College of Southern Idaho opened its doors in Twin Falls in 1965. It was one of 573 community colleges started in the U.S. between 1955 and 1974. A satellite campus in the form of a trailer opened in Blaine County in Hailey in 1985 and has been changing lives through education ever since.
In 25 years, the CSI Blaine County campus in Hailey has grown into a campus that has served more than 500 students in 2010.
"We give lifelong opportunities," said CSI Blaine County Executive Director Jennifer Davidson. "We do need to reach more people."
Six years ago, CSI collaborated with the Blaine Country Recreation District and the school district to develop a better facility at the Community Campus in Hailey to offer more educational opportunities. The campus was developed in the former high school.
"It was a great vision to recycle a whole building to meet community needs," Davidson said. "Enrollment has doubled, and we have more space and more classes to meet the needs of more students."
Each semester, CSI Blaine County offers up to 75 courses that include sciences, vocational classes, languages and art. The college is also serving the needs of a growing health and human service industry in Idaho. CSI gives students a place for creativity, such as an opportunity to take part in master of fine arts student Lee Stoops' Flash Fiction Writing Project. Students can develop a collection of fiction pieces around a given theme. The stories will eventually be presented publicly.
"We can help people train for a career track," Davidson said. "An associate degree at CSI is two years. Core requirements can be done at CSI and then a student can transfer into a university."
Davidson said some nurses at St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center got their start at CSI.
Student Jay Myers, a 12-year Blaine County resident, said he likes CSI's personal classroom setting and the specific attention students receive from teachers.
"Economic turmoil from the recession led me back to school," Myers said. "I was in the home services trade business, and it was not fulfilling. I had attended college and paid loans. I enrolled in warm-up classes for environmental science and biology."
Myers said CSI is a hidden gem in the valley, and it has given him overwhelming support and the confidence to get a degree to do something new with his life.
"I reinvented myself," he said. "I never thought this would be available in Blaine County."
Davidson said last fall was the biggest enrollment in CSI Blaine County's history.
"I attended CSI in 2003 and took a class here and there," said student Deiysi Monjaras, 29. "For the last two years, I have been focused on education. I am married with three kids, work full time and go to school."
Monjaras is pursuing a degree in education and has plans to continue her degree with an accredited university.
"Teachers are great at CSI because they are your friends," she said. "They bring their experience with them, and it's not just from books."
Crystal Peck, 28, who did not previously attend college, said CSI offers a second chance to pursue higher education.
"We are breaking barriers, especially for Latinos," said Peck. "It is an education for me and I am a role model. I want to break the cycle."
Peck graduated from Wood River High School in 2001 and obtained a scholarship to go to college. She said she applied to college to show her parents she could do it, but she decided not to go.
"I did not know CSI was here," she said. "I found it and I knew I had to go. It's a cultural change for me to go to school. I am encouraging my brother and sister to do the same."
Peck cleans homes in Ketchum. She said that when she is finished working, she does her homework and takes care of her husband.
"School supports what we do," she said. "The staff and Jenny are very motivating."
In his first semester, valley native Chris Werry, 20, said it is going better than he ever thought.
"I was very apprehensive," he said. "I graduated from Wood River High School in '09. CSI is enjoyable and I didn't think that would be possible."
Werry said he is thinking about pursuing a degree in mass communication. He said it's never too late.
Sabina Dana Plasse: email@example.com
CSI public art competition
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of College of Southern Idaho's Blaine County Center, the college is inviting local artists to submit proposals for a public art piece to be installed at the Community Campus in Hailey. The winning artist will receive $1,000. The deadline for proposals is Wednesday, Dec. 1. For details, call 788-2033 or visit www.csi.edu/blaine.