This story originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, November 2021

A nonprofit organization raising funds to assist local college students encourages local philanthropists to invest in the future of their community.

The Riverside Community College District Foundation was founded in 1975 for the sole purpose of bringing in donations to support students attending college in the district. RCCD is made of three fully accredited community colleges – Moreno Valley College, Norco College, and Riverside City College.

Today, RCCD Foundation continues to build on this program. The Foundation grants nearly $500,000 in scholarships annually. Donors can also support through programmatic gifts, investing in the academic and social support that students need to succeed.

During the COVID-19, the Foundation expanded its distribution of emergency funds. The organization increased its support of the colleges’ food pantries, professional clothing closets, and assisting students at high risk of homelessness. Funds help students who need temporary rent assistance, provide hotel vouchers and ensure these individuals who are struggling have a roof over their heads.

Raising funds to help students with financial needs impacts real people in this community and 80% of those individuals are going to have an impact in the local region, the organization’s executive director Launa K. Wilson said.

“There are so many folks in this community that are not financially in a place to throw a check at school and not worry about the cost,” Wilson said. “The investments we receive from grants, alumni, individuals, and businesses help our community colleges open their arms and welcome whoever wants to come.”

The majority of students attending community college are local students with families in the community. Supporting their students helps to create a better educated, better trained workforce. We while the district likes to see as many students as possible transfer to a university, there are also many students attending vocational college. Upon receipt of their certifications, they can secure a higher paying job locally.

The vocational programs at RCCD colleges are broad and varied, offering a range of vocations that students can discover, thrive in, and find success. These include automotive technology, culinary arts, welding technology, nursing, and many others.

Creating scholarships can assist not only students but also local businesses. One local family-owned business endowed a scholarship for welding students. The first awardee of the scholarship, a female welder, was hired by the business upon graduating. She is making a living wage and still working for the company today.

“This is the sort of thing I have the honor of being a part of and seeing of all the time,” Wilson said. “The impact that people can make on their neighbors’ lives is tremendous at the community college level.”

In the last year, many donors stepped up to assist the foundation in supporting students. RCCD Foundation receives over $100,000 in donor-advised funds from the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) annually. It also received $25,000 from IECF to the Century Circle Fund to help emergency student funds early in the pandemic.

RCCD Foundation is guided by an all-volunteer board of directors ranging from retired and current educators to CPAs, attorneys, and business owners. The board works hard at advocating for and supporting the mission of the Foundation, according to Wilson. The organization is always looking for more board members and will begin its recruitment season next month. Individuals who are passionate about the work done by community colleges are encouraged to reach out for more information.

“Support your community colleges,” Wilson said.  “It’s the start for so many people who can’t necessarily afford to go straight from high school to a university or someone who wants to change careers. It’s the start for so many great things.”

More information: https://www.rccd.edu/community/foundation  or (951) 222-8626

Inland Empire Community Foundation has been working for over 80 years to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy. Founded in 1941 by Charles Brouse, the original bequest established an endowment to benefit students attending Riverside City College, and the foundation’s primary purpose became focused on scholarships. In the years that followed, the Foundation gradually broadened its focus – funding health and human services, civic benefit programs, arts and culture, and a variety of other causes.