By Kim Hunter Reed, Executive Director
It’s almost that time of year! Many students across Colorado are wrapping up their summer and ramping up for college. As I’ve discovered on my campus tours across the state these past few months, our students are benefiting from engaged faculty, outstanding traditional academic programs and some pretty unique offerings as well. Widespread and diverse, they reflect Colorado’s economic vibrancy and distinct opportunities. Among them are programs and resources like:
· Aquaculture program at Trinidad State Junior College
· Brewing Science certificate at Metro State University of Denver
· Horse Training and Management certificate at Lamar Community College
· Space Minor at the University of Colorado Boulder
· Cesar Chavez Cultural Center at University of Northern Colorado
With 13 campus visits under my belt, over the past few months as executive director, I’ve had the privilege of meeting students enrolled in technical colleges, community colleges and four-year institutions in rural and urban parts of the state. I have met students who, regardless of age, race or gender, are eager to earn that life changing diploma. Whether on a traditional path or a roundabout journey, each of them demonstrated the kind of determination that undoubtedly leads to success. But the students were quick to point out that college success is not a solo act. Indeed, I have heard countless stories of faculty and staff who know students by name, challenged them to learn and grow and refused to let them give up. With hope, high expectations and help from people who care, great things are possible.
That’s what we found at the Cesar Chavez Cultural Center at the University of Northern Colorado. It’s a little house on the corner of campus filled with comfy chairs, colorful artwork and a staff committed to support their students’ success.
Assistant director Eva Rodriguez explained that the cultural center offers a variety of services — a place to study, a welcoming one-stop resource to ask questions and a gathering place for cultural celebrations. Staff connect students to national scholarship opportunities and financial aid experts. Students even have access to an enrollment coach who can answer complex questions on ASSET, a law that allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and receive the College Opportunity Fund stipend at public Colorado colleges.
But the house is much more than a resource center; for many like Luis, it’s a sanctuary. Luis, along with many Latino students on our campuses, faces struggles others may never know. Halfway through his degree, he learned his family had to move back to Mexico. He thought about dropping out and joining them, but they insisted he stay and complete his studies. So, Luis soldiered on. He started visiting the center every day. The staff embraced him — checking in on his grades, even buying him meals every now and then. It’s a place where wrap-around services means wrapping their arms around Luis as a second family.
The Cesar Chavez Cultural Center is one of many amazing communities on Colorado campuses that support our students in effective ways.
As I continue to travel the state, I look forward to sharing more stories and discoveries through the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Uniquely Colorado highlights, a showcase of one-of-a-kind or distinct programs, resources and services.
We’ll be posting our Uniquely Colorado features on our Twitter and Facebook pages. We’d love to hear about what makes your campus stand out, so share a photo and your story using #UniquelyCO. I hope you’ll follow along with us!