Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rain fails to dampen spirits at Community College AlumniFest

AlumniFest volunteers take down a sign as the rain begins.
A torrential rain put the kibosh on the outdoor festivities planned for Friday night’s Community College AlumniFest, but the 2,300 tickets sold in advance for the post-event Gulls hockey game has sponsors vowing to bring back the event next year.

“It’s sometimes easy to overlook the number of lives touched locally by community colleges, but as you can see from all these people braving the rain to pick up their game tickets, the impact of these two-year campuses is far-reaching,” said John Valencia, CEO of the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, which organized the inaugural event outside the Valley View Casino Center. “The people showing up tonight are from all throughout the county and the number of tickets sold represents the most ever sold to a community college alumni-related event.”

Student volunteers and others help check in AlumniFest attendees.
Hosted by California Coast Credit Union and the San Diego Gulls Hockey Club and made possible with the support of additional sponsors, including Wendy’s, AlphaGraphics, and IHeartRadio, the event was intended to celebrate the hundreds of thousands of community college alumni throughout San Diego and Imperial counties.

Among those who watched the San Diego Gulls beat the Bakersfield Condors 6-5 in sudden-death overtime was Alex Cueva, a Cuyamaca College student who said community college is an avenue to reach his goal to eventually work in the prosthetics field. When his former girlfriend became pregnant with the couple’s son, Cueva had to put his plans to attend the University of California, San Diego on hold in order to find a job.

“I was really crushed because I thought that was the end of my dreams, but then, I had my eyes opened to the possibilities of community college and I’m happy to say I’m back on track,” said Cueva, now a single father with full custody of his 6-year-old son. “I came here tonight with my son because I wanted to be part of AlumniFest and be around other people to celebrate sharing in the community college experience.”

Stories like Cueva’s abound in San Diego County and beyond for the legions of community college students and alum who have seen the doors of opportunity flung wide open by the education and training provided at the publicly funded two-year colleges.

“It’s exciting to be able to spread the message of community colleges,” said Valencia, smiling broadly despite the rainout of the AlumniFest plans for a red-carpet welcome to attendees, along with face-painting; balloon artists; mascots, radio stations, information tables and more. “I think the Gulls organization was surprised by the number of tickets that were sold and they are looking forward to doing this again next year.”

The community colleges in San Diego County are: Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges in East County; City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges, along with San Diego Continuing Education, in the city of San Diego; Southwestern College in South County; and MiraCosta and Palomar colleges in North County. Imperial Valley College is in Imperial County.

For more information, visit www.alumnifest.org

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