Reach Your Peak Pipeline
By Desiree Moore, Director of Community Education and Summer Programs, Colorado Northwestern Community College
For any of us that work in the business of changing lives positively, we have all had those moments when we understand that our efforts do make an impact. One of these moments, oddly enough, came while I was using social media after work. Scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, I came across a post by one of the youths I had recently come to know in our summer camp program. In her post, she stated, “I never knew college could be so much fun!” At that moment, it was evident that we were making an impact on the youth in our community.
In 2009 the El Pomar Foundation granted Colorado Mesa University two $50,000 grants for a term of 2 years to begin the Reach Your Peak Pipeline in partnership with Colorado Northwestern Community College and Colorado Mountain College. In the beginning, the focus of the project was to deliver STEM camps to middle and high school students. However, over time, the focus has shifted to offering a greater variety of career focused camps and building a more robust and efficient pipeline for students.
This summer a variety of camps w ere provided across the three institutions including 3D Printing, Paleontology, and Animal Science. Camps introduced youth to a variety of topics are related to industries such as technology, the visual and performing arts, and manufacturing. The pipeline moves students from middle school to the workforce seamlessly all to foster a stable workforce. Each of the colleges that participate in this project work together to share resources, provide guidance, and continue to
build a model that elicits results. A student who enters the pipeline at any one of our institutions most likely will start with an engaging, hands-on, and career focused summer camps, which aims to inspire them to start thinking about post-secondary education and their eventual career. The next step in the pipeline is concurrent enrollment, where students will receive both high school and college
credit, giving them a head start in higher education. At this point, our hopes are that the student is ready to either join the workforce or continue their education after high school. If the student decides to attend post-secondary education at one of the partner institutions, they are eligible for a scholarship from the El Pomar Foundation.
The pipeline continues to be developed, and each partner works diligently to find ways to enhance the student experience. Last year, CNCC held career focused events for high school sophomores to try and bridge the gap between middle school summer camps and concurrent enrollment in their junior year of high school. The event served 168 students, who were able to learn the importance of soft skills and talk with current professionals in a variety of careers. CNCC continues to look for innovative ways to build the pipeline such as offering industry specific boot camps for juniors and seniors where parent education on navigating college admissions and financial aid.
Over the last several years, CMU, CMC, and CNCC have all made a significant impact, together serving hundreds of middle school and high school aged students. As we continue to grow and develop summer camps and add to the pipeline model, our efforts are going to become increasingly apparent. The El Pomar Foundation has agreed to continue to fund the project and has been supportive of our vision and energies. The Reach Your Peak Pipeline will continue to inspire youth to think beyond today and understand that education and work in a field you’re passionate in can be fun.