A headline like that implies an end. In one sense, Cochise College is nearing an end — the end of the academic year. And next month I’ll be sharing perspective on that. We’re approaching my 10th Cochise College commencement, after all, and what a ride it’s been.

But in another sense, the headline of this column signifies a beginning.

I’m referring, of course, to An Evening at the Races, a fundraiser put on by the Cochise College Foundation to benefit scholarships for graduating Cochise County high school seniors. The event is Saturday, April 27, and if you haven’t yet made plans to attend, and you’re a supporter of education, workforce development, the local economy, or improving the prospects of local youth, you should.

Participants are, indeed, supporting a new beginning for Cochise County students.

Thanks to donors, Cochise College this year began guaranteeing scholarships for graduating seniors who enroll full time immediately after high school and select a major. Coinciding with the new scholarship program is the renewal of partnerships with our local high schools. College and career navigators are now working with schools to help all students pursue their goals, no matter where they intend to go.

The first year of the scholarship guarantee — this one — has been funded. Since the scholarship is renewable, two cohorts of recent high school graduates will be in the program beginning this fall and moving forward. For this reason, your donation to help fund the scholarship guarantee into the future is valuable and necessary. It’s an investment in your community.

One benefit of a program like this is that it allows us to really hone in on data. How will recent high school graduates who enroll full time and select a major do at Cochise College? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our programs and processes?

I can tell you that the college/career navigators began their work last academic year, using the scholarship guarantee as a tool to better communicate with prospective students. As a result, 14 percent more recent high school graduates enrolled at Cochise than the year prior, and there was a 26 percent increase in those who chose to do so full time, which is a requirement for the scholarship.

Those are promising numbers. Now we need to track retention, success and completion, as well as keep an eye on the true test of our success — the numbers in the Expect More Arizona Education Progress Meter. Since the progress meter launched, it has shown that the percentage of Cochise County high school graduates enrolled in post-secondary education the semester after graduating is 49. At the state level, the percentage is 53, and Arizona seeks to achieve 70 percent by 2030. Those percentages stand today and will take time and commitment to change.

Cochise College is prepared to go the distance. Whether you are a miler or a sprinter, we could use your help. Please check out our event details at www.cochise.edu/races and join us for the third annual event to benefit the workforce and students of Cochise County.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

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