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Launching Bridge Programs for Students

Launching Bridge Programs for Students

Candice Carson, Coutts & Clark Western Foundation

Thanks to a six-figure donation from FLC Foundation executive committee member Candice Carson, Fort Lewis College's Academic Affairs department launched two new summer bridge programs in May 2022. The two new programs, XWeek and Maymester, join JumpStart and Skyhawk Summer Bridge to support first-year students and rising sophomores. From retaking core courses to connecting with mentors and peers on exciting adventures, students will have the opportunity to hone skills necessary for future successes. Supported by Carson's donation, students won't pay a dime for these invaluable experiences.

“I was sold on the summer bridge program idea after talking to Lee Bitsói (FLC's former associate vice president of Diversity Affairs and special advisor to the president for Indigenous Affairs), who told me he was a first-generation student and he attributes his success to a bridge program he attended during his first year of college,” said Carson, who has been giving to FLC for nearly 20 years.

With the proceeds from the sale of a family business, Carson, her sister, brother, and two nephews started two foundations in 2000. Carson named the foundations after her grandmother's maiden name, Coutts, and her mother's maiden name, Clark. The Coutts & Clark Eastern Foundation has roots on the east coast, where their family is from, while the other foundation is based in Durango, Colorado. Carson manages the Coutts & Clark Western Foundation.

Candice Carson reads a book to a group of children in Myanmar.
Candice Carson connects with students at a school that the Coutts & Clark Western Foundation built in Myanmar. For the last 20 years, her family's foundation has contributed myriad resources to educational institutions around the globe, including Fort Lewis College.

The Coutts & Clark Western Foundation has three overarching goals. The first goal centers on women's reproductive rights and education as a way out of poverty. The second is a commitment to overseas development: the Foundation currently supports community-based projects that promote self-sufficiency in Myanmar, India, Zambia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. The third motivation of the Foundation is to bolster the community of Durango and Fort Lewis College.

Initially drawn to the region by FLC's impact, Carson moved to Durango in 1993. Eleven years later, the Coutts & Clark Western Foundation started the William G. Carson Memorial scholarships, which gives to Village Aid Project students.

"Seeing our scholarship students' desires to change the world gives me hope for the future," she said.

Besides providing student scholarships, Carson has also donated to FLC's Common Reading Experience, Peace & Conflict Studies program, Outdoor Pursuits, Alternative Spring Break, Engineers Without Borders (now called Village Aid Project), and to local nonprofits, including Planned Parenthood, the Shanta Foundation, Mountain Studies Institute, and the Women's Resource Center. Since launching Coutts & Clark in 2000, the Foundation has given away nearly $2 million.

"Being on the FLC Foundation Board gave me the understanding that COVID-19 could be an existential threat to the college,” Carson said. “And the bridge programs offer a powerful opportunity for students who need the extra support to stay in college. I believe that retention and enrollment are keys to supporting FLC that align with our family's foundation mission.”

Summer Bridge Programs

two students play rock paper scissors in a classroom.


May – June 2022

A three-week course designed for rising sophomores who need to retake Math or Composition courses

Learn more
A student climbing a cliff in a harness and helmet.


May 2022

Two one-week, choose-your-own-adventure sessions, one for rising sophomores and the other open to all students

Learn more
a group of students jumps and smiles


August 2022

A one-week course designed for incoming first-year students to prepare for college

Learn more
Three students paddle on a lake with mountains in the background.

Skyhawk Summer Bridge

August 2022

A four-week course designed for incoming first-year students to get started on either Math or Composition courses

Learn more
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