Applause from the attendees at the 10th annual Archuleta County Education Center Luncheon showed that the four students stole the show.
The Education Center uses this event to raise money for educational programs provided to the residents of Archuleta County, and to tell the public about these programs. Testimonials from these four students are typical of the stories of more than 500 residents who use the Education Center each year.
The first student to speak was Keaton Anderson, a home-schooled sixth-grader. Keaton is a student in the junior high After School STEM program, which serves students interested in STEM areas: science, technology, engineering and math. Speaking with confidence and conviction, Keaton said, “I like working with real materials from the hardware store rather than kits.” STEM classes are taught by local “experts” who have retired from careers in the STEM sector. Keaton likes to design and build gadgets. His favorite classes were building bridges from popsicle sticks, making an electric motor from wire and magnets, and lighting a bulb with power from a generator turned by a water wheel using the potential energy of water stored on Reservoir Hill. Keaton told the audience that this experience will prepare him for a career in a STEM field.
Jessica Thomas, a 27-year-old mother of five, was the second student to take the podium. Jessica is enrolled in the GED program. She left school in the seventh grade. She said, “I did not recognize the importance of education.” Jessica plans to complete the GED program in a few months, then start taking Pueblo Community College classes at the Education Center. With much emotion, Jessica said, “The education center has given me the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty faced by low income families.” Every person in the room felt pride because they were helping Jessica and others like her to break the poverty cycle.
Kelly Espinosa, a student in the ESL/ELL program, told how she married a Pagosan in Panama, emigrated from Panama three years ago and has been adjusting to life in Pagosa Springs. In Panama, she was a highly educated teacher. Now, she is a teacher’s aide at Seeds of Learning. Kelly said that learning about U.S. history and culture in the ESL/ELL program makes her a better teacher. This training will also prepare her to apply for U.S. citizenship. She finished by saying, “You have changed my life.”
The last student to speak, Kelly Coleman, graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 2007. Kelly is enrolled in Pueblo Community College classes so she might eventually have a degree in early childhood education. Although she occasionally goes to Durango for special classes, she can take most classes in Pagosa Springs through a combination of video teleconferencing, conventional Internet classes and classes with face-to-face contact with the instructor. Speaking of the Education Center’s high definition video teleconferencing facilities, Kelly said, “It’s like Skype on steroids!” She also said, “The availability of community college classes in Pagosa Springs allows me to continue my education while working two jobs and caring for my family.” Kelly’s 11-month-old daughter, Kylie, voiced her approval.
The luncheon ended with Board President Dave Richardson calling all four students back to the podium and reminding the audience that these students, and the thousands of other students served through the Education Center’s 23-year history, are the reason our community supports the Archuleta County Education Center. They presented the Ed Center’s reason for being and a vision for the future.