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Neighborhood Series: Santa Barbara City College Foundation

“The definition of neighbor is ‘a person who lives near another.’ Being part of a neighborhood, however, is a much harder task. To be a part of a neighborhood requires effort, responsibility, engagement and unselfish acts that create lasting friendships and meaningful communities that make life worth living.” - Neil Olipani, South County Front Office Coordinator

Previously in the Neighborhood Series, we talked to the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and learned how the concept of neighborhood can span across centuries and cultures to form an entirely unique community. We also learned that the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s Alhecama Theatre was originally built for the Santa Barbara School of the Arts and used later as part of the Adult Education Program and Santa Barbara Junior College, now Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). So we decided to ask the CEO of the SBCC Foundation, Geoff Green, what neighborhood means to them.

“A neighborhood is a community; a real-time, physical community,” said Green. “It is a place and a common experience and, in the case of SBCC, a self-contained campus community where basically everything you need can be provided by your neighbors.”

While SBCC itself was founded in 1909, the SBCC Foundation was not created until 1976, as a result of leadership and support from the broader community. The foundation acts in partnership with the college and provides opportunities for the community to invest in the college. The SBCC Foundation raises funds to fill the gap between the available public funds and what is needed to create an extraordinary community college. The foundation provides more than $1 million in student scholarships and nearly $3million in support for college programs each year.

One of the most recent ways that the SBCC Foundation has been achieving its mission includes the SBCC Promise. The program, which is supported by the Santa Barbara Foundation, offers all local students who complete their secondary education in the Santa Barbara Community College District with the opportunity to attend SBCC full-time for two years free of charge. In addition to becoming a model for community colleges throughout the nation, this program creates an entire neighborhood of SBCC alumni who expand their influence to the rest of the community.

“I firmly believe that no other institution is more closely tied to the people of Santa Barbara than SBCC,” said Green. “Every time someone finds out where I work, they tell me that their brother, son, sister or friend went or worked here, and they tell me what they like about it. Everyone has a story about SBCC, which speaks to how important it is as a resource to the Santa Barbara ‘neighborhood’ and region.”

In addition to SBCC Promise, the foundation continually looks to expand its partnerships with other organizations. For example, SBCC has a very close relationship with Cottage Health for vocational training and education for nurses.

Jazz ensembles from the SBCC music department regularly perform at SoHo Restaurant & Music Club downtown. More recently, the foundation purchased property in downtown Santa Barbara for use by an SBCC educational program, a strategy modeled after the Hutton Parker Foundation’s long-standing practice of purchasing office buildings and renting them out to nonprofit organizations at below-market rents. The rent payments then go back into the SBCC Foundation’s endowment funds. The SBCC Foundation’s assets recently topped $60 million, and Greene believes that these assets can and should be put to work for the college and its students in ways that serve the larger community and go beyond just the distribution of funds.

“The issue of limited space on campus is a challenge to both the college and the foundation. Over the years, the foundation has considered moving off campus several times,” said Green. “However, it is important to the campus that we are accessible to students and faculty because, without being in the neighborhood, we would not know what was going on and we would not be as effective in our work.”

While the SBCC Foundation is committed to remaining in the same neighborhood as the students and professors on campus, sometimes the staff ventures out to Shoreline Beach Cafe for lunch and the college itself often invites other organizations onto campus to use its space in order to build partnerships. For example, on July 31, 2017, the New York Philharmonic and the Music Academy of the West played at SBCC. The college is only beginning to explore ways that it can provide organizations across the county with a space to convene.

“By building community partnerships and bringing individuals and organizations onto our campus while simultaneously offering our resources to the larger Santa Barbara community, we create a real ‘neighborhood’,” said Green. “Because we touch the lives of nearly everyone in this city in some way, and we believe that education is truly a community-wide enterprise, we are working to model that. Santa Barbara has a long history of believing and investing in higher education. With that level of support, we can make real change. And with efforts like the SBCC Promise, our community has an opportunity to change the way that the entire nation views the connection between community and higher education.”

Stay tuned for the next Neighborhood Series as we continue the conversation with the Hutton Parker Foundation, whose model inspired the SBCC Foundation's strategy to purchase property downtown for use by an educational program, and learn what this neighborhood means to them.

info@sbfoundation.org
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101