Neighborhood forum yields important questions

By Stacie Guevara, Associate Editor

In an attempt to involve more students and community members in the decision-making process at Contra Costa College, the Strategic Planning Committee recently held a neighborhood forum in Fireside Hall.

The event was held from 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 with refreshments provided, such as coffee, juice, fruit and build-your-own sandwiches. Upon entry, people were prompted to sign in and had the option to sign into an anonymous survey electronically.

This forum was held to present the strategic educational master plan to the public, addressing popular topics and questions of community members.

Interim President Damon Bell opened the meeting with an introduction and Equity and Institutional Effectiveness Dean Mayra Padilla guided a slideshow presentation.

Though the meeting was open to students and community members, the audience primarily consisted of faculty and staff.

In presenting their Contra Costa Community College District Strategic Plan 2020-2025, Padilla mentioned the accreditation process the campus is currently going through and then posed a question to the audience.

“What do you think is CCC’s role in the community?” Padilla asked.

There were poster boards all over the room decorated with questions like, “What are the values that you think CCC should embody?” and “What equity and social justice outcomes should we prioritize?”

There were also five big tables set up around the room with notepads and colored pens in the center of them. Padilla referred to these notepads and encouraged audience members to write down their thoughts, which were to be added to the poster boards in the room.

In response to CCC’s role, Director of College Advancement Sara Marcellino said it’s important to harness the community, and the CCC Foundation is not listed in the Strategic Plan, but she wants it to be.

Board of Supervisors District 1 Chief of Staff Sonia Bustamante said she sees CCC as a safe meeting place and also as an educational and cultural center for the community.

As Padilla continued to speak, she mentioned the student equity plans at CCC, one of which is the free breakfast program.

This was brought up when someone asked about students’ basic needs and security, to which Padilla mentioned the Food Pantry and campus showers in the locker rooms.

Currently, no housing for homeless students is offered, however, qualifying students are eligible for housing units in the area and the county. But that’s not always a sure thing.

District Governing Board Trustee Rebecca Barrett said to audience members, “The bottom line is that there isn’t land available for housing, so our school’s housing can’t be built.”

Barrett told audience members if they are ever at a meeting or have an opportunity to talk to Assemblyperson Buffy Wicks or other legislators, they should bring up issues like housing and homelessness to them.

Another point that was brought up was the ability to maintain respectful communication between the college and the community.

Some of the committee’s vision for success goals are to increase the number of CCC students annually who acquire associate degrees, credentials, certificates or specific skill sets by at least 20 percent. Some of the next steps are a student survey operating from Feb. 18 to March 3, and a student forum.

To close the meeting, Padilla again encouraged audience members to put their notes on the poster boards and voice their opinions.