Neighborhood Uses Facebook to Keep Watch

Aug. 4, 2011

From personal profiles and games to event listings and business pages, Facebook serves a number of diverse purposes for more than 750 million users.

For Sparr Heights, a neighborhood located in northern Glendale, Facebook Groups has emerged as a popular function of the networking site. A group called “Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208” was created in June 2010 and serves as a virtual neighborhood watch program for the community.

“I wish every zip code had [a Facebook group],” Evan Gore, founder of the Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208 group, said.

Gore created the group after his high school reunion and after his house got robbed, both of which occurred last year.

“[The robbery] sort of got me more mindful of wanting to tell people and communicate with neighbors,” he said.

The group currently has more than 180 members who also use the group as an open forum to make announcements about various topics, from yard sales to upcoming events.

“It’s a great way to advertise neighborhood events that one might not know about otherwise,” said Lynda Hessick, a member of the group.

Unusual observances are also posted on the group’s wall. Recent concerns include recurring helicopter noise earlier in June and American flag thefts in early July.

Apart from these purposes, members use the group to announce if they’re giving things away, ask for recommendations on professional services (like for good plumbers and accountants), look for missing pets and seek resources from others.

While not all members are personally acquainted with one another, the group has fostered an online sense of community that has even assisted newer members in becoming more acclimated to the area.

“[Everyone] is sharing information and so welcoming and friendly,” said Valerie Robinett Joico, who just moved to Sparr Heights from San Francisco. “It has helped us with our daily lives as well as our social lives. As far as neighborhood watch is concerned, it gives such good info and everyone has each others back … that helps me sleep at night.”

Additionally, the Facebook group has served as a platform for members to organize donations for a family whose house burned down a few months ago, as well as donations for a needy family last Christmas.

The Sparr Heights Neighborhood Facebook page is open and visible to the public, and although privacy has long been a concern with the networking site, Gore doesn’t think the issue is something to worry much about. He hasn’t seen any evidence of abuse and pointed out that people can adjust privacy settings so as to share only specific information.

For Gore, one of the more positive outcomes of the way Facebook works is that he has developed acquaintances with people in the neighborhood who have recognized him from his profile photo.

The group has been up and running for a year now and users continue to use it as a means of informing fellow members and seeking information.

“I’ve asked for information, referrals, ideas and never been disappointed with the results,” group member Renee Brandt said. “I know the people offering input and trust it.”


Increased Enrollment Makes Gym Crowded

Nov. 25, 2009

FEEL THE BURN: A long line of students wait to sign up to use equipment in the Verdugo Gym fitness center. (Photo by Shaun Kelly)

On a typical weekday morning at the Lifestyle Fitness Center, it’s hard to ignore the whirring of the rotating belts of treadmills, the blaring upbeat music and the faint panting of exhausted students.But, it’s especially hard to ignore the mass of students that crowd into the fitness center at the Verdugo Gym for morning workouts.

Enrollment for physical education classes at the college has increased by an estimated 600 students. The number of students enrolled normally averages from 1,000 to 1,200, said Jon Gold, division chair of Health and Physical Education. This semester, however, nearly 1,800 students use the facilities.

With enrollment cut backs at Cal States and UCs, GCC has experienced an increase in student enrollment, Gold said.

“The fitness center has been a class that students have been able to enroll in because of the flexibility to attend the class. There is never a time conflict [within] [their] schedule,” he said.

The fitness center is open to students enrolled in physical education classes from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays.

Facilities are used by disabled students, used by staff and employees and undergo maintenance during 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., during which hours the center is closed to students.

The fitness center is an open-entry/open-exit class that allows students to enroll at any point in the semester as long they are able to complete required hours.

If students get dropped or withdraw from a class but still require units for financial aid, for insurance or to fulfill foreign exchange student requirements, “the center has been that safety net to get into to help these students,” Gold said.

With an estimated 50 to 60 percent more students enrolled in PE than usual, equipment at the Verdugo Gym is in constant use.

Gold estimated that 300 to 400 students use the center’s facilities daily.

“That’s a lot of people coming through here and using the center, and that means those machines are just on 24/7,” he said.

There are currently three treadmills, three cross trainers, a rock climbing machine and one bike that are defective at the fitness center.

The center did not have a lab tech during the summer and Gold said that it continued operating without one for five months. It currently has a lab tech that has ordered replacement parts for the non-functioning equipment.

A lab tech maintains and services fitness equipment, and inspects equipment prior to its use every morning.

The average lifespan of cardio equipment in gyms is about four to five years. Machines at the Lifestyle Fitness Center currently range from 2- to 17-years old.

The physical education division has been working to systematically replace one or two pieces of equipment a year for the past five to six years.

