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By Daniel Segraves, David Morris and Altheia Meloncon

By Daniel Segraves, David Morris and Altheia Meloncon

Riverside City College marked the 90th Anniversary of the College with this years Convocation ceremony on Sept. 14 in the Landis Auditorium.

“I don’t get it. What is convocation?” RCC student David Stanley asked one of the many people dispersing programs for the event.

In scholarly terms, the word convocation is Latin for “to call together.” RCC President Daniel Castro explained as he delivered his opening address.

“This is a time to gather strength. Consider it a pep rally,” he told the audience, comprised of students, alumni, as well as campus and community officials.

Academic Senate President Richard Mahon added his own analogy to the mix: “RCC is a sponge dried out over summer that is now refilled.”

Following the opening speeches, the RCC Wind Ensemble, led by Kevin Mayse, gave a noteworthy display of musical talent. With only three weeks of practice since auditions at the beginning of the year, the performance was nevertheless powerful, precise and masterful.

While the opening ceremonies set a tone of pride and dedication, the true source of the new sense of purpose was not just that of a pep rally. 2002-2003 National Teacher of the Year Chauncey Veach was invited as guest speaker.

The orator’s lecture received a surprising amount of laughter. Among his various stories, which depicted his rise from military recruit to a respected teacher, was a retelling of how he became a teacher.

“Back in the 90’s,” Veach said, “there were a lot of bankrupt school districts. This led to less pay, which led to fewer teachers, leaving a lot of schools desperate for people to teach. I went in to a local school to see if I could just get a job as a substitute teacher, and they asked when I could start teaching full time. I had three principals walking down the hall after me as I was leaving. I thought I was good… I really wasn’t”

Veach’s speech was not without a strong message of purpose. “Truly, truly it’s an honor to be a teacher. We get a chance to see the America of tomorrow,” Veach told the audience. He went on to point out that every grade seems to place blame on the preceding instructor for a child’s lack of knowledge. The speaker was firmly against this belief. “It’s about what we do when the child’s with us. That’s what matters.”

Veach continued. “There was one thing I really wanted when I started teaching. I asked for the girls who were pregnant or had babies… I wanted the boys who fathered those children, those that have done drugs and those that have special needs. That is what it is to teach: to guide and support as well.”

Many RCC administrators are looking toward the future of RCC as well, thinking about the changing workforce and enabling students with more options.

Castro said his first goal is to create many portals into college, and offering classes that best fit students’ schedules. His second is to implement a basic skills program: mini classes that are about a week long. These mini classes take a specific portion of the class that the students need to work on or to improve a critical grade instead of having to retake the whole semester class. It would be offered as a zero credit course.

McKee-Leone wants to offer students a haven where they can come in to discuss discrepancies with the faculty and their teaching. She speaks privately with the students and counsels them with options to help enable them to succeed. She hopes to do this more efficiently, not just for students but for faculty. She wished to provide a better environment for them and supply them the tools to help them teach.

She noted that RCC may not be able to provide students with the necessary equipment to teach them when they enter the workforce. She is looking to forge partnerships with businesses for internships.High school teachers in less fortunate areas understand the importance of institutions, such as RCC, to give their students something they didn’t think they had: a future.Veach continued saying that community college is a lifeline for his kids. Many of his students are not even looking towards the tenth grade.

Veach stated in his address with a heartfelt explanation why he loves his profession so much.

“When you cash in your chips, you don’t take the big house with you. So, in the words of Yogi Berra, when you come to the fork in the road, take it.”

“Wow. I guess I can see why he was Teacher of the year,” RCC student Alex Vickers said as he walked out of the auditorium.

Veach finished with a message toward student and faculty alike. “Take advantage of this opportunity, for education is the most important endeavor.”

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