Joining hands for community colleges

William Dudley

note: this editorial was first published in the April 28, 2011 print edition

SAN DIEGO CITY COLLEGE–The promotional materials for Hands Across California promised something exciting on Sunday, April 17. At 2 p.m., 1.5 million people would hold hands together to form a dramatic line of people stretching 1500 miles across California from San Diego to Sacramento. The wall of people would raise money for the California Community College Scholarship Endowment.

So this reporter made the trek downtown hoping to capture a dramatic picture of a humongous line of people holding hands, stopping traffic, and  spontaneous outpourings of public support, etc. etc. I arrived at 1:30 amidst hordes of people, most of whom were instead celebrating Earth Day at Balboa Park. A few people were at the quad at City College.

A friendly if somewhat harried organizer dispatched me to a different location – the corner of Midway and Rosecrans in Point Loma.  So, along with spouse and extremely cute daughter (ECD), I trudged back to the car and drove up the Pacific Highway, turned on Rosecrans, and looked for the massive contingent of hand-holders.

We found a group of six. Seven if  you include the guy waving a sign for an adult entertainment establishment. They included a couple students from Palomar, from Mesa, and a former Arabic and religion instructor for City College.

At 2 p.m. the students, me and my spouse and my ECD joined hands, blew noisemakers, took pictures for Twitter accounts, waved our single sign calling for people to donte money by texting HANDS  to 27722.  Or at least honk.

The pedestrian islands in the middle of Rosecrans might have been a better strategic location, but they were already taken by panhandlers (I saw at least one twenty-dollar bill being dispensed to the guy with the “hungry with three children” sign).

Various celebrities, such as Ryan Seacrest and M.C. Hammer, participated at other locations in California. The closest we got to a celebrity sighting was Happy Star from Carl’s Jr Restaurants, and he didn’t show until the event was breaking up.

photo by William Dudley

Grossmont College was represented by John Colson, vice president of student services, his wife, and several others who traveled to San Diego City College to participate. He estimated that perhaps two hundred people formed a line several blocks long on Park Boulevard by McDonalds. (The line did not cross streets). Most of them were from City College; a large contingent that had been bused in from Imperial Valley.

So, I failed to get the dramatic picture. But was the event a success?

The purpose “was two-fold”, according Colson. In addition to raising money, the event was supposed to “bring awareness to the state of community colleges.”

Did it work?  Who knows?

But it is not too late for you to make a difference! You can see various pictures of all the gatherings that day and get other information from  You can also still donote $10 by texting HANDS to 27722.

Do it for my ECD. Someday she’ll be going to college.

Dudley is editor-in-chief of the GC Summit.