When Crafton Hills College opened its doors to its first students, it offered classes in the traditional general education curriculum and vocational preparation programs. It provided student support services such as counseling and financial aid. It had a small but dedicated corps of classified employees who kept the physical plant and offices running smoothly. But it didn’t offer much in the way of extra-curricular activities.
Students expressed their feelings about this unmet need in opinions in the College newspaper, The Dust Cloud. In those first few years, lack of student interest in student government caused elections for student representative to be cancelled.
Through the 1970’s, 1980’s and much of the 1990’s, extracurricular activities, managed by the dean of student services, slowly increased. [See whether we can get more information from Kirsten] However the College had no physical student center.
Student life on campus got a big boost when in 1996 the CHC student senate approved $70,000 to establish its first office in the cafeteria building. Shortly thereafter, in 1997, the College’s academic senate passed a resolution to convert the CHC cafeteria building into a temporary student center. The College administration agreed, and the center was so designated.
CHC recognized the need to develop student life further when it opened a new full-time position of director of student life and hired its first director to head a department of student life in 2006. Student involvement soon began to grow under the energetic leadership of Ericka Paddock, the newly hired director of student life. In 2007, a student was selected as the first at CHC to speak at graduation and another student sang the National Anthem at that event.
More creative activities followed. In 2011and again in 2012, the student senate hosted drag shows known as “Operation: Glitter” to benefit the Foothill AIDS Project. In its first year, the event raised $1,200 for those infected with HIV/AIDS in the Inland Empire.
Interest in student participation in college governance was also on the rise. In 2012, 651 students cast their votes in student government elections (a rate almost seven times the national average for two- and four-year college election participation).
By 2013 CHC had 29 chartered clubs and hosted its inaugural “Three Peaks Challenge” hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy for CHC students, faculty, and staff. Four years later, over 100 students, faculty, and staff participated in a service oriented “Three Peaks Challenge.” Their efforts helped the Redlands Family Services Association distribute 21K lbs. of donated food that November.
CHC’s students have also been active on the State level. In 2014, Student Senate President Patrick Dorsey received statewide recognition when the Student Senate of California Community Colleges (SSCCC) selected him for the President’s Award for exemplary service. He and his cabinet had worked on efforts to keep tuition and fees low for financially struggling students in the face of rising State community college fees.
Then in 2016, the Crafton Hills College Student Senate was awarded a $10K grant from the California Community College League to increase student voter registration in the 2016 US Presidential Election. The League subsequently recognized the CHC Student Senate as the group that registered the most student voters among participating schools across the State.
In 2019, the California State Senate appointed CHC Student Senate President Valerie Johnson to the California Community College Student Success Funding Formula Oversight Committee. As the only student on this committee, Johnson represented 2.3 million California Community College students.
CHC’s students continued their leadership contributions when in 2019 Crafton Hills College Student Trustee Elijah Gerard was elected to serve as the sole student member of the statewide California Community College Board of Trustees.
Most recently, the Department of Student Life helped keep valuable extracurricular activities going during the Pandemic by initiating or contributing to 51online cultural celebrations as part of including Hispanic Heritage Month, National “Coming Out” Day, Undocumented Student Action Week, Inaugural Conversations on Race Events, Black History Month, and GayPril.
As is evident, CHC has developed a vibrant student life program that helps students foster meaningful connections become with the College and learn leadership skills while helping to strengthen their community.