Author Archives: Cari Craven

Commencement Ceremony Participation Deadline – March 15, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

For the first time in the history of Columbia College, a Drive Thru Commencement Ceremony will combine a vehicle parade loop with a live-streamed online event starting at 4:00pm on April 30, 2021.

Commencement Ceremony Participation Deadline – March 15, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Availability for participation is limited, so sign up today!



For more information visit:

Speakers explore today’s Native American experience

WHERE:     Via Zoom

WHEN:      Wednesday, January 27, 6pm

The Columbia College Foundation will host a discussion of Native life in a special presentation Wednesday evening January 27. A regional panel of spiritual, cultural and literary leaders will offer a range of perspectives on current issues, such as urban versus rural Native life, governance structures and efforts to revitalize language and cultural traditions.

Speakers include nationally acclaimed Calaveras County author Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho), Carlos Geisdorff (Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk), Cultural Coordinator of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk, and Mother Lode tribal elder Bill Leonard (Southern Sierra Miwuk).

Each guest speaker will have a presentation on an area of focus:

  • Tommy Orange, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, will read from his award-winning novel There There, and discuss its themes of identity and urban Native experiences
  • Carlos Geisdorff will speak about Native cultural and language revitalization, especially in California
  • Bill Leonard will describe extensive efforts petitioning for federal recognition for Southern Sierra Miwuk tribe

Columbia College Counselor Stephanie Beaver-Guzman (Hupa) will moderate.

“It is exciting to host these diverse and well-respected Native community members,” Beaver-Guzman said. As the event organizer, she shared: “Their teachings and perspectives are so essential.  Our formal educational systems do not always create space or show value for Indigenous Knowledge, and our community can learn so much from each participant.”

The event, originally scheduled for last spring, was reorganized as a Zoom event by Beaver-Guzman and the participants.

The January 27 evening program continues a community lecture series hosted by the Columbia College Foundation in cooperation with college faculty and regional partners.  This event is co-hosted by the Columbia College Cultural Enrichment Committee.

Jeff Warren, Columbia College Foundation President, commended Beaver for her continued efforts.

“The Foundation is pleased to help bring these speakers together for an enlightening and educational evening and help provide a forum for these important voices,” he said.

The Columbia College Foundation is a community nonprofit established in 1972 to promote quality higher education that enriches the academic, economic, and cultural life of our community. Our mission is to promote student success by providing community resources that support and expand educational opportunities for Columbia College’s students. Learn more at or call (209) 588-5065.


Columbia College’s Fire Academy would like to announce the graduation and Certificates of Completion to the successful students of the Fire Technology Program.

 The certificates are awarded based on the student’s successful completion of the academic and manipulative training as mandated for a California Firefighter 1 Certification. The students must still complete six months of full-time or one year of part-time field experience before applying to the state for Firefighter I Certification. “Some of the graduates will apply or continue with reserve, intern, and volunteer in positions at local fire departments since entering the academy” said Chief Shane Warner, Columbia College Fire Technology Program Coordinator/Instructor.  “Some of the students have already applied through a standard application process for seasonal employment with CAL Fire, Forest Service, and local fire agencies” said Instructor Andy VanHoogmoed.

These students have completed an intense 16 weeks of training. The rigorous training is designed to help serious candidates meet the requirements for demanding careers as professional firefighters, including more than 576 hours of academic and manipulative training, according to Chief Shane Warner.

In addition to the “routine” fire training classes, specialized training was delivered involving Incident Command System, Hazardous Materials Training, Seasonal Wildland Firefighting classes, Confined Space, Basic Power Saw Safety, and live fire suppression training which was conducted at the Twain Harte Fire Department’s Training Center. A special thank you goes out to Columbia College Fire Department, Columbia Fire District, Sonora City Fire Department, Twain Harte Fire Department, Tuolumne Bank of Me-Wuk Indian Rancheria Fire Department, Tuolumne City Fire Department, Mi Wuk Sugar Pine Fire Department, Tuolumne County Fire Department, CAL Fire TCU, and Sierra Conservation Center.

“Each of these students deserves credit for their determination and perseverance” said Steve Amador, Dean of Career Technical Education. “There is no doubt that this year has been challenging, yet these Fire Academy students have proven to themselves, and to their community that hard work can overcome obstacles, including the many difficulties we have faced this year.  I am honored to call these Fire Academy students – graduates of Columbia College.”

“The Fire Academy tests the strength of character of young men and women”, said Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay, President of Columbia College. “This year’s graduates deserve special recognition for overcoming the COVID-19 odds, both inside and outside the classroom. Great job, graduates!”

The traditional Columbia College Fire Academy graduation ceremony cannot be observed under the current circumstances. Once the pandemic is over, an alternate for graduation will be decided upon and the graduates will be informed accordingly.

