Trip — aimed to highlight the effort educators and schools are making to safely return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The trip comes after the Biden administration released its Return to School Roadmap to guide school administrators on how to reopen while keeping unvaccinated children safe. 

The roadmap includes a focus on frequent communication, safe transportation, accessible COVID-19 testing, investment in mental and emotional support and reengagement for disconnected youth. The Biden administration encourages schools to use American Rescue Plan funding to achieve the goals of the roadmap. 

Oakland County received $244 million from the American Rescue Plan. Peter Provenzano Jr., Oakland Community College chancellor, was on the Oakland County 2021 COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force. Washtenaw County received over $71 million from the plan. 

The Biden administration has grappled with school reopenings while the delta variant surges. Fierce debates have erupted in school systems across the U.S. between parents, administrators and lawmakers regarding masking in classrooms. 

Washtenaw County currently requires students to wear masks when indoors and on school grounds, resulting in complaints from many students and parents. In early September, a group of unmasked students crowded into Manchester High School, violating the rule in protest.

Daily News Contributor Elissa Welle can be reached at