COC looks to fund additional First-Year Promise students

Graduates from College of the Canyons gathered together in the Honor Grove on June 1 for their commencement ceremony. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

When College of the Canyons began its First-Year Promise initiative last year, school leaders sought to make college more affordable and accessible for prospective students by assisting them with tuition, textbooks and other college necessities.

Since 2017, more than 500 students have participated in the program thanks to a $750,000 grant from the California Community College State Chancellor’s Office, according to Murray Wood, chief development officer of the College of the Canyons Foundation.

The COC Foundation also launched a two-year campaign to raise $500,000 that would go toward sponsoring another 500 students in the First-Year Promise program, “and the goal is within reach,” according to the foundation’s donation campaign. With just 83 students to go, the foundation is hoping to achieve its goal of raising more than $83,000 prior to Dec. 31.

“For every $1,000 raised, one qualified First-Year Promise student will receive the guidance, support and tools needed to ensure their success,” the website states. In addition, all donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to the first $30,000 raised.

“The program not only makes college affordable and accessible,” but it also promotes student success in a critical first year by providing parking and bus passes, tuition, textbooks and other necessary items, according to the website. “The benefits of college are real, but rising costs mean more and more students struggle to afford the cost.”

Raderic Manzano, a participant in last year’s First-Year Promise program, can attest to the impact that the cost of college can have on local students, which is why he’s serving as a peer mentor to this semester’s First-Year Promise group.

“Being a student in the First-Year Promise program helps you to be successful because they help you set out a two-year plan that helps you get all your (requirements) done within two years, so you can transfer,” Manzano said. “It was great because — on top of tuition — you get priority registration,” and many other perks, including friendship.

Like Manzano, participating students have spoken highly of the program’s textbook assistance aspect.

Due to the high costs of books and supplies, there are hundreds of students who fear that they won’t be able to afford the cost of studying in college. In fact, three out of four COC students cite textbooks as the greatest barrier to achieving their educational goals, according to school officials.

To minimize these situations, students in the program are given a $100 gift card to the bookstore and the option to take classes using Open Educational Resources, which eliminates the need for costly textbooks and helps students stay on-track to reach their educational goals.

“Without this program, I don’t think I would be where I am at today,” Manzano said, mentioning that he found a future career and second degree option thanks to the program’s assistance.

“This opportunity is giving me strength and the positive energy to succeed and move forward,” said student Cathleen Camacho.

To apply for a spot in the First-Year Promise program, school officials said candidates must be first-time, full-time college students who meet the specific requirements.

The deadline to apply has been extended, so students wishing to submit an application can find one at, along with more information.

Individuals who want to donate to the campaign can visit or contact the foundation at 661-362-3433.

“It’s an ambitious goal, but one we can achieve with your help,” said Wood. “By joining with us, you will help make the dream of college a reality. Your gift will open the door to opportunity for hundreds of local students and put them on a pathway to earning college degrees.”

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