Most of us are eager to leave the last year far behind—and 2021 isn’t showing much improvement so far. But there are some important lessons we’ve learned from the events of 2020, and Martin Luther King Day seems an appropriate time to reflect on those.

As FRCC’s president Andy Dorsey wrote to students over the summer, “This is a challenging time. Senseless deaths, and protests turned violent, quickly followed the disruption of the pandemic. We have witnessed many painful reminders that racism and violence in America seem inextinguishable.”

FRCC remains committed to ensuring that our college stands not only against racism—but also for equity in education. And if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that our country still has a long way to go.

Together But Not Equal

As Dr. King acknowledged when he addressed the Hungry Club Forum in Atlanta in 1967, the civil rights movement had made significant progress. But despite the end of legal segregation, he reminded those in attendance that the work was not done:

“… some people feel that the civil rights movement is dead. The new phase is a struggle for genuine equality. It is not merely a struggle for decency now… It is now a struggle for genuine equality on all levels, and this will be a much more difficult struggle.

(Emphasis added. Read more of Dr. King’s address on The Atlantic website.)

More Work to Do

As Dr. King well knew, desegregation in education was not enough. FRCC—and all colleges—play a role in the effort to bring about that genuine equality to which Dr. King was referring. Accessibility and equity in higher education are still goals we need to continue working toward.

FRCC’s vision is that all students can accomplish their educational and career goals. Our student population is diverse (and is becoming more so each year). “We want people—including students of color, or students with disabilities—to know that we’re focused on student success for everyone,” said Dorsey.

Remarks from “Where Do We Go From Here?” MLK Day Virtual Event

Closing the Opportunity Gap

In many American schools, some racial and ethnic groups regularly experience more roadblocks to their success than others. (See data from the National Center for Education Statistics.) As Teach for America explains, the term “’opportunity gap’ refers to the fact that the arbitrary circumstances in which people are born—such as their race, ethnicity, ZIP code, and socioeconomic status—determine their opportunities in life, rather than all people having the chance to achieve to the best of their potential.”

Many teachers will tell you that closing these opportunity gaps—by making our educational system more equitable—is one of the most important goals in education today. The issue has been on educators’ radar for many years; but despite significant efforts, large gaps remain.

FRCC remains committed to breaking apart our student achievement data to identify how we can better respond to opportunity gaps. Do certain types of students do better overall? Or in certain classes? When the answer is “yes,” we know where to focus our attention. (Read more about one of FRCC’s efforts to make measurable changes in this area.)

The work of becoming equity-minded and producing equitable student outcomes is constant and ongoing—and it needs to be reflected in everything we do at the college. FRCC’s teachers and staff recognize the responsibility and trust imparted on us to educate, and we thrive on the opportunity to help each and every one of our students achieve their goals. 

Law Enforcement Training

As a college that runs a highly regarded law enforcement training academy, FRCC has made several changes as a direct response to the violence of the last year. “We moved quickly on it in response to the events of the summer,” said Kathleen Mitchell, PhD, director of the academy. “We want to be proactive in addressing the needs of the community.”

Among other changes, the FRCC academy has added a new eight-hour block on implicit bias and how it affects people’s thoughts and actions. The program has also beefed up its communications training. Instructors have added more time—and changed the curriculum—to focus on de-escalation skills that can help decrease the occurrence of confrontations between law enforcement officers and community members.

Cadets are now spending more hours learning about bias-motivated hate crimes, mental health first aid and risk assessment in law enforcement. And the academy has added time to its existing Ethics and Anti-Bias class to allow students to work through scenarios in which they need to make ethical decisions. As part of this class, FRCC cadets are learning more about the concept of anti-bias policing.

At the statewide level, colleges across Colorado that provide law enforcement training have also begun a new initiative to review their curriculum, recommend changes and ultimately reimagine what that law enforcement training will look like moving forward. The aim is to better prepare future law enforcement officers to serve and protect all Coloradans and communities across the state. By transforming these programs, the hope is to embed experiential training in implicit bias, social justice, anti-racism, intercultural communication and de-escalation into law enforcement training.

Supporting Students Who Face Obstacles

As a college, we are striving to improve our outreach to our communities of color. We have an ongoing focus on obtaining resources to support students who come from traditionally underserved communities. A few examples include:

  • Our three TRIO programs, which support individuals with limited income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities.
  • Partnerships like our PTECH programs and Gateway to College, which provide education that leads to middle-skills jobs for students who might not otherwise get access to higher education.
  • The Wolves to Rams program with Colorado State University, which aims to increase participation of underserved students in STEM disciplines.

Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Council

As an institution, we believe that our diversity is a strength that enriches lives throughout the entire college community. But beyond simply stating our commitment to these ideals, the college’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Council is working on several initiatives to help us all do a better job of creating a more equitable college environment in which to learn and work.

Real Progress—Step by Step

The council has made great strides in creating professional development opportunities for our employees and students:

  • Data Days—helping faculty to see, analyze and respond to student achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity and gender.
  • Equity Academy—a new seminar for faculty to learn about cultural biases and rework their syllabi and course content accordingly.
  • Equity Library—a resource accessible to all employees and students.
  • Staff Training—a series for employees to learn how equity and inclusion can play a role in their work at the college.
  • Understanding Different Perspectives—a workshop for students to learn to see things through diverse points of view.
  • Community Outreach—equity trainings offered with local partner organizations on inclusive leadership, implicit bias and strategic planning.

In addition, FRCC’s leadership has plans to examine our curriculum, hiring practices, safety and security practices and the ways in which we support students of color on our campuses. 

Most recently, the college has hired its first executive director of equity and inclusion—a cabinet level leadership position that reports directly to the president. Abenicio Rael joins FRCC in this newly created position, and will work with the council to enhance the work mentioned above. (More to come on his arrival soon…)

Together, We Are FRCC

At Front Range Community College, we are a community that works and learns together, side by side, embracing our differences—so that we may all learn and grow to reach our full potential.

FRCC’s philosophy of inclusion states: We are committed to inclusive excellence, educational equity and advancing opportunity for all.

There’s more hard work to be done to create the kind of world Dr. King envisioned for us all. Here at Front Range, our students, faculty and staff are willing to roll up our sleeves and continue those critical efforts.

Welcoming. Respectful. Inclusive. Together, we are FRCC.

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