“If we waited until the equipment died we could be running into the tens of thousands [of dollars] to replace the equipment,” Gold said.

So far an estimated six treadmills, one cross trainer, two stationary bikes and one recumbent bike have been replaced.

To use facilities in the cardio section of the fitness center, students are required to sign up for the machine they wish to use. Students are limited to one name per sign-up sheet and 20 minutes per machine.

“Somebody might come in here and want to use the treadmill for an hour, but [they] can’t because that means for two sessions, [they] bump two people off,” Gold said.

With machines down, Gold said that students who could be using them end up waiting.

Instead of being able to use the machines when they want, students have to use other equipment until cardio machines free up.

Christine Andreasian, who oversees the sign-up sheets in the morning, said that the fitness center tends to get full from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Students have noted that the increased number of those enrolled in physical education classes, coupled with non-functional equipment has, at various times, resulted in a crowded gym.

Hospitality management major Mohamed Mahdy said that the gym tends to get crowded and noisy after 10 a.m.

Sociology major Angelica Kyrukchyan, who completes her workout four days a week between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., noted that the gym is generally crowded during this time. She also said that she often experiences a 10-minute wait before she is able to use equipment.

Student Chanel Secreto said that of the machines in the fitness center, “the treadmill is really hard to get on.”
“One time I went [to the fitness center] and there [were] no more slots [on the sign-up sheets],” she said. “All of the slots for the treadmill [were] filled up and I couldn’t get on that day.”

Secreto has waited 40 minutes to get on a treadmill.

Students who complete 32 hours at the gym per semester receive one unit of PE credit; 48 hours earn students 1.5 units; 64 hours earn two units; and 80 hours earn 2.5 units.

P.A.C.E. Program Helps Working Students

Nov. 25, 2009

Imagine working full-time, caring for your children and being a full-time student.

Imagine that even with all these responsibilities, it’s possible to graduate with general education requirements necessary to transfer to a four-year college or university and earn an associate’s degree within four to five semesters.

The Project for Adult College Education, better known as PACE, allows students to do just that.

PACE Director Bob Taylor said that a typical evening student who works toward an associate’s degree or transfer by taking from three to six units per semester may be going to school for a minimum of four to five years. Students enrolled in PACE, however, may complete this same goal in less time.

“It offers a viable alternative to the evening student, to the working adult,” Taylor said of the program.

The program, designed for working adults, allows those enrolled to complete an associate’s degree and general education transfer requirements to Cal States and private universities within a reasonable time frame. PACE students may also opt to transfer to UCs, though it is not a viable option for working adults.

According to Taylor, most UC classes run from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. He said that unless working adults are willing to yield their jobs for their studies, there are virtually no undergraduate evening programs offered at UCs. Cal States and private universities on the other hand, offer complete evening programs.

Students enrolled in the program attend classes one evening per week and every other Saturday throughout the full semesters. They take four classes each semester, generally by completing two classes per eight weeks, and are able to complete 12 units per semester. Week night classes run from 5:45 p.m. to 8:12 p.m. and from 8:20 p.m. to 10:47 p.m., while Saturday classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

While PACE is designed for working adults, it is open to all students, regardless of age, who may only be able to attend classes in the evenings.

The program currently offers degrees in liberal arts and business to students.

Though the concept of completing 12 units per semester by devoting a weeknight and every other Saturday may sound nice on paper, the curriculum is not necessarily easy.

“I tell people … ‘this is not easy, but it’s doable if you apply yourself,'” Taylor said.

Cyndee Whitney, head of organization development and training for the city of Pasadena, participated in the program from 1998 to 2000. Since graduating, she has earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate in human and organizational systems.

Whitney worked full time and traveled for her job while she was enrolled in PACE. With all her responsibilities, it was not always easy for her to keep up with the program.

“One night, it was 10, it was freezing cold, it was raining, I was walking up heart attack hill [to the upper parking lot] with a big giant book bag and an umbrella that turned inside-out in the wind,” she said. “I was frozen to the bone, and I just screamed out, ‘what the hell am I doing this for?’

“I drove home, and that night, I [watched a video for] our economics class [which was] about the Great Depression. And when I turned it on I saw my grandmother’s time, and I learned about what her life was like … and I thought, ‘that’s why I’m in this program, because I didn’t know this before.'”

Whitney enthusiastically recommended the program to working adults and to those with time constraints.

Because the program allows students to reach their academic goals within a reasonable time frame, it has become popular at GCC, with 400 students currently enrolled.
Taylor noted that one of the strengths of PACE is that students move through classes together as a group.

“They’re together for four or five semesters. So they can kind of form study groups, and they can kind of have like an external family,” he said. “Most of the students at Glendale College … take a class for 18 weeks, but chances are after that semester’s over, unless you see them on campus, you’re probably not going to take another class with them.”

