Reclaiming the California Dream
Episode 5 - The Struggle to Create "Community" in Community College
Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.
Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund (https://aapiforce-ef.org) and Project by Project San Francisco (https://projectbyproject.org).
Produced by Raymond Luu.
Hey everyone. Raymond Luu here, would you mind if I tell you about a special event that we’re planning? Of course you don’t, kind of have no choice by listening. Anyways, join Project by Project and AAPI FORCE on Sunday, October 11th at 7:00 PM for a night of covering this year’s critical election. We’ll be covering important ballot measures and positions that impact our community the most. To register for the event, go to projectbyproject.org/aapivote. Again, that’s projectbyproject.org/aapivote. We’ll see you there. Hey everyone. Welcome to our limited podcast series, Reclaiming the California Dream. We’ll be hearing stories from some amazing individuals and how much their community means to them. The Schools and Communities First Act, also known as Proposition 15, will restore $12 billion a year in funding for our roads, parks and libraries; health clinics and trauma centers; local schools and colleges. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, fight stability for our families, and build a future where all Californians have access to quality healthcare, and the education we deserve. Today’s episode is a conversation between Andrew, who’s one of our volunteers, and an Ohlone College student who wishes to remain anonymous. The student talks about attending college in an all virtual classroom where both the students and the instructors have some struggles adjusting to the new environment. The student also describes how a community college doesn’t actually feel like a community because of the campus culture due to its lack of funding towards student clubs and groups. Enjoy the episode.
My first question is, could you introduce yourself?
Ohlone College Student (02:00):
I’m 19 years old, and I go to Ohlone College, and I live in Newark, California.
Could you share what you study and how long you’ve gone there?
Ohlone College Student (02:10):
So I’ve been at Ohlone College for about a year. I’ll be starting my second year this fall, and I’m currently an economics major.
What would you say are some of the benefits of going to Ohlone College?
Ohlone College Student (02:22):
So I’d say some of the benefits of community college would be the pricing and just the the flexibility of it I would say, cause you’re paying significantly less for classes that you would take otherwise at like a four-year university like UC Davis, UC, Berkeley, or wherever you go. And at the same time, you’re also living probably at home most likely. And you could be working at the same time and just really just building yourself up I would say, like in a more contained environment. Because most likely if you’re attending community college, you’re going to be probably somewhere that you’re really familiar with. So yeah, I’d say that’s like kind of like the biggest benefit is just the cost and the familiarity of it.
Yeah, definitely. What has been your favorite part of your community college experience so far? I know you mentioned like some of the benefits, but is there like something that like stands out to you particularly?
Ohlone College Student (03:20):
I guess my favorite part is just meeting some of the professors, like, it’s kind of weird because I usually just think that like the community college professors were just like these random hired professors, but it turns out some of them teach at—like UC Berkeley professors that come down and teach at Ohlone and stuff like that, which I thought was pretty cool. And I just didn’t know that and when I met them and stuff, I was like, oh okay! Like I’m kind of getting that like UC Berkeley class here. Not really, but you know what I mean?
Yeah, no, that’s super cool. I didn’t know that either. Thank you for sharing that. Do you think there are some challenges that you’ve faced going to a community college that you wish had more funding? Like are there certain facilities or programs that you wish just had more funding that you think could really benefit your education?
Ohlone College Student (04:08):
I would say, I feel like clubs could get more funding. I feel like when it comes to community college, the biggest issue is the identity of a community college. Because a lot of people don’t associate with their community college as much as people from like four-years do. I think it has to go down with the fact that a lot of people are just there just to get their education and leave. And I feel like with proper club funding and like more activities of like all these clubs and just extracurriculars, it’d be easier to foster a community, hence the name community college. Because of like, let me tell you, it does not feel like a community sometimes. It’s just, you just go to class and if you have no other classes you most likely will just end up leaving, going home and then you have the rest of the day to yourself. Like it’s just people go to Ohlone to just go to class and leave. There’s not as many people that are involved, and I feel like when it comes to club funding and just allocating funds to clubs and like letting them have the ability to do grander things, it’ll allow for people, more people to get involved and more people to feel like a sense of community at Ohlone College.
I see. Are there any examples you can think of? Like, are there any club activities or just, I guess things related to clubs in general that you think could use more funding, could really help build that sense of community that you were talking about?
Ohlone College Student (05:37):
When I was trying to get involved, all this COVID stuff happened and like everything’s kind of on shutdown right now.
Mmhm. I completely empathize, like COVID has definitely shaken things up. How has the transition to online learning been for you? How has that worked out?
