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**Empowering Futures: The Vital Role of Community Colleges in The East Bay**

Empowering Futures: The Vital Role of Community Colleges in Contra Costa



In a recent captivating episode of "Capstone Conversation," hosted by Jared Asch, listeners were treated to an enriching discussion with two vital educational figures from Contra Costa County. Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, the Chancellor, and Rebecca Barrett, the president of the community college board, shared deep insights into the transformative impacts and challenges facing the Contra Costa County Community College District.







Mojdeh Mehdizadeh reflected on her journey from being a student at Diablo Valley College to her ascent as the Chancellor, highlighting the community college's role as a crucial springboard for diverse populations. Her story is inspiring and underscores these institutions' potential to change lives.


Rebecca Barrett shared her personal experiences, emphasizing how community colleges serve as vital gateways for students at various stages of their educational and professional lives. She discussed the strategic initiatives and programs aimed at fostering student success and adaptability in the ever-evolving job market.


The conversation also delved into the innovative partnerships and programs that Contra Costa colleges have developed, such as collaborations with local businesses and industries, which enhance the learning experience and increase job readiness among students.


This episode is a testament to the dynamic role that community colleges play in shaping futures and strengthening communities. It also highlights the passion and dedication of educators and leaders who drive these institutions forward.


For anyone looking to understand the impact of community education on regional development, this episode of "Capstone Conversation" is an invaluable resource.


Disclaimer: This blog was created by AI based on a discussion from the "Capstone Conversation" podcast. Please listen to the full episode for the most accurate and detailed account. https://www.capstonegov.com/podcast/episode/b8dddc22/empowering-futures-the-vital-role-of-the-contra-costa-community-colleges-district-with-mojdeh-mehdizadeh-and-rebecca-barrett




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Transcript: 



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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: I'm great.


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Okay?


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Jared Asch: Okay, welcome to this episode of the capstone conversation. Today I am joined by 2 smart and empowering women who are leading education in Contra Costa County. And we are gonna talk about the Contra Costa County Community college district.


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Jared Asch: how it's set up, how they are working with businesses and how they are innovating to lead people in our community to the next level in their careers.


Please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit more about


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Jared Asch: who you are, and then we'll dive into more about the college. Rebecca, do you want to go first with an intro.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Sure. So I'm Rebecca Barrett.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I am serving on my second term as a Community college board member. So I think I'm entering into year 6


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers):  I my family kind of settled into Contra Costa around the time I was in middle school and so I'm actually a Dabbler Valley College, Dvc. Alumni. I went there right after high school.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): did my 2 years to transfer then on to Ucla


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and kind of built my profession around education, policy, and politics.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): In 2016, when I moved back to contract across the county shortly thereafter there was a position on the board that opened up and it felt like the right time and right set of situations as


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and alumni like, I said, who've been working in kind of the education policy space.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): to step up and take this on. And so I've like, I said. I've been on the board for


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): for 6 years this year I am Board President.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers):  which is


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): exciting and sometimes daunting. But we have a really really strong board really, great district staff. Actually, our Chancellor was just made the permanent Chancellor this December. So


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): We just had a lot of kind of big, exciting things now happening, now that we've made some really key hires for the college district. It's just kind of a really great moment.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): For the college district


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and Rebecca, tell us the specific word that you represent what cities? So I am, ward 3. So I am Concorde, Pleasant Hill, and most of Martinez and Clayton


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Jared Asch: great, and


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Jared Asch: and it's good to have somebody young, energetic.


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Jared Asch: and an alumni of the college, you know, in that perspective, that's that's coming to the board.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Yeah. So I first ran for the board, and I was 29. I was elected at 30, but ran at 29 and I'm now 35. So and I always like to point out the average age most correctly if I'm wrong, if the statistics change. But the average age of a student at the contracts community college district is actually 28


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and so perfect.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): There we go. Yeah.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): it. I think a lot of people think that the community college students are right out of high school, which was certainly my journey. There is a significant portion of of that. But community colleges really serve a wide array of students.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): In different stages and phases of life. and


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I mean II will say, the most rewarding piece for me, being a board member frankly, is somewhat attached to my age cause. There are moments where issues come up.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): II feel like, I kind of have this like, Oh, yeah, moment of that.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): because of my age, where I sit in the workforce, and how much longer I have of a professional life still to go, and how recently I was in the college system. Provides a specific perspective.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): That can be helpful to the board.


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Jared Asch: A,


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Jared Asch: that's great. And I'm gonna write that down and we're gonna come back to the age 28, and how you you cover a large array of students. Because I think that will be. I bet you most people don't know that. And I would challenge you, Rebecca, when you go to the next Statewide conference of all the Board members.


