For students wanting to make a tangible difference in the world, it’s hard to beat the concrete industry’s prevalence. It’s everywhere: underfoot on sidewalks and crosswalks, propping up high-rise buildings, in the foundations of our homes.

Looking to make their own positive impact, a group of students from Chico State’s Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program has been managing the planning and construction of a new 13,000-square-foot parking lot at the Chico Islamic Center.

“The [Chico Islamic Center] reached out to me about the parking lot needing some urgent attention,” said assistant professor Mohammed Albahttiti. “They really need the space right now, as they’re getting more and more people coming here for services—especially refugees from Afghanistan, especially after the US pulled out of Afghanistan.”

Albahttiti was able to mobilize a team of students and secure industry support for the project in the form of material donations and practical demonstrations from company associates onsite. The resulting effort has been a seamless collaboration between Chico State students and its industry partners.

“It is energizing to experience the enthusiasm Chico State students bring to learning whether in the classroom, in national competitions, or supporting meritorious community groups,” said Dana Davis, president of Teichert Materials, which donated all the sand and gravel for the project. “We were honored to help the Chico Islamic Center since the center continues to play a vital role in the community supporting wildfire victims, the homeless, and refugees.”

Additional donations included roughly half a million pavers from Basalite and concrete from Matthews Readymix. While this endeavor has its origins in public service, it is similarly an opportunity for CIM students to take the lead on a significant project and exercise their skills in a meaningful way.

Every year, the CIM program selects community service projects that give students an opportunity to lead and manage a job, plugging their skills in at a highly local level. Previous projects include a new accessible recreation area at Caper Acres playground in Bidwell Park and a series of new concrete surfaces at various school courtyards in Chico.

“Our goal is to always engage students in community service projects where they get hands-on experience that helps them take what they’re learning in the classroom and apply it to the real world. It’s important for us to give back to the community. We are involved in the community, our students are part of this community, and much of our faculty and staff live in Chico and around Chico. As much as the community supports us, we need to give back,” Albahttiti said.

What began as an unkempt area used for overflow services and parking has been quickly transformed. After two weeks of prep work, which included excavation and subsequent leveling of the area, and working on the concrete formwork and steel reinforcements, the team is now laying down pavers.

“The need for this parking lot is to better serve the community,” said Abdul Bande from the Chico Islamic Center. “We have been making do with the space we’ve got, but it’s becoming more challenging as we find ourselves providing services to more and more people. We are happy to work with Chico State and mutually support one another in an endeavor like this.”

Besides the work experience these students are getting, the team is also managing the daily schedule and coordinating with contractors, ordering all the materials for the job, and getting quantities right—making consequential decisions.

Asad Khan (center) and students in Concrete Industry Management Program (CIM) work on a community service project to install pavers at the parking lot for the Chico Islamic Center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 in Chico, Calif.
Asad Khan, a sophomore in concrete industry management, works on paver placement at the Chico Islamic Center.

“With the Chico State CIM program, they offer a lot of classes that help us visualize the work and then get working experience on a proper job,” said Glen Morales, a senior who has been taking the lead as project manager. “That’s really helpful for my confidence to be managing a project, supervising a team, making sure everything’s on track with the raw materials and everything.”

Chico State’s CIM program was developed in close partnership with a wide network of industry leaders, combining disciplines of concrete technology with business administration. This grounds the program in current and relevant trends and helps equip students with the skills and experience to enter the workforce ready to lead and contribute.

“Teichert Materials has supported the Concrete Industry Management program since its inception,” Davis said. “Our industry needs talent, and Chico State does an excellent job preparing our industry’s future leaders.”

The strength of these partnerships is also one of the reasons why CIM maintains a 100% job placement rate. Community service projects like this are part of what makes the nationally recognized CIM program a natural extension of the department’s mission

“One of the best feelings is when you pass by something you created or helped build,” Morales said. “You get to see the progress of a place, how it all started with just rocks and sand—and now it’s a beautiful place where people bring their families.”