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Dorrell gives Cerro Coso report to Chamber

The Daily Independent - 3/15/2019

March 14-- Mar. 14--Natalie Dorrell, the Director of Public Relations and Institutional Advancement at Cerro Coso Community College and member of the college's board of directors, gave a report to the community on the college at the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday afternoon.

According to Dorrell, CCCC continues to thrive and form a central part of the community, but students struggle with real problems of food insecurity and living challenges -- with as many as 20 percent of students facing homelessness at one time or another. CCCC's Hunger-Free Campus Program is intended to help address the food insecurity problem.

A long local history

CCCC celebrated its 45th anniversary last year. It opened the doors to the facility on the hill in the fall of 1973, with a grand opening the following spring.

The district, however, has been offering classes in the valley since the 1950s; previously, Bakersfield College had a satellite campus in town.

"We live in a very educated community and they demand an educated workforce," Dorrell said.

Since then, CCCC has gone on to become the first college in the state to offer an entire degree online. It is also recognized as a leader in inmate education, with faculty going to other colleges and offering guidance on how to open programs in prison.

Cerro Coso has been offering classes at the California City Correctional Facility for two years. The first graduations were held in May and December of last year. A total of 25 inmates received associate degrees earned while in prison. In addition, 63 inmates qualified for the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, Dorrell said.

This successful program has implications that go far beyond Cerro Coso.

According to Dorrell, prison education has a huge, demonstrable impact on preventing recidivism among inmates after release from incarceration. She cited the following statistics: inmates who receive no education at all while in prison have a recidivism rate of 86 percent; for those who participate in college programs the rate drops to 43 percent; of those who earn an associate's degree in prison, the recidivism rate drops to 16 percent; for those who earn a bachelor's degree in prison, it is 6 percent. For those who earn a master's degree while incarcerated, the recidivism rate drops to zero percent.

"As you can see, it behooves us to educate them," Dorrell said.

Prison inmates qualify for a Board of Governors fee waiver and the classes are mostly taught using open educational resources instead of textbooks, for the most part.

The prison classes are all taught by college professors and are the same classes they teach at other sites.

Continuing education outside California

Back at Cerro Coso, four separate commencement ceremonies were held last year. In all, 406 associate degrees and 196 certificates were awarded.

Cerro Coso graduates continue to go on to complete more education elsewhere. In an interesting statistic, more students went on to study at out-of-state colleges than in California. According to Dorrell, 95 went to out-of-state colleges; 50 went onto the California State University System; 13 to University of California and 18 to private in-state colleges.

Another trend, according to Dorrell, is high school students receiving a college degree at the same time or before completing high school -- thanks to dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment.

"It's become commonplace to for them to graduate with a college degree before they get their high school diplomas," she said.

Cerro Coso also offers interactive television classes, which are useful for bringing instruction to areas where there are few students in a particular class.

Food insecurity and homelessness

On a more somber note, Dorrell also talked about food insecurity and homelessness among college students.

"A law passed last week that allows college students to live in their cars on campus, that's how bad it's gotten," she said. Dorrell added that a recent survey of the California community college students reveals that more than half face food insecurities and nearly 20 percent have faced homelessness.

She said she was sad to report "that is true here as well."

Dorrell reported that according to a recent survey, 58.7 percent of Cerro Coso students worry about not having enough money for food to get them through the month and that is 9.7 percent higher than the sample average of other colleges in the state.

The Hunger-Free Campus Program was designed to help address this issue.

"We collect non-perishable food items and take monetary donations to purchase items to meet those needs as well as providing resources available to them throughout the valley," she explained.

In addition, Cerro Coso is seeking to help reduce or eliminate textbook costs with the help of a grant to empower professors to adopt high-quality and open educational resources for course material.

"Our goal is to eventually to allow students to complete a degree with zero textbook costs," she said. She added that the CCCC schedule of classes notes classes that don't require textbooks.

Athletic update

The Coyotes currently have five athletic teams: women's softball, women's soccer, women's volleyball, men's baseball and men's basketball.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the baseball program. In honor of this milestone, the 1993 Cerro Coso baseball team was inaugurated into the CCCC Hall of Fame.

A cultural hub

The college also serves as a cultural hub for the community. In addition to holding events to engage equity gap populations, CCCC also takes part in many local events such as the Parade of 1,000 Flags, the national Denim Day movement, community educational events like Back to School, many drives, and Domestic Violence Awareness month. In addition, the Coyotes for a Cure team is a regular participant in the Relay for Life.

Main building modernization

Dorrell said the long-awaited modernization of the on-campus main building is almost but not quite completed.

"We did move back into the building in September after three years of remodel," she said. "We are back in but we're not quite there." A big open house will eventually be held to allow the community to check out the new facility, which Dorrell said is now designed around a student-centered focus.

Cerro Coso Community College as a whole continues to rack up numerous awards and accolades. In October, it welcomed the accreditation commission for the community and junior colleges to review the college's self-evaluation study. In January, the college received news it "passed with flying colors."

CCCC Foundation

The CCCC Foundation was established in 1977. Dorrell said its mission is that no student is denied an education due to financial costs. Last year, the foundation launched the President's Circle.

"We exist on that hill because of the passion of a few movers and shakers," Dorrell said.

Last year the foundation awarded $117,000 in scholarships overall, as well as having programs such as an emergency assistance fund for students.

For more on Cerro Coso Community College, see www.cerrocoso.edu

___

(c)2019 The Daily Independent, Ridgecrest, Calif.

Visit The Daily Independent, Ridgecrest, Calif. at www.ridgecrestca.com

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