Residents See Proposed West Fresno Campus as ‘Beacon of Culture’
August 30, 2017
Fresno City College administrators and faculty met with local leaders from the west Fresno community at the Economic Opportunity Commission center on Aug. 29, to discuss how a new satellite campus could positively impact the area and its residents.
The event was coordinated by Carole Goldsmith, president of FCC, and Brian King, director of the EOC’s Fresno Street Saints, a southwest Fresno community outreach program. Leading the conversation was FCC’s vice president of administrative services, Cheryl Sullivan.
“We can’t build a building and not know what programs are going in it,” Sullivan said. “We want to know what you want.”
During the meeting, representatives of West Fresno discussed some factors that limited the ability of members of their community from attending college, as well as what programs and services they would like to see instituted in the future campus.
In ensuing discussions, it was evident that the neighborhood was hungry for higher education.
The groups discussed the programs they felt were needed in west Fresno as well as their goal to create programs that would draw students from outside the area to attend the new campus.
Some of the programs most desired included robotics, computer coding and vocational training in areas such as construction, plumbing and aeronautics.
Earl Canson Jr., a local pastor at the Fresno Westside Seventh-Day Adventist Church, noted the need of a college campus in the area to introduce, familiarize and establish a culture of higher education and community pride.
“[Access] invites the community to feel like part of the institution,” Canson said. “This is our institution.”
However, building the campus is only part of the battle. Participants at the meeting discussed some obstacles facing students in the area such as childcare options, financial aid and a lack of parental support, as well as numerous poverty-related issues within the neighborhood.
Grover Cobb, Fresno resident and community leader, proposed that children be exposed to the college experience at an early age in order to familiarize them with the concept of higher education, and make the idea of attending college a very real possibility for them.
“What are we doing with Head Start and other things that are preparing children to not be afraid of higher education?” Cobb asked. “First Five California and Head Start are in southwest [Fresno] already, then we need them involved in this.”
Throughout the conversations, there was a sense that a college campus in the neighborhood represented more than a center for classes and schoolwork, but would also be a beacon of culture, sophistication and independent thought.
“Free speech is what colleges were known for,” Cobb said. “Free speech should be a key element of this new campus.”
The campus to be constructed in the west Fresno area will be funded by Measure C, a ballot initiative passed in 2016, granting a $485 million bond to the State Center Community College District.
Students and community members are invited to join in the next discussion taking place at Bethlehem Baptist Church on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.