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Fernando Figueroa: Conversation with NKY mayors spurs discussion of expanding River Cities Initiative

My goal as president of Gateway is to bring together elected officials, businesses, educators and leaders of all kinds to work collectively on the opportunities and challenges of our Northern Kentucky community. 


As Northern Kentucky’s link between businesses and employees – and a critical first step to a better life for tens of thousands of our residents – it makes sense for Gateway to serve as the convener of this discussion.

Earlier this month, members of the Gateway Board of Directors, Gateway leadership team and I had the pleasure of hosting the first of what will be a continuing conversation with mayors throughout Northern Kentucky.

In a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion, this group of dedicated community leaders touched on a variety of topics, all centered on how Gateway Community and Technical College can best serve their residents and their cities. 

My main takeaway from this meeting had to do with ensuring access to higher education – which, along with removing barriers and providing a relevant and engaging curriculum, comprises Gateway’s three main strategies. The mayors believe Gateway needs to be more visible among residents, and do a better job of outlining the how and why of the college. We will certainly do that.

But visibility is only one component of access.

After talking to the mayors, I am more convinced than ever of the need to expand the prototype of the River Cities Initiative, of which Gateway is a charter member. River Cities is currently underway at Gateway’s Urban Metro Campus in Covington and features partnerships with the Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow and Newport school districts.

Students from these schools will take courses in Logistics/Supply Chain and Information Technology in a deliberate and focused effort to tie students and employer together directly for careers in in-demand industries. It builds on programs already in place at Covington Holmes and Lloyd.

What might River Cities look like in Florence or Taylor Mill or Wilder? What partnerships can we strike with other cities, and other employers? How can we extend the benefits of the River Cities template beyond high school students to parents and other adults? These and other questions are what Gateway will be focusing on in the weeks and months to come.

In closing, I would like to thank mayors Paul Meier (Crestview Hills), Diane Whalen (Florence), Jessica Fette (Erlanger), Daniel Bell (Taylor Mill), Robert Arnold (Wilder) and Charlie Cleves (Bellevue) for taking time to meet with us, and for being so engaging and engaged. I, we, look forward to working with you.

Fernando Figueroa is president of Gateway Community and Technical College.

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