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Jared Asch: find out how many other people have served that are 30 when they were first elected. Because I think that is a unique statin perspective. So.


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Jared Asch: Chancellor, please tell us about yourself. And I think you're a homegrown


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: from the college, too. Right I am. I am. So yes, so my name is Mojdeh Mehdizadeh and parts of my story are actually very similar. To Rebecca's I with with maybe just some slight so I was actually born in Iran, and I immigrated to the United States when I was 8 years old.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh:  I also attended Diablo Valley College. Incredible, incredibly proud of frankly, of of my roots. Having started my higher education and the community college system


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: neither of my parents went to college. Frankly, my father completed the fifth grade. That was his highest level of education. So it was. It was very, very exciting to have an opportunity to obtain a higher education through the community college system and beyond.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So I was at Dial Valley College for 2 years, I transferred on to Cal. To San Francisco State University, and then Cal State East Bay for my master's degree.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And I think


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: what's probably most most interesting about my story is when I started as a student at Diava Valley College. I also started working at Dvc. As a student employee. And frankly, I never left. So I have been working for the Kazakhsta Community College district


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: for just over 36 years now, in a variety of Ca capacities. Starting with a student employee. A a classified, hourly professional permanent classified. Hourly. I taught at Diala Valley College part time


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and then got into management roles, both at the college and then ultimately at the district office. For a period of time I went off to Contra Costa College, one of our colleges where I served as college president for about 3 and a half years. And then came


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: district office in an Executive Vice Chancellor capacity and then ultimately the the board. The Governing Board appointed me as interim Chancellor in February of 2022 and after completing their their full search process. I was, really, lucky and thrilled. To have been identified as the permanent Chancellor. For the Costa Community college district.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And it's just it's amazing to have had, you know, kind of that kind of a tra trajectory. And I always tell our students, who I have an opportunity to meet with and communicate with, and in some instances serve as a as a mentor to that there's frankly, kind of nothing more special, other than the opportunities that are provided through the community college system.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): That's I was just doing some math, and I think you've been at the college longer than Rebecca's been alive. I'm not saying


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Jared Asch: anything about your age, but I was. II think it's a really interesting perspective that Rebecca brings to the equation and perspective on on that. Tell us, let's start with, how is the community college system in Contra Costa County structured. What are the different colleges? What is the Chancellor's role?


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Jared Asch: Educate us about that?


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: Certainly. So we have 3 colleges.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and 2 of our colleges also have center. So we encompass all of Contra Costa County and I'll start with Contra Costa College, which is located in the really, the West County. The San Pablo is the name of the city in which they reside. Right next to the city of Richmond.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: the college has a a wonderful and amazing college president. It's a doctor. Kimberly Rogers serves as president of Contra Costa College


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and Contra Costa College is our I'll call it our oldest college by just a few months over Diablo Valley College, which is located in Pleasant Hill, California, Central Contra Costa County


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: Diapa Valley College also has another campus. So aside from our our pleasant hill campus we have a beautiful campus out in the Sandbone Valley, so South Contra Costa County. Is also very deeply served and supported by our sanderone campus of Diablo Valley College.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and then, as we travel East. We get to our campus in Pittsburgh, los Madano's college


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and college also is located in the city of Pittsburgh, but also has a actually our newest location, which is in Brentwood, our Brentwood campus.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and I should also mention, the 2 fabulous presidents that we have at E at those 2 colleges. So Susan Lam. Serves as President for Diablo Valley College, and Dr. Pamela Ralston serves as President of of our beautiful campus over at Los Madano's.


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Jared Asch: and just because I have 3 daughters, and I believe in covering women, I noticed that. There's a series of leadership in women here in the college. So that's great leading the way, because I bet you


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Jared Asch: elsewhere it's it's not as embracing of that in those leadership roles. So that's good to hear how. So? What is the Chancellor's role over those colleges?


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: Yeah. So the Chancellor really support. Provides leadership across all 3 colleges and works very closely with our governing board. So the governing board essentially hires the Chancellor to ensure that the policies that they set


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: are carried out across our 3 colleges. So, as a president of our governing board, Rebecca Barrett ensures that really kept all that the governing board does. And their focus is on the really, O, our students, our mission. That we are, we are moving forward in


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: ensuring that our strategic plan. Our district wide strategic plan is carried out. ensuring that the policies that the Board sets


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: are supportive. Really up our strategic directions and and they get right regular reports from me, and frankly at our governing board meetings from college presidents about the work that they are doing in support of our mission and the policy directions that the Governing Board sets for us.


