'Hands-On Learning'

  • March 2, 2005

College is not supposed to be a trade school, but that doesn't mean that everything studied there must be entirely academic. That is a fact being discovered by some ambitious students at Cal State East Bay.

Students in an enterprise class at the university's Hayward campus are going to get some real-world experience just before they enter that real world.

The students have agreed to tackle the task of improving the image of one of Concord's worst areas -- the 10-square-mile area known as the Monument Corridor.

The effort is being coordinated by Ashok Patwardham, a 30-year Concord resident who is president of the Concord-based noprofit Foundation for Understanding and Enhancement. It is a wonderful endeavor, but it won't be easy.

The Monument Corridor is not exactly Beverly Hills. More than half of the area's residents are Latino and more than a third live below the poverty line.

In fact the coalition working with Patwardham had contacted a number of professionals about reshaping the image of the area and none knew how to promote such an area.

Luckily, the students and their teacher, professor Ric Singson, are intrigued enough by the notion to take a crack at it.

The students plan to start at least three new businesses in the area: a business incubator, an employee-leasing service and a computer-recycling venture. Singson says that the enterprise is to help give the students some street smarts that will almost certainly benefit them once they have left college.

This is hardly the first time business ventures have been begun by college students. Such well-known commercial establishments as Kinko's and Jamba Juice began life as projects by college students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

But an effort such as this should not only be noticed, it should be encouraged and praised. No matter how it turns out, the college students who participate in it will have experiences that they could not possibly have gotten in the classroom.

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