By: Annalisa Perea, Board President
Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the U.S., a study found that nearly 35 percent of California community college students faced housing insecurity, while 14 percent experienced homelessness. Fifty-six percent struggled with food insecurity. These hardships were exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020.
Through it all, our will to help our students continue to be successful grew stronger than ever before. As the virus began to spread, my colleagues and I on the State Center Community College District board acted swiftly to continue to educate our 68,000 students at all college campuses while doing our part to stop the spread.
Our board reacted decisively by transitioning to an online learning model and implementing policies that continued all operations and prioritized the health and safety of our college community. As we transitioned to this new learning model, our Board moved forward with key projects and milestones such as:
- We broke ground on a new 800-plus-stall parking structure at Fresno City College to solve a multi-decade-old parking problem. We even utilized a design-build strategy that ended up saving taxpayers $30 million in design costs.
- We began constructing an $86 million West Fresno Community College campus, investing in a part of Fresno that has historically not seen investment of this magnitude.
- We partnered with our local Building Trades Council to prioritize the hiring of our local, skilled workforce on our SCCCD projects to ensure we continue to build up our middle-class families.
- We fed nearly 170,000 students through our campus food pantries and distributed more than $450,000 in emergency student aid funds to assist students with their educational journey and other cost of living expenses.
- Madera Community College became SCCCD’s 4th, and California’s 116th newest community college.
- We conducted a top-down review of our police academy to identify ways to provide improved training opportunities for our future officers.
I was honored by my colleagues by being selected as the board president for 2021. With the ongoing pandemic and the economic challenges that we now face, our board will continue to focus on educating our students while methodically planning for a safe return to campuses when possible. As the board president, I am committed to working with my colleagues on the following priorities for this year:
- We’ll conduct a thorough recruitment process to find our next chancellor.
- We’ll continue to build a positive working environment that focuses on trust-building, transparency, diversity, and prioritizes the voices of our employees.
- We’ll continue to invest in programs and policies that decrease the college cost for our students and prioritizes student success.
- We’ll focus on breaking ground and completing the construction of new higher education facilities, including fulfilling the promise to our community of completing these projects within budget.
Despite the challenges we continue to face, the one certainty is that we will continue to be resilient for our students, faculty, staff, and the greater Central Valley community — there is no other option.