It was an historic first day of school for College of the Canyons on Monday, Aug. 27, as thousands of students were welcomed at the newly opened Canyon Country Campus.
Officially making COC a college on two campuses but with one mission -- to increase access to education for all students -- opening day at the Canyon Country Campus (CCC) had its share of unexpected first day complications. However those problems were overshadowed by the overwhelming feeling of excitement shared by students, administration and faculty alike in seeing the new campus open.
Even before the first group of students began arriving for morning classes an assortment of college administrators, instructors and staff members were on hand to distribute campus maps and class guides, help students locate their classrooms and otherwise assist with first day navigation of the new campus.
"I was thinking this morning it was 37 years ago that I did this very same thing on the original campus in Valencia," said COC board member Bruce Fortine, who served on the college's first board of trustees when the original campus opened in 1970, "and I'm very proud to be back again doing the same thing - telling students how to get to class, and where to go, and how to park.
"Everything is pretty much the same. We went into temporary modular buildings at the time, and they looked good, but they didn't look like these."
Board President Michelle Jenkins was also involved in the college's original campus opening -- but as a student, having previously attended classes at the college's temporary location on the Hart High School campus.
"It was pretty fun, we went to classes at the original campus in modulars too. So when I drove up here this morning and all the cars were lined up I thought oh this is so exciting," said Jenkins before also commenting on how quickly the college was able to get its second campus up and running.
"I think its amazing that here we are opening our doors to 3,000 students not even hardly two years after we purchased the land," Jenkins said. "It just shows the kind of creativity and hard work the whole college staff is willing to put in. Even with all the little glitches we're still out here serving our students, and the glitches aren't even in the classrooms."
While the campus did experience some first day phone system, air conditioning and classroom lock issues, for the most part things ran smoothly -- thanks largely in part to the college's dedicated staff of campus guides who were quick to answer campus questions and point students in the right direction.
"It is very exciting. We have a team of staff and faculty who have been on the new campus, handing out maps, pins, water and providing assistance and direction to the students," said Dena Maloney, the college's CCC founding dean. "All the students we have talked with are pleased with their classes and with the new campus. And for me that's what this is all about, ensuring students have access to education. To see that come to fruition is very gratifying."
Located on Sierra Highway, less than two miles north of Soledad Canyon Road, the college's $51.6 million CCC is terraced into the rolling hills of the 70 acre site, which provides a sweeping view of the surrounding terrain.
Opening with 24,000 square feet of instructional space -- including two science labs, two computer labs, a library, a book store, a PE building, an Early Childhood Education facility, food services and 23 classrooms complete with wireless Internet connectivity -- the CCC will offer students more than 300 classes in the inaugural semester alone.
In addition to the high number of transferable, basic skills and vocational education courses and associate's degree and certificate programs being offered at the CCC, students will also have access to a number of non-credit and community extension courses.
Also included on the CCC will be the William S. Hart Union High School District's Early College High School - in which students take both high school and college level classes, with a goal to graduate with both a high school diploma and associate's degree. The ECHS will open with 85 students in its freshman class, and will add a new freshman class each year.
"We're just ecstatic to be partnered with College of the Canyons with our Early College High School. We're really excited about the possibilities," said William S. Hart Union High School District board member, Gloria Mercado-Fortine. "We have the Academy of the Canyons at the Valencia campus, which has been such a successful program, so we know that we're going to be just as successful with the Early College High School on this campus."
Though the opening of the CCC marks a new venture for the college, COC's service of students in the Canyon Country area is nothing new. The college initially began offering classes in the area at Canyon High School nearly a decade ago before eventually developing an ACCESS Center at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library and opening the full-service campus.
"Probably 60 percent, if not more, of our students end up taking classes and getting educated at College of the Canyons," said Canyon High School principal Bob Messina. "So the fact that COC has made that easier and more obtainable, right here on our side of town is really exciting. I've already waved at three former students here on campus."
Expected to service an estimated 3,000 students in the first semester alone, at build-out -- currently scheduled for 2015 -- the CCC will service nearly 10,000 students and contain seven permanent multi-story buildings, the first of which is scheduled to begin construction during the 2008-09 school year.
The College of the Canyons CCC will host an "Opening Celebration" Saturday, October 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., giving the community an opportunity to visit its newest college campus.
Highlights of the day will include food, live entertainment, and the opportunity to meet college faculty and staff from dozens of programs and departments who will be on hand to share information, accept applications and help students enroll in late-start classes.
Raffles will be held throughout the day, and one lucky winner will walk away with a prize package giving them one free year of college. Other prizes include a laptop computer donated by CBC Carpet Cleaning and Restoration, a GPS navigation device from NE Systems, Inc., tickets to shows at the Performing Arts Center and a variety of gift cards donated by local businesses.