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  Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce highlights CMU and Mesa County Valley School District D51 partnerships during community briefing

CMU and SD51 are focused on increasing the educational attainment of people in western Colorado by working together through strategic partnerships. The joint efforts were on full display Wednesday, August 22 when the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce convened its annual community briefing. The chamber initiative is designed to help the university expand its educational and economic footprint throughout the region. 

“We chose to focus on partnership during this briefing because of new and ongoing partnerships between CMU and SD51 that are significant and growing,” said Chamber President and CEO Diane Schwenke. “From P-TECH at Central High School to mobile learning and concurrent enrolment, we believe partnerships are one of the pathways to growing CMU now and in the future.” 

Schwenke served on a discussion panel that included remarks and insights from SD51 Superintendent Diana Sirko and CMU President Tim Foster. 

Foster explained that getting caught up in the complexities and acronyms of education is easy to do, but that the simple core of joint efforts between the school district and CMU is a realization that increasing educational attainment rates in the area is key to improving the quality of life. 

“When it comes to the opportunities we have to improve the community economically and socially, Diana and I believe education is an important, long term key to building a strong economy and community,” said Foster. “There are no other universities in Colorado that work as closely and consistently as we do with local schools because CMU has a dual mission with our Western Colorado Community College division that allows us to accomplish things no other university can.” 

Following the event CMU and WCCC launched a new web portal featuring the suite of options for high school students seeking to expedite their college or career options by earning college credit. The webpage guides students to the high school scholars, early scholars, ASCENT, technical scholars and the ground-breaking P-TECH programs. The improved interface allows the community to learn about program requirements while easily guiding high school students through the registration process. 

“The partnership District 51, CMU and the community have is a direct benefit to students and will continue to pay dividends for years to come,” said Sirko.

Prior to the event, the chamber highlighted several partnership videos featuring Foster and Sirko who recently worked together with CMU Basketball and FCI Constructors installing basketball hoops and hosting a skills clinic for underserved students. 

Attendees were asked to vote on who would win a one-on-one game between Sirko and Foster with the overwhelming majority of attendees voting for Sirko. 

Partnership highlights during the event included workforce development through the Mesa County Workforce Center, efforts to increase concurrent enrolment in Mesa County, promoting two-year degrees and technical certificates, celebrating educating first-generation students through the cities of Grand Junction and Montrose and their Opportunity Scholar Programs, as well as the endowments at the CMU Foundation that fund opportunities for local students. 

Also featured during the event was the creation of a program in which CMU career advisors are employed by CMU in local area high schools. The advisors support high school students by helping them through the processes for enrolling in college and guiding them toward financial and social resources. 

Following the question and answer session attendees were encouraged to network with Foster and Sirko and each other in order to advance the conversation and create movement from the business community when it comes to growing CMU and growing educational attainment in Mesa County and western Colorado.

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Written by David Ludlam