Photos by Keeley Smith.
Long Beach City College (LBCC) President Eloy Oakley began his State of the College address with an earnest look at the inspirational story of Martel and Markel Cooper: twins who, growing up on Andy Street in Lakewood, graduated from Paramount High School with stellar grades and extracurriculars, but little to no funding for college.
With his opening statement focused on their success and imminent graduation from LBCC this spring, with intentions to transfer to a four-year college to study Kinesiology, Oakley centered his address on students at LBCC who achieve despite all odds.
“It’s a wonderful example of the power of community and engaging those around you,” said Oakley of the Coopers and their mentors.
There was no shortage of inspirational shout-outs, videos and images at the 2016 State of the College—Oakley’s ninth address at LBCC. In fact, despite the fact that it takes over 30 percent of students six years to complete the transfer process after beginning their studies at LBCC (an “unacceptable” statistic, Oakley stated in last year’s speech), LBCC students have engaged in nationally recognized programs, perhaps more than ever this year.
Oakley was quick to run off the list of accomplishments: LBCC’s college newspaper, The Viking, was honored as the best junior college newspaper in the state, the LBCC radio station KCTY won a national award this year and programs like Long Beach College Promise, involving Cal State Long Beach and the Long Beach Unified School District have been recognized as well—by the White House, no less.
Notably, the Long Beach College Promise program expanded this year from one semester of free tuition, to allowing participating students one full year of school, tuition-free.
“There’s nothing more important to strengthen the economy than to focus on education and give everyone access to education,” said Mayor Robert Garcia at the time of the announcement.
Yet, as Long Beach City College District President Doug Otto stated in his address, funding has yet to hit pre-recession levels. According to Otto, the state’s funding is currently $2.1 million, down from a peak of $2.7 million in 2007.
“We have room for more students, but we don’t have the support,” said Otto.
In spite of the reduced support, the university hired more faculty last year, using them to change the structure of curriculum and allow class sessions four times a year (spring, summer, fall and winter) to help align courses for students to take them when the need and graduate as soon as possible. Oakley delved into the plan last year, using the focus of this year’s presentation to be on upbeat, student-oriented stories.
The ongoing theme in this year’s address was how the revamped course structure allows students to use the class schedule to their own benefit, taking them at any time of year, hopefully decreasing the average completion time.
A new culinary facility also made Oakley’s speech, through another curated video using smooth editing techniques, with commendable lighting. Other notable moments included the announced signing of Viking Football lineman and star Josh Fatu to the University of Southern California, outstanding sports achievements by the team on the field this past season and yet another state championship for Vikings Water Polo (the 10th state championship ever).