College and career advisorsGenerous Donations Critical to Success of New Advisor Program

One of the keys to getting more high school graduates from Mesa and Montrose counties enrolled in postsecondary education is simply getting the word out and educating students and parents about the resources available to them.

CMU decided one good way to do that would be to place college and career advisors in local area high schools. Nearly a year and a half ago, the program began with four Mesa County high schools and a few months later expanded to Montrose and Olathe high schools.

It's not an inexpensive undertaking, but one that CMU believes is important and worth the investment.

Fortunately, the university has had some help.

Early to buy into the advisor program was the El Pomar Foundation. The Colorado Springs-based organization has a long history of funding education and education-related programs, from scholarships to internships to the CMU College and Career Advisor Program.

El Pomar Trustee Dave Palenchar said the idea to fund the advisor program grew out of El Pomar's creation a few years ago of regional advisory councils around the state. The council charged with advising El Pomar about needs in northwest and west-central Colorado noted that the region has always been challenged with the boom-and-bust cycle of the energy industry.

"The issue has always been how do we get ahead of that," Palenchar said. El Pomar decided helping with the College and Career Advisor Program might be one piece of the puzzle to developing a diverse workforce.

"The key is how do we keep kids engaged," he said. El Pomar looked at the CMU advisor program and the trustees liked what they saw. They believed the program would lead to more local high school graduates going on to postsecondary education.

Other organizations have followed El Pomar's lead. The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative has awarded a two-year Community Partnership Program grant. Wells Fargo and the local Rotary clubs have also contributed to support the operating costs of the College and Career Advisor Program.

El Pomar's generous donation of $75,000 was critical to the success of the program, said Foundation CEO Liz Meyer. "Without the help from El Pomar and other donors, the advisor program might never have gotten off the ground. Those kinds of partnerships are key to CMU's success."

Palenchar said El Pomar has "always been impressed with the role CMU plays in the Grand Valley" and he and his fellow El Pomar trustees believe funding CMU programs is a wise use of El Pomar's assets.