OJC President Timothy Alvarez
By Timothy Alvarez, Ph.D
Stay at Home! Save Money! Stay Safe! This has been our theme recently. I want to ensure our communities of interest that Otero Junior College is prepared and ready to provide accessible, rigorous and quality educational programs.
First of all, I want to express my sincere gratitude for our faculty and staff. There was a herculean effort and extraordinary innovation this springs. What we were able to accomplish within a few weeks was simply and unequivocally astounding. We shifted from live on-campus learning to remote learning, and our faculty and staff did it with a "can do" attitude. They approached this challenge with empathy, compassion and an innovative mind-set. I have been at five different campuses, including large research universities, and I would like to place our faculty and staff right up at the top of all my former colleagues. As a small-rural community college, we are often under-valued. But rest assured, we have the talent, the willingness and character to manage future challenges, and we will play a positive role in helping our rural community remain viable and continue to offer and exceptional quality of life.
We are experiencing a health crisis that has no equal in over 100 years. There is much uncertainty in the world as a result of COVID-19. This is the time for community colleges, because we were designed and built to be responsive and serve our communities, At OJC, we are planning on multiple scenarios for the fall term and we will be able to deliver our educational programs whether students are on- or off-campus. We do not know exactly what the fall term will look like but we will be making that decision very soon.
At OJC we offer programs for virtually everyone. We have short-term career and technical education programs and certificates for those who want to quickly get into the workforce. We offer associate degrees that provide students with the hands-on skills to enter the workforce without any further education, or degrees that are designed to transfer to a four-year institution in the pursuit of a bachelor's or higher degree. For families and students who are uncertain or concerned for their safety, they should feel confident that utilizing a gap year to stay home, save money and stay safe, and attend OJC is a viable and smart choice.
In fact, we have just announced a new transfer initiative titled, Bridge to Bachelor's Degree Program, which guarantees admission to many Colorado four-year institutions, This is a safeguard for students who are committed to obtaining a four-year degree, the ability to stay home, save money and stay safe, while ultimately allowing them to satisfy their educational objectives.
We were fortunate to receive federal funding from the CARES Act and within a few weeks in May, we awarded $451,000 to eligible students who were negatively impacted by the COVID crisis. We are also providing a $500 scholarship to all eligible graduating high school students who were in concurrent enrollment this spring.
OJC is committed to serving local high schools via concurrent enrollment. Our staff continues to work with our service area schools to address the challenges and opportunities for the next school year. We are currently exploring creative methods to deliver high school concurrent classes that will meet the needs of students, no matter the delivery mode.
OJC is here to serve you. If there is any particular educational program or training that might help you, please let us know. Part of our role and mission includes expanding employment opportunities and to foster economic development.
In my mind, this is the best time for community colleges. We have the talent and willingness to be creative. We want to be an engine of social mobility for our community and educational credentials is the only method that I am aware of that can truly change the lives and well-being of families. We stand ready to serve. Stay home, save money and stay safe.
For more information, visit our web page: www.ojc.edu.