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
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.