LCC and community partners to launch Innovate & Make Space

Lamar Community College and a wide array of community partners will soon be launching an Innovate & Make Space with funding from the Colorado Community College System’s (CCCS) Innovation Challenge Awards.

The Innovation Challenge Awards, first announced in May by CCCS President Dr. Nancy McCallin, encourage the CCCS colleges to submit proposals that focus on enhancing student success through creative solutions.  The awarded proposals were selected based on their creative solutions, best practices, performance measures, collaborative efforts and innovative advancements in transforming the student experience.

The Innovate & Make Space is one of two LCC proposals funded in this cycle of the Innovation Challenge Awards and will receive $100,000 in funding toward the project.

This project is officially named the Lamar Community College (LCC) Innovate & Make Space – Leveraging Tools, Technology and Ideas to Grow People, Jobs and Communities.

The LCC Innovate & Make Space will connect high-quality academic and CTE programs at the college and high school level with competency-based assessment, a digital fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab)/ Maker Space, small and medium-sized industries, and community economic development entities to improve student engagement, retention and success in existing and developing programs.

This project is the result of a collaboration in which LCC along with key economic development groups and community leaders worked to identify ways to collaborate to adapt and thrive in a struggling economy.

“We are hearing from our communities and our advisory councils that we need to have more training that suits the current workforce needs.  To meet these requests, we are looking at options outside the typical math, science, English courses to give people hands-on, creative ways to expand their skill sets,” said Kelli Gaines, project leader and LCC’s Director of Advanced Manufacturing.  “Hopefully, we are stretching people to their full potential.”

The main goal is to develop space in which students, faculty, and community members will use tools, technology, and ideas to develop and make collaborative projects using industry-validated, competency-based instruction in advanced manufacturing and construction technologies, including apparel and sewn goods manufacturing.

Additionally, project organizers hope to connect, in an actionable way, LCC and the communities to enhance economic development as well as learning and career opportunities for both K-12 and LCC students.

“We will consider this project a success if we get feedback that we have a wide range of people using the space – both LCC students and community members alike – creating and trying new things.  If this encourages any interest they have in engineering or manufacturing, that’s a bonus,” said Gaines.

“I personally hope that this will re-energize how we think about education.  You don’t come into a space like this and think you’re learning, you’re just having fun, but you are receiving an education.”

Project collaborators, partners and key LCC staff include:

  • LCC Director, Advanced Manufacturing: Kelli Gaines
  • Faculty Members, Welding Technology: Doug Cash, Terry Martin
  • Prowers Economic Prosperity Board Members: Mr. Ron Cook, County Commissioner; Dr. Linda Lujan, LCC President; Mr. Rick Robbins, General Manager, Colorado Mills
  • Lamar City Manager: Mr. John Sutherland
  • Lamar High School Principle: Allan Medina
  • Campo School District Superintendent: Ms. Nikki Johnson
  • Director of Rural Colorado Apparel Manufacturing Network: Ms. Julie Worley
  • Director of Ogalla Commons: Dr. Darryl Birkenfeld
  • CEO/Founder, Fashion Design Center, Denver: Ms. Lisa Ramfjord Elstun
  • Director Southeast Small Business Development Center: Rachel Patrick
  • Director of Lamar Public Library: Ms. Sarah McDonnell

“The college is delighted to partner with such a dedicated group of organizations and individuals,” said Dr. Linda Lujan, LCC’s president. “It was exciting to see how quickly everyone recognized the value of the Innovate & Make Space to local economic development in our communities. I am thankful to all our partners for their support.”

This is the second of three award cycles, each with up to $1 million in total funding.  Only seven proposals were selected for funding in this cycle, including the two LCC projects: Innovate & Make Space and Student Success Center – Navigating College and Career Pathways.  Check back for information regarding the Student Success Center project.

For more information regarding the LCC Innovate & Make Space, contact Kelli Gaines at 719.336.1523 or

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