drone certificationAfter 60 years, San Jacinto College remains viable option for students

November 24, 2021by helo-10

Last year’s address by San Jacinto College Chancellor Brenda Hellyer was strictly virtual because of the pandemic. This year, a combination of elected officials, trustees, faculty, and community members packed the Eaton Commons at the Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on Nov. 12 to hear her speak of a near return to normal.

“The last 20 months have been challenging,” Hellyer said. “I’m amazed at the work of our employees and what they’ve done to assist our students through a really tough time. In addition to moving thousands of classes online, we did the same thing for our student services, including moving recruiting, advising, campus tours, counseling, tutoring, financial aid, and veteran services.”

The college district increased the food market distribution to more than 140,000 pounds of food to students, faculty and staff during the pandemic.

“We’re still doing that today to whoever needs it,” she said.

In addition to the food help, administration was able to identify students who needed laptops and WiFi to continue their classwork and delivered those to them as well. Students still have access to those loaner laptops and WiFi connections.

More than 93,000 graduates since 1964

175,000-plus enrolled in continuing and professional development courses since 1980

$68 million raised since 1996 for more than 100,000 Foundation scholarships

The district has grown into 2.5 million square feet of academic buildings

12 National Athletic Championships

The Aspen Institute named the college an Aspen Prize Finalist three times.

27 different Board of Trustee members since 1961

“We were fortunate to receive dollars from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and from those federal funds we distributed nearly $32 million directly to students for aid. These were dollars spent on utilities, rent, gas, food or for them to use to pay for tuition or books,” she said.

The district also erased $2 million in student debt incurred during the pandemic.

“We did this so students could re-enroll and not get behind on their coursework. We helped over 5,000 students retake a class they may have withdrawn from or earned an F during 2020 semesters. We did this because we didn’t want students to get behind,” she said.

With the district’s largest donation in history from MacKenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, they were able to create the 21Forward scholarship with the $30 million for 2021 high school graduates that live in their taxing area.

“It allows them to attend up to three years of college on a scholarship to earn their credential,” Hellyer said.

Enrollment grows from 876 to 42,000 in 60 years

The chancellor recalled that first class of students which numbered a whopping 876 in the fall semester of 1961. At the time, it was a record set for enrollment for any community college their first semester. This year, the student population numbers 42,000 spread across five campuses.

While the college has expanded its offerings in course work, petrochemical and nursing courses remain at the top of the list of degree programs in high need. Hellyer also mentioned there are more than 200 certificate and degreed programs.

“This speaks to the growth and the opportunities as we continue to grow and expand,” she said.

The early history included the birth of the college in downtown Pasadena in 1962 to what is now the central campus located on Spencer Drive. The North campus in the North Shore area opened in 1975. Four short years later, the South campus opened. Almost 37 years later in 2016, the Maritime Technology and Training Center opened and was recently designated as a Center of Excellence for domestic maritime workforce training and education by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

Just a few weeks ago, the college district opened the fifth campus in the northeast area at Generation Park. The board approved the proposal for the campus by McCord Development.

“It was clear that there was a need for a higher education partner in that area,” she said.

The campus opened in the fall of 2020 and the first building houses general education and academic classes focused on what students need when they transfer to a major university.

“We know the growth is there and we’re ready to support it,” Hellyer said.

The district has partnered with McCord Development and the focus on some of the recruitment has been on biopharmaceutical.

“We’re excited to be a part of those original plans and to see those companies come to this region,” she said.

Hellyer said the district is strategically positioned in the heart of maritime, petrochemical, healthcare and aerospace.

For years, the district has managed more than 55 interns at NASA as subcontractors.

“As the space industry has evolved, so have we,” she said. “Last month we opened the Edge Center located at the Houston Spaceport.”

Training partner for Spaceport

San Jacinto College is now the training partner for the Houston Spaceport offering five certification programs that directly support the space and drone industry as well as specialized classes to meet individual company’s needs.

“In just 18 months, the Houston Airport Systems says that there will be more than 1,800 jobs at the Houston Spaceport, and we look forward to working with our partners to provide the training,” she said.

Before moving the Maritime campus to the Bayport Turning Basin on the Houston Ship Channel, maritime companies were sending their workers internationally or across the country for training.

“We met with them to find out what was needed. They really designed the program and the facility and that’s how it was born. Today, we continue to have the only maritime transportation associate degree in Texas, and we have awarded more than 16,000 U. S. Coast Guard approved certifications to help keep things moving,” the chancellor said.

The 2015 bond for $420 million bond program is nearly satisfied that included both new buildings and renovations of others.

In 2022, the district will open the classroom building on Central campus, with the largest academic building in the United States to be constructed from mass timber.

“We chose mass timber for its sustainability and its costability,” she said. The timber prices were locked in before Covid hit and before lumber prices increased dramatically.

The last round of bonds to be sold from the 2015 bond program will be approximately $40 million in January of 2022.

Expanding the Promise program

Finally, Hellyer mentioned the Scott and Jewett donation would allow them to expand the [email protected] Jac scholarship to all in-district high school seniors by establishing an endowment with those funds. The program would mean all tuition would be paid after financial aid and other scholarships were applied. It also covers the cost of books and supplies. Promise Scholars must take 12 credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 GPA and finish their degree path in three years.

“It’s not free money. They have to fulfill their promise and it is a great opportunity,” the chancellor said.

The district wants to raise $10 million to add to the Scott and Jewett donation to ensure its sustainability for future students.

The district will celebrate their 60th anniversary with a gala, “Step Brightly Into The Future” with fun and fundraising on May 20, 2022 at the Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on Fairmont Parkway.

“We have made and will continue to make an impact in our community, and we couldn’t do it without the support of each of you, the support of each of our taxpayers and our community at large,” Hellyer said.

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