Alyssa Perry can still vividly recall sitting in a packed church for a graduation ceremony for San Joaquin Valley College.
Her grandparents, Robert and Shirley Perry, founded the school in 1977 and Shirley served as the keynote speaker for numerous commencement ceremonies. Ms. Perry recalled Shirley being left in awe as she tried to fathom what SJVC has become.
“We never even imagined what we were doing would turn into this,” said Ms. Perry, who serves as the campus president for SJVC’s Atascadero campus and the newly opened Santa Maria campus.
The accredited family-owned college offers certificate, associate and bachelor of science degree programs in the medical, business and technical fields. Earlier this month, what was formerly Santa Barbara Business College, at 303 Plaza Dr. in Santa Maria, launched its first two programs – Clinical Medical Assisting and Medical Office Administration.
The college will soon introduce its Pharmacy Technician and Business Office Administration programs and eventually roll out its Criminal Justice Corrections and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration.
“We are just getting started,” said Ms. Perry. “We are ramping up and it’s been a really exciting time. We’re kind of in our infancy now. We’re starting slow and small and we’re just going to build from there.”
The new school currently enrolls 12 students, though campus officials estimate more than 400 students in North County and San Luis Obispo County could be served by the career-focused curriculum.
Ms. Perry has worked formally for SJVC for about a decade in a variety of positions. Her father, Michael, now oversees the entire institution, which has 17 campuses throughout the state.
“It has been a dinner table conversation for as long as I can even remember and it’s been a part of my life for a very long time,” Ms. Perry said.
“I heard all these stories as a kid, and I think as a kid you never truly appreciate something until you have the opportunity to experience it yourself,” she added. “I’ve been able to learn a lot, from not only how we do things on the business side, but the way we do things is because of the reputation that we want to maintain. We want to do good for people, we want to help the community and we want to serve the community.
“It’s not just about running a college campus, it’s about the investment that you’re making in people that you’re serving and the communities that you’re working with.”
Ms. Perry explained that she always saw herself continuing with the family business.
“It was just kind of bread into me,” she said with a laugh. “I never really considered much else. It’s been a phenomenal experience. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity.”
The goal for SJVC is to provide educational opportunities for students, while also providing them with a career path after school.
“We’re trying to fill a need and fill a void,” Ms. Perry said, adding that the school hopes to tap into the communities of Santa Maria, Lompoc, Nipomo and others in the coming months and years.
The other campuses offer a variety of degree programs, while the Santa Maria campus will offer certificate and associate degrees for programs that range from eight to 15 months.
“We do consider ourselves an accelerated school in that way,” Ms. Perry said. “Our students can complete an associates in under two years. That’s pretty significant.”
SJVC also serves students who are in search of the skills to be able to join the workforce even sooner.
“We give them the option and the flexibility to be able to make that decision based off of their goals that they have,” Ms. Perry said. “We’re able to serve a great number of students in that we offer classes almost every five weeks, depending on the programs.
“It’s not a traditional school where they have to wait on a quarter or semester system. We have start dates nearly every month. If now is not the right time and we’re going through a little bit of transition, we’re here and ready when you are.”
Construction remains ongoing for the new campus, stationed in a two-story building accompanied with a courtyard. All the campus classrooms have outdoor access, making it the lone SJVC campus to offer the “college vibe with the outdoor space,” Ms. Perry said.
Despite being a veteran in higher education, Ms. Perry told the News-Press she still loves to see how the students transform through their educational journey.
“We are able to be a platform for them to be better and to do better for themselves,” she said. “That, to me is the excitement.
“There’s nothing better than a student telling you that SJVC changed their life. That’s why we do the jobs that we do.”
For more information about the school and the programs offered, visit www.sjvc.edu.