Vail Valley Partnership honors Colorado Mountain College at Success Awards
College's partnerships in 2018 included apprenticeships and work with other colleges, businesses
EDWARDS — Colorado Mountain College has had a number of achievements in its 52-year history. But the college’s Eagle County branch had an exceptional 2018.
That great year was honored recently by the Vail Valley Partnership, which awarded the college its Organization of the Year at the annual Success Awards ceremony.
Until this year, the Partnership had split that award between a business and a large nonprofit. This year was a little different.
Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said the committee that votes on awards — made up of the previous year’s winners — decided to combine the two awards into one for the college.
Beyond the basics
Romer said the Organization of the Year award honors a group that’s gone beyond its core mission, both for the organization itself and the community. And, as in most of life, partnerships mean a lot.
There’s usually a lot of partnering going on at the college. There were even more in 2018.
The college, in partnership with Eagle County Schools, the Vail Valley Foundation and the Vail Valley Partnership, helped create the local chapter of the state’s CareerWise program. That program combines work and education in an American take on a long-running apprenticeship model seen in Switzerland and Germany.
The college has also launched partnerships with Epic Mountain Express, Vail Health, Front Range Community College and others to expand both course offerings and services.
College vice president and campus dean Kathryn Regjo said the partnership with the transportation company benefits both parties. Epic Mountain Express in the ski season leases space in the college’s parking lot. That money is then dedicated to on-site evening child care for students. The revenue stream from the parking lease is also used to apply for grants to expand the program.
Working with Vail Health and Front Range Community College, the college launched a program to educate surgical technologists. The program’s first graduates entered the workforce in 2018.
Regjo called the surgical technologist program a way to provide an employer with employees, who in turn earn good wages.
The college has also been a partner in building facilities at Eagle Valley High School to build an improved automotive classroom and shop, as well as a culinary facility.
“We’ve done unique things to advance opportunity for students,” Regjo said. “We’re with, and for, the community.”
Regjo noted that the college has long had partnerships with law enforcement, as well as fire and paramedic services. Over the past several years, those partnerships have grown from two-year certificates to a handful of four-year programs. Those programs include elementary education, business, sustainability studies, nursing and “applied sciences” — the next educational step for first responders.
Regjo said the college — which has locations in Lake, Chaffee, Summit, Pitkin, Garfield Routt and Eagle counties — recently received legislative approval to add more four-year programs “in limited number.”
Regjo said college officials are working with the college’s communities to evaluate what programs are needed.
Succeeding, and growing
The Edwards campus is growing, along with the rest of the college network.
Regjo said that 337 people received some kind of certificate or degree at the college’s May graduation ceremony. That’s a 20% increase from 2018.
Regjo said students are taking classes to better themselves, of course. But, she added, many of those graduates are the first in their families to complete an education program past high school. Graduation is important for the entire family. Regjo said she’s heard from students who say their graduation is a family milestone, both for parents and others, but for the students’ children and grandchildren.
A number of those graduates are also immigrants or the children of immigrants. Regjo said the college strives to welcome all who enroll.
“We welcome the entire you,” she said. “Bring your heritage, your cultural understanding.” That way, she said, the college can help create a “more vibrant, welcoming society for everyone.”
All that and more factored into the Success Awards committee’s consideration.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘We’ve got this facility,’ but it’s another to say to a community, ‘What can we do?’,” Romer said.
While employee shortages are normal in the valley, Colorado Mountain College is looking to fill those jobs with people who already live here.
“We’ll rely on seasonal help forever,” Regjo said. “But let the careers be (held by) our kids.”
Snowplowing efforts are a prime example of how sometimes the very people who need a service hinder its delivery.