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Holding hands for higher education

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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Sierra College students linked hands Sunday to show their support for higher education. It was a state-wide endeavor called Hands Across California, where students held their fellow student’s, teacher’s or educational supporter’s hand for 15 minutes, raising money for student scholarships. In Rocklin, about 300-400 people came together for the event, according to Sonbol Aliabadi, executive director of the Sierra College Foundation. Their side-by-side unity could be seen on campus Sunday, as well as along Rocklin Road just before Interstate 80, said Sierra College student Jesse Batista. Batista acted as the school’s representative for the event. “The energy was good and there were a lot of people there,” Batista said. Aliabadi agreed, saying that the turnout was strong. “A lot of enthusiasm went into it,” she said. Among the supporters was former San Francisco 49ers player Dan Bunz and Sierra College President Dr. Leo Chavez, Batista said. Across California, the event has garnered support from celebrities like Ryan Seacrest and Guy Fieri and former President Bill Clinton. Sierra College was the most northern point of a 1,500-mile hand-holding ring that linked across the state. An estimated 1.5 million Californians were expected to join hands in the awareness effort to raise funds for students. During such an uncertain time in regards to educational cuts and spending, people rallied together showing the importance of funds for higher education and Batista, a senior at Sierra College was one of many showing support. “Just the struggles I’ve gone through … working and being a student,” he said was no easy task. Batista will be transferring to CSU, Sacramento soon to finish his route to becoming a mechanical engineer, but is no stranger to the penny-pinching some college students endure. Depending on how much money he makes while working, depends on how much, if any, financial aide he is eligible to receive, he said. All of the money raised at Sierra College will go directly to local students’ scholarships and for every dollar raised, the Bernard Osher Foundation will also donate a 50 percent match. So far, Sierra students have raised almost $2,000 with donations being accepted through June 30. Hands Across California was organized by the Foundation for California Community Colleges and included participation from most of the state’s 112 community colleges. Budget cuts, fee increases and class cuts may be on the horizon for many community colleges, including Sierra College. Through the hand-holding event, the ultimate goal was to build a $100 million scholarship endowment in California. People interested in lending a monetary hand can make a donation online at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/sierracollege/hands-across-california or by texting “HANDS” to 27722. For text donations, a $10 amount will be added to the phone bill and the closest community college in your zip code will be the recipient of your donation. For more information on the event, go to www.handsacrosscalifornia.org.