Ohlone College Student (05:52):
It’s been really awkward. Like, I mean I’m well adjusted into it now, but in the beginning it happened in the middle of spring semester, I believe? And it was just really awkward because we had to adjust to the new, like Zoom online format. And at the same time, if we had a big test coming up, this is for my Calc 101B class, and we had this big test coming up and we had all these like things to do, but there was no standardized way to do it online. Because you know, when you think of school, you’d think of in-person and taking tests like on paper and pen, but now everything has changed, so our teacher had a lot of difficulty getting that situated and I know people cheated on the test. I know people like went off into other different tabs and stuff and started doing their own thing. It became really hard to focus and pay attention, especially from a home setting. But I think that just required repetition just to adjust to it over time. But as far as the transition to that, like it was, it was difficult, but it’s, I think it’s something that gets easier with time. And in terms of like classes being taught like that, I think the only, like the really hard part is just keeping your attention on the class because when you’re surrounded in a room, surrounded by people it’s different as opposed to being like home, sitting at your desk, I guess in an internet setting, with other people that are also like at their house or whatever. And it’s just like, it’s a different dynamic. Because I feel way more self conscious about speaking because people can hear my voice clearly now. They can hear like the very subtle, like crack that will come out of my voice. And that makes me super self conscious about speaking and just like, I never participate in my online classes because I get so scared that like, I’m going to say a wrong answer and everyone’s going to be like “Oh, he’s so dumb.” That’s been the most difficult thing with myself I would say. Yeah, it’s just participating. And so, it’s so much harder for some reason when it shouldn’t be.
Yeah. I completely get that. Like during my transition to online learning too, I can really relate to that just because I know what you’re talking about. Like when your little screen like lights up and like everyone knows you’re talking and all the attention’s on you. Do you think the school could’ve done anything to improve this experience?
Ohlone College Student (08:19):
Probably like an ethernet cable to all of the professors or something. There have been like a number of my classes where professors have like lost connection to the internet. And I completely understand that, but like at the same time, like I feel like it all could have been avoided had they had a wired connection or something? Because a lot of them were like running their stuff on WiFi and then they would have to leave and come back. And then that would like waste like 5, 10 minutes with that happening. And the next thing you know, like we missed out something super important in the lecture that we could’ve covered and had done.
Right. So the reason I asked a lot of questions just about like funding, like how like more funding could help your college experience was because Schools and Communities First, also known as Proposition 15, will be on the ballot this November. We’re trying to make sure that they pay their fair share of property taxes. And what that will do is it’ll reinvest around $12 billion back directly into public schools and local communities and of that $12 billion, 40% will go into public education and of that 40%, 11% will go to community colleges. So like if I did my math correctly, that means community colleges statewide could potentially get $528 million more in funding, which would be, which I think yeah, like just hearing about your experiences with like the difficulty of like building a community on campus and like the transition to online learning with like the internet connections and everything. Do you think it seems like that money could really help?
Ohlone College Student (09:56):
Oh yeah, definitely. I feel like I’m Ohlone or just any community college could invest in like maybe a different type of software that is better suited for online learning. Maybe they can give out something to all of the teachers or professors or students or faculty or staff and make it more accessible, hire more people so that more people have tutors that they can talk to and stuff like that, and just make it more adjustable for COVID-19 because it’s not just school that’s affected. People are like, like they have different work schedules now and all that stuff. So I feel like there’s a lot of things that more funding could do to allow people more flexibility and more customization in terms of like, if they need a tutor, if they need extra help, or anything like that.
Right. Are you guys going back in the fall or are you still continuing on with online learning?
Ohlone College Student (10:55):
Yeah, we’re still continuing with the online learning.
Are there any students who work for the school who could, like, who could benefit from like the increase in funding?
Ohlone College Student (11:05):
Specifically, I don’t know anybody that works at the school. But I do know that there are job positions, like at the bookstore available, probably other jobs that—oh, there’s the peer mentoring. They get paid. I had a friend who was in there and I don’t know if she’s still with it. It’s like that. I think they like grade tests and stuff and oh no—proctoring exams. Sorry, that’s what I meant. Yeah. So they do things like that and I believe they were the ones who kind of like plan the orientation for freshmen and stuff like that. And yeah, I think with the more funding they could probably do more, hire more people, so everything like there’s more smoother transitions throughout the orientation. And yeah, I feel like the more funding could also like possibly allow for like some sort of benefit for the people who want it to work, but they can’t. Like the people at the bookstore—I think our bookstore is currently closed because of the COVID-19 going on. So maybe the people were relying on that job could get some sort of like important benefit from the money that we can receive from Prop 15.
That part about your friend’s work with like the orientation team sticks out to me. Because it sounds like them potentially receiving more funding could also lead to more of a community, I guess? Like what you were talking about earlier, just like helping students get oriented onto campus.
