Better Together: Butte County Educators Unite for Common Cause
It’s a pledge.
It’s a commitment.
And it’s simple.
The Butte County Promise ensures that all students meeting enrollment criteria for Butte College and Chico State will be provided the opportunity to earn certification or a degree. In addition to affording them an exceptional education, the hope is to better develop a well-educated workforce to sustain the economy of the county and the North State.
The Promise was February 1 by Chico State President Gayle E. Hutchinson, Butte College President Samia Yaqub (MA, English, ’89), and Chico Unified Superintendent Kelly Staley (BA, English, ’85), as well as representatives from Butte County Office of Education, Advance North State, First Five Butte County, and multiple school districts from throughout Butte County.
It states that, “All students in Butte County will be prepared for success beyond high school in order to become productive members of the workforce and engaged citizens. Success is defined as earning a certificate in career education field, completing an associate’s degree, achieving a bachelor’s degree, and/or obtaining an advanced degree.”
The agreement was signed into perpetuity at Little Chico Creek Elementary on February 1. But before getting down to details, the educators assembled in the kindergarten classroom of Becky Perry, who holds degrees from both Butte College and Chico State.
Perry looked at her young charges and asked them where their education would take them. In unison, they cried out, “Little Chico Creek, junior high, high school, college!”
That last destination is no coincidence.
In one area of their classroom is “aspiration corner,” a door covered with a diploma, mortarboard, and a mirror, so that each day when the children stand in front of it, they can visualize their dream of higher education in the making.
Perry often reminds her students of all the places their careers might take them, whether doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, or educators, just like the dignitaries who were visiting that day.
“I’m Gayle, and I’m the president of Chico State,” said Hutchinson by way of introduction, as the kindergartners’ jaws dropped in awe.
A little girl eventually took Hutchinson by the hand and showed her all around the room, sharing a favorite book, talking about her dreams, and showing off a few things she has learned this year.
“All of us as educators have always been committed to the future of children,” Hutchinson later told those gathered for the signing. “It’s about public education as a public good. It’s about public education as the foundation of democracy.”
The Butte County Promise was long in the making, with discussions initiated more than four years ago after drawing inspiration from the Long Beach Promise.
The partnership has two primary aspects. The first is to align educational programs with the needs of employers, and the second is to coordinate the programs, pathways, and processes within all segments of the local education system.
The Promise has a multitude of goals, including:
- Increase the percentage of Butte County high school students who are prepared for and attend college directly from high school
- Increase the percentage of Butte College students who earn associate’s degrees or career certificates
- Increase the percentage of Butte College students who successfully transfer to and graduate from Chico State or another four-year institution
- Close educational achievement gaps between ethnic groups and special populations
“Imagine a community united behind a common purpose, that every child will be educated from preschool to college, in which everyone in education is working together to make this happen,” Yaqub told those gathered for the signing. “That is what we are committing to today.”
Making this aspiration possible requires professional development of educators, educating students and parents about college opportunities and resources to make it reality, increasing college preparation services and exposure, highlighting financial aid application assistance, and creating a “college-going culture” from the earliest years onward.
Chico State’s role includes offering guaranteed admission to all Butte County high school students and Butte College students who successful complete minimum requirements. The University will also enhance programs to support students with financial aid, partnerships to increase college readiness in English and Math, and other measures.
Yaqub noted the kindergartners that morning would be part of the high school graduating class of 2030, which dropped more than a few jaws and drew laughter around the room. She also noted the changing world in which they would be living and all the innovations that could take place by that time.
Energized by the dreams and aspirations they heard firsthand from the classroom of kindergarteners, the educators nodded in agreement, bolstered by their promise to create a pathway for the students’ future.
“As every one of them told you this morning, they are going to need a college education,” Yaqub said. “It’s never too young to instill that expectation.”