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Branch campuses commemorate a decade of education, valued role as a resource for community connection

GRAPHIC SUBMITTED BY MARK RUSSELL JOHNSON
 - New campuses in Prineville and Madras connected local residents with local secondary education access.Ten years ago, Central Oregon Community College opened new campuses in Madras and Prineville, connecting local residents with convenient hometown class options and a range of learning resources, from computer labs to adult basic skills. Since then, and in partnership with COCC's campuses in Bend and Redmond, the Madras and Prineville campuses have greatly expanded opportunity and access across a district whose footprint fills an area nearly the size of Massachusetts. Just this past academic year, COCC's student body included 646 students from Jefferson County and 520 students from Crook County, many of whom found the launch they needed with their local campus. "Being able to do all my prerequisites in Prineville was so helpful," said recent graduate Ashley Kingsford. "It saved me a lot of time and money, with not having to travel to Bend to get them done. Also, the staff at the Prineville campus is amazing." And the classes don't just promise a shorter commute, they're smaller in size and provide more personal attention. "I was scared because I didn't do well in my science classes in high school," recalled Lydia Galan of Madras, thinking back to her anxious ramp-up to college. "But I heard from friends that COCC science teachers are helpful and have great tutoring services." Having classes located just down the road created a smoother start for Galan's college journey. She even secured a part-time job on campus as a computer lab tech. Now a graduate with a transfer degree, Galan is soon to complete her studies at the Oregon Institute of Technology. COCC Madras and COCC Prineville — both which opened in September of 2011 with the support of a voter-backed bond and generous land donations from the Bean Foundation, in Madras, and Crook County, in Prineville — have grown into more than essential learning centers in the region. Beyond offering GED prep classes, tutoring help and college-level coursework (which this fall term includes subjects such as computer fundamentals, math in society and, in Madras, Ichishkin, a language of the Warm Springs people), the campuses serve as valued community hubs. COCC Madras, for instance, recently hosted a middle school drone camp and served as a COVID-19 vaccination site in partnership with the county's health department. The campuses routinely open their doors to agencies and organizations, providing meeting spaces and videoconferencing technology for school districts, chambers of commerce and others. A partnership provides instructors for the nearby Deer Ridge Correctional Institution and its extensive education program. Even before COVID-19 made remote learning a necessity, "Zoom rooms" on both campuses were offering dedicated technology for streaming studies. "These state-of-the-art spaces and technology allow our students to access many more classes," said Suzie Kristensen, director of the Prineville campus. While the campuses have remained open since the pandemic's onset, courses and services are again being offered in-person, allowing for a more connected educational experience. The college's policy, at present, requires students and visitors to be masked-up and follow distancing protocol. Celebrations for the campus milestones are slated for the months ahead, with details forthcoming. In Madras, the commemoration will be part of the annual Salmon Bake event in May; in Prineville, the anniversary will be recognized during a spring event for the community. Right now, as back-to-school season gets underway, a new wave of students is discovering just how far a college campus in their community can take them. Visit cocc.edu for more information about these branch campuses and the many services and degree paths they offer.


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