Ohlone College Student (12:33):
Yes. Any, any college you go to freshman year is like super weird and like, especially the orientation day, it’s just like all these random people your age that are there. And it’s just like, oh, like first time at college and stuff. So yeah. I definitely think that it could foster more of a community. Definitely.
Shifting back to online learning specifically., is there like a specific resource you think that could really help you like make this transit—I guess we are still making this transition to online learning, like, do you think there’s something like the college could provide for students specifically that you think could really just improve your learning experience online?
Ohlone College Student (13:13):
I haven’t really thought about that. Like I haven’t really thought about like what the college could just like provide for the students. I want to say that there’s students out there that probably don’t have a reliable internet connection or a reliable way to access the internet, like a computer or something like that. So I feel like the college could definitely rent out equipment or something and give it to these students. Like for this semester for the time being they can base it off of like whether or not they’ve applied for FAFSA and depending on their like family income and all that stuff, they can kind of give out kind of like Chromebooks or something that could help the students access the internet a little bit easier or something like that.
Yeah. That sounds like it could be really like useful, especially just like right now. Yeah, in my online learning experiences too, we’ve had a lot of students who haven’t had like stable internet connections or like a stable way to consistently access the class. So I think universally, I think that’s what I feel like colleges could really help students with this transition by providing like essential resources if like the student needs them.
Ohlone College Student (14:24):
Yeah, definitely. And like even really funds and stuff like that for students who might be like living in an apartment, they don’t have enough money. And I know with the COVID like the relief bill packages in the Senate and the house right now, it’s like not tailored to 18-25 year olds, I believe. So we’re not really getting a lot of money.
I heard a lot of college students were cut off from that too.
Ohlone College Student (14:48):
Yeah. So like, I feel like that’s a big problem because if you’re out living in like 200 miles away from your home or 2000 miles away from your home and you’re like in an apartment, you don’t have money for it, and you’ve been like laid off for work or whatever, or they’re just like not open, then it becomes a problem. So I feel like definitely community colleges could send out more like relief packages and relief bills and stuff like that.
Yeah, it’s just a terrible situation. Just cause students are like really getting effected by this and people just graduated too. It feels like colleges could really help like support those students who just graduated and are entering into a very uncertain world right now. And like everything you mentioned about like people living on their own and like apartments and everything and like them having to like still deal with rent evictions, which seems pretty crazy to me.
Ohlone College Student (15:37):
Yeah. Because I have like a friend who goes to community college in Arizona and he’s like, he’s from here. So he’s living in an apartment over there and it’s just like, he had an eviction notice because his job over there, like they closed because of the COVID stuff. So, you know, like, like how are you going to provide for yourself and how are you going to like live if you can’t, if you don’t have the money, you don’t have a means to make the money.
Yeah. Hopefully Prop 15, if it does get passed, could really help with that issue just cause that’s like a huge amount of funding for community colleges.
Ohlone College Student (16:10):
Oh definitely. If this does pass, it just ends up being the community college’s responsibility to allocate the funds in the best way possible, yeah. Cause we’ve had issues like that where they weren’t allocated properly. But I think we’ve, we’ve worked on that a lot.
Is there like student representation, student involvement in like how the funds are allocated?
Ohlone College Student (16:29):
Yeah, now there is. It used to be very—the president was kind of like this authoritarian, but the ASOC fought really diligently to kind of get rid of that power for them and really have like the student body have a say in the allocations of funding and stuff like that.
So I just wanted to ask one final question. What are your next steps after community college? Like what are you thinking of going into?
Ohlone College Student (16:52):
Well, community college was never my first thing that I wanted to go to. I always saw myself going to a four year, but when I got accepted to the four-years that I wanted to go to and I saw that tuition and housing combined, I just like—I can’t do that. Like that’s so much debt and so much money and just, it just felt like bad and or like not good to go through with that. So I decided to go to community college and moving forward, I definitely want to apply to other places and just see where if I get into them, I can maybe go there. But yeah, as of now, like I’m looking at like UC Davis or UC Santa Barbara and just going over there cause they have like kind of pretty decent majors and like, I guess you could say support for what I’m going into the future.
Is Davis like close to where you live?
Ohlone College Student (17:50):
Yeah. It’s like, I think about two hours drive from where I live. It’s like right before Sacramento. So yeah, something like that.
I really hope that works out for you, it seems like you’re like a very diligent student. Yeah, really enjoyed this conversation. I just wanted to thank you for your time.
Ohlone College Student (18:07):
Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me on.
Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund and Project by Project San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about us, visit our website at aapiforce-ef.org and projectbyproject.org. Thanks for listening. Ad paid for by Chinese Progressive Association, nonprofit 501(c)(3). Committee Major Funding by Chinese Progressive Association, the San Francisco Foundation.