Folks in this Valley should be thrilled Walla Walla Community College was honored Monday as one of the five best two-year schools in the nation. It affirms what many already know -- WWCC has extraordinary programs that change lives for the better.
WWCC was one of four schools to win $100,000 for being named runner-up to Orlando's Valencia College, which won the prize of $600,000.
Earning a spot in theAspen Institute's top five -- or, frankly, the top 10 -- is incredibly impressive given that there are over a thousand two-year colleges in the nation.
"Walla Walla Community College is doing very important work for the community and for the students that it serves," said Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson. "Most of all, it deserves special recognition for working with students who are not college ready and making sure that they get jobs, because they've gotten the training and skills during their time at Walla Walla that they need to be successful in the work force."
Isaacson is right. But WWCC does much more. The college has several innovative programs, including winemaking and grape-growing program. The Center for Enology and Viticulture, which opened in 2002, is the first teaching and commercial winery in the country at a two-year college.
In addition, WWCC has nursing and medical programs, the Water & Environmental Center and a wind technology program.
WWCC President Steve Van-Ausdle sees this honor as an affirmation that WWCC is on target in fulfilling its mission.
"I think what this does is really shine a spotlight on community colleges as a game changer for really strengthening the economy," he said after the announcement was made Monday. "I am extraordinarily proud to represent the community college, its board and staff and students. And, indeed, our community that allowed us to receive this ... distinction."
WWCC's leadership has done an outstanding job of shaping itself to meet the needs of this community. As a result, the school was a winner long before it was on the radar of the Aspen Institute.
The top-five honor is well deserved.