By JO EARLY
Amarillo College has earned a spot in the top five from a pool of more than 1,000 U.S. community colleges. In a virtual ceremony May 18, the college was awarded the Rising Star award from the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, which works to advance higher education practices.
The Rising Star award recognizes colleges that have shown improvement in areas including student outcome, institutional performance and student retention.
The Aspen Institute acknowledged the staff and faculty of Amarillo College for their efforts connecting students to the college’s many resources. Along with the award, the college received $100,000 prize money and garnered national attention. Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, president of AC, said the college has already seen an impact since the May ceremony.
“It has opened doors; we’ve received many calls from funders and foundations. It gives us a location of power and influence that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Lowery-Hart said. “Receiving the award means so many things. It’s an acknowledgment of how hard and intentionally everyone has worked to serve our students, of our innovation and our unity as a college.”
Cara Crowley, vice president of strategic initiatives, praised the effort of the entire college for receiving the award.
“It was our first time even in the top 150, then to get into the top 10 and be named a Rising Star on our first try was such an amazing honor for Amarillo College, and I think it really reflects the dedication of our staff, our faculty and our students,” Crowley said. “I’m just proud to think that on our first try we got into the top five and received the Rising Star Award. I think we should embrace that and be proud of ourselves,” she said.
As for the college’s next steps, Crowley said, “I think for us it’s really going to be about reworking and reimagining our economic development here in Amarillo and how we can continue to have national impact and continue to make Amarillo College the rising star it is.”
Students said they weren’t surprised to hear the college had been recognized for many resources it provides for them. Information about the college’s resources is spread through frequent emails, listed on posters through the halls and on course syllabi.
“It definitely feels like they are trying to help you succeed, they really push for your success and for you to graduate,” Ethan Lanham, a cinematic arts major, said.