“The Southern California We Are the Key! Community College Rally” highlighted the importance of funding community colleges that GCC and 16 other community colleges attended at Pasadena City College (PCC) on Feb. 27.
The Community Colleges Public Relations Organization, a non-profit organization that informed the colleges of the rally in support of public education, organized the event.
According to The Community College League of California, the funds have increased 3 percent for enrollment growth ($185.4 million), “enough funds for 36,000 new full-time equivalent.”
Even though the budget was passed on Feb. 19 to continue funding community colleges and the funding towards Cal Grants, the challenge of higher education was highlighted at the event.
“Our goal here is to remind all legislators that community colleges are the key to the economic recovery right now because we need people to go back to school, get an education, and go back into the workforce,” said Ovsanna Khachikian, president and student trustee of Associated Students of Glendale Community College (ASGCC), who attended the event with the rest of ASGCC.
Former community college students attended the rally to share their appreciation of the educational institution they attended, including host Dat Phan, first season winner of “Last Comic Standing.” Phan attended Grossmont Community College in San Diego.
“Community college helped me through the darkest of times of my life,” said Phan. “I took a speech class, that’s what led me to doing stand up comedy. I would not have won ‘Last Comic Standing’ if it wasn’t for community college.”
From regular high school student in South Central Los Angeles to Long Beach Community College valedictorian and now Stanford University student, Ahmad Lewis, told of the steps he took to reach his goal.
“You know how you get to Stanford? By turning in that one paper that’s due tomorrow on time. Doing the best you can at every moment and then treating each new moment like an opportunity to do the best you can and when you do that, all those moments add up into greatness,” said Lewis.
Hundreds of community college students who stood around the mirror pools of PCC cheered and clapped after every speaker and those who held banners with phrases such as “Our Education is an Investment,” “Believe in Me,” and “Keep the Doors Open,” extended their arms into the air holding their signs higher.
Cynthia Damboise, nurse of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, with 30 years of nursing experience, spoke of her appreciation to community college instruction and said that nurses have a job waiting for them.
“If it wasn’t for community colleges, I would be totally gray. You will fix the supply and demand of our health care crisis,” said Damboise.
The hospital, as Damboise mentioned, is a 60-bed-unit with occupancy of 110 percent every day.
“I have patients all over the hospital. I need nurses,” said Damboise, “I’m able to get nurses after two years of school. Nursing is so fortunate to have the community colleges to support them.”
According to Damboise, 97 percent of her nurses come from community colleges.
As attendees of the event supported the speakers, some thought of what will happen next and what they were grateful for.
Ramona Barrio-Sotillo, GCC EOPS counselor, professor, governor at large for Faculty Association of Community Colleges (FACC), and public information officer for the Glendale College Faculty Guild, was pleased that the budget was passed and that tuition remained at $26 per unit.
According to the Community College League of California the following suggestions were defeated: A proposed 5 percent apportionment cuts, proposed $30 to $40 unit student fees, with the benefit going to the state general fund and not students, proposed differential funding for physical education and arts classes, proposed elimination of Competitive Cal Grants; which is financial aid for our neediest students and proposed 20.2 percent cuts to categorical programs including technology, part-time faculty support, foster care and child care.
“We got out pretty easy, we were thinking about cutting a few classes and eliminating the second summer session,” said Barrio-Sotillo. “Next year is a bit worrisome; there is some money for growth, and at the same time, the state is still suffering through its crisis. We have one of the highest unemployment rates of the United States – that’s always worrisome.”
Paulette Perfumo, president of Pasadena City College let the attendees know that “for every dollar the state spends on a California community college, four dollars go back into the local economy, by way of jobs and better economic conditions.”
According to Facts of Community Colleges by the Community College League of California, “80 percent of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMTs are credentialed at community colleges. 39 colleges administer Police officers standards and training (POST) academies. 64 have fire technology programs for training firefighters.”
“Community colleges are the economic engine for the state of California and it’s important that we have the funding and the support to continue to educate all of you so that you have a brighter future in this great state of California,” said Perfumo.
Even though Khachikian was glad that the budget passed. She said that “the fight is not over there,” since there will be propositions in upcoming elections that may change the current budget or how it will be spent.