By Craig Petinak
This summer, I was editing the first draft of a student profile penned by one of my employees. The story was not unlike dozens I’d authored during my nearly six years as the Director of Marketing & PR at San Bernardino Valley College. In the article, a particular student was quoted as saying, “Now that I have my GED, I can’t just go to a junior college—I need to earn a degree for what I want to do in life.”
After my editing pen wrapped that sentence in more red than the federal budget deficit, I approached my staffer asking if he snuck that quote in just to make sure his boss—the shamelessly persistent supporter of community colleges—was paying attention. Turns out, it wasn’t a joke.
After setting him straight (complete with the “you know, nobody calls them ‘JUNIOR’ colleges anymore” lecture), I soon realized that my “tribe” of CCPRO colleagues weren’t ever-present to commiserate on this stage of the shared journey of building the case for community colleges.
Over the last year as a professional communicator operating in the K-12 realm for the Riverside County Office of Education, I’ve truly missed the opportunity to work amongst a “tribe” of like-minded individuals in CCPRO and on the vibrant campuses where the mission of California’s community colleges is played out in programs and services to all comers.
In many ways, the K-12 communications challenges are the same: Fewer education reporters to pitch, attempting to convince old-school executives of value of social media, deciphering endless acronyms and institutional traditions, tackling achievement gaps, enduring board meetings, and facing the challenges posed by budget gymnastics (an historic K-12 funding shift is underway right now)
Sure, there are K-12 equivalents to CCPRO and NCMPR (CalSPRA and NSPRA, respectively), but already knowing most of your fellow members and being known by them does not happen instantaneously. It requires starting over.
I found this out first-hand when I attended the CalSPRA conference in January in Anaheim. Here I was, a professional communicator, amidst dozens of other like-minded professionals, working to advance the field of public education throughout California. How could I not be reminded of CCPRO.
During the conference, I met multiple CalSPRA executive team members who regaled me with stories of how valuable it was to get to know colleagues from other schools, to network between sessions, to benefit from the e-mail discussion list, and to seek out professional development meet-ups.
It took all my restraint not to interrupt them, but I simply smiled widely and thought to myself “You have no idea just how much I already know this….and wouldn’t be here today without it!”
Take it from a former CCPRO member now missing the camaraderie and expertise that was just a click or call away: Don’t take CCPRO for granted. Look for ways to benefit from the cadre of professionals who are rowing in the same ocean as you each and every day. And, when you have a chance, get involved and help a fellow colleague on their journey. Get to know your CCPRO “tribe” and built-in support structure because the magic only happens when you take the time to invest in each other and the organization.
To contact or follow Craig, his twitter feed is: @petinak and his email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org