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Jared Asch: And how is, how are all the colleges in the system funded.


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Jared Asch: Let's talk to people about that


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: boy. That's a great question. Not? Well, it's probably the best answer that I can give you. In terms of funding across the California public education system. We receive the lowest funding in terms of dollar amounts per students. So per what


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: try to describe it. We we get funded on a full time equivalent student


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: kind of ratio, along with a few kind of completion, related factors.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: it makes it complex because the vast majority of our students are not full time students. The vast majority of our students are actually part time students. They take, you know, 1, 2, or 3 classes while they are employed. Full time. Oftentimes. They're taking care of. Yeah, young children. In some cases elderly parents, you know, depending on kind of their backgrounds and situations. And


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: they oftentimes come with, you know, considerable financial need and so


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: frankly, when we talk about being funded on a full time equivalent student basis, it's really challenging. Because, you know, oftentimes it takes 2, 3, or 4 of our students to come to that full time equivalent but it doesn't matter. Every student


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: deserves and requires our full attention. And supporting them through. You know everything from the admissions an application process which, by the way, we admit a hundred percent of those who come to us. We are an open door institution.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And yes, there is no doubt we you are welcomed. With open arms. Frankly. And so every single student requires and deserves our full attention. And it's it's it's frankly challenging to get funded on a full time, equivalent student basis


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and so circle back to pieces of that. So you know, we we sit in an interesting space because


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): it's


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): community colleges originally were actually part of the system, and it was thought of as K. 16. But we also do sit now in the higher Ed space, and so the per pupil funding. If you look at how much, you see, is paid per pupil. Csu is paid per pupil, and then it precipitously drops when you get to community college.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): But then community colleges to the funding mechanisms. And I don't know. Hopefully, we have some K 12 school Board members who listed in on this. So this might hit with them. Community colleges are put into what's known as the prop, 98 funding. And so that's the prop 98 was passed.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): To decide a certain percentage of state funding goes to


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): K through 16, because at the time we were part of that system, and so that's really kind of a holdover, remnants of that But you know, K. 12 in Sacramento is an incredibly popular thing to fund, and should be an incredibly popular thing to fund. They have a very robust advocacy arm


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): in multiple sides. And I think sometimes especially coming from someone who's worked in Sacramento and an education policy in Sacramento. At times, I think the community college system has suffered from a less strong advocacy arm. And so we kind of get what's left of the prop. 98 pie that


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): there and then that's


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): part of what Sacramento works with, on figuring out how to


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): funds and allocate funds to


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): community colleges which can be frustrating and daunting at times.


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Jared Asch: And there's also bonds. So if I look at my property tax statement, there's there's bonds. And and how does that part work.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: you know. Yeah, you know.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): so I'll take the I'll why don't I take the first crack? This will be dangerous. But yes, So


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): community colleges are able to put bonds on the ballot just like cities and K 12 districts


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): for infrastructure needs right and


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): community contrast. Community college district is celebrating its 70 fifth anniversary this year. And


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I, Moja, you're gonna have to help me with the date here. But I feel like our first bond occurred roughly when I was a student, so that would have been


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: 15 years ago. I think it was 2. I think our first bond was in 2,004,


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): 2,000. So just before me, I just for the record, everyone I was 2,007 or 2,008 class started class but for our first pro, for our first bond was 2,004, and we're 75 years old. We went through a significant portion of time without any bonds for infrastructure needs. We currently have


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): 3 bonds that we are working with, one of which is just about to close out.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): But that has done a significant amount of work for us and helping to seismically retro fit buildings, bring this up to modern day code, and then frankly, like really engage and grapple with. What does it mean to be a modern, higher educational teaching and learning facility? So


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): you know, again.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): community colleges are still fascinating, and I don't know if people, if you've never been on our campuses, if you've never been, assume yourself, I don't know if we, if the community really appreciates all of this right? Like, again, I think the typical thought of a community college is they take people from high school and get them there 2 years to move on to a Csu. But we have


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Aa degrees in nursing and have full nursing facilities. We have a fire training program. We have a dental hygienist program. We have automotive programs. We have a partnership with Tesla.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): All of that requires


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): significant infrastructure needs to make sure that the teaching and learning environment is, add, O adequately prepares our students for the job market that they're entering into. And so it's like we have a little


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): mini hospital for nursing students. And you have the the automot automotive or fire training insight, right like.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): are amazing spaces that you just wouldn't necessarily think is on a community college campus, but they're there, and we need to build them. We need to maintain them.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And if I can just add kind of the financial piece to it. So you know, we talk a little bit about how we're funded, and it's important to note that we're actually not funded


