Graphic with headshots of Zaneta Kelsey and Marisol Solarte-Erlacher. Text says, "Honoring Women’s History Month with Foundation Board Members"

The Colorado Community College System is fortunate to have champions across the state who advance our open access mission. That certainly includes the Foundation for Colorado Community Colleges board, which is comprised of community volunteers and industry leaders who believe in the power of affordable and accessible education and training. We sat down with two members—Marisol Solarte-Erlacher, CEO/Owner of Marisol Solarte-Erlacher and Associates and Zaneta Kelsey, CEO of Access Modeto learn more about their commitment to community service and leadership.  

Tell us about your higher education journey. 

 Headshot of Marisol Solarte-ErlacherMarisol Solarte-Erlacher (MSE): I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Illinois, and my dad is an immigrant to the U.S. Both my parents were teenagers when I was born. Education was hugely important in my family, and community college was always on the table. I ended up going to community college, which was one of the best experiences I ever had. 


Headshot of Zaneta KelseyZaneta Kelsey (ZK): While I had every intention for my higher education journey to be linear, it very much became a journey to find MY path. I intended to become a biomedical engineer and was admitted to a top 10 engineering school. I realized that not only was the coursework difficult—I wasn’t really interested in what I was learning. I met with my advisor, and we decided that I would take some business classes at our local community college. I switched to Computer Information Systems and graduated with a strong GPA. I am still working at the intersection of business and technology. I attribute any success to the strong support of my family, my visionary advisor, the fellow students I studied with, and the professors who made the course material accessible. 

Why did you join the Foundation for Colorado Community Colleges board? What impact do you hope to have? 

MSE: Being a community college graduate is really the impetus of joining the Foundation board. I’m really passionate about community colleges and how they serve the community. In Colorado, there’s a significant Latinx population not only in the community college system, but the entire education system. I’m hoping to be able to represent my community well.

ZK: Community college was pivotal in my education journey, and I want to participate in activities that open major opportunities for people to grow to their fullest potential.

What drew you to leadership in your sector?  

MSE: As the eldest daughter in a Latinx family, leadership is built in for me. At my community college, I was a student member of the board of directors. That really started my path wanting to pursue leadership and service. When I came to Denver to get my master’s degree, I was part of a leadership development program called the Circle of Latina Leadership. That really spurred on my desire to do board service and figure out how to be involved in different communities.

What’s one lesson you would pass along to emerging leaders? 

MSE: Our network and our communities are everything, and they’re really fundamental for true, genuine, authentic leadership. Leadership can be a really solitary journey, so it’s good to have people to support you.

ZK: I very much think leadership is a choice. It involves being perceptive to your surroundings, thoughtful about beginning with the end in mind, and being trustworthy while bringing others along. Everyone’s path is different.  Find your path, bring your talents and gifts and go hard at what is meant for you.