Northeastern Junior College has teamed up with Sterling Correctional Facility to explore different cultures through art. Each month residents in the prison’s art program will create six to seven different pieces to be showcased on campus as part of NJC’s heritage month celebrations as well as its holiday “Hanging of the Greens” celebration.
“I would like to thank Warden (Jeff) Long, Captain (Cris) Clare and the talented artists at the Sterling Department of Corrections for their teamwork in celebrating our heritage months at the college. These incredible pieces of art will bring a powerful and colorful display to remind all of us about the many cultures around us,” said NJC President Mike White. “We look forward to displaying their paintings throughout the year.”
This project was funded by the RISE (Response, Innovation, and Student Equity Education) grant.
Several pieces created for Hispanic Heritage Month, which is currently being celebrated, and Native American Heritage Month were shown at an NJC Advisory Council meeting on Thursday. All of the artwork will be hung around campus along with information explaining what the month is about and why it’s being celebrated.
President White was highly impressed with the artwork, “all the instruction we gave Warden Long and his team was this is Hispanic Heritage Month, please decide what you would like to express it as.” The result was colorful artwork depicting different people and items representing that culture.
Artists who took NJC’s heritage themes and created this amazing artwork include Sam Lincoln, Jimmy Guiterrez, Joseph Hill, Lynell Hill, John Matheney, Graig Forbes, Dale Bruener, Micheal Paprock, Alerico Medina, and Trinidad Ramos.
Hispanic Heritage Month, also sometimes referred to as LatinX Heritage Month, is observed annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Americans celebrate by appreciating the community’s history, heritage, and contributions of the ancestors of American citizens who came from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean and South and Central America. It is a time to appreciate and celebrate the colorful cultures, rich histories and diversity of the American Latino Community.
The theme for the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month is Unidos (Spanish for United): Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation!
Hispanic Heritage Month originally started with one week of commemoration when it was first introduced by Congressman George E. Brown in June 1968. As awareness of contributions from the Latin community spread during the civil rights movement, a national observation of Hispanic Heritage Week was started in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was later extended to a 30-day celebration by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
While many other communities celebrate single dedicated months, like Black History Month in February, Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15. This start date was chosen because it coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of five countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), followed by Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18 and Belize on Sept. 21.
“Northeastern is proud to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month and to celebrate the cultures, histories, diversity, and accomplishments of our Hispanic alumni, staff and students,” NJC said in an informational flyer to be displayed with the paintings.
The Advisory Council meeting also included an update on enrollment and housing. White reported that as of Thursday the headcount is up 150 students from last year, at about 1,300, but FTE enrollment, which is a 30-hour-a-year full-time student, is down about 5.5%. He attributed the decline to the college seeing a lot more part-time students, in part due to some night classes that are being offered and while there is a large number of returning sophomores, the freshman class is smaller.
“Unfortunately FTE is how we get paid (by the state), so we’re working on building that up,” White said, but pointed out the decrease in FTE is not uncommon for the Colorado Community College System, most rural schools in the system are down from last year. “We, along with our system, are looking at how we get our message out there.”
In terms of housing, White reported there are about 420 on-campus residents, which is up from last year.
“We’d like more students, we have room for a few more, but we’re pretty satisfied with the class, they’re doing very well this year,” he said.
During his president’s report, White told the council he is pleased with enrollment numbers for the new T-Prep Program, a partnership with CU Denver’s School of Education and Human Development, that allows students to take classes at NJC to earn an associate’s degree in education and then complete their following two years at NJC to earn their bachelor’s degree from CU Denver without having to leave the area.
Additionally, he noted that NJC experienced almost 18% turnover in employees the last year, which is low compared to metro colleges in the CCCS, which were in the 20-30% range. Northeastern has been able to fill positions though and is pretty pleased with the team it built up over the summer.
White also shared that NJC’s adult and community education program had a fantastic year, ending the 2021-22 academic year in the top three in the state for measurable skill gains; the NJC Alumni Association has 11 students this fall who are taking part in its sponsor program and are being sponsored by alumni; and all of the college’s various fall athletic team are off to a very strong start.
Additionally, a written report that White gave out as part of his highlights shared efforts the college is making to combat the fentanyl crisis. While the college has not yet had any documented instances of fentanyl on campus, they learned from Sterling Police Department in August that there were five fentanyl-related deaths in Sterling in a three-week period and with that in mind, the college did not want to be complacent.
Thanks to a generous donation from Erika Greenberg with the Centennial Area Health Education Center, NJC was gifted 33 boxes of Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan. Each box contains two units of Naloxone to be used in the event of an overdose. Andrew De Souza, NJC’s safety and security director, went throughout campus the last week of August distributing Narcan in 25 locations around campus.
Also, with grant money NJC was able to purchase 15 traumatic bleeding kits to be placed around campus in first aid stations.