story: Gwen Lawler-Tough photo: Kara Stewart
A college for our community. Shasta College celebrates its 60th year educating people in the North State this fall and has a brag sheet that’s almost as long as its list of alumni.
Its $18 million Health Sciences and University Center provides a home not just to nursing and dental hygiene programs but also to advanced degree classes by Chico State and other universities. More than $1 million worth of new lighting, video and sound equipment benefit music and theatre arts students. A brand new Learning Resources and Technology Center offers the latest ways to learn. A $7 million dollar solar field, partially funded by PG&E, went online June 1 and enables the college to cut its electric bill by 37% and to provide even greater savings in the years ahead.
But President Gary Lewis says without hesitation that they are proudest of “our student successes.” There are thousands of them all over the North State and beyond. Dr. John Caton is a top oncologist in Eugene, Ore., and hails from Montgomery Creek. When he was a senior in high school, he may not have qualified for the University of California system. He completed two years at Shasta College and went on to achieve a bachelor of science degree in bacteriology at U.C. Davis, followed by medical school in Wisconsin. Under an agreement with U.C. Davis, students who take UC-transferable courses and maintain a 2.75 grade point average at Shasta are guaranteed a spot at Davis for their junior year.
For seniors and their parents who are disappointed not to get into a four-year college right after high school, Lewis responds, “Attending Shasta College is not a step back but an opportunity to leap forward.” It allows parents to save serious money – as much as $50,000 to $60,000 for the first two years of college.
Part of Shasta College’s mission is to serve those who need career and technical education. The average age of Shasta’s 15,000 students is 31. People come to the college who have lost jobs and need new skills. “We give second and third chances,” Lewis says. Many veterans are also enrolled; Lewis recently met with the State Department of Veterans Affairs to seek ways to better serve their unique needs.
Lewis is proud of the college’s socioeconomically diverse student body. In today’s rapidly changing job climate, lifelong learning is the norm, and Shasta attempts to keep up with constantly emerging technologies. For example, it’s offering new classes in solar and wind technology.
The demand for welders and metal fabricators is so hot that students often get a job before they even finish the rigorous certification program under Mark Smith. In the huge diesel technology shop, sponsors such as Lincoln Electric, Cummins West and Peterson Tractor donate much of the expensive heavy equipment. During a recent tour, Lewis pointed out a bin of scrap metal that has been donated by local businesses that support the welding program, thus saving the college money in a program where all the machinery is costly. Shasta’s certificate programs include those in Automotive Technology and Fire Technology.
The college spans 10,500 square miles, an area the size of Massachusetts, and its geography includes winter snow, treacherous mountain roads and vast distances. So the college has developed ways to reach students with five satellite campuses in downtown Redding (Health Sciences), Red Bluff, Burney, Weaverville and on the Hoopa reservation in Humboldt County. In addition to regular classes at these campuses, interactive television enables students and teachers to meet in real time and to “see” and hear each other. A large TV screen shows the professor, and when a student from a distant campus asks a question using a microphone, a camera focuses on the student, enabling the professor to see the student as well as hear him or her. This system has been in place for 10 years and was made possible by a $600,000 grant from the McConnell Foundation. Shasta College also has 120 students who live on campus dorms during the school year. This includes 50 international students, hailing from countries including China and Egypt. Some of the students are in the United States participating in the prestigious U.S. State Department Initiative for Egypt program and its partners.
Whether students are pursuing a rigorous academic program, are intent on transferring to a four-year college, or need skills that will give them more immediate job training, Shasta College welcomes them. Lewis is proud of the faculty’s dedication and “accessibility.”
“They develop relationships and mentor students,” he says – students like Dr. John Caton and thousands of others who now give back to their communities, grateful for the firm foundation that they received at Shasta College.