Community college is an amazing place to launch or elevate your career. My only experience at a community college, until I came to work at one, was taking college algebra during my first summer home from university a very long time ago. Even then, I remember really enjoying the energy. My class was full of people of all different ages and backgrounds. We helped each other navigate the challenging concepts and celebrated our aha moments together. It really did feel like community. So, what is community college you ask?

Community college is a 2-year college that offers many different kinds of certificates and associate degrees. Associate degrees in general can be thought of as the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. They require students to take a broad range of courses that provide a foundation of learning before continuing on to concentrate their studies in a specific area, known as a major. Today, however, there are associate degrees with designation that allow students to get a jump start on their major focus in areas like psychology or business.

Also, community colleges offer specialized two-year applied associate degrees that train people to enter the workforce in technical fields such as fine woodworking or information technology among many others. I think what made my experience at my local community college so special was the small class size and really patient and committed instructor. I have come to learn that this is a hallmark of community colleges, which generally have small class sizes and faculty that are focused on teaching.

Community colleges also have some of the lowest tuition rates in the state, which make them an affordable choice. We are lucky to have 16 public community colleges across Colorado, each serving a unique geographic area. Serving west Metro Denver is Red Rocks Community College, where I work.

Red Rocks offers more than 100 different academic programs that prepare students to enter a career of their choosing. I think one of the things that makes Red Rocks stand out as a community college is its many unique programs and initiatives such as Cyber Security, IDEA Lab, and Dr. John U Trefny Honors Program.

Beginning fall 2017, RRCC will be launching its newest program, Nonprofit Pathway. The Nonprofit Pathway was created in partnership with Community First Foundation to provide a career path for passionate people to become change-makers in one of Colorado’s 20,000+ nonprofits and beyond. Like many RRCC programs, the Nonprofit Pathway will provide students with the skills and experience to launch or advance their career.

Colorado has an engaged and growing nonprofit sector that delivers vital community services, gives voice to underserved individuals, contributes to vibrant communities, and advances solutions for challenges facing society. Employing about 142,000 people, which is almost 8% of the state’s workforce, the sector has a significant economic impact generating more than $32.1 billion in annual revenue.

The success of Colorado’s nonprofit organizations relies heavily on a talent pipeline, however the sector has few clear career paths. I, like many of my contemporaries, found my way into my nonprofit career by accident and developed the skills to manage an organization afterward. I often think how helpful it would have been to have started my career knowing more about what it takes to run a successful organization and having a greater skill set out of the gates.

Now the Nonprofit Pathway will help people to build the necessary skills and knowledge to connect their passion with a purposeful career. The only program of its kind in the state, the Nonprofit Pathway offers students a clear career path into the nonprofit sector through an accredited academic program that offers students the opportunity to join a diverse community of professionals, be involved with real-world projects, gain experience through internships or capstone projects, and develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to prepare for a mission driven career.

About the author

Kristin Aslan has more than 20 years of professional experience in the nonprofit sector and higher education. She holds degrees in anthropology, education, and nonprofit management. She has a broad range of experience in Colorado’s nonprofit sector from volunteering to leading organizations as an executive director and a member of the board. She is currently the Program Director of the Nonprofit Pathway at Red Rocks Community College and is working to advance the opportunities for students through collaboration and partnership.