Growing up it was always just an understanding that I would graduate from high school and attend college somewhere. I decided that I wanted to train horses, so I attended Lamar Community College for their Horse Training and Management program. Following LCC I attended OJC, and later (what used to be) Mesa State College in Grand Junction- where I obtained by BA in Business Administration. Personally, I enjoyed school; but there are individuals out there that are not necessarily cut out for the
four-year university setting . . . and that’s okay.

I know some will see my previous statement as taboo; but the reality is that it’s not a requirement for anyone to get a college degree to be successful in life- though it does increase one’s chances for success.

Some very successful entrepreneurs that did not receive a college degree include: Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Evan Williams, Mark Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick, and John Mackey.

I, personally, have business degrees that I’m just now putting into practice in my thirties, after racking up a decent amount of student debt. I have family members who’ve made the decision to attend a trade school, and they’ve been making a good living pretty much straight out of high school. I also have friends and family members that have gone into the military to shape their careers, and others who have received masters and doctorates.

My point is this . . . you must do what’s necessary for your own success in life. If you want to be a doctor, you’re going to have to put the schooling in to enter that career. If you want to be a lineman, then go to lineman school. If you want to be a farmer or a rancher- then maybe the life experience that you’ve had growing up will be sufficient. There are lucrative careers out there that require certifications that you can obtain in months rather than years, and to be honest- Southeast Colorado could use more of those professionals serving our communities.

I’m not saying that the university experience isn’t valuable, nor that there aren’t major benefits to having higher education in countless industries; however, attending a trade school, or obtaining a certificate is just as valuable, and offers equally successful opportunities in life. We, as a society, need to support young people going into trade industries and entrepreneurship just as fervently as we support them majoring in philosophy.

Internships, apprenticeships, certificate programs, and junior colleges are great ways for people of all ages to get exposure to career paths, and have access to continued education without the high cost of expensive universities. I believe that our area is extremely blessed with a ton of resources, and there’s always room for expansion and improvement.

A number of local organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Colorado Workforce Center, OJC, LCC, Santa Fe Trail BOCES, the Bent County Development Foundation (BCDF), and other economic development offices provide numerous educational and vocational opportunities; and it’s important to get the word out to the public about these programs and what they offer.

What needs to be understood is that having access to quality and affordable pathways for the necessary training and education in multiple fields is crucial to attract and/or retain professionals, business owners, and workforce. Our area is one that requires people who WANT to, and understand what it’s like, to live in rural Colo.; which leads to discussion about the “grow your own” initiative.

The approach recognizes and builds on the idea that professionals and entrepreneurs are very likely to consider serving in the community in which they were raised. This means that if multiple avenues of professional development opportunities are offered locally, and there is ample community support of these programs; then more people will be incentivized to stay local, and help their communities grow and thrive.

Just because you decide not to attend a four-year university- doesn’t mean you don’t need to move forward productively in some way. 

A quote from Mark Twain states, “I have never let school interfere with my education.”

It’s true that you don’t have to attend school to reach your goals, but you do need to keep learning to set yourself up for success. It’s unacceptable to think that you can sit idly waiting for success to find you . . . because most likely that’s not going to happen.

Putting yourself in positions that will somehow contribute to your knowledge- whether that means participating in an internship while you’re still in high school, an apprenticeship to learn about a new industry, taking a class at a junior college, or getting a certificate through a trade school; be invaluable as you move toward your ultimate career and path to success.

This all can be very intimidating; so, take comfort in the fact that the resources mentioned before are here to help you, and to provide guidance. It’s up to you to reach out and ask for the help that you need. I look forward to helping you!