On my way to the wilderness, I passed…

Yesterday, I drove a speedy little Fiat into the Santa Cruz mountains, the light filtering through the redwoods and through the sun roof onto my head, in order to take a wilderness skills class that taught me how to walk stealthily through a pile of leaves in order to sneak up on a deer and smack it on the ass.

This post is not about that. Because I never feel compelled to write about the actually interesting things in my life, it would seem.

Instead, this post is about community colleges, and my love of them. On my way to the citycarshare pod to pick up my fiat-for-the-day, I passed Laney College. There’s nothing in particular that I can point out as appealing about Laney (though I’m sure some of my alum and staff friends there can fill me in), but it just made me happy to walk onto the campus for a moment.

It’s because it plain feels like a community college; the look, the smell, the aura, everything. The buildings are of that old-but-not-old-enough-to-look-prestigious era, you can peek past smudgy windows into sparsely decorated rooms, and the giant cement steps and attempts at a ‘quad’ clearly demonstrate the sweetly aspiring dreams of the designers.

empty hallway at Wayne County Community College, b/w photo
Wayne County Community College, by Don Harder, dharder9475

Aspiration. That’s why I love community colleges. They remind me of my time in high school, when I would visit PCPA at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria (bad idea!) and dream about my future as a Broadway star. Or that other time in high school, when I spent my freshman summer in a young writers’ program at Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, dreaming about my future as E.L. James.

So there’s a little of the bittersweet in there. Sweet aspirations, rarely grounded in reality. I kinda want to pet those concrete walls and murmur words of support. “Oh honey, it’s okay if you never MAKE it. I love you just the way you are. You don’t have to be an ivy leaguer to deserve love.”

George E. Frost Building, Holyoke Community College
George E. Frost Building, Holyoke Community College, by Elizabeth Thomsen

Cuesta may soon be closing, and the thought makes me incredibly sad. That campus in particular always felt full of dreams, and, in a less ethereal vein, also had amazing programs and faculty. If the school closes due to a poor reaction to a funding cut, it will be a spectacular loss for the community… and for the future of dreaming.







* Possibly tied in (but more likely just relating thematically) to my love letter to average scholastic achievers: today’s discovery that my coworker’s high school had two alumni who are now Nobel winners, while my school’s claim to fame lies in teen heartthrobs. Cuesta’s alum list is also way more impressive. Jake Shields! Dude!

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