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: in any way, shape or form. That's that's adequate as it pertains to facilities and infrastructure. And actually, there are laws in place that require us to spend specific portions of our dollars. And actually, 50% of all funds that we receive from the State through the apportionment process through the prop 98 process


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: that Rebecca described.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: At least a minimum of 50% has to be spent on in classroom instructions. So to pay for essentially our faculty. Who are teaching classes.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And so you know, when you think about that and you think about all of the other expenses that institutions have. So, for example, to ensure that students have someone to work through their financial aid package


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: students who have disabilities actually are tested at our centers and provided accommodations to ensure that they're successful in higher education. We have beautiful libraries that support the added needs of students to be educated. Those actually do not count on the right side of the 50% law.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So you know, when we say 50% has to be expended in the classroom instruction. There's all kinds of other supports and services that we have to provide


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: before a student gets in the classroom. And frankly, while they're in the classroom to help them. Get the counseling support services and transitional supports that they need to move on to 4 year institutions and to the workplace that come from the other 50% of the dollars that we have which frankly leaves


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: little to no money. In order to be able to update and maintain facilities. That's the reason for bonds.


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Jared Asch: No, that's helpful to understand cause. I bet most people don't even understand the process. And and where everything comes from, and there's tuition and


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Jared Asch: on top of everything. So let's talk about some of the things that the community college offers as a destination. You talked about nursing, you talked about fire training. You talked about the partnership with Tesla.


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Jared Asch: What are other types of programs that make you unique? Right? That people should be aware of at the colleges.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: Yeah, I think Rebecca shared with you a lot of our really exciting career career education programs. You know, included in that. Or we have culinary programs that 2 of our colleges, Diablo Valley and Contra Costa College, with full blown, beautiful restaurants, the public can come to for a fabulous multi-course dinner at


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: generally like less than $10 it's a wonderful place to kind of bring friends and family and or business lunch.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: aside from that, you know, we have really a broad range of programs over 200 programs across our 3 colleges.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So, you know, we certainly prepare students for transfer in all kinds of fields. So as an example, at Contra Costa College. I should share with you. We have a partnership with NASA right now where? We are. Preparing our, you know, our future leaders to to go to Mars. It's it's quite extraordinary. Really, kind of


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: of the stem-related programs and majors, science, technic, technology, engineering and math


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: majors and opportunities that we have available for students across our system.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: you know, we also, you know, sometimes we don't focus on the kind of the immediate training needs that individuals have, especially those that are really just really looking to earn more liveable wages. So, for example, we have a home healthcare assistant program.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: It's a. It's a fairly new program. It's a. It's a wonderful program that provides opportunities for individuals to support our aging population in Contra Costa County and beyond. So we're always thoughtful and looking at what the needs are of our community and designing and developing programs.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: That will provide a really kind of livable wage and beyond opportunities for our students. To obtain employment quickly and frankly give back to our community immediately.


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Jared Asch: So that's great. Talk


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Jared Asch: a bit about working with the business community here to to do that. How do you work with thriving tech sector? How do you work with senior living and and programs, how do you work with Tesla? If you could touch on that a lot.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: yeah. So every one of our career education programs actually has what's called an advisory council.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And the Advisory councils are made up of individuals in industry that meet with us with our faculty members. As well as Deans that support those areas. And they very much drive


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: the new programs that they'd like to see, or modifications and updates that they'd like to see to existing programs. So we talk about something like automotive for example, I mean, we know that the automotive industry has changed drastically right over the over the last few years. With, you know, electrical vehicles and hybrid, and all of those kinds of vehicles that you know, didn't


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: that weren't in the Mark marketplace to the same level as they are today? And so the the automotive program as an example had to shift


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: completely, if I may say in terms of the one kind of facilities and equipment within their their area. As well as you know the kind of instruction that they provide to our students. And oftentimes it's those members on the advisory committee. That


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: tell us what's what's kind of up and coming, and with the shifts that they're seeing in the market. And then we modify our curriculum in order to support that


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and so that's kind of the the partnership that we talk about related to Tesla is one of those


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: through their automotive program. Has a an incredible partnership with Toyota. It's it's called the partnership and what's amazing about that is our our partners, our community partners, our industry partners, are actually not only helping kind of design, but that curriculum looks like they are employing our students that are enrolled


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: this and giving them work experience alongside the fact that they're getting cut up their educational opportunity. So it's it's really exciting. They are. They are getting paid employment. While they're getting trained in a field. That is, you know, obviously relevant to their future.


