When a school district and a community college work hand in hand, what can be accomplished?

That was the question in mind at a community meeting at John Muir High School June 16, at the site of PCC’s most recently established satellite campus. The college has been offering classes for high school students and adults at the high school since January 2016.
 
Following the recent completion of the first semester of operations, PCC administrators were interested to learn about steps they could take to have the campus more closely serve the community’s needs. Dr. Robert Bell, PCC’s assistant superintendent and vice president for noncredit and satellite campuses, felt like he was asking the Lincoln Avenue campus, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
 
Although the campus has started small, with only 152 students attending six courses in Spring 2016, the concept presents an appealing mix of education styles to community members such as PCC Trustee Berlinda Brown. She’s served as a champion of the educational outlet in an area of Pasadena that has been traditionally underserved by higher education. She remains convinced that the community will respond to services once they are widely advertised. “We need to make sure the neighborhood knows this is here,” she said.
 
Unlike the college’s other campuses on Colorado and Foothill Boulevards, as well as its operation in Rosemead, the facility at John Muir shares space with a high school, presenting some unexpected challenges to regular college operations. For instance, adults are not permitted to come onto the grounds during the school day without registering at the front office, which makes it difficult for PCC to offer adult classes before 3:15 p.m. Operating hours are restricted as a result.
 
Dr. Bell said that plans are in discussion to physically separate PCC’s classrooms from the rest of the campus in some way, so concerns about security at the high school will not prevent the college from offering daytime classes to adults on the south end of the John Muir campus. Further improvements include bringing the facility into compliance with disability access standards.
 
The colocation with a high school offers advantages as well. Muir Principal Timothy Sippel shared a story of 18 high school freshmen who had taken PCC’s college-level Spanish 1. Adults taking the class had stopped him in the hallway to compliment the quality of their work. 
 
“PCC’s presence at John Muir has been part of the college-going culture here,” Sippel said. “We’ve got opportunities that exceed what’s available at other Pasadena high schools, as well as those elsewhere in the area.”
 
Administrators and members of the community were intrigued by ideas of expanding these crossovers between the high school and college experience. Instead of offering only general-education courses, PCC Northwest could be a site for career training opportunities, giving attendees the chance to earn a job skills certificate over the course of a semester. “You could have a high school student earning credit toward college while her mom gets a certificate to advance her career,” said Dolores Hickambottom, co-chair of PCC’s African American Advisory Committee. 
 
The college also hopes to capitalize on Muir’s position to expand its dual-enrollment efforts, which allow high school students to earn college credit during the school day. The program is seen as a way for young people to start college early, thereby saving money on college costs and accelerating their transition to higher education. Even though students take these courses in traditional high school classrooms, they are motivated by the presence of a college on their campus, Dr. Bell said.
 
Beyond individual degrees or courses of study, this presence has a value within the community, Sippel said. By seeing PCC within their own neighborhood, the community knows that college is something accessible to them as a regular part of their lives, and not something that takes place across town.
 

10/24/2017