Southern California Students Fight to Fund Cut Classes

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Victor Valley College students “occupy” vehicles for 37 days to raise money for 50 new classes.

We decided we had to do something to confront this challenge, and we’re calling upon our community to stand up for our students. We are happy to hear that some relief may come from Sacramento, but we can’t afford to wait and see." - Val Christensen

Fed up with California state education cuts that have resulted in fewer college classes, residents and students in the Victor Valley region of California are turning to themselves for a solution. Since May 1st, the Victor Valley College Foundation has been promoting Campaign for Classes, with the aim to raise $250,000 in order to add 50 new core classes to the 2013-2014 school year.

To help draw attention to their plight, students are participating in ‘Auto Occupado’. For 37 days, May 1st to June 7th, a vehicle is continuously occupied by a student, Victor Valley College employee, or community member. There are also other events surrounding the occupied automobile, such as when a skydiver delivered the keys to a new vehicle on May 8th. The Auto Occupado participants are also being being broadcast live on the website livestream.com.

“Auto Occupado is really a metaphor for the current situation. Our students are ready and eager to learn and graduate, but don’t have the classes available to do so,” stated Ginger Ontiveros, Victor Valley College Foundation Executive Director. “It’s like sitting in a brand new car but not having the gas to drive it. That’s how frustrating it is.”

Vehicles for Auto Occupado are being provided by the Victor Valley College Foundation’s ally in the campaign, the Valley Hi Auto Group. Beyond providing vehicles, the group has already pledged $20,000 to the campaign, and is working through its member dealerships to raise even more.

Last week, the campaign got an unexpected boost when Governor Jerry Brown released his May budget revise. The Governor’s plan will restore some community college classes that had been previously cut during the recent economic downturn. Even if the plan is passed as proposed its impact will not meet the demand say Campaign for Classes organizers. Still while continuing their much-needed fundraising effort, they have added their voice to those encouraging the Legislature to approve the Governor’s budget.

“Statewide education cuts have forced students to delay transferring to a four-year college, or even putting off college altogether,” stated Val Christensen, President of the Victor Valley Community College Foundation. “We decided we had to do something to confront this challenge, and we’re calling upon our community stand up for our students. We are happy to hear that some relief may come from Sacramento, but we can’t afford to wait and see. Our students need help now.”

The campaign recently hit half its goal with just two and half weeks left, and students are working even harder to meet the $250,000 mark by June 7th.

Anyone wishing to make a $10 donation can do so by texting ‘GIVE2VVC’ to 20222 on their mobile phone. The donation will appear on the cell phone owner’s bill and standard texting fees and rates apply.

“We came to the realization that if something was going to be done about this, we’d be doing it ourselves,” stated Ontiveros. “It’s unacceptable for willing and able college students to be held back in their education because the classes they need aren’t available. So, we’re raising the money, together, as a community.”

Victor Valley College serves the High Desert region of San Bernardino County. For many of the 400,000 residents in the area, it is the only higher education source within an hour’s drive. The area is designated as low revenue, meaning Victor Valley College receives less per student funding than most other California educational institutions. The college currently receives funding for about 9,000 full time students, but, in reality, services many more.

For more information, visit http://www.VVCFoundation.com or call Ginger Ontiveros at (760) 245-4271 ext. 2523.

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