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Jared Asch: That's


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Jared Asch: great. I'm a fan of the hands-on experience combined with the academic education, because


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Jared Asch: you have have both to apply things in the real world. And one of the things somebody and I were just talking about was teams in in schools.


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Jared Asch: You know, our kids are criticized. If they're working with the team cause it's called cheating. Here. We, you know, if you, if you don't know the answer. You're supposed to go to other people. You're supposed to bring in colleagues and work to solve the problem together. And so you do that outside of the classroom, and you get that hands on experience. And that just sounds so important to have that partnership you're talking about


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): to bring that back to a facilities conversation, though so you know, traditionally, we built schools with the idea of a faculty member or a teacher, because this is K. 12 and higher. Ed would sit in front of a classroom and lecture, and then you'd take a test, and you'd write an essay into your point, Jared, like


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): you work by yourself.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and this is something in education policy.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): at least since 2,010, I think we've really been grappling with of


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): how do we need to restructure pedagogy and teaching and learning to prepare young people for the soft skill sets that are going to be needed for a more modern day economy that is based on collaboration, communication and less about.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I mean, you can go into the history of education. The history of education really is that it was built on the idea that we need to prepare people for factory work right? And that's why we kind of have the bell schedule and and different pieces. This could be getting way too philosophical for maybe person in your audience. But we're really grap. We in the education community are really grappling with what does that mean?


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And, functionally speaking, it does mean redesigning the specific classroom setting. We need to be redesigning, teaching and learning to be more collaborative group based


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): about building stronger communication skills. And that does mean rebuilding a classroom and restructuring a classroom. So that type of teaching and learning can happen effectively.


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Jared Asch: Yeah, I was reading a book with one of my daughters, and originally the public school concept was kated at 3, I think, or K 2, I forget which one added New York City. And it was really a babysitting concept. Yes, let's teach them how to read and do some basic skills. But it was not intended to really be a full


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Jared Asch: on system. What it is today. And some of those New York schools go back to that. And the bell system you're talking about reminds me of that, because it was really


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Jared Asch: training workers for set opportunities, not for.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And education has had trouble evolving over the centuries.


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Jared Asch: But


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Jared Asch: let's talk about your students, you talk about. The average student is actually 28.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Okay.


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Jared Asch: I know there's no such thing as a student. But let's talk about what is bringing some of those older students in. And then let's also talk about the


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Jared Asch: path that Rebecca took, which is.


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Jared Asch: go to high school, go to community college, go to college if we could sort of talk about both groups of students, and


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Jared Asch: where that fits into the college.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I mean so to J to jump in.


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I


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I think it is a quite traditional path


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): for students to graduate high school.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I kind of see them in 2 buckets. They either immediately come to us out of some sense of peer pressure, particularly from their parents of like, well, if you're not gonna go onto a 4 year. You should do community college


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): but for whatever reason, it's not the right time, and they're not in the right head space. And so they we usually you will see with them, leave and they enter the workforce. Or you do have a set group of students right after High school who also just enter into the workforce


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): but particularly in today's economy and the Bay Area. You kind of hit a stage of life where you've entered the workforce. You've done it for 5 to 6, 7 years.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and you've kind of reached the cap of how much you're gonna make.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And then


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): you really have to make some decisions of? Should I go back and and at least and go in, get an Aa or go get a a program. That's specific for workforce, right? Like nursing, dental hygienists.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and (282) 726-2728 kind of is that


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Aha moment for a lot of young people of maybe I should go back. Maybe I should go do that. And they're in that frame of mind now, and they kind of can see more of the long term benefits to making that personal investment in their own education.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And then the piece that we really grapple with is 28 year olds come to us with 28 year old responsibilities, and that's rent and child care, and oftentimes living with a partner, and you have financial responsibilities with that. And so how do we support them with that? Because the expectation is a lot of community? Well, they're living at home with Mom and dad, so they don't need to worry about food. They don't need to worry about rent. So we have to spend a lot of time in the like, well, actually.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): the majority of our students do. So that's


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): to Mojo. Maybe you could fill in a little bit more. But to me, that's kind of the stage of life that 28 year old student tends to come to us from.


