The newest branch of Salt Lake Community College marked an important milestone last week.
The West Valley Center celebrated a successful first year by holding an open house for students and community members. The event was filled with informative tours, workshops and a wide variety of entertainment.
SLCC employees gave new and potential students a step-by-step guide through admission and registration to on-campus tutoring, technology and disability resources. There were additional workshops on how to ace the Accuplacer test and complete a FAFSA.
All activities were energized with light refreshments and crisply made popcorn handed out with a big warm smile.
Bringing college closer to west-side residents
Since opening in fall semester 2015, the West Valley Center has been serving individuals throughout the West Valley area. Recent graduates of four local high schools — Kearns, Granger, Hunter and Cyprus — and working adults regularly visit the campus to continue their higher education.
SLCC psychology student Margarita Fierro attended the anniversary celebration with her son, who tried out the flight simulator that was set up inside the entrance. Fierro sees the West Valley Center as a chance to finish her associate degree after a one-year break to take care of her two children.
“Back when I was going to the Taylorsville [Redwood] Campus, everything was so crowded and took forever,” she says. “Things might take up to one week to process. It took me 45 minutes to travel back and forth picking up my children and going to classes on time.
“Now the school is only five minutes away and everything is done in one day.”
Fierro believes the West Valley Center has been a good fit for the local community.
“Classes here are smaller so we have all the personal attention and help we need. It really motivated people to go back to school,” she says.
While she plans to transfer to the University of Utah after graduating, Fierro hopes her sister, who lives in Kamas, will continue her higher education as SLCC continues to expand.
Reaching more students in more ways
After a year of operation, the West Valley Center has exceeded its initial goal of 300 students. According to Claudia Gutierrez-Sanchez, coordinator of Student Success Initiatives, the campus offers general education and concurrent enrollment courses as well as other basics to roughly 500 students.
“We did everything we could to inform the West Valley community about our presence so they could get the best help they deserve to achieve higher education,” she says.
Gutierrez-Sanchez says the college contacted community leaders, ran promotions on broadcast and social media and posted flyers at local restaurants and markets. She claims the outreach has increased awareness and brought many more students to the West Valley Center.
“From Fall 2015 to Spring  we saw a whopping increase of 25 percent in the number of students,” she says.
In addition to general education and concurrent enrollment courses, the West Valley Center offers English as a second language, math and English development courses, and free technology training for those who qualify.
Ryan Farley, director of Site Planning and Support, says the center has plans for growth.
“The current building still has unused parts that will be later open to cater for the growing needs of the college,” he says. “Additional footage will be developed to expand the center’s ability to hold major-specific courses for the School of Applied Technology and Certificate Programs.”
Anyone interested in taking classes at West Valley Center can browse the college catalog for more information.