District turns 65 years old

Sean Tongson

This year marks an important milestone in the history of the Contra Costa Community College District.

On Dec. 27, the Contra Costa Community College District will be celebrating its 65th anniversary. In commemoration of the event, district officials are currently planning a celebration commemorating the event involving local, state, and district officials, college faculty and students.

Although specifics of the celebration, in terms of festivities, are still very much in the planning phases, details are said to become much clearer a month from now.

“A lot of the details haven’t been worked out,” said Contra Costa Community College District Director of Communications Tim Leong. “Details are still sketchy, but we’re looking at a December time frame. We are planning on having our first meeting on May 16, where volunteers will get some marching orders on what they will be doing. We hope to have more information in a month or so. We are also going to talk to some of the colleges to see what ideas they have.”

The Contra Costa Community College District traces its roots back to Dec. 27, 1948, where the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors officially declared the then-Contra Costa County Junior College District as a result of an election on Dec. 14.

“CCCJCD was one of 14 districts formed in the state of California between 1946-1950 as a result of the GI Bill, the high influx of military and war at the time, and the new realization that education beyond high school was a requirement,” said District Chancellor Helen Benjamin.

Upon its formation, CCCJCD was the first county-wide college in the state. Two army classrooms in Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg was the District’s first instructional site in September 1949, and would serve as the future site for LMC. A month later, a small temporary campus opened up in the Richmond Waterfront area utilizing three buildings serving several hundred students.

Nearly 65 years later, the magnitude of the growth of the community is reflected in the county’s population and number of students. In 1949, the population was only 249,232. Nearly 65 years later, Contra Costa County has grown to over a million people, with the Contra Costa Community College District having grown from one to five facilities. Today, Contra Costa Community College has 35,775 enrolled students, although prior to budget cuts that number was near 62,000.

“We look at these kinds of celebrations from a number of different fronts,” said Leong. “We want to first of all acknowledge the support of the community to pass bonds in Prop 30 which cut back budget reductions. Now that we’re getting back on the right track, along with all these other things in terms of legislation, we need to do our part in terms of promoting student success, and reminding the community of the contributions of life we’re making to Contra Costa County.”

Leong noted that the District is eyeing more growth in the near future, including expansion of the LMC Brentwood Campus, as well as facility improvements to the DVC San Ramon Campus and Contra Costa College.

“We have leased space for building a 17-acre campus at the site of the Brentwood campus,” said Leong. “This is all thanks to the bond measures.”

Milestone celebrations are done on a regular basis by the District.

Attending the celebration are elected officials from the community, state, district, and the colleges, including many students from all colleges. Amongst those representing Los Medanos College will be Math Department Chair Julie Von Bergen.

“I am looking forward to an anniversary event that includes student success stories throughout the past 65 years, and learning more about the history of the district,” said Von Bergen.

Leong notes that above all, this is a community celebration, and a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the community while showcasing the talents and minds of the students and also to encourage other students.

“We’re going to be inviting a lot of folks,” said Leong. “This is about our students, so some of the things we’re going to be doing are making sure there is plenty of entertainment from our students. You will have music, singing, drama, and gospel. In addition, we want to use this as opportunity to speak and promote some of our programs, the kind of things we do, what our students do, to showcase our tremendous growth, and to help plant the seed to say we’re committed to keep transforming the lives of our students.”