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Community College Supporters to Link Hands Across State  

By Lookout Staff

April 15, 2011 -- A human chain stretching from San Diego to Sacramento will pass through Santa Monica Sunday to raise funds for community college students in the face of threatened budget cuts to higher education.

Santa Monica College students will do their part, forming a length of the chain running along Pico Boulevard from Ocean Avenue to 20th Street.

“At times you simply have to do something amazing to get people's attention and get them to take action,” said Ken Kragen, executive producer of “Hands Across California.”

“Hands Across California will shine a light on the critical issues confronting our community college students and help raise needed funds for student scholarships,” Kragen said.

“It's an event everyone should participate in,” he said.

A cohort of celebrities and politicians is expected to join the demonstration, estimated to total one million participants, organizers say.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will join musician Quincy Jones, actors George Lopez, Mark Harmon and Lily Tomlin, and national hot rod racing champions John and Courtney Force in support of the fund- and consciousness-raising event.

“The nearly three million students enrolled at California's community colleges make up 25 per cent of America's college students, and they know the importance of an education,” Jones said.

“For them, it can mean the difference between poverty and prosperity, between failure and success, between hopelessness and promise,” he said.

“An education opens doors that would not otherwise be accessible,” said Jones.

Hands Across California is expected to involve most of the state's 112 community colleges, at a time when anticipated state budget cuts threaten to cut off access to many of the students who've come to see the schools as their entry point into higher education.

If Governor Brown's proposed budget goes through, $400 million will be cut from community college coffers next year.

State cutbacks could result in a deficit that could bankrupt Santa Monica College unless deep cuts are made in enrollment, class offerings and staff, college officials say.

Hands Across California organizers hope to raise a $100 million scholarship endowment, providing financial support for 5,000 students a year.

Proceeds will go to the California Community Colleges Scholarship Endowment (CCCSE), a permanent scholarship fund. Every dollar raised through Hands Across California will be matched with 50 cents from the Bernard Osher Foundation.

The foundation also committed another $25 million as a challenge grant to the California community

colleges, pending their ability to raise an additional $50 million for the CCCSE by June 2011.


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