AURORA | Just because a school doesn’t have “university” in its title doesn’t mean its students can’t hang with the big fish.

The Community College of Aurora proved just that earlier this week when a group of CCA students beat out teams from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Colorado Boulder to win a $20,000 grant from a handful of federal agencies.

“This is an extremely notable achievement for our students,” said Dr. Bobby Pace, chair of the social sciences department at CCA. “Our students can compete with the best of the best.”

Community College of Aurora students pose with Dr. Bobby Pace.
Community College of Aurora students pose with Dr. Bobby Pace.

The grant comes as the result of CCA students’ work with the Peer2Peer program, a U.S. Department of State-led initiative to combat violent extremism. As part of their local Peer2Peer project, a group of 17 CCA students launched a social media campaign, called “Thank You America,” in late January intended to welcome new immigrants to the community. The CCA team also hosted several events catered to immigrants and refugees, including a small arts festival and a business fair that featured immigrant-run firms.

In total, the CCA group’s social media campaign reached more than 24,000 people on Facebook, according to a press release.

CCA was chosen as one of 60 colleges from across the country to participate in the program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice and Facebook. The local community college was one of just three community colleges from across the country selected to take part in the program, according to CCA spokeswoman Mary Meeks.

To get the program off the ground, the CCA’s Peer2Peer project received $400 in support from Facebook and $2,000 from EdVenture Partners, a subsidiary of the U.S. State Department, according to Pace.

On top of winning the $20,000 grant, CCA received an additional $5,000 in scholarships to be given to the nearly 20 students who helped organize the Peer2Peer project at the college.

Meeks said that the CCA students may travel to Washington, D.C., in late June for a chance to win the worldwide Peer2Peer contest, which will be judged by officials from the U.S. government and Facebook. CCA could be one of six colleges vying to win the top prize.

 Air Force and CU Boulder respectively placed second and third in the recent state competition.