On September 29, the SBCC Foundation held a lovely President’s Circle Fall Reception on the campus’s Garvin Patio. About 50 major donors, foundation board and staff, and SBCC leadership mingled on the patio while enjoying expansive ocean and mountain views, libations, and live music.
In thanking donors during the program, SBCC Interim Superintendent/President Kindred Murillo emphasized the importance of foundations to community colleges because of the demographic served — the neediest students. She lauded the SBCC Foundation as the leading foundation among California community colleges — the one, she noted, many other colleges are trying to emulate. Murillo thanked donors for changing lives, which she witnesses every day.
Foundation CEO Geoff Green also expressed his gratitude to donors, who provide the foundation with general operating support. This support enables the foundation to manage its investments and raise other funds. Last year, for every dollar in President’s Circle funding it received, it generated another $11 in revenue. Despite the difficulty of the times for so many, Green noted, the foundation is stronger and more capable than ever.
An example of the tremendous impact of the foundation was the disbursement of more than $2 million in emergency grants to more than 2,300 students after the March 2020 lockdown. While federal and state aid would eventually come, Green related, the thousands of students who lost their part-time jobs needed funds immediately. The foundation was able to begin disbursement within 11 days of the lockdown order.
The Promise Program, whose enrollment peaked at 1,700 students before falling to 1,100 during COVID, has rebounded to more than 1,500. Green explained that in light of COVID, the foundation loosened its rules for the program, adopting a no-fault policy, which welcomed all previous Promise students back into the program.
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Launched in 2016, the Promise covers all tuition, fees, books and supplies of any student who has just completed secondary education in the Gaviota to Carpinteria area and complies with the terms of the program. The State of California has long covered the tuition of some low-income students, but in an interview, Green noted that tuition accounts for only about 20 percent of the costs students face. The Promise Program’s coverage of pricey textbooks, fees, and supplies allows college to be an option for many low-income students who otherwise could not attend. The Promise also is open to students whose family earns too much to qualify for the state’s program, yet in many cases cannot afford to attend full-time. These students make up about one-third of Promise students.
Promise Program participant Sarhai Gastelum addressed the gathering, quickly endearing herself to the group. She called the foundation “more than a dream,” and described how she was scared when she saw her $800 bill for books and then amazed to learn that the Promise Program would pay the bill. She praised SBCC staff, who have accepted and supported her in her goals. Gastelum confessed to never seeing herself here, “I thought I would get pregnant at 18 and call it a day,” but now she feels like she can become an astronaut. In thanking donors, she stated that “I wanted to let you know that you do change lives.” After graduating this December, she will enter a firefighting program to fulfill a NASA requirement, then on to Cal Lutheran University.
In addition to the Promise Program, Gastelum participated in the Running Start Program and is now a program mentor. This six-week summer bridge program is for incoming freshman needing to get up to speed, helping them select courses and learn what it takes to succeed in college.
In an interview, Green shared how the foundation’s growth is in part indicative of a larger philanthropic shift. Donors who have long given to elite private universities are realizing that those are not great investments compared to a community college — dollars invested in a community college will go so much further. While he is pleased that the SBCC Foundation is the largest of its kind with $90 million in assets, he noted that much of its assets are restricted and it has a long way to go to be able to do everything it wants to do for the college.
In the last school year, the foundation distributed $4.5 million, including $2.4 million for the Promise, $1.1 million for other scholarships and book grants, and $1 million for other college programs. These numbers are down somewhat from the prior year because of COVID-induced enrollment decline and program pauses.
For more info about the SBCC Foundation or to make a donation, go to http://sbccfoundation.org.
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