CMC president Carrie Hauser visits local elementary schools
Carrie Hauser, Colorado Mountain College’s president, is on a quest to visit every fifth grade class in the college’s nine-county service area, to inspire youth to start thinking about higher education while they’re still at an impressionable age.
Her most recent visit to Glenwood Springs Elementary School Monday sparked a lively conversation among the school’s fifth-graders, a group of youngsters who had already seemed to give college some initial thought.
The idea, she said, stemmed from a similar assembly she led for her nephew’s fifth-grade class on the Front Range just over a year ago. For her, it was the first time administering a talk of this kind. She says the “organized chaos” and broad student interest was really what drove her to bring the idea to the CMC district.
“Fifth grade is where things kind of change with academics, responsibilities in school, and they’re transitioning to middle school,” said Shane Larson, vice president of student affairs at CMC and a member of the Roaring Fork School District board. Larson helped in planning the series of fifth-grade talks.
“More and more students are forming some opinions about going to school at an earlier age,” he said.
“We just want to get them thinking about college, in knowing the option is there,” Larson said, adding that college can come in other forms; the assembly is not focusing solely on the typical four-year degree.
Hauser says one of the most pressing reasons she’s brainstorming with students this early on is because most jobs in the state will require a college degree or higher by the time many of these fifth-graders are college-aged.
“For them to thrive in our economy, they’re going to need a college degree, so the sooner we can get to them, and sort of say, you’ve got to do this, hopefully they’ll remember it and go on to peruse [a degree],” she said.
According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 74 percent of Colorado’s population will need a degree or certificate beyond high school.
To date, only 56 percent of the state’s population has such a credential.
“This means nearly all of the students who graduate from high school will need a certificate or degree to get a job, any job,” said Debbie Crawford, CMC’s public information officer.
“Our college believes we have an imperative to change that,” she said in an email.
She added, “Homegrown Coloradans have the country’s third lowest rate of education.” And on average, 50 to 70 percent of CMC’s students are not ready for college. Nationally, that number is as high as 60 percent.
Students at Glenwood Springs Elementary School said Monday they envision careers such as astrophysicists, surgeons, mechanics, lawyers, doctors, podcasters, cosmetologists and professional sports players.
Hauser focused on the positive aspects of attending college and stressed that there were other aspects to the deal than just studying.
She referenced studying abroad, playing sports and making friends through extracurricular activities, if sports were not of interest to certain students.
Alex Albarec, 10, said he’s wanted to become a mechanic for quite some time, following in the footsteps of his uncle, who has taught him about suspension, how to perform an oil change, and how to clean different parts of a vehicle.
He says he didn’t think it was necessary to go to college to become a mechanic. But after hearing Hauser speak about the benefits, he thought it might be in his best interest.
He said, in order to obtain his new goal in being accepted into college, he’ll work harder to get good grades and will strive to secure a job early on so he has a better chance at receiving financial aid.
Jacob Amos, 12, said it was Hauser’s delivery that persuaded him to think differently about higher ed.
“They explained really well how college is good for you, and it’s easy to go to CMC because it’s in your area,” he said.
The 12-year-old said the most appealing part of the opportunity is the ability to choose one’s own curriculum. He said what he gathered from that is that students get to predict their own futures.
By fall, Hauser plans to visit all fifth-grade classes in the community college’s service area, which includes elementary schools in Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake, Summit and Routt counties.
It’s a big project since the school’s service area is about the size of Maryland, Larson said.
Hauser concluded the assembly Monday by handing out “golden tickets,” or passes for tours at local CMC campuses.
She told students they could bring family and friends, while handing out key chains that resembled the college’s mascot, Swoop the eagle.
“We’re so easy to visit that they can come up and get a connection of what that might look like, and visualize seeing themselves as a college student.”
Hauser closed the presentation by flipping over a sign and encouraging students to read it aloud.
As she flipped it over, the gym full of students screamed, “College is for me.”