By Dr. Hara Charlier
President, Central Lakes College
As I look back on the past year, I’m struck by all that we, as a community, have been through together. And, while it’s undeniable that we continue to be challenged by the frustration and fatigue of today’s world, we’ve also been talking about the thread of promise and hope that runs through our work. On a recent Zoom call, one of my colleagues said simply, “I choose hope.” There was a pause, and then, everyone on the call nodded. We needed that reminder.
I think we all can agree that nothing about 2020 was perfect. At Central Lakes College, we exist for our students, and not being able to see them, engage with them in quite the same way has been admittedly hard. But, just as we tell our students, challenges are opportunities for growth, and grow we have. There is a great deal to celebrate and so many reasons to choose hope.
Our employees persisted with a clear and unwavering focus on students. We continue to deliver instructions in new, innovative ways, serving students and ensuring they get the same high quality education they always have. At the close of fall semester in December, many students graduated from their programs. We sent nurses, police officers, heavy equipment operators, dental assistants and more into the workforce. I’m inspired every day by my colleagues’ commitment and our students’ perseverance.
That perseverance is also evident when we look at our student success metrics. The national conversation about student success included concern that the situation would cause students to fail courses or leave college in large numbers. That certainly was not the case at CLC. Not only did students finish classes at the same rate as last fall, but just as many students returned to continue working toward their goals. What we know is that these dedicated students are working harder than ever… in their classes, shops and labs, but also in all that life throws at them.
Never before has it been more important to meet students where they are and, together, ensure basic needs are met. This year, we increased access to our food pantries and provided free meals to students. We provided laptops to students and created internet hotspots in our parking lots. And students are taking advantage of expanded access to mental health and wellness services, including free virtual counseling. While the list is admirable, it’s not enough. We commit to doing more, to continuing to meet students where they are, to being partners as students work to address their personal and family needs. At CLC, we know that basic needs must be met if students are to reach their goals.
Now that fall semester is behind us, we are embracing the spring term that kicked off January 11. Our success this fall gave us a strong foundation to build on. While things still look different on campuses, we remain proudly committed to a wide range of learning options. This means that CLC has no intention of “going all online.” We simply cannot meet the needs of our students, employers and communities by doing so. Today,
students are learning in-person in our shops, labs and studios. Of course, we have many health precautions in place, and they’re working.
Thanks to our caring and careful teams, we simply have not seen COVID transmission on our campuses. This allows us to be excited about easing even more students back on campus in the coming months. And, while we will always put safety first, that’s a beacon of hope for a bright future.
While academics are at the core of all that we do, we know that students need to connect with their college to be successful – they need the full college experience. While we can’t do things exactly as we’d like, we’ve gotten creative.
One example of creativity at work is our new Raider Retention Challenge. By signing on to the challenge, students are completing activities designed to connect them with staff and resources. These 10 activities include showing students how to check in with advisor, conduct mini research projects, and connect with student life, student government, and the bookstore. The benefits are great and so are the prizes, including a laptop, wireless headphones and more.
Cultural and performing arts are thriving. Cultural Thursdays continue on the first Thursday of the month via Zoom, and all are invited. February’s event will highlight South American Mapuche artistic expression. Please register in advance at https://tinyurl.com/y2nwalko.
The Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center will continue it’s 13-plus year history by bringing you a community talent competition, plays featuring local actors, live streamed music concerts and more. Watch for more information at clcperformingarts.com.
Excitement is also in the air about spring baseball and softball. Our Raiders will be back on the field soon, so please watch our website about how you can cheer them on.
It’s important to engage in all of these activities, even with all that we’re dealing with at the college and in the world. We know that college is hard and that students need to connect. At CLC, we don’t expect you to be successful all the time. College isn’t smooth sailing; you will hit bumps. Just know that when you do, we will embrace those challenges and help you through it.
We call this our “culture of caring” – we want students to know we are there for them. You can’t be successful if you’re expected to walk through it alone. The people of CLC will help you get that personalized experience and education that you are craving.
There’s no reason to pause your education. This is the time to come back, to continue your educational journey. Here, you’re always going to have people in your corner. So, join us at CLC and choose hope!