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I think that was really stated beautifully, and oftentimes it's because


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: also cut the the notion of they went into the workforce without


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: you know, a any level of higher education or not enough higher education, and are make, maybe in a position where their wages aren't substantial enough to really kind of maintain their life. And they realize, that it's important to come back


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and ensure that they're you know, receiving the the benefits that come from further education, which oftentimes is better paying jobs.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and you know, in industries that help them both survive and thrive. II do think there are a couple of things that are really important for us to share with you. Jared, one, that is, that are actually our entire community. One is that affecting our students enroll with us full time.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: We provide free tuition. So we are frankly the How do I say this? The lowest in the universe, in a way, because, normally, our our tuition is $46 a unit, which is


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: incredibly low. But aside from that, if you enroll in 12 or more units


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: we actually provide up a a free tuition for you for up to a 2 year period. So frankly you can come to us for for 2 years. Obtain your associates degree or complete your first 2 years of higher education.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And pay nothing. And move on to, you know Ucs and Cs using beyond and have saved a considerable sum of money.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So I think that's an important element, really, for your listeners to hear about as well.


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Jared Asch: Yeah, that's that's a good note, especially as we read headlines about student loan debt piling up generation. You know, people working 2030 years to pay off student loan debt, and that defining what jobs they take versus what they


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Jared Asch: fall in love with. what? How? What's the percentage of people who graduate and move on to a 4 year degree versus move directly into the industry, then?


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So that's a hard question to gauge, because we we do it kind of based on a cohort analysis


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: based on what students tell us they are seeking when they come in. Remember, we've got students that come who have no intention of moving on to a 4 year institution. We have others that actually come to us. As and I, we didn't mention this as high school students. So we offer a really robust


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: dual and concurrent high school enrollment program, where, frankly, oftentimes, we have students who start with us as sophomores while they're in high school, taking classes with us, and by the time they finish their senior year they've already completed their first 2 years


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: of higher education. So there's kind of. There's that group that I would say is in the mix as well. And then we actually have a high school on our Contra Costa college campus. It's the Middle College High School program


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: where students are literally in high school on our college campus, plus, they're taking college classes simultaneously.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So I think when you were hearing Rebecca kind of talk about, we're kind of everything to everyone. II think that becomes more clear. So when you ask what percentage it's really hard to say, because it's really dependent on


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: kind of their reason for coming to us. In the first place. So those that come to us. It focused on obtaining an associates degree and moving on we work very adamantly to ensure they reach that goal


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: and kind of depending on the number of years. They stayed with us. That percentage kind of varies. And we're happy to give you like the more specifics on that as we as we dig it out and get it to you, we yeah, we'll add a link in the show notes to a couple of stats for everybody. So right now it it goes back to that casual conversation


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Jared Asch: I wanna ask about another issue that I have read about in the paper recently, there's a big problem going on with


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Jared Asch: all of the colleges, not just community colleges in California with homelessness on campuses. There's Humboldt University. It got into a big fight with apparently they had, like 2,000 students living in their parking lots, and they had created makeshift showers, but they were all helping each other, and they were all full time students. But this was the option. Instead of working or commuting or doing something else, they were living in cars, in tents, in parking lots.


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Jared Asch: What kind of problem do we have here in Contra Costa?


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Jared Asch: How are you working with students? Talk us through some of that.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I think housing and security is something the college district, frankly so like, I said. I've been on the board 6 years. It's one of the first things we really talk about when I got on the board


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): a


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Moja again. Correct me if I'm wrong. But it's close to, if not 50 of our students. Yeah, identify as housing and secure. So that definition can be somewhat broad. But the idea is.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): 50 of students are self identifying as they're not sure they're going to be able to make next month's rent.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And that type of


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): like that's the financial situation that they're in


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And frankly, that is not conducive to good good learning right like, if you're constantly, your constant worry is, how can I pay rent?


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Are you really worried about that English assay deadline like in in the Matlab Hier higher view priorities.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And frankly, I think that was a big reason why community colleges saw decline enrollment during covid, because our students are on the front lines of


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): of the economy. And so when the economy takes a dip.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): they've got to prioritize, making sure that they have income first, to make sure that they have a roof over their head.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers):  we're our th. All 3 of our community colleges don't have housing.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): It's something that we are actively talking about as a community college board and as a community college district, and what type of investment that might take


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and frankly, like the State has put out options, grants


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): to help community college districts think through what housing could look like and potentially help us build.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): But it's a drop in the bucket, and it's a competitive grant process.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): So frankly, if we were to go about doing it, a bond would have to be a significant piece in helping us get there.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I. And then, frankly, I think this is also a place


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): where cross agency collaboration communication could be going much stronger. Right? So we identify most identified where


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): our 3 colleges are and our 2 satellite colleges, or as 2 silent campuses are. II hopefully some city council members are listening to this conversation, who represent the cities of San Pablo and Pleasant Hill and Pittsburgh and Brentwood and San Ramon, because


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): the city is really set a huge chunk of housing policy, and those are the cities that our colleges are in and our students


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): will mostly reside in, and we see the trickle down effects of state housing policy and local housing policy, and how it affects our students. And then also, frankly, our own employees.


