Two major gifts aim to help students on both ends

Gifts to community colleges of $1 million or more are more common than they used to be, but still they don’t happen often. And gifts of more than $5 million, well, that’s big news.

The Las Positas College (LPC) Foundation this week announced that the late Drs. Barbara and David Mertes had bequeathed a gift of $6.85 million to the college, marking the largest donation in the college’s history. The announcement was made at the foundation’s annual “Best of the Best” gala.

“This incredible gift from two special educators who have who have already led the advancement of Las Positas College will make an enormous impact on deserving students,” said LPC President Barry Russell.

David Mertes was a founding member of the LPC Foundation and served on its board for 11 years following a distinguished career in the field of education. He was chancellor of the California Community College system from 1988 to 1996, and chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District, superintendent/president of Santa Barbara City College and president of the College of San Mateo.

Barbara Fracisco Mertes had an equally illustrious career in the field of higher education, with a special focus on LPC, where she was a founding member who served as the district vice chancellor and secured more than $100 million in competitive grants and allocations for the early growth and development of facilities and programs at Chabot and Las Positas colleges. Upon her retirement, Mertes served on the Chabot-Las Positas Community College board of trustees for 14 years.

The gift will help fund several scholarship endowments: one to support graduating LPC students who seek to transfer to a four-year institution and continue their studies in the performing arts, and another for transferring students in any major. It also will create a scholarship for one male and female basketball team member to transfer to a four-year institution. The gift will also support a scholarship endowment for Chabot-Las Positas district students working toward an associate degree in allied health.

Summer preparation

Meanwhile, eight community colleges in Minnesota will share a $1 million gift that aims to close gaps of student success for underserved communities.

The gift from Beverly and Richard Fink to colleges in the Twin Cities area will establish an innovative program to ensure that students are college-ready by fall semester of their freshman year – at no cost to the students.

The Summer Scholars Academy is a bridge program that assists new entering students who are not yet ready for college-level coursework by providing full scholarships for developmental education coursework and other support during the summer prior to their freshman year in college. The program offers courses in mathematics, reading and writing, as well as other components of student success, such as time management, learning strategies, study skills, academic and career planning, campus resources, technology skills, and financial literacy.

Students will receive wrap-around support services that include tutoring and academic advising. They will also have their transportation costs covered and receive $150 that will apply toward their fall tuition after they successfully complete the program.

The academy will serve 200 students this summer, and a total of 800 students over a four-year period.

“Addressing these challenges is key to closing opportunity gaps for underserved communities, and it is my hope that we can grow this program statewide to reduce gaps in student success throughout Minnesota,” said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

The colleges participating in the program this summer are:

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