The Little College that Could

Monday 7.29.2013 @ 1:04pm | ImagesAZ | Community

There was a time just a few years ago that the thought of having a college campus in the North Valley would have been laughable. Heck, it wasn’t long ago that having anything in the North Valley was laughable. Given the growth of this area, the Black Mountain campus of Paradise Valley Community College, a Maricopa County Community College, is flourishing in both enrollment and course offerings, not to mention the fun and activities on campus and the surprising future plans in store.


Where is Black Mountain campus?

PVCC Black Mountain campus is nestled in the beautiful Sonoran foothills near Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek on 60th Street and Carefree Highway. Campus space is currently shared with the Foothills Community Foundation’s Holland Center and the Desert Foothills YMCA. Paradise Valley Community College has partnered with both entities since the combo facility was established years ago. The arrangement has been a mutually beneficial one that has allowed for multiple needs of the community to be served in the large, spacious facility.


Until recently, college students had few choices and had to travel to one of the county colleges south of us, including Paradise Valley Community College’s main campus on Union Hills Road or Glendale Community College. School administration knew that the new Black Mountain campus would grow along with the exploding growth of the North Valley, and they couldn’t be happier to see the Black Mountain campus enrollment expand with each school year. Enrollment has steadily increased, which has allowed the college to make good on their commitment to offer all of the core academic offerings available at the main campus.


Course Offerings and Activities

There is a surprising selection of both for-credit and non-credit courses offered at the Black Mountain campus, including everything from English 101 and 102, to Introduction to Business and Macro Economics. This satellite site of PVCC also offers registration, advisement, placement testing, tutoring and financial services. Other services, such as library services and disability resources are available at this site by video conferencing or appointment.


But anyone who has gone to college knows that the college experience doesn’t exist on a diet of academic coursework alone. The social aspect of college is almost as important as the academics. With this in mind, the Black Mountain campus implemented “Puma Wednesdays” when students look forward to letting off some steam by taking part in Wii competitions, quiz games, or dancing the Harlem Shake with their friends and classmates.


Kathryn Kelly is enthusiastic about the time she has spent at the Black Mountain campus. She shares, “PVCC Black Mountain campus has been a wonderful transition for me from high school into the college experience. As a dual-enrolled student, I found the small classroom size and teacher accessibility welcoming, allowing me to build relationships with my fellow students and professors. Only a short 15-minute drive from my home, it was an easy commute with little to no traffic. Sharing a location with the YMCA made for an added benefit, as I would take advantage of the facilities at the gym either before or after classes.


“The courses offered at the Black Mountain campus have helped me to prepare for my college future, as I plan to transfer to a four-year university upon graduating from high school. I’m grateful for my experience at PVCC at Black Mountain campus as it has molded me into a stronger student with the skills necessary to be successful as a critical thinker and contributor to society.”


Rebecca Moore lives in Anthem and finds the commute easy, and overall experience a positive one. “Coming to PVCC at the Black Mountain campus worked out so well for me,” she says. “I enjoyed the coursework, especially the writing assignments.While they were challenging, they were very fun and entertaining. I will never forget the memories I made there on campus!”


The college experience isn’t limited to students in their 20s, however. Classes are made available to “early college” students who come from Cactus Shadows High School and take advantage of their dual enrollment status, which offers them the opportunity to earn credit for both high school and college. It also benefits returning adult students such as Jane Weissner.


She shares, “As a returning adult student, Black Mountain campus was a better alternative than a larger, overwhelming campus lifestyle. College can be a lot of pressure, even for an adult. The small class sizes and more personal instruction at Black Mountain campus took away my initial fears. Now I can actually enjoy school and graduate with a degree!”


The “Little College That Could”

It’s difficult but rewarding to grow a satellite campus from the ground up, but with the right leadership and staff in place and a positive, can-do attitude, success is inevitable. Site coordinator Loretta Mondragon explains, “I tell my staff that although we are a satellite campus, this does not mean we should not offer the best we can for our students. The staff is very ‘open arms’ with the students and faculty who come through our door.”


That attitude has paid off. According to Mondragon, “This past year we have seen our largest growth. In the fall (2012) we were up 11 percent, and this past spring (2013) we saw a huge growth of 70 percent. One of the things we did was rearrange when classes were being offered to allow students to have a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule.


“We also brought more sciences up here, so that students could complete an AGEC, which is our Arizona General Education Curriculum. Students who complete AGEC (35-38 credits) can transfer those credits as a lower-division block to the universities. This allows them to start higher division courses specific to their degree.


“Although Black Mountain might be just a satellite site, the students benefit by the fact that we are part of the larger Maricopa Community College District. This means students can transfer the AGEC block to more than 40 different universities in- and out-of-state. With tuition rates continually going up, this can be a great way to offset thousands of dollars.”


Even though the Black Mountain campus is an extension of the main Paradise Valley Community College campus, they do a few things just a little bit different up north. One of those things is marketing.


Mondragon explains, “The staff and main campus have really helped to get the word out that we are here in the area. One of our challenges is the service area is so large and very rural. We don’t have large malls or movie theaters that we can advertise in, so we’ve taken some not-so-conventional marketing methods. You will find us on parade floats for the Fiesta Days, working Anthem Days, and many other community events. We are also founding sponsors for Relay for Life in Cave Creek. We also do recruitment days with Cactus Shadows, Boulder Creek, and Sandra Day O’Connor high schools.”


Future Plans

Few are aware of the fact that, even though the Black Mountain campus consists of one building and surrounding parking lots, Paradise Valley Community College owns more than 80 acres on the south side of Carefree Highway between 56th and 60th Streets.


According to Paradise Valley Community College President Paul Dale, the acreage will not go unused or unplanned for long. In July, plans to expand the campus west of the current building will be reviewed for conceptual approval, and if all goes as expected, they will break ground in late fall of 2015. The new building will be open for classes in spring of 2016.


Mondragon adds, “Our goal is to be ‘the little college that could’ and we take this to heart!”