This year marked the 13th year of Skyline College’s Skyline Shines Award, presented annually to one College employee or group and one community individual or group who help Skyline College to shine in terms of its quality of programs and services and its reputation for quality.
College Winner: Pamela Ortiz Cerda, Program Services Coordinator, Dream Center
As a part-time staff member for most of her time at Skyline College’s new Dream Center, Ms. Ortiz Cerda has worked quickly and efficiently to invent and establish the Center as a space accessible and open to all. Unfazed that there was no structure in place or precedent for doing so, she hit the ground running, using her networking skills, excellent judgement and professional skills to make it happen, and on a part-time basis. As DACA has been rescinded and reopened, Ms. Ortiz-Cerda has stayed up to date on the constantly changing legal landscape, able to answer questions from confused peers with confidence, clarity and accuracy.
Pamela demonstrates the values of Skyline College through her earnestness and approachability, as well as her courage to speak the truth. Though young, she runs monthly Dream Center Task Force meetings consisting almost exclusively of staff and faculty older than herself, she is easily able to motivate her team to come together and work on common concerns amicably. Additionally and importantly, Pamela has been able to welcome undocumented Skyline students to the Task Force as equals and to create an environment that has encouraged them to return monthly. She also speaks to classes regularly and has led faculty and staff flex workshops.
Her job aside, Pamela embodies social justice work in all aspects of her life. While balancing work and pursuing a graduate degree, she and her family have helped hundreds of community members apply for DACA on their own time without pay. Like many social justice advocates, she works tirelessly to help her community both at work and when she leaves campus.
Establishing and running Skyline College’s Dream Center was no easy feat in such a turbulent political climate. Pamela has met and exceeded that challenge to the benefit of the students we all serve. Congratulations Pamela!
Community Winner: Strategic Energy Innovations
For those of you who may not be familiar, Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building sustainable communities through programs focused on four key areas: education, workforce, housing, and government. SEI works with communities across California on identifying opportunities to provide their residents with socioeconomic support while reducing use of natural resources and generating savings. Five years ago, SEI initiated a partnership with Skyline College to work on programs for its students directed at sustainability education and green workforce development. Today, those programs are known as the Energize Colleges student internship program and the Climate Corps fellowship program.
The Energize Colleges program (designed by SEI) offers Skyline College students internship opportunities through which they develop skills that give them an edge when applying to transfer or looking for a job. Internships pay $13.50/hour, are mostly on campus or with nearby organizations, and have flexible schedules. This affords all students the opportunity to participate with respect to their social, financial, academic, and other constraints. In addition, fellows in SEI’s Climate Corps fellowship program enroll at Skyline College and earn the Climate Protection Professional Certificate while they work at local government agencies, nonprofits, schools and businesses on sustainability projects. Because they are Skyline College students, fellows qualify for student loan deferment. This removes a significant financial barrier that could otherwise deter someone from applying for the fellowship and gaining the valuable hands-on experience needed to advance within the green workforce.
Through the Climate Corps fellowship program, SEI supports Skyline College with its curriculum development program, the Sustainability Blitz. Climate Corps fellows work alongside Skyline College faculty to develop lessons relating sustainability to a variety of different academic disciplines, resulting in a well-rounded education that prepares students to maneuver challenges of the future. SEI staff also collaborates with Skyline College faculty on an energy series module, which provides students with an introduction to concepts of energy and sustainability as well as a space to explore the field’s career opportunities.
Finally, all of the programs implemented with SEI have allowed Skyline College to truly implement its sustainability vision, ensuring our campus is moving into the future in an environmentally responsible way.
Article by Connor Fitzpatrick | Photos by Zaw Min Khant