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Jared Asch: You know what. Let's let's set up a meeting, Rebecca. Let's you and I talk, and maybe it's college by college or something. But let me help facilitate a meeting with those cities, cause I


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Jared Asch: I bet that those cities don't even know that there's an issue going on


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Jared Asch: thinking about it. Maybe they do. Maybe they don't. But better we. We actually have a facilitated meeting where we could start a dialogue towards longer term short-term and longer term solutions.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh:  Jared, you should know that we do provide some services to our students that are homeless. So, for example, they we ensure that they can utilize the our gymnasium facilities for for bathing, for showers. And what have you? So that's certainly open to our students and available. And it's communicated to our students that have a need.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: We also have food pantries across our 3 colleges. Where we want to ensure that our students don't go hungry.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: And then we have like really amazing things like career closets which I would love Rebecca to share a little bit more on because she's been just at the forefront of helping make it happen.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Thank you. So what Mosa is referring to there is. I was looking to do some type of


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): active service for mlk day weekend and so for the past 2 years I've been doing a professional clothing drive.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): That then the close. They're split between the 3 college campuses. So we have a professional clothing causes all 3 campuses now to help support students who are going out for their first internship, their job interviews, where, you know, a hundred dollars for a blazer, or $150 for a suit could


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): be a real challenge. Again.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): 50% of our students identify as housing insecure. So housing success at school


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): are you gonna be able to buy that piece of professional clothing. But we all work in the business sector. We know what type of stigmas are put on on young people entering the profession.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers):  if they don't


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): have the professional clothing and resources right like it is a barrier. And so I'm just super proud of us for thinking of all the different types of barriers that we can help our students overcome.


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Jared Asch: That's great. The next time you do a big drive let me know I wanna help first. II think I just gave, like 5 or 6 dress shirts to goodwill, make more sense to to give them to you, but I might also be able to spread the word right, and and just get some of my neighbors people who aren't thinking about what's in their closet. We'd be happy to do that. And my wife and I do


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Jared Asch: a Halloween costume drive with shelter Inc. And we help collect costumes


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Jared Asch: for all of the and it's growing so it's we're we're hoping in 2024 to tackle every kid in the county that's homeless, or that even if they do have a home within on the money to afford a costume, and it's really the self esteem issue right? If you're kindergarten, if you're a fourth grader or eighth grader, and your friends are having a costume party, or you're doing a Ca costume parade, and you can't afford it.


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Jared Asch: You don't want to go to school that day, or you don't feel like you fit in, and it really helps boost them. I know there's groups that do prom dresses


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Jared Asch: it's a big one, but I I'd love to be involved in what you're talking about and and doing that, and I heard you use the word, and you used it in this description, and you used it one other time is stigma. So there are


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Jared Asch: probably a community college stigma out there, right? Like people should just be going to the 4 year college.


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Jared Asch: What does that mean?


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Let's just address that as maybe one of the closing out issues here today. What? How do you tackle that? Or what would you say about that. So I'll share my personal story there. Because I think I really actually


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): have my, I had to grapple with this myself. Right? So we we moved here in when I was in middle school. Like Mosha, I actually lived abroad. I grew up in England and Saudi Arabia


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and so when we moved back to


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): where my father is from the Bay Area, was really kind of when the talk of college started coming up. And I'm


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): actually pretty severely dyslexic. So I was always an academically smart student, but not necessarily the best grades, but, like I had a I think I had a high school unlated


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): 3.4 3.5 Gpa.  and my parents always really push like. get into a 4 year. We will figure out how to pay for it like we're very blue collar, but we we will figure it out.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And then I graduated oh, 7, which was the beginning of the housing market. Crash! And what my parents wanted to do was actually borrow against the value of the house to pay for my college. And so.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): while that was all. go like


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): as we were all as a society dealing with that my dad had the very first conversation with me, and in high school of. I don't think I can do this for you right now. And I do think you're gonna need to go to community college.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And I remember sitting in my Ap English class, and the teacher had asked everyone to go around and talk. Say what college they were going to.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and everyone say, you know Berkeley Davis, Ucla Boston College. And I, said, Dvc. And I kid you not.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I started crying like I thought it was such a sign that I had messed up


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and like I'm still crying now and went to Dvc. And it wasn't until after I've gone through it all I can honestly say, Dvc. Was a better, higher education, learning experience for me than Ucla.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and it's it's different for everybody.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): But dvc. Was the first time in the United States that my dyslexia was


