When I was growing up, before I became a lawyer and started serving on the Merced College Board of Trustees, one of my favorite stories was the one about how my parents, Lourdes and Arturo, met.
Spoiler alert: They met at Merced College.
Mom and Dad both immigrated from Mexico in the 1960s. Neither of them spoke English at the time, but wanted to learn. They knew having working knowledge of the language would help them succeed in this country.
So they separately set off to gain that knowledge. They both enrolled in an English learning course at Merced College.
There they met, learned a second language and fell in love.
Listening to that story as a young child, I would always imagine them meeting on campus. When I took field trips or attended events at the College, I convinced myself I would someday walk the same halls and learn important things.
From my parents, I eventually understood that, if I did well at Merced College, I could earn a spot at a great university with more opportunities. Eventually the idea of going to Merced College also became a practical consideration for my modest family. I would save money if I started there and then transferred out.
Transferring was the best option for me for other reasons. When I graduated from Merced High in 1994, I didn’t know if I was ready to bet my own money, at UCLA prices, that I could compete at UCLA. But I did know I could afford Merced College while I readied myself emotionally and academically for that leap.
For years, I powered through night and weekend classes while working full time as a bank teller. I earned my AA degree and transferred to UCLA, my first-choice school, in 2000. I got a formal education and have built a great life thanks to the start I got at Merced College.
As a legacy student, as an alumna and now as a board member, I can’t separate my family history from this school. I wouldn’t want to. I am so proud of those facts.
But, because I know this school’s history, I also intimately understand that Merced College’s future depends on what our community does on March 3rd.
The Merced Community College District has asked us to consider Measure J, a $247-million bond that will allow us to renovate old buildings, and build new ones when renovations don’t make financial sense.
So many of the facilities we built in the 1960s and 70s are still standing, but lack internet connectivity. They have outdated layouts and safety issues. They were state-of-the-art buildings five and six decades ago, but not now.
We cannot use state money to build new buildings. We need bond money to do that. Without the infrastructure funds Measure J would secure, we fall behind. With them, we charge forward.
I didn’t build Merced College, and neither did my parents. Someone else did and we benefited. Now it is my turn to build up the College so others can also find, and earn, the great future it gave to me and my family.
I ask peers, parents, alumni and future students to vote yes on Measure J.
Let’s vote to support Merced College the way it has supported all of us for generations.
Carmen Ramirez is an attorney with the law firm Kelsey & Ramirez, LLP. She also represents Area 3 on the Merced Community College District Board of Trustees.