Being situated near the coast, it is appropriate that Ventura College adopted a lighthouse as its symbol. Like a lighthouse, we are a beacon — a beacon of learning — a source of inspiration and guidance for our students and community.

As Ventura College kicks off its 90th year, we applaud President Barack Obama’s new proposal to cover the cost of community colleges for students “willing to work for it.” The Ventura College Foundation’s Promise Grant, which covers a major cost associated with the first year of Ventura College, dovetails nicely with the president’s proposal.
The Dare-to-Dream Program, which has expanded into the current Ventura College Promise Program, began in 2000 and awarded six student grants funded by local bankers in 2002. From these humble beginnings, over 10,000 students have had their enrollment fees paid by the Ventura College Foundation through the program, which greatly reduces first year college expenses.

The president also proposed the American Technical Training Fund, a fund that would partner with businesses to upgrade the job skills of low-wage earners so that they can advance their careers with higher-paying, higher-responsibility jobs.

These proposals validate the crucial role that Ventura College and all community colleges play in educating our future workforce and in supporting our local, state and national economies.

Throughout the decades, we’ve held the belief that students come first and all else follows. Integral to the educational experience is creating a strong vision for how the college can best serve our students’ educational needs and assisting in preparing them for their future endeavors.

To that end, the VC administrative and educational team identified strategic goals that will help students obtain career training or transfer to a four-year college or university, and foster a strong relationship with our community.

Our top priority is assisting students to achieve their educational, career and personal goals.

Our students bring with them varied backgrounds, socioeconomic standings and life experiences, creating a vibrant student population that has much to offer and also has specific needs to enhance its opportunities for success.

Dr. Patrick Jefferson, executive vice president, student learning, oversees the college’s Student Success and Support Program that continues to evolve based on student needs. For each student, the college’s staff conducts a student learning outcomes assessment and has established degree and career pathways.

There are several new and continuing programs to help ensure student success:
    •   Based on feedback from new students,
        especially recent high school graduates,
        that college intimidated them, the college
        launched an orientation program. Called
        the Ventura College Freshmen Experience,
        it helps students understand what college
        is about, from the expectations to the
        available resources. Giving students this
        head start, plus assistance programs on
        campus, make them more likely to stay in
    •   Looking beyond the campus to the greater
         community, the college is building
         programs to connect the talent and
         resources in our business community
         with our students. One of these
         collaborations is with other educational
         stakeholders via Ventura County
         Innovates. This $13 million grant is
         designed to increase workforce
         preparedness of teens and adults by giving
         them hands-on learning experiences. The
         college’s new Applied Science Center,
         expected to open this fall, will focus on
         high-skilled technical training and
         pathways to careers.

    •   The college is working collaboratively
        with a number of partners on the Adult
        Education Planning Consortium,
        developing a regional plan to increase
        access to adult education and improving
         student success. The planning grant is
         expected to be completed in March,
         followed by implementation.

    •   Also on the college’s list of imperative
         projects are plans to expand educational
         services for Santa Paula and the Santa
         Clara River Valley. We support the college’s
         activities to provide dual-enrollment
         courses in area high schools, further a
         workforce and economic development

Our Ventura College Foundation board of directors is working hard with the college to ensure that generations of students will continue to reap the benefits of a Ventura College education.

John Woolley, Ed.D., is the chair of the Ventura College Foundation Board of Directors. He is a retired Ventura College educator.