Author Archives: Cari Craven

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.


Columbia College is a proud participant in the statewide College and Career Access Pathway (CCAP) Program, a dual enrollment program that allows community colleges to teach college courses on high school campuses during the school day. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated remote operation of the high schools themselves, the college has suspended its CCAP course offerings at all seven high schools for the fall term with the hope to resume in the spring.

 In its place, to serve as many high school students with dual enrollment opportunities as possible, Columbia College is opening its doors to ALL high school students to become “Virtual CCAP students.”

 What does this change mean for students and high schools?

·       There will be no dedicated CCAP courses offered through specific high schools in fall 2020.

·       High school students may enroll in any of the hundreds of Columbia College course offerings online, including those with face-to-face laboratory activities meeting on campus or in the field this fall.

·       Students must apply online to the college and submit a registration form, as usual.

·       Tuition and term fees will be waived for all high school students, up to 11 units, for the fall term.

·       Students will need to rent or purchase the textbook(s) for their class(es). (In limited cases, their high schools may have textbooks available to lend to them.)

Most Columbia College courses this fall will take place online, with the exception of some essential lab courses with online lectures coupled with on-campus or field-based labs (e.g. welding, automotive, forestry, science). The college understands the rapid changes in education, particularly in the K-12 system, due to the pandemic and hopes to provide opportunities to high school students who wish to take college classes while reinforcing the primary importance of high school graduation.

 Those students who feel comfortable taking online college classes should complete the following steps. Also, students seeking hands-on learning opportunities in career fields such as welding, automotive, and forestry are encouraged to enroll. Resources are also available for those who experience difficulty while trying to navigate the process.

 Steps for high school students:

1.       Apply to Columbia College

2.       Complete a high school student registration form

3.       Enroll in class(es)

a.       If the class has an English or Math prerequisite, call 209-588-5109 for a counseling appointment prior to registration

4.       Purchase textbook(s)

Resources for students:

·       Registration help Zoom meetings on Tuesdays in August

  •  10am – Zoom meeting ID 924 8946 5969
  • 3pm – Zoom meeting ID 955 5220 2919

·       Step-by-step instructions and tutorials can be found on our Dual Enrollment website:

·       Counseling/Advising – 209-588-5109

·       One-on-one application and registration assistance from MEOC – Contact Tira Lawhorn at 209-588-5077 or

Still have questions?

Please contact Program Specialist Kelsey Halstead at 209-588-5054 or or Interim Director Michelle Walker at 209-588-5045 or

Rianyn Fraser Named 2020 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar

Columbia College student – Rianyn Fraser is one of 207 Phi Theta Kappa members named a 2020 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps new Phi Theta Kappa members defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. Scholars are encouraged to assume leadership roles by participating in Society programs and are selected based on scholastic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. Nearly 700 applications were received.

A total of $207,000 is awarded through the Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation provides $200,000 in funding for the scholarships, with $25,000 set aside for members who are veterans or active members of the United States military. The remaining amount is supported by donations to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation and provides seven Global Leaders of Promise Scholarships, earmarked for international students.

“The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial assistance to outstanding students at community colleges,” said Jane Hale Hopkins, President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa to make it possible for more deserving students to achieve their educational goals and support tomorrow’s leaders of the global community.”

The funds provided by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation not only aid college completion, but also give students the opportunity to engage in Society programs and develop leadership skills to become future leaders in their communities.

“Research shows that Phi Theta Kappa members are four times more likely to complete a college degree than their peers,” said Dr. Monica Marlowe, Executive Director of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation. “The Leaders of Promise Scholarships recognize students for what they have achieved already and assure that financial need isn’t an obstacle to achieving their academic goals.”

“Developing a community-oriented outlook is a critical part of the college experience. Phi Theta Kappa provides the opportunity to build a community of learners at Columbia College. We are truly proud of the accomplishment of Rianyn”, said Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay, President of Columbia College. “The role of community building is all the more relevant now, when we have limited opportunity to be in physical proximity of each other”, he added.

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations, with approximately 240,000 active members in the nation’s colleges. Learn more at

How to Engage with Columbia College during COVID-19 Emergency

Columbia College will offer students and the community a full schedule of online courses and services for the Fall 2020 semester, and is hosting weekly online student information forums to help students navigate the new formats and stay informed. Fall semester courses and services will be offered primarily online, beginning August 24, 2020. Fall classes will consist of online lectures, mostly online labs, and a small number of face-to-face labs. Face-to-face labs will use physical distancing, personal protective equipment, and sanitation procedures to provide the safest learning environments possible.

To communicate regularly and effectively with all staff and students, the campus started weekly Columbia College emails, and hosts Columbia College Student Forums live online at 1:00 p.m. every Wednesday. “We want students to know that we are open, we are here all summer, and we want to hear from you,” said Jen Bick who supports the college’s Fire Academy and coordinates the weekly forums.

Using this Zoom link (, any student can listen live to the questions and concerns students have about starting another semester during the COVID-19 emergency. The Columbia College Student Forums have received such a positive response, plans are set to continue the forums through the Fall semester, and to add evening sessions for students or potential students who work during the day. “The upheaval that COVID-19 has imposed sometimes creates a spark for exploring interests or a new career,” says Kirsten Moss Frye, Columbia College Dean of Student Services. “We hope there are adult learners in our community considering or reconsidering college. The Student Forums are an excellent option to learn more.”

All students and community members are encouraged to join in all the Wednesday Student Forums at 1:00 p.m. to stay informed and feel ready for the Fall 2020 semester. Remaining forums before instruction starts August 24 are as follows:

  • 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 29
  • 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 5
  • 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 12
  • 6:30 p.m., Monday, August 17

All sessions will be recorded and saved on the college’s website to accommodate those who are unable to attend during the scheduled times.

Forums will continue throughout the Fall 2020 semester to help students stay informed as national, state, and local public health directives about the COVID-19 pandemic evolve.

For further information about Columbia College, application assistance, or to make individual Zoom appointments, call Columbia College Counseling at 209-588-5109.