SAN MARCOS — In a small building near the entrance to Palomar College’s main campus in San Marcos, a team of designers and builders—all teaching or studying at Palomar—have transformed a space that formerly housed a variety of functions into a permanent home for Rising Scholars.

The Rising Scholars program helps previously incarcerated and system-impacted individuals adjust to a college campus and successfully begin or resume their higher education. It also serves currently incarcerated students in the Vista Detention Facility.

The “RS Building,” scheduled to open later this semester, will have offices, a study room, a reception area and common space where students in the program can relax and spend time on campus together.

Plans for the facility were unveiled in July 2022, when the design was finished, and students in Palomar’s Cabinet and Furniture Technology (CFT) program began installing the interior cabinetry central to the remodeling effort on Thursday, February 16, 2023.

“We are thrilled to see our Transitions/Rising Scholars program occupy a permanent home where the students can thrive and focus on completing their goals,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey. “We are  looking forward to many more Rising Scholars success stories.”

Nora Kenney, Ph.D., Acting Director of Occupational & Noncredit Programs and the Transitions Program Coordinator, said that Joe Lucido, from Palomar’s Architecture faculty, Jessica Newman, from the Interior Design faculty, and Jordan Clarke, from the CFT faculty, all helped bring the project to completion.

“I am so appreciative of our amazing faculty, and the CFT students who are putting on the finishing touches inside our new building, for their work on this project,” said Kenney. “I am grateful not only for their vision and talent, but also for how eager they were to support these students, who are a tight-knit and thriving part of our campus community.”

On Thursday evening, eight students from Clarke’s CFT 167 class, Cabinetry Production, were busy inside the building, measuring, cutting, clamping and fastening their woodwork. In the Fall semester, the students designed and produced the cabinets, and this week began installing it—the first time one of Clarke’s classes has worked on a building on campus.

“I really wanted the students to have the experience of being able to install in an architectural setting like this, versus a demo in the shop—it’s hard to replicate the reality of dealing with a built space like this,” said Clarke.

As part of the Rising Scholars Network that spans California community colleges, the Palomar College Rising Scholars Program supports currently and formerly incarcerated individuals as they become part of the Palomar College community.

The program encompasses two components: classes that take place at the Vista Detention Facility and an on-campus program. At the Vista Detention Facility, Palomar professors teach credit courses to currently incarcerated students. On campus at Palomar College, each year the Summer Transitions Program recruits formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students who form a cohort that, together, takes classes and participates in group activities. Most go on to earn a certificate or an associate degree.