For further information contact Fire Academy Chief Shane Warner at 588-5308 or Captain Andy VanHoogmoed at 588-5153.

Spring Classes are Open at Columbia College

The COVID-19 global pandemic has created human and economic crisis across the world in a scale not witnessed before. The pandemic has a disproportionately high impact on low-wage, high-contact jobs. Rural communities have been impacted to a greater degree due to the lack of broadband access in remote areas. As we race towards the availability of a vaccine and return to normal, one thing is certain – a well-trained, college educated labor force is more likely to be gainfully employed in the post COVID-19 era.

Columbia College has been preparing students from the Mother Lode region for the last fifty years. More often than not, earning a college degree is a passport to a well-paying job. Currently, enrollment is open for the Spring Semester. Opportunities are available for local area residents to earn a college credential in a variety of areas to improve their job prospects. A number of options are available in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, and Career Technical Education. During the pandemic, Columbia College is taking all precautions to keep its students and employees safe, as evidenced by the fact that throughout the Fall semester, there were no large-scale breakouts of COVID-19 on campus, despite several students and staff that came to the campus on a regular basis.

Most classes in the Spring semester will be held remotely – where one can participate in college courses from their home. If access to internet or other technology is a challenge, Columbia College has several hotspots and laptops available for students to use at no additional cost. Over 80% of students taking classes at Columbia College – qualify for financial aid. There are several opportunities available to students who need financial aid to pursue their college education. In the Spring semester, a number of additional grants are open for students, apart from the routinely available financial aid. If financial aid is a barrier to enrolling in college, please check with Columbia College to know the options available to you.

“We are here to support our students succeed in college and progress towards an economically rewarding career”, said Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay, President of Columbia College. “We have both fiscal and technology resources available for our students who want to enroll for classes in spring. Our well qualified and caring faculty and staff are here to support the educational journey of students from our area. Spring classes will begin on January 11, 2021.”

If you have been postponing your college education, or you know someone who is thinking about college, the time is now. Please visit or call 209 588 5109 to talk to a college official.

Columbia College Cancels Claim Jumper Competition Through June 2021

SONORA, Calif. – Growing safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 and Tuolumne County’s inclusion in the recent Regional Stay Home Order have led to the cancellation of Columbia College volleyball and basketball through the spring of 2021. We remain hopeful that the 2021-2022 season will bring Athletics back to the Oak Pavilion and the community will be there to support our dedicated athletes.

Columbia College will always place the health and safety of its student-athletes, coaches, staff, and community first. This decision is disappointing, but especially so for our student-athletes, who put in countless hours preparing for a modified spring season. We are committed to our student-athletes and will continue to provide them access to health, counseling, and student-athlete support services as they continue their academic journey.

The difficult decision is made keeping primarily two aspects in mind – health of our student athletes and medical system of our community. Playing contact sports in the middle of a pandemic brings high health risk to our athletes. Moreover, if COVID-19 spreads rapidly during athletic events, our medical system, particularly ICU bed availability may be jeopardized if the need for beds exceeds the availability. By not participating in competitive sports, Columbia College expects to keep both the students and the community safer.

Making Alternative Transformations at Columbia College

Columbia College is committed to its mission of serving all students, irrespective of their background. The resources students need to be successful in college depends upon several factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, access to food, shelter, etc. Columbia College offers several special programs dedicated to and targeted at students with identified needs. These special programs provide resources such as money for books, enhanced counseling, priority registration, and uses several strategies to engage students with the campus and academics. Making Alternative Transformations (MAT) is one such special program. This program is targeted at formerly incarcerated students. Research shows that formerly incarcerated students face several barriers to social integration such as restricted access to housing, jobs, social connections, etc. A combination of such factors often contributes to a higher recidivism rate that not only impacts the person, but also costs the society. Alternately, when the formerly incarcerated persons have access to college education, their chance of social rehabilitation increases significantly, helping both the individual and the society.

The MAT Program supports students in making the transition to college in a supportive learning cohort. Alicia Kolstad, Columbia College counselor, Sociology instructor, and director of the program, knows that formerly incarcerated or justice involved students need help accessing computers, applying for college and registering for classes. Even the cost of books for some of the cohort’s courses are loaned out to make it affordable. It isn’t just justice involved students that can enter this cohort, but other students in need of additional support. The program consists of a Guidance class that helps new students adjust to college life, and a computer skills course. There are computers available on loan from the Columbia College library, and hotspots which are portable data hubs for which the college pays monthly, in order to loan to students in need of WIFI or with low bandwidth. Any student that needs additional support can enter the program each semester. One such student is Kristina. Here is her story.