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): properly diagnosed and handled. In England. I was, and keep this in mind. I was diagnosed


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): in Saudi Arabia, and in England, and given accommodations both times. And then, when I moved to the United States.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): the K. 12 system literally, we had a meeting where my grades were too good. We don't need to provide you any extra services.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and we're not taking the test that you received in foreign countries


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): went to Dvc. They immediately tested me, gave me extra support services.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I felt really supported and seen.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and smaller class sizes the fact because there's still such a focus on. We need to help you move on to the next


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): phase. Right? I very quickly identified like I want to transfer. So like, I came in, and I was done it for it. Which is not every students experience. I


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): but you know I had faculty members were like, this is how we're gonna get, you'd be a better writer. Here are the different drills we're gonna do. Here's all the different books that you can read. And it was such a supportive, collaborative.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): educational experience, and again, smaller class sizes. And then you


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): got to Ucla and a Poly sci major. So the majority of my classes are 200 person lecture halls


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and in a lot of ways they're like, you're here. You made it so. We don't need to push you on being a better writer. You kinda are


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): where you are and and that's okay. But I write professionally today, right? So I would have loved the continuation and and the challenge


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and so it it's really being able to look back. Now


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): I let that stigma


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): really hurt my feelings, and II attach myself to that stigma.


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I,


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and so as much as I can with talking with young people is like, I hear you. II was there. I did not want to go to a community college.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): It was the best thing for me. and I think it would be the best thing for a lot. A lot of students, and we can't let Stigma


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): get in the way of


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): it. You shouldn't do something because other people expect you to do it. You should do what's best for you and for that moment. And the community college system provides, I think, one of the highest quality, higher education


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): throughout the world.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): And we're so lucky to have have the contract community college system supporting our county. I think it's really


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one of the crown jewels of country across the County


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: Jared. If I can say, I think the statement comes from the fact that we accept 100%


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: of individuals that are interested in coming to us, which is really a shame. I mean, it's a shame that that's kind of where the stigma stems from. it's not.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: you know. You're not special by, you know, coming here in that sense. And and I'll tell you II went to Akalani's high school, Lafayette and talk about stigma. So you know, when my classmates, similar to Rebecca, we're talking about going to, you know, prestigious for your universities and beyond and I was going to Dvc. II you know, I mean honestly like


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: I had a strange sense, because one, my brother, when he got into Dvc. As an international student, and he had to get into Dvc. As an international student


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: he was jumping for joy. So I remember him jumping for joy and being so excited about getting accepted to Dvc. That I was like, I'm gonna go to Dvc.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So when you know my classmates are like, you're going to Dvc, go to Dvc. And I'll tell you the funniest thing. So I went from high school directly to Dvc. 2 years later I was off to my 4 year, and I finished everything on time. As a result, when I was working on app out on campus at Dvc.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: I would see my friends who had gone directly to a 4 year. A year later, come back to Dvc. I worked in the Cooperative Education and Career Development Center. So they come in and I'd see them. And I'm like, Hey, you know. So and so I thought you went off to, you know, this university like, yeah.


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: So it's a rough experience. I'm back at Dvc. So honestly like


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: what an awesome institution that we have, that one accepts all and ensures that you reach your potential and provides the support and wraparound services. Is you just heard Rebecca describe and believes in you. Ensures that our faculty are fully dedicated to you and your needs


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: focused only on instruction. They don't need to do research. They don't need to prove themselves. They're proven. It's


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: it's really special.


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Jared Asch: Wow. I


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Jared Asch: I think that was a great answer, and I liked how the 2 of you were homegrown, and we're able to tell such personal stories of where should go. And I think just as somebody who who lives here in the East Bay.


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Jared Asch: whether you're in Alameda, contract Solano, or wherever you are, really do some research on your community college because I'm blown away just


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Jared Asch: today, how much is offered and what kind of great services you're you're giving with that limited budget that you're talking about, right? Your goal is to get everybody ahead. And that's what the 100% is. It's to give everybody that opportunity. So thank you both for all the work you're doing. Well follow up with me on some stats, and we'll throw it into the show notes.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): and I think my last thing here is, what are we gonna go to that like 5 Star Dollar restaurant members together, we'll talk about housing, and we could show them our culinary program.


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Jared Asch: That'd be great. Alright, thank you. Both for being here. We really appreciate


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everything today. So


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Mojdeh Mehdizadeh: thank you.


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Rebecca Barrett (She/Her/Hers): Thank you.



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