For nearly 100 years, Pasadena City College (PCC) has served the San Gabriel Valley. It educates over 20,000 students every semester. It contributes over $600 million to the local economy while supporting 6,000 jobs. And it’s transformed hundreds of thousands of lives, including mine.
I’m a PCC graduate. Like many PCC students, I was the first in my family to go to college. My parents never got a higher education. My mother and her family fled the Cambodian genocide as refugees. My dad left everything he knew in Argentina to immigrate to the U.S.
We grew up low-income. My parents became vending machine operators, which involved transporting and fixing vending machines across Southern California. My parents knew how important an education was. They rented a small backhouse in Arcadia so that my younger brother and I could access a well-resourced public school district. We all shared a bed for some time and my younger brother and I ate free and reduced price meals at school. I wanted to go to college but I couldn’t afford it.
I enrolled at PCC while working three jobs, saving money, and helping my family with work. At PCC, I made lifelong friends, met professors who became mentors, and found my stride. I graduated from PCC as valedictorian and transferred to Yale. I graduated from Yale College, got my Master’s at the University of Oxford, and graduated from Yale Law School. After securing a law firm job, I helped my parents fulfill a life-long goal: buying a home in America. This wouldn’t have been possible without PCC giving me the chance to get a higher education.
And it’s helped others do the same in the last century by providing access to affordable higher education and job training. But like any institution with a long history, PCC needs critical support to continue its mission. Most of its facilities were built over 50 years ago and need serious safety repairs and upgrades. Many buildings have asbestos and can’t withstand serious earthquakes. Many classrooms and existing facilities for STEM (science, engineering, math, and technology) instruction are also outdated.
While PCC receives state funding, the funding covers existing operating costs. It isn’t enough to repair, modernize, and retrofit facilities. California provides limited funding to improve facilities, which also requires local matching funds. While the PCC Foundation raises significant funds, they’re still not sufficient to complete the needed repairs and upgrades.
There’s a bond measure this election that’d provide PCC the necessary funding. “Measure PCC” provides $565 million in locally-controlled funds to improve college facilities. The funding allows PCC to remove hazardous materials, upgrade aging classrooms, and improve campus accessibility for students with disabilities. Funds must be used locally. All spending is audited and faces regular public oversight from a committee made of local residents.
This investment more than pays for itself like it has in the past. PCC was created with a bond measure almost a century ago. In 1924, Pasadena residents and business leaders advocated for a $2,994,000 (worth nearly $52 million today) bond to create “Pasadena Junior College,” which became PCC. The measure passed and created a community college that became a local engine of economic opportunity, which supports one in every 54 local jobs. Voters can keep this tradition alive as PCC enters its second century.
My story wouldn’t exist without PCC. PCC helped my family achieve the American dream. By voting yes on Measure PCC, you’ll not only guarantee that PCC continues educating and training students to contribute to the local community – but you’ll also guarantee that stories like mine continue to be possible.
Ryan Liu attended Pasadena City College