Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Have a Good Summer Everybody!

Hi Everyone!  No more posts for the summer, but below is a long article about the Civic Center Campus.  Read it and share it with your friends in the USA and in your country.  If you want to contact me, you can email me at dselleck@ccsf.edu

City College in the Tenderloin

Students studying for Citizenship in 1941 at 750 Eddy

Although 74.3 percent of District 6 residents voted yes on last November’s Proposition A –- the parcel tax which will provide more than $15 million annually over the next eight years to City College of San Francisco (CCSF) -- few realize that there’s a CCSF campus right here in the Tenderloin. Located at 750 Eddy Street between Van Ness and Polk, movie buffs might recognize the building as the convent school in 1992’s Sister Act II, starring Whoopi Goldberg. 

                Built in 1910, it replaced the Cosmopolitan Grammar School which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.   The new building started out as Adams Elementary School.  By the 1940s, the school served adults as the Adams Continuation School where, according to the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin, “all races and creeds brush shoulders as they seek a common goal - United States citizenship - through competent coaching."   The competent coaching continues today although the building’s name has changed a couple of times, first in 1967 to Alemany, named after the Bishop who is credited with establishing the first adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in San Francisco, and then in 2009 to Civic Center to more accurately reflect its location in the center of the city.

 Since becoming part of the San Francisco Community College District in the 1970s, the Civic Center Campus has primarily been devoted to ESL instruction.  Back in Bishop Alemany’s day, the student body was principally Gaelic speakers from Ireland. Today’s students come from over 55 countries on five continents, making Civic Center a mini-United Nations, only blocks away from where the UN charter was signed.  The majority of the students are from China, Latin America and Vietnam, with a recent surge of immigrants from Nepal and Yemen.

 With the exception of one LGBT class, AIDS in America, the classes at Civic Center are non-credit, which is San Francisco’s version of adult education.  These classes are free, open-entry and open-exit.  ESL classes range from Literacy -- for students who have little or no knowledge of the alphabet or had little or no schooling in their native country -- up through the high-intermediate level.  General ESL classes focus on speaking, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and American culture.  Other specialized classes teach social communication, English through movies, and vocational ESL on the computer.  Business classes include keyboarding (basic typing) and two short– term certificate programs: one in Basic Computer Concepts and the other in Excel Basics.

The campus currently has approximately 2,000 students, most of whom live or work in the surrounding Tenderloin, Civic Center, SOMA and Western Addition neighborhoods. Students range in age from 18 to 85 and include everyone from former farmers, doctors and gang members to the homeless, sex workers, and monks.  One of the current beginning level students is a prince from Iran!

After attending these non-credit classes, some students go on to credit ESL classes.  Others fulfill their personal goals of reaching a level of English to help them get a job or promotion, be able to communicate with their children’s teachers, their American-born grandchildren, or their doctors. Some become U.S. citizens.  Students in the business classes gain job skills or go on to credit classes.

                Every year or so, the students have a fundraising bake sale.  In the past money has gone to help survivors of natural disasters around the globe, but this   year’s sale will benefit the Bay Area Women and Children’s Center (BAWCC)/Tenderloin Community Elementary School where many of the students’ children go.  Every Christmas for several years, faculty members have played Santa through the BAWCC which sends along specific gift requests from neighborhood children.  

                The Civic Center Campus is the embodiment of what a community college should be.  The student council has a party every semester or so where many from the diverse student body come together to celebrate.  Although the DJ didn’t show up at the last party, everyone –- from the youngest to the oldest –- ended up dancing to disco music. And, on a recent afternoon, as several ESL students practiced their English with a volunteer tutor in the campus library, an African American woman from the Business class regaled them with the first gospel song that most of them had ever heard.   

                 Many of the students who go to the Civic Center Campus are at a difficult time in their lives, struggling to make it in a new country, to make ends meet, or to get back on their feet.  For them, the school serves as a bastion of hope and opportunity.  It is truly a community.

Civic Center Campus today.  Come visit us!


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