My name is Kristina and I came back to college thanks to the MAT Program. I was in the GEO Re-          entry group (a felony court ordered felony probation program) when Alicia Kolstad and the original MAT crew came to tell us that community college is for everyone. I was at a turning point in my life where I knew I had to start doing things differently if I wanted to stay out of prison and be a part of my kids’ lives. So, I signed up. I learned how to be a successful student through Alicia’s Guidance 18 class. She helped me to set goals for my future and an educational plan to go with it. I have stayed the course and continued to be successful in all areas of my life since then. I will be graduating from Columbia College in spring 2021 and transferring to a university in fall of 2021. I have received so much support through the college and I have never been judged for my past decisions. I am eternally grateful for the MAT Program and honored to be able to work in the MAT program until graduation.

The program is seeking new students for spring. There will be help with applying to Columbia College and becoming familiar with the MAT program on November 19, at the Columbia College campus. All safety protocols will be in place. Individuals formerly incarcerated, justice involved, or simply seeking additional support and specialized attention as you get your bearings, are invited to RSVP by contacting Alicia Kolstad, Director of Making Alternative Transformations, at (209) 588-5333 or Please help spread the word!

Historic $100 million gift to California Community Colleges targets Central Valley: Columbia College and MJC among 34 eligible colleges

Columbia College is pleased to announce that it is among 34 California Community Colleges that will benefit from a $100 million gift just announced to the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC).

California Chancellor Eloy Oakley announced the historic gift at a press conference Tuesday. It is a pledge from the Jay Pritzker Foundation to the state’s community college system over the next 20 years, and marks the largest pledge ever to community colleges in the nation. The funds will be spent for scholarships and emergency financial assistance for students as part of the new California Community College Finish Line Scholars Program.  More details will follow from FCCC and the Columbia College Foundation.

According to Tuesday’s announcement, 34 community college campuses, including Columbia College and Modesto Junior College, are eligible to take part in the initiative and will each receive up to $150,000 during the first year.  The program targets regions with low college degree attainment, including the Central Valley and many rural areas of the state. The goal is to help students in these regions complete their degrees.  This first year of funding will focus on student emergency assistance needs, and participating colleges can expect similar funding for at least the first five years of this program that can be used for emergency assistance and scholarships.

“This is fantastic news and we look forward to learning more about how this can help our students at Columbia College, both now and in coming years,” said Columbia College President Santanu Bandyopadhyay. “It’s great to know the donors and the FCCC are specifically targeting regions and communities like ours, where students face so many hurdles in preparing for better jobs and better futures. As the value of a college degree is expected to rise even further in the post-COVID world, this grant is going to help our students in the years to come.”

The Columbia College Foundation was also thrilled with the announcement.

“We’re excited to learn of this incredible gift and what it might mean for our students,” said CCF President Jeff Warren. “This is an amazing opportunity, and it matches the top priority at our foundation – providing direct support to our students to help them reach their educational goals. We work with so many community donors and partners who will be thrilled to know this is coming and this gift will add to their past and future contributions. “

YCCD Chancellor Henry Yong concurred.

“This will be a much-needed boost to many of our students,” Chancellor Yong said. “For some, this could be the difference between being a successful completer or a dropout.  I hope the generosity of the Pritzker Family will inspire many to contribute, and magnify the positive impact on our students and community.” 

October 19-23, 2020: California Community College Undocumented Student Action Week

In recognition and support of this statewide effort, Columbia College and the Columbia College Foundation affirms that we strive to make Columbia College a welcoming and supportive place for all students to achieve their educational goals.

In this week, we are highlighting the following services to support undocumented students in our community. Did you know?

  • The Columbia College Promise — providing two years of tuition free attendance for recent high school graduates — is available to California Dream Act students. This pilot program to date has assisted more than 570 local high school seniors to transition directly into college upon graduation, and has always been open to students using the Dream Act. We encourage all eligible students to access this pathway to a more secure future in our community. Learn more here: Columbia College Promise
  • California Dream Act students can apply for local scholarship support through the Columbia College Foundation and its community partners. We are currently working with interested donors to expand opportunities for undocumented student support. Learn more here: CCF Scholarships
  • The Columbia College Financial Aid Office can assist undocumented students who want to learn more about state financial aid available to them. Learn more here: Columbia College Financial Aid or California Dream Act

”We help several Dreamers every semester, usually students who grew up in our community, and now are working toward careers in health care, science and more,” says Kirsten Frye, Dean of Student Services . “Often they are first-generation students, very motivated and hard-working, but unsure of their options. It’s so important to let these students know our community and our state have programs to support their education.”

“Community Colleges provide much needed access and social mobility to those who need the most”, said Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay. “I am delighted that Columbia College is addressing this much-needed void in our community”.

 Learn more about Undocumented Student Action Week here: Supporting Undocumented Students – Community College League of Community Colleges.