Family and consumer sciences has always been a big part of Michelle Dennis’s life. She took courses as high school student, participated in the 4-H Youth Program, and went on to teach the subject in several Colorado schoools. For the past 10 years, she’s coordinated programs at the state level with the Colorado Community College System (CCCS).
Now Dennis will take the next step in her journey as a leadership fellow with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).
“This is the pinnacle of my career,” Dennis said. “It really humbles me, but it also encourages me to keep moving forward.”
As CCCS’ Family & Consumer Sciences director, Dennis oversees career and technical education (CTE) programs in fields like human services, hospitality, and education. CCCS is the only community college system in the nation that approves federally funded CTE programs, which engage more than 230,000 learners from middle schools through college.
“I think that every student in Colorado needs a career and technical education background, and of course, family consumer sciences skills,” she said. “It improves their personal and professional lives and helps them become great members of their community.”
Dennis is the second CCCS employee to become an ACTE leadership fellow in the past two years. Through the program, she will learn more about national and state policies that govern CTE and participate in leadership trainings.
“I will be attending national policy seminar in March, where fellows get together and work with our state delegations to talk about career and technical education,” she explained. “We’ll learn more about the rising issues and how can we best support our learner’s back home.”
Dennis credits support from leaders like Dr. Sarah Heath, CCCS’ associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and the state CTE director, and Debbie Nelson, executive director of the Colorado Association for Career and Technical Education, for encouraging her to apply. She hopes to learn promising practices that keep Colorado ahead of the curve in CTE access and outcomes.
“All the work that we’re doing to align work-based learning and apprenticeships is huge, and we’re getting much better at tapping into industry and bringing all of our stakeholders to the table,” she said. “We are really at the forefront of that from a national perspective.”