When people think of college, images from movies and shows may come to mind. Sensational programs encourage viewers to believe that college is all about dorm life, cafeteria food, parties and a full-time load of classes. For most college students today, that is not the case. Regardless of where they attend college, students are working, at least part-time, commuting from home to campus and juggling family commitments.

Who’s attending college in Marinette? What’s life like for a college student in our community? We wanted to share a few statistics to give some of the picture. At NWTC, across the district, over 81% of students are part-time, almost half work full-time, and the average age is 27. At UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, nearly 70% of students identify as the first in their family to go to college and nearly 20% of students live in Marinette campus housing. Some students take just one class at a time.

All of us may know more college students in our community than we realize. We may be working alongside current college students who are trying to fit in studying, work and family. What does this mean for coworkers, neighbors, family and friends of college students in Marinette?

We can all be a part of the success network of our local college students by reminding them of the value of the education they are pursuing. A student’s success network needs to include not just their immediate family, but their supervisor at work, their coworkers, their neighbors and their friends.

Sometimes that might mean understanding that the student needs someone else to go with their grandparent to a doctor’s visit or to pick up a shift at work when a big exam is looming. Sometimes all it means is being a listening ear or a supportive voice reminding them that they can succeed. Chocolate works for most, too.

The education path that these students take, even one course at a time, is changing the economic opportunities that exist for our community. Businesses and industry need an educated workforce. Entrepreneurs need a foundational skillset for success. Creating a strong support network together for our community’s college students, in turn, helps us all build a stronger community.

Jennifer Flatt is the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Dean. Cindy Bailey is the UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, Campus Executive Officer.