This article ran in the VC Star on August 28, 2022.
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part article on how community colleges partner with families and the community. The first part ran on August 21 in the VC Star.
By Julius Sokenu
Being a community college leader is integrally tied to engaging our community, as we are partners on so many levels. As president of Moorpark College, I have the great pleasure of speaking at local chambers of commerce and Rotary Clubs and being invited to participate in city planning and other committees.
With each interaction, I see that everyone benefits through these partnerships with our college. The relationships are reciprocal, meeting the needs of local businesses, government agencies, and industry with skilled labor and, of course, our students. We teach students relevant curriculum so they can transfer to universities; we provide enrichment opportunities in state-of-the-art facilities that serve as social hubs for a variety of people.
These community partnerships lead to transformational change in our community and cultivate a healthy culture of student success.
When speaking to a community group earlier this month, I focused on some of the wonderful career education (CE) programs we offer to engage middle and high school students in underserved areas. It’s important to highlight these programs in the community because people often aren’t aware that with an associate degree or certificate a student can secure a high-wage career position or that we diligently align curriculum with industry needs.
Every CE program has an advisory board of local businesses and industries that help keep our curriculum current and ensure the technologies we provide students meet industry standards. Students benefit from work-based and service-learning opportunities, where their experience enriches their education through on-the-job training. It also helps them be better connected to the community in which they live and learn and be engaged citizens of a healthy democracy.
Community partnerships at Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges allow organizations and the colleges to share responsibilities by collaborating in meaningful ways to address the local need, solve social problems like health disparities, engage in difficult conversations on current events and address housing and food insecurity, bullying and other educational achievement gaps.
Moorpark College recently entered into a multi-year agreement with Adventist Health Simi Valley to invest in our local community's well-being. Our partnership benefits both organizations by combining our efforts through shared values and goals.
It combines Moorpark College’s stellar reputation in education with the healthcare expertise of Adventist Health Simi Valley, benefiting local community college students and their families. The hospital and college recognized the existence of a community need and embraced the opportunity.
Simply put, the collaboration is predicated on the belief that healthy students plus healthy careers equal a healthy Eastern Ventura County community.
The four components of the partnership are:
- Raider Central — Basic Needs Center (where students can pick up free food, clothing and hygiene products and get housing referral assistance)
- Career Development — Healthcare Pathways
- Access to Healthcare Services Onsite
- Athletic Program & Sports Medicine
Jennifer Swenson, president of Adventist Health Simi Valley, believes our collaboration “enhances the health of not only students but their families and friends. Dedicating resources focusing on career opportunities, health and well-being, food insecurities, training and sports will significantly benefit Moorpark College and our broader communities.”
It has helped Adventist Health Simi Valley and the college redefine roles and relationships and build consensus around the vision for the future of Ventura County.
Together, we are making our community healthier, one partnership and one student at a time.
We are honored that Adventist Health Simi Valley chose to make this investment in our students and college. It provides a model for further community engagement and partnership in other sectors and strengthens the commitment that Moorpark College has made to the future of our community.
I have learned so much in my interactions with the industries, chambers, Rotaries and other community groups. Every time I attend an event, people eagerly share stories of Moorpark College's impact on their lives — stories of three generations of students all in a single family, of coming to the college after losing a job and learning skills that resulted in a better career.
Business leaders share that they were so impressed with a Moorpark College intern that they were compelled to hire the student as a full-time employee. And professionals tell of being the first person in their family to complete a college degree.
The presidents of Ventura and Oxnard colleges have heard similar stories.
Being a community college in Ventura County means being invested in your community. We are partners in celebrating the past and building a present and future together.
Julius Sokenu, Ed.D., is the president of Moorpark College. To learn more about Moorpark College, visit MoorparkCollege.edu.