He found that students that move through classes together “really increases graduation probability and expectations because students kind of feel that they have an identity, and they want to continue with their peers and graduate.”

Whitney said that the family she formed with her PACE peers affected her positively.

“You move through something difficult together; it’s a support system that you have,” she said. “This is your unique family because these people know what you’re going through.”

Instructor Libby Curiel, who taught a Speech 100 section in PACE in October, said that students in the program were unique.

“The one thing I can say about all of them is that they really were very engaging,” she said. “They’re there, they’re focused, they’re really interested, they want to learn, they’re self-motivated.”

Although Curiel had to devote weekend nights and Saturdays to teaching PACE students, she was positive about the whole experience.

“Teaching at nights and on the weekends for me is so rough, because … I’m a single mom,” she said. “It was a commitment for me, but … I made it, and I’m glad that I did. It was a great experience.”

Curiel also remains in touch with her students.

“They’re my friends on Facebook now that their grades are in,” she said.

PACE was originally started in Detroit, Mich. as a program for auto workers. It came to Southern California in the early ’90s, and was introduced at Glendale College in 1998 by former Vice President of Instructional Services Chris McCarthy, who passed away this September.

For more information, call (818) 240-1000, ext. 5153.

Foundation Seeks to Boost Awareness of College

Oct. 14, 2009

With state budget cuts depleting the amount of money available to the college, the Glendale College Foundation is working hard to soften the economic blow by raising funds for students and departments at Glendale Community College.

The foundation, established in 1983, is a tax-exempt charitable organization recognized under government law as a 501c3. Although it is a separate entity from Glendale College, it directs its funds to students and various departments at the school.

Under the leadership of Lisa Brooks, the foundation has remained on top of its goals, innovating new ways to raise funds for and increase community awareness of GCC.

Brooks, the foundation’s executive director, has served on the board for the past eight months. Though a relatively new member, she has already begun to work on meeting the organization’s goals. Brooks recently implemented a new community relations committee to improve the college’s publicity.

Dianne Endsley, who has served on the foundation board for 15 years, was appointed the committee’s chair.

“Our main goal is to attract maximum visibility and resources to the college through the foundation,” she said.

“We think that there’s a lot of people that even live in Glendale that don’t even realize that Glendale College is as large and as wonderful as it is. So we kind of want to get the word out.”

The committee is composed of 17 members throughout the community with various areas of expertise.

With the trend of online social networking, Brooks is also looking to work with the marketing department to create an online presence for the foundation.

She created a causes page on Facebook and has managed to raise about $600 for the foundation this way.

Each year the organizationgives out $300,000 in scholarships to students and sponsors a different department of the college.

According to Susan Borquez-Dougherty of the scholarship office, the foundation sponsored 236 of the 500 scholarships disbursed by the school.

Student outreach coordinator Henan Joof was one student who benefited from the scholarships in the spring of 2004.

“The most important [way the scholarship helped] was my transfer applications,” Joof said.

With Cal-State and UC applications nearly $50 each, the scholarship helped Joof. He was an international student at the time and could not qualify for waivers. The scholarship also helped Joof pay for books.

To raise funds for students and departments, the foundation relies on developing long-term relationships with individual donors and corporations.

“Fund raising is relationship building,” Brooks said.

Despite the current economy, Brooks emphasized that maintaining good relationships with donors is crucial.

“[Donors] might be going through financial trouble right now, but we’re looking at our relationship with [them] over a lifetime,” she said. “That’s what makes good fund raising. You can’t focus on short-term gain.”

The organization is also looking into the creation of planned giving, a program that would honor the lives of donors who leave money to the foundation after their deaths.

The foundation is also funded through grants and voluntary payroll deductions from faculty and staff.

Among the contributions the foundation has made to the college include funding for the nursing center, observatory, the football field, scoreboard and refurbishments to the tennis court.

Brooks perceives the next two years to be “tough” as GCC is affected by state budget cuts, higher unemployment, and more students seeking to attend the college.

Overall, funds donated to the foundation tend to be designated for specific causes.

“One of my hopes is to build a bigger pot of money that is unrestricted, and that way we can respond every year to urgent needs on campus,” Brooks said. “For us to be able to respond to urgent needs, we really need some money that’s unrestricted.”

The organization is governed by a 35-member board of directors, composed of community members who are nominated based on their connections and position to raise money for the college.

Board members include businesspeople, marketing people, and one member from the Glendale News-Press.

Those interested in donating may do so by visiting the foundation office in AD 149, through phone, in cash or check, by volunteering payroll deductions (for faculty and staff), through the foundation’s Facebook page and online at