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Archuleta County Education Center — opportunities and issues

In December of 2010, unanticipated financial problems led the Archuleta County Education Center (ACEC) right to the brink of shutting the doors.

Those of us on the board of directors were not at all certain that we could keep the center open and continue to provide educational opportunities to the members of this community past Feb. 1, 2011.

Today, just 14 months later, the situation is much different.

What did we do, how did we do it and what are the results?

Much-needed emergency funding from the Town of Pagosa Springs, combined with generous contributions from some local residents (both full and part-time) allowed us time to get our financial house in order.

Early in 2011, we formed a close working relationship with Archuleta County School District 50 Jt. administrators (namely Mark DeVoti and Linda Reed), as well as with Joanne Irons of the Youth Center. The three partners then formulated a new strategy in which we agreed to look at each student and determine how we could best serve their educational needs, regardless of the short-term impact on our individual organizations. This has allowed us to improve our service to the community, while at the same time streamlining our organization.

In the second quarter of 2011 the ACEC joined with Pueblo Community College/Southwest Colorado Community College (PCC/SCCC) and the local school district to offer an improved Alternative High School, as well college level classes with both in-seat instruction and video conference. At this point, a student can achieve an associate degree without ever leaving Pagosa.

During the fall semester of 2011, ACEC began offering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes to students in grades 5-8. These classes are taught by experts in each field and will give the students a leg up in preparation for careers in these academic disciplines. We are currently in discussion with the school district to expand the content of these classes and to make them available to a much broader age group.

The bottom line of all of these efforts is that we now have 37 students enrolled in college-level classes, nine students in the Alternative High School, 54 students served in the GED program since July 2011, 25 in ESL classes, 64 in adult ed classes, 24 in elementary tutoring and enrichment, seven in STEM and nine in middle school tutoring. The Ed Center and its partners are serving this community by providing excellent educational opportunities to all age groups and for all applications.

While our current situation looks good and the future is certainly bright, we still have one nagging issue we must address: like all 501(C)(3) organizations, we have a constant struggle to find adequate funding for all of the programs we need to offer.

As it now stands, direct revenue and grants cover only part of our costs. We must raise $83,000 per year through fund-raisers, private contributions and money from local government entities. In that regard, we encourage everyone to attend our annual fund-raiser on Feb. 29, at 11:45 a.m. at the Pagosa Lodge.

Please consider the opportunities we are presenting to people of all ages in this community. Call 264-2843 for tickets or information. We need your support.

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