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Dreams of a college degree has come full circle over past 100 years

May 05, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

Pursuing an education beyond high school has been the dream of many students in the Imperial Valley since its beginnings, although a college education was not always available locally.

The establishment of a local junior college and state college in the Valley evolved over the years.

In 1922, El Centro established the first junior college in the Imperial Valley when the Central Union High School Board of Trustees passed a resolution May 9, 1922, establishing Central Junior College as a division of Central High School.

Two years later, Brawley Junior College was established and opened for instruction in the fall of 1924.

Central Junior College opened for instruction in September 1922 with 36 students enrolled. By 1927 there were 66 students enrolled at the Central Junior College.

"The 66 students enrolled in September 1927 are living proof that this need has not decreased, but increased," reads a statement from Central Junior College's 1928 "Painted Desert" yearbook.

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The yearbook continues, "Hence the time for establishing the Junior College as an independent unit of education rather than a department added to the high school is not far off."

Central Junior College graduated its first class May 23, 1924, with 10 students receiving junior college diplomas. Its first associate's degree was conferred in 1934.

Initial studies offered at the Central Junior College included agriculture, industrial arts, social studies, humanities, math, science and business education.

Brawley Junior College was established in fall 1924 as a department of the high school and had five pupils enrolled the first year.

Due to the low enrollment, initially only one year of college work was offered. However, as the number of students increased, more courses were added.

The college's 1941 "Chieftain" yearbook gives a brief history of the college and describes its condition.

"Commercial courses similar to those of business colleges were introduced to meet the needs of students expecting to secure employment in local business establishments," the "Chieftain" brags.

The dean, Percy E. Palmer, writes in his address to the students, "A junior college building containing classrooms and an excellent library and a science building having modern laboratories and equipment now provide facilities superior to those of most small junior colleges."

In 1941 the Brawley Junior College boasted 600 students who "have been enabled to discover more about their interests and capabilities and to further their education two years beyond high school."

The school prided itself on the "more than 200 Brawley Junior College graduates who are now either successfully engaged in professional, business or domestic life or who are seeking further training in other schools or colleges" as "the best evidence of the success of our institution in achieving its ends."

Brawley Junior College was facing peril in the 1940s as the war in Europe began to claim students from the college.

Palmer addressed the concerns for the junior college in his address to the students in the 1941 "Chieftain."

"We are justly proud of the record of the past and despite the turmoil of the present we look forward with confidence to the future," Palmer states.

However, in 1947, Brawley Junior College was forced to discontinue classes due to a sharply decreased enrollment.

Central Junior College was facing similar fears about its future.

A 1947 excerpt from the "Painted Desert" yearbook address by the District Superintendent G. Weakley reads, "The present outlook in the world scene is not promising but there is still some hope for peace."

Weakley admonishes the students, "You can meet the challenge by exemplifying the Christian philosophy in your everyday living, by cultivating tolerance toward all, and by helping to develop better understanding among groups in the United States and among nations."

Dean Eugene W. Waterman also addresses the future of the college in the yearbook.

"Although no one can with certainty foretell the future of Central Junior College, it is apparent that it can have a very bright future as an integral part of the Imperial Valley's educational system."

Waterman continues, "There have been many changes and fluctuations, but the trend has continued upward. We do not expect to stop now; we plan to continue working toward advancement."

By 1951 Central Junior College was serving students from all areas of the Valley.

The students, in cooperation with the administration and faculty, petitioned the Board of Trustees in 1951 for a more representative name for the college.

By the board's action, the name was officially changed from Central Junior College to Imperial Valley College.

The school was still under the administration of the Central Union High School district and began to gain recognition throughout the community.

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