Bringing the “community” back to community college

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Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part article on how community colleges work with families and the community. The second part will air next Sunday.

As Moorpark College begins another academic year, I am reminded that Ventura County’s community colleges never really take a summer break to meet the year-round educational needs in our service area.

I am over the moon that our campuses are full of new activities and new, younger faces this summer. As President of Moorpark College, I see how our campus continues to play an important role in the lives of some of our youngest community members with our Childhood Development Center, summer camps at America’s Teaching Zoo, biotech and theater arts programs, and high school tech career workshops.

These opportunities for enrichment come because our community is more eager and willing to engage with us than ever before. As challenging as COVID-19 has been for all students and educators, nurturing and nurturing partnerships with community members and organizations remains among the most important relationships we have. They show how our universities and our community are stronger together.

Central to this community building is Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura Colleges’ partnership with high schools, community organizations and local industry to increase the number of young students entering college programs. While community colleges consider the needs of each student, those with significant challenges benefit most from being introduced to our college and programs at an early age.

At Moorpark College we serve a wide range of students including English learners, the socio-economically disadvantaged, the disabled, foster children, the homeless, first generation people and the disproportionately disadvantaged. We tailor our services to these populations to meet their specific needs and help them achieve their dreams, whether they move into a four-year facility or find meaningful employment in our community.

With dual enrollment, where high school students enroll in college classes, we are seeing more high school students on our campus. California has allocated tremendous resources to professional education at the high school and community college levels, with the understanding that we will coordinate our efforts district-wide.

Moorpark College offers more than 75 exciting Professional Education (CE) programs including Biotechnology, Computer Network Systems Engineering (CNSE), Data Science and Engineering. Many of these programs are designed to help underserved populations progress from high school through our colleges to lucrative and rewarding employment.

These partnerships also help older students reinvest in themselves to progress to high-tech, high-paying CE certificate programs at our colleges.

Moorpark College hosts summer and community-based pre-college activities, and special emphasis is placed on preparing students for college readiness. This helps close the achievement gap for minority and low-income students.

Students are introduced to target programs in science and mathematics through high school pathways. The goal of these programs is to make college less intimidating and increase confidence in challenging and well-paying employment.

Here are just some of the programs we offer:

  • Project MC2 – High school students begin pathways through existing science/math courses specifically designed for college career courses and programs.
  • STEM Impacto Program – Students are supported by peer and faculty mentors, dedicated academic advisors, workshops, paid internships, and financial incentives.
  • Safe Passages Youth Summer Camp – In partnership with the Conejo Recreation & Park District, this program offers students guided college tours and workshops that use fun activities to explore high-paying, high-skill, and in-demand careers.

For students and families who believe college is a dream far off, these programs offer a bridge to a new way of thinking about their future. I have seen this work in action at Moorpark College and there is no greater or more exciting investment we can make in the future of our community.

Lives are transformed as our community’s younger students explore the technologies, equipment and practices of high-paying careers. This is especially true for students who saw college as an unattainable dream, beyond their socioeconomic capabilities.

This is Moorpark College’s contribution to our community. Hand in hand goes the community’s contribution of support to introduce young students to the opportunities on our campus.

Julius Sokenu, Ed.D., is President of Moorpark College. To learn more about Moorpark College, visit MoorparkCollege.edu.

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