Community Conversations Garner Diverse Input For SRJC Improvements


A large focus of the Community Conversations event focuses on meeting the needs of a rising Latino population.

William Rohrs, News Editor

Ground rules: Value each other’s stories. Listen to each other. Observe timeframes. Provide space for everyone to participate.

These four commandments became the framework for small group discussions during Santa Rosa Junior College’s Community Conversations event at Elsie Allen High School May 9. The college uses this event as an exercise poll to get the community’s opinion of what the college is doing right and what needs improving.

Elsie Allen’s event is the second of a series of three designed to reach Sebastopol, Windsor and Petaluma communities.

“This is an opportunity for us to hear from the community. It allows us to reach out to places outside of Santa Rosa, and hear what they have to say,” said SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong. In addition to the college president, Board of Trustees members Don Edgar and Don Zumwalt came to hear the community as well.

Associated Student Body President Jessica Jones represented SRJC’s student government while acting as a moderator for the small group discussions.

Coordinator of School Relations Michelle Poggi and Petaluma counselor Norberto Quiroz collaborated with Elsie Allen administration to host the event.

The conversation consisted of three parts: a small group conversation, a large group collaboration and a carousel exercise where participants walked around the walls of the gymnasium, where the walls held questions such as, “What does the SRJC do now that you want changed?” and, “Reading from the Core Values, what would you add, delete or change?”

During the small conversation section, ESL instructor Marti Estrin wants to see more support for the Latino services at SRJC. She said the incoming Latino students threaten to outpace the current funding and preparation for the ESL faculty in the Southwest college campus. Without strong support for second-language learners, SRJC loses a large constituency of California’s future graduating classes.

“I’d like to hear that we’re meeting the rising Latino population, but sometimes we can’t even use the phones or internet,” she said.

Outside of the junior college, Marlene Garcia wants to get SRJC to advertise their greatest success stories. An independent businesswoman and the mother of three daughters, Garcia wants her girls to hear from the college itself that it continues to strive for excellence in the nation. “This is rated the third greatest college in the nation. Let’s hear it once in a while,” she said.

Only giving his first name, John said the math trap is too prevalent at the junior college. “Sometimes, people go to SRJC to become policemen or firemen or other jobs, but they can’t graduate because the math is too hard and they won’t need it for their jobs,” he said.  John represented PG&E electric company.

While SRJC received feedback from the community outside Santa Rosa, the gymnasium did not reach maximum capacity. Vice President of Student Services Ricardo Navarrette threatened to dance with a sign outside the building. “We need to get more people in here. I hope I don’t have to bust out my moves,” he said.

The next Community Conversations event is from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. May 16 in the SRJC Public Training Center, 5743 Skylane Boulevard, Windsor.