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CCCC President Dr. Sean Hancock and Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Dr. Chad Houck stand in the newly updated Lecture Center, one of many venues are now available to the community. / Laura Austin Photo

CCCC offers an educational, cultural hub for the community

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer –

At the top of College Heights Boulevard in Ridgecrest, sits Cerro Coso Community College (CCCC) which offers more than expected to our community.  “We want Cerro Coso Community College to not only be an educational hub for our communities but also to serve as a cultural hub,” states CCCC President Dr. Sean Hancock. “We are revitalizing our campus coming back out of the pandemic,” says Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Dr. Chad Houck.  “We’re looking to revitalize our campus culture.” Part of that is breaking through any barriers in our community in terms of knowing what CCCC has to offer.

  Folks may be aware of many of the college’s features, but may not be aware of their availability. To name a few: The Lecture Center, the library, an art gallery, the community room, the student center, the Sculpture Garden, an amphitheater and athletic facilities including an all-weather track, tennis courts, handball courts, and gym. 

   To use the facilities one can find an application on the college website:  Administrative Secretary Crystal Leffler is available at 760-384-6230  to guide anyone through the process of applying. 

Houck came to Ridgecrest in 2005, ”I was the assistant principal for Burroughs for eight years and then the principal at Mesquite High School for a year.”  He left to take a position in South Lake Tahoe, but after three years he jumped at the chance to return to Ridgecrest to work at Cero Cosso. “We absolutely love it here.” This gives him a good feel for what the community would enjoy.

“The Lecture Center was originally designed for teaching classes,” says Houck. However, part of CCCC’s service to the community is to keep class sizes small. “We oftentimes haven’t actually used that space for our classes.” Nevertheless, the space is adaptable for many uses including theatrical and dance performances, concerts, and guest speakers. Houck points out, “We don’t have the wings that your major theaters would have, but there is a sizable backstage area. We do have a classroom that is just off the hallway that can be used as a green room and for storage.” Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society (RMES) used the lecture center for their pre-pandemic productions of Alice in Wonderland, Jr and Newsies. Currently, Sierra Academy of Dance is presenting Alice in Wonderland – A Steampunk Ballet.

   RMES was able to use the Lecture Center as a rehearsal space for Newsies by participating in CCCC’s Community Education program through the Continuing Education Department. For Newsies, RMES offered a class and after auditioning participants registered at a reasonable fee which paid for the rent of the facility. CCCC made it as affordable as possible and included family discounts. The presentation of their production was a separate agreement.

   If you visited the Lecture Center before COVID, you will note the many improvements that were made during the shutdown: handrails, upgraded lighting and sound system, and new curtains as well as freshly painted walls and stage floor.

   “Our library is open to the public for free (when school is in session). It is one of the best views in town,” says Houck. “We have a wonderful collection with library staff that is there all the time to be able to help.” He adds that it is air conditioned and people may want to remember that in the summer. “The library is a beautiful spot that’s available to do events in for nominal fees.”

   The Art Gallery is in the same building as the Library. During the pandemic, the space was used for storage, but now it has been cleared and is ready to host shows. Houck tells us, “We have a very robust art facility with some wonderful faculty.  There is  a desire by our president and by our art department to host shows and opening events in the foyer to welcome the community up here.” 

   The Community Room can host 300 attendees. “It has all the furniture and the technology to be able to do your sound, your video productions, and it is nice for banquets. It has been used already by various community groups to come up and host dinners and events” It has a small kitchen that is suitable for preparing to serve but not cook.

   “Our Student Center is another space that people can use,” continues Houck. Last fall Beansters Espresso opened in the Center. RIDGGaming hosted a tournament in that space in December. “Desert Valley Credit Union felt that they could help us with revitalizing our campus culture and just purchased and donated to our foundation four video arcade machines for our Student Center.”

   The Sculpture Garden with its grass, trees and sculptures is a relatively sheltered outdoor location that can be reserved for private events. There is electricity there and an outdoor amphitheater. It doesn’t have the traditional shell to enhance the sound, but there are portable shells that can be used. This has been a popular destination for photographers to take wedding photos and senior portraits.

   The all-weather track, tennis courts, handball courts, and gym, are being used by the community including a Community Education tennis class, Middle School basketball tournaments, the Ridgecrest Desert Classic mountain bike race, Relay for Life, and they have an agreement with Sierra Sands Unified School District to use the facilities. Within the next year to year and a half improvements are planned for revitalizing the baseball stadium, making a player field house, redoing part of the roadway, and adding walking paths and outdoor lighting in the Sculpture Garden.  

   CCCC works to make its facilities available to the community when they aren’t being used for classes which resume on Monday, January 14. Parking is currently free. Consider taking a walk around the campus to see its interesting features and the view of our valley.