Community colleges can help make your dreams come true |

Community colleges can help make your dreams come true

CMC Corner
Carla Malmquist
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Carla Malmquist

Becoming a doctor, a writer, a teacher: only some of the many dreams achieved via college. Almost any dream can begin at a community college, whether or not your degree ends there. For many individuals, a community college is the best place to nurture your dreams.

I knew a woman who believed college wasn’t ever going to be in her future. On her own from a very early age, she worked as a painter, then tile-setter, then waitress, always dreaming of something more.

She was terrified by the thought of going to college. But she gave it a try, testing the waters with a class at the nearby community college. She feared she would one day be yanked right out of class because she didn’t belong there. And one day someone did pull her from class, not to kick her out as she feared, but to let her know she was eligible for many types of financial aid.

This young woman barely knew about the existence of financial aid, or how to build a schedule of classes or plan for a career. A host of staff and faculty took a genuine interest in her, spending time with her to plan how she might enter into a physical therapy career, a field she had often thought about. At the community college, she was encouraged. She was successful.

She was me.

At St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida, I earned my two-year physical therapist assistant degree. With a clearer vision for my dream and a solid academic foundation gained at St. Petersburg, I continued my study at Florida International University. Following a similar route taken by many of our own Colorado Mountain College students, I applied the 2 + 2 principle to earn my bachelor’s degree (your first two years completed at the community college; your last two at a four-year institution).

I moved to Colorado in 1982. Frequently, as I commuted past Arapahoe Community College, I would reminisce about my own community college experience, and how it changed my life. As luck would have it, I received a call from Arapahoe with an opportunity to return to the community college. This time, I would be on the other side of the table: helping this college build a new program for local students to earn a physical therapist assistant degree. In many different roles, I have been at community colleges ever since.

Of all the things I learned at the community college, the most important was that my once-thought unattainable dream was plausible. What I love so much about community colleges is the fact that they are what I call “dream-makers.” Their small class sizes, affordable tuition, and instructors and staff who know you and your dreams are the best formula for making those dreams a reality.

Carla Malmquist is a vice president of Colorado Mountain College and chief executive officer of the Roaring Fork Campus. She began her education at a community college.

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