Southwest Colorado nonprofit building pathways from classrooms to careers

Five school districts have teamed up with two colleges to form an educational collaborative aimed at introducing students to possible career pathways based on their skills and interests.

The Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative was formed by Bayfield, Durango, Ignacio, Pagosa Springs and Silverton school districts in partnership with Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College to help rural students find a pathway into a career they will enjoy and succeed in.

The collaborative nonprofit was formed in 2019 with a focus on providing rural students with industry insight and experience that would inform them of what direction they want to take their professional lives.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the collaborative applied for and received a $3.6 million federal grant that helped the nonprofit organize its plans and lift its pathway programs off the ground.

It currently focuses on two primary career pathways, environmental science and building trades, although a goal for the collaborative is expanding into other subject areas.

Jessica Morrison, executive director for the collaborative, said each of the five school districts in the collaborative possess unique student populations that carry their own cultures and interests. She described the collaborative as a hub for teachers, students and industry leaders.

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