History will be made on the Westside of Merced County on May 25 when Merced College hosts the first graduation ceremony for students of the Los Banos Campus.

It will be a special day for our college and for our graduates. It is also symbolic of Merced College’s commitment to Los Banos and dedication to providing Westside students with a robust and meaningful college experience.

From the moment they first enroll in classes to the moment they cross the stage at graduation—and all the moments in between—we want our students to feel the love from everyone they encounter at Merced College.

Students at the Los Banos Campus enjoy support from incredible faculty, classified professionals and college leaders who are engaged, friendly, caring and committed. Some have been with the campus for over 25 years, a testament to their commitment to our students.

Comprehensive programs and services continue to be developed in Los Banos, as we work to ensure every student from the Westside has access to the classes, activities, and support they need to advance in their education and their careers.

Through the diligent work of mapping out our academic course offerings, for example, we realized an in-person kinesiology course held only in Merced was keeping some students from fulfilling general ed requirements. As such, we are looking at adding an outdoor gym to offer a class that would allow them to complete the requirement here in Los Banos, providing students with a fully in-person general ed pathway on the Los Banos Campus.

The Los Banos Campus offers “wraparound” student services that include personal and academic counseling, a food pantry, tutoring services, book vouchers and programs for special populations.

The campus also provides opportunities for students to engage in active student-run clubs like Social Sciences and MEChA; both clubs participate in community events, such as the local Trunk-o-Treat and Kindergarten Book Giving.

Merced College has had a presence in Los Banos for more than 50 years, and the current campus is now more than 15 years old. It is a beautiful space that provides a welcoming and peaceful learning environment for our students, but we recognize there is room for improvement. We rely on our community members, employers and partners to help guide the decisions we make.

We also recognize that one’s physical environment can have subtle but meaningful effects on a person’s ability to focus and to learn, which is why we’ve invested in improvements to our facilities, such as plans for new exterior and interior paint, new carpet in many areas, an enhanced quad and better landscaping.

We’re making better use of our existing spaces, like creating a new “welcome center” that serves as a one-stop location for students to find support with their application, financial aid, registering for classes, meeting with counselors and more.

We’re renovating our beloved Food Forest project, with plans that include new sidewalks, landscaping, vegetable boxes, outdoor artwork, and new seating for events. We’re looking into upgrading our library and tutorial services, with a combination of quiet and active spaces and better access to technology.

We’re also adding new digital signage outdoors and indoors, to attract more community attention to the campus and to keep students better informed of events and services. And we’re providing more basic needs support to help ensure students aren’t held back by a lack of food, childcare, or other essential services that are necessary for a solid foundation upon which to learn and grow. This will include a new Child Development Center and career technical program launching this August.

Many more exciting additions to the Los Banos Campus are either in the planning phase or already in progress, including a new modular classroom and greenhouse for plant science and agriculture classes, improved food service, and a new café and lounge for students.

Merced College is proud to be a part of the Los Banos community, and that pride comes through in the teaching and support we offer our students. As a community college, we take seriously our responsibility to listen to our community and our students to help identify needs that we can help fill, whether that’s through increased academic offerings, new and expanded career technical education programs, support services, community partnerships and more.

The Westside Express