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MCC wins million dollar challenge

Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune

Madera Community College staff and students erupt in celebration after they learned thy were the winner of the Lumina Foundation’s Million Dollar Community Challenge, which was announced Wednesday.


Before the announcement was made for the Million Dollar Community College Challenge, Madera Community College was already a winner. They were named one of 10 finalists for a $1 million grand prize and was guaranteed $100,000 by the Lumina Foundation.

Before the Facebook Live announcement, MCC President Angel Reyna told the audience they were welcome to cupcakes, but if they didn’t win, they couldn’t have the ones with sprinkles because they cost more.

However, about 10 minutes later, it was announced that Madera Community College was named the winner of the “The Million Dollar Community College Challenge” sponsored by Lumina Foundation.

“We ordered a majority of the cupcakes with sprinkles.” Reyna said. “We may have known something before.”

“We are beyond excited for our students, faculty, staff, and community members. Being selected for this grant will not only make a big difference for Madera Community College students but the entire region,” said Michele Corbett, director of marketing and communication, Madera Community College.

Students and faculty filed into an auditorium Wednesday to hear the results of the challenge. They knew they were one of 10 finalists, but had to wait to find out the winner.

The goal of The Million Dollar Community College Challenge grant is to help community colleges position their brand to gain the attention of adults who often have competing demands but could benefit greatly from a college degree, credential or certificate.

“We wanted to establish a ‘Sense of Belonging’,” Reyna said. “That is what we were doing, anyway. We’re going to continue to do that. When we were selected as a top 10 finalists, we met with Lumina. One of the things that I mentioned to them was this is who we are and what we are going to do as an institution. Whether you fund us on a million dollar level, we are going to continue to do this.”

The national grant competition included two phases. In phase one, community colleges wrote proposals highlighting what makes their college exceptional and provided their vision for how a million dollars would help them transform their brand building efforts. Ten finalists were selected and in round 2, each created a video sharing their promise to adult learners. Madera Community College was selected the winner out of the 10.

When the announcement was made over Facebook Live, the entire Madera Community College auditorium erupted in celebration with confetti going off, tears shed and many hugs shared.

“All of the finalists did a great job. Ultimately there could only be one million-dollar winner and Madera really impressed us by their focus on creating a visceral sense of belonging on campus and in their message of generational transformation,” said Shauna Davis, strategy director, Lumina Foundation. “This challenge isn’t about advertising, it’s about the intentionality that goes into connecting with the community and creating a college experience that is great from the website, to the parking lot, and to the classroom.”

Jennifer Hernandez, Madera Community College student ambassador, filmed and edited the winning video submission featuring recent graduate Marisela Maciel, an immigrant and mother of three children. Together, they brought to life the spirit of Madera and created a project that captured the vulnerability and tenacity of the student experience.

“When we are working together, there is nothing far away to reach,” Maciel said. “I belong to Madera Community College.”

The grant will enable Madera Community College, California’s newest community college, to bring to life the promise of “Sentido de Pertenencia” — a sense of belonging.

“Sentido de Pertenencia is a belonging that instills pride, bolsters confidence, and creates opportunity. The word pertenencia goes beyond making sure students feel welcome. We have a responsibility to our students to create a place where they can change the course of their lives and generations to come. And it’s through students knowing in their heart of hearts they belong at Madera Community College that lives are transformed and our community flourishes,” explained Reyna.

“We want that sense of belonging, not only for our students, but for our faculty and staff,” Reyna said. “If they don’t feel that sense of belonging, it impacts our students.”

Grant funds will be used to fulfill four main goals:

1. Creating physical spaces on campus that celebrate the region’s heritage and cultural experience.

2. Establishing signature community events to embrace adult students, their families, and community partners.

3. Improving processes that bring to life the concept of “pertenencia” at every point on a student’s college journey.

4. Building community pride in the college.

“This grant will help the campus transform in a year or two a lot faster than we anticipated, which is a great thing for the college, as well as the community and students,” Reyna said.

For more information about the challenge, visit

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The Madera Tribune’s Tyler A. Takeda also contributed to this article.


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