Students were here bright and early to find their classrooms, and faculty and staff were at the door of the college to greet them. Amid the rush and the nervous giggles of a few, I could see the anticipation of things to come. Our students, and, indeed, our entire college community, have a new opportunity to learn and grow and “do better.”
That energy and excitement of the first day were tempered with the somber news of the passing of U.S. Senator John McCain. As we mourn his passing, we have listened to and read about friends, relatives and colleagues close to him remembering his life and steadfast dedication to the concepts of honor, respect and service.
We here at CCC are dedicated to serve all who come to us for an education – including those people who are underserved and underrepresented in our communities. Community colleges, at their core, have a similar, but fundamentally different, mission from universities. “Education” is the primary aim for both institutions, and our neighbors at Northern Arizona University, with whom we have a close and strong partnership, delve into the depths of educational excellence. CCC students who wish to continue their education past community college often become part of our CCC2NAU program, designed to help them achieve their educational goals of bachelor’s degrees and beyond.
But that is not all community colleges offer. Community colleges are truly a “college for all seasons,” and it is common for many generations of the same family to grace our classrooms, computer labs and lecture halls for different reasons.
Some may come not for a degree, but instead, to improve their job skills so they can advance in the careers they’ve already established, or to change careers later in life. Workforce training and development remain a main focus of CCC. Stories abound at CCC with students who were successful in their career paths, but they wanted to try something that would deliver a greater meaning to their lives, or their jobs were discontinued, and they had to train for a new career. Some students may be interested in the excitement of learning throughout their lives, a term we like to call “lifelong learning.” They might enroll in an art course because they had always wished to learn how to draw or paint, or they might find a course in graphic and web design because new ways to be creative intrigue them. Whatever the reason, CCC is the place that offers an affordable, intimate option for the learner in all of us.
This year, the college faces another great opportunity to educate our communities about the important, critical role CCC serves in helping residents realize their dreams and attain goals they have set for themselves. Whether the desire is to improve job skills, or to get that degree for which they have long wished, or to learn a new skill as a lifelong learner, CCC offers our communities a means to reach for their goals.
I wish us all – faculty, staff, friends, supporters, community members and, most importantly, our students – a wondrous and successful academic year full of learning and opportunity!
By Colleen Smith
Colleen Smith is the president of Coconino Community College.