April is National Community College Month and more than ever, the administration, faculty and staff at Lamar Community College (LCC) find ourselves reflecting on our role is as an institution and how we can best fulfill our responsibility as your community college in Southeast Colorado. The word community in our name is one that means much to me, because of our close connections and responsibility to you.
Lamar Community College has a proud history of educating and training students in Southeastern Colorado since the day it first opened in 1937 as the Junior College of Southeastern Colorado. In the more than eighty years since our college was established, we have had thousands of students come through our doors taking the first step toward making a brighter future for themselves and their families.
The story of grit and determination is not a new one in community colleges or in Southeast Colorado, but the perseverance of our students, faculty and staff during the pandemic may be the best example of that tenacity. In this last year alone, the students, faculty and staff have risen above the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieved some truly impressive feats. Our honors society chapter had seven scholars win thousands of dollars in scholarships, with one student receiving national recognition for his academic excellence and leadership skills. Our college was one of three rural community colleges to receive a $5 million grant from the state attorney general’s office to improve local housing and our trades programs. Our 2020 graduates from the nursing program had a perfect pass rate on the NCLEX, moving well-trained nurses into the workforce to serve on the front lines in healthcare. It is clear that we are not second choice or second-chance.
These are just a few of our recent accomplishments as an institution during a pandemic. Imagine what we can achieve when the conditions are in our favor. We have learned so much over the years, but this last year, in particular, has challenged all of us in ways we could have never anticipated. We moved to remote learning and services within a matter of days to make our campus and community as safe as possible. Students and faculty alike learned how to fulfill their roles in a new virtual learning environment. The transition was not always seamless, but it was a testament to our resilience and our deepest belief that we enrich lives through learning.
What is the most evident now, especially as we have been given the go-ahead to reopen our campus and return to in-person learning (albeit with masks and social distancing), is that Lamar Community College is truly supported by our community. We are one and the same. Without the support of our region, the pandemic could still be raging through our community, taking lives and hospitalizing countless people. Instead, we are one of the safest campuses in the state and are now able to bring our students and staff back to campus, and move one step closer to the “next normal”. We supported our students and our community supported us because that’s how we do things in Southeast Colorado.
Now LCC looks to the future and to continuing to be the institution of higher learning that our community needs us to be. We will continue to be the premier institution for equine and agriculture studies in our region and state and the community college of choice for nursing, business, trades, and cosmetology. We are looking forward to offering more in-person options and continuing to meet the educational and workforce needs of Southeast Colorado. LCC is investing in its cutting-edge programs, like our new Precision Agriculture program, which teaches students to use the latest technology to reduce waste and maximize profitability, and attracts students from across the state, country and world. We are adapting our programs and certificates to help train and retrain those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
I know I can speak for everyone at LCC when I say that we are incredibly grateful to our community across Prowers, Baca, Kiowa and Cheyenne counties. Thank you for your continued support, and thank you for trusting us with training and educating people in our communities and our future workforce. LCC will continue to strive to become the college for you and our region — the community college that helps fulfill our collective hopes, dreams and aspirations – the community college that enriches lives through learning