Recently I mentioned on Facebook that I’d be visiting Pueblo, Colorado. It was met with a chorus of why’s, most with a disparaging tone.
I get it.
When people think of visiting Colorado they think Aspen or Vail, possibly Durango or Breckenridge, but people in Los Angeles don’t think, “I’ll go to Pueblo, Colorado today.” Which is all well and good but they’d be missing something because part of me really loves that little city and always will.
I went to school in Pueblo. After a false start at a swank private school, I found that West LA College was a really great place for learning. I was able to go to class distraction free (distraction = really rich boys in really fast cars) and learn a lot from teachers who didn’t have to worry about publishing or tenure or anything like that. They were just passionate. I’ll always remember the man who made me love math. I won’t remember his name but I’ll remember his crazy hair, plaid blazer, and pin that read: MATH IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT. I fell in love with linear algebra and I can’t remember a thing about that class except for his exuberance and it’s contagion.
After West LA I found myself in Pueblo. It’s one of those events where you sort of spin three times and there you are. It ended up being a perfect match. I knew little about myself at 19 except that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree without writing any essays and that I needed to be in motion. A BS in Kinesiology seemed perfect and CSU Pueblo offered one.
College is more than just book learning. It’s this wonderful pause button that’s hit between childhood and adulthood. While the frontal lobe is experiencing its last bursts of growth and terrible decisions are repeatedly being made, college kids all over the country are able to make their mistakes in relative anonymity while learning how to meet deadlines, how to juggle too much work in too little time, and how to survive on not enough money. Loves are found and promptly lost. Politics are declared and then decried. Internships are miserable and wonderful and launch both careers and friendships.
College is a gift of time, of learning, of soft landings.
College was affordable for me. At the time I attended rents were low in Pueblo (still are!) and jobs were plentiful. I’d been working in restaurants for years and I just sort of knocked on doors and landed great jobs around town.
I left college with $1,500 on a credit card and I thought I’d never sleep through the night if I didn’t have it paid off. When I hear about the student debt that’s considered normal for kids now my shoulders creep up to my ears. I don’t know how or why we came to expect that kids should start their lives with mortgage payments due and no home to live in, but we do.
But that’s not what this is about.
Recently I was asked to join the board of the CSU Pueblo Foundation. The foundation exists to serve the students of CSU Pueblo. I’ve been to my first board meeting and my understanding, though incomplete, is that we will raise money for scholarships, school improvements, endowments, and grants. I could be wrong. I often am. But I do know that I sat in a room of altruists and I was inspired by their care, their caution, and their perseverance.
I have worked with many non-profits both as a consultant and as a volunteer. I have never been through financials like this before as I’ve not sat on executive committees, nor have I experienced this level of transparency. I have never witnessed anyone caring this much about someone else’s money.
So I’m basically in love with the mission and I’m going to bring you along on this journey. It’s new and it’s unfamiliar and it’s exciting. My greatest hope is that I can be part of the machine that allows someone else to leave college with a great education, a valuable degree, and a little less debt.