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President Thomas Connects with
Camas Prairie High School Students
With the goal of promoting higher education and making connections with people in the
areas served by the college, Lewis-Clark State College President Dene Thomas took to the
road the week before Christmas.
She was accompanied by Kathy Martin, Director of Extended Programs, the LCSC department
which delivers outreach educational programs and services to Idaho residents who cannot
participate in traditional campus offerings.
The first stop on the one-day circuit was Craigmont High School, where her in-person visit
was the first by an LCSC president. Thomas had been invited there to speak to the
schools 15 graduating seniors. Seated in front of the students in a regular
classroom, she led an informal discussion of what each intended to do after finishing high
Some of the kids had specific ideas but few among the group knew exactly where and how
they were going to move their dreams forward. Thomas responses to each appeared to
be carefully-worded efforts to show respect and interest for each young adults
thinking while also offering bits of down-to-earth guidance in realizing their ideas.
And time after time, she brought the value of higher education into the discussion.
Where and how you get more education isnt the most important thing although,
of course, I hope you will come to LCSC. Just know that even if you are unsure of what
career you want, you open many doors with just one year of education beyond high
Thomas stated that various one-year programs offered in LCSCs Professional/Technical
Division teach skills which today can quickly land Idaho jobs paying at least twice and
usually three times minimum wage. Citing examples, she went on to say, Get on this
fast track to learning a skill and you can quickly become able to support yourself while
gaining insight into what direction you want to go. Later on you can think about more
education if you like.
In a small meeting that took place after Thomas visit with students, members of
Craigmont Highs faculty and staff spoke about why they think its becoming
harder for local kids to make it after high school, especially those who remain in or come
back to the area. Fewer traditional jobs in farming and logging, changing family dynamics
and increasing costs of education were among the reasons identified. As a group they
agreed that these circumstances are particularly disadvantageous to women because they can
result in unskilled mothers ending up as single parents.
Reacting to this, Thomas acknowledged that it is a different world indeed and that
everyone must face it. She went on to say, Its so important that we at LCSC
and all the colleges and universities in Idaho provide awareness of and access to higher
education for our small, rural communities. Im here to demonstrate our understanding
of that, to listen to you, and to talk about what we can do together.
The second leg of the road trip took Thomas and Martin to Grangeville, where they had a
luncheon meeting with the Camas Prairie Advisory Committee, a diverse and active group of
prairie residents who offer input to Extended Programs personnel.
Recent cuts to the budgets of state institutions of higher learning forced by the downturn
in Idahos economy were a major concern of the members of the committee. When asked
how these cuts might affect the Grangeville Center, which is one of Extended
Programs s seven outreach centers in North Idaho, Thomas responded, At
present it appears that, because it serves a relatively large population base, the
Grangeville Center will experience minimal detrimental effects.
This news, though not definite, is music to the ears of all those working to provide
opportunity for higher education in the Camas Prairie region.