By Melvin Bui
East Los Angeles College faculty members and students rallied together to rejoice and ring the college’s bell in celebration of its 75th anniversary on Sept. 4.
The spirit rally was held via Zoom and lasted about half an hour. The school’s bell was rung to symbolize the change ELAC has brought to the community. The bell has been around since the start of ELAC.
The rally ended with attendees chanting the school’s fight song, “Roll on Huskies.”
ELAC opened for enrollment on Sept. 4, 1945 after World War II.
When it first opened, there were 12 faculty members that oversaw six major occupational and cultural fields: Business, Civics, Health, Welfare, Fine Arts and Agriculture.
There were 117 students enrolled on campus and 267 nursing students enrolled to take courses at the General Hospital, which is now called the LAC-Medical Center.
At the time, ELAC did not have its own campus and held its courses at James Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.
In February of 1948, ELAC purchased 37 acres of land, which grew to 87 acres for campus development and settled in the city of Monterey Park.
The college repurposed and constructed portable bungalows, also known as barracks when enrollment numbers started to rise.
Communication Studies Professor Tom Atha said some of the bungalows were used to house soldiers that were training to fight in WWII. The administration repurposed them and said they were going to take them down, but did not until recently,
The bungalows were used as classrooms since the permanent layout of the campus wasn’t thought out yet.
“The bungalows were actual buildings to me. I taught in them from 1991 until the new buildings were built,”Atha said.
“Other campuses where I taught in the past, like City College, USC, UCLA, Rio Hondo, or El Camino College may have had more attractive buildings,” Atha said.
“But ELAC always had good students. The students made it worthwhile coming to ELAC to teach,” he said.
Professor Rudolph Flores was hired in 1974 and remembers the bungalows clearly.
“We were always being moved around. The Chicano Studies Department moved five times before settling in the E3 building because the campus was always changing,” Flores said.
He said that there wasn’t much ethinic diversity on campus in the past. However, current ELAC has more ethnic representation in faculty members.
ELAC established a satellite campus in the city of South Gate to help meet the demand of increasing college students in the area in 1997.
The South Gate campus was built to increase flexibility for working students and those without transportation.
“As a college, we are getting up there in years and maybe a little old, despite the new buildings. However, with the way we transitioned to a new way of operating, it is so clear that we are young and dynamic,” said Academic Senate President Jeffrey Hernandez.
“Capable of transformative change to help our students on their journey, ELAC is still paving the way,”said Hernandez.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was formally known as the Board of Education of Los Angeles City Schools when ELAC was first established.
East Los Angeles College has become renowned for having a good transfer rate for Hispanic students to four-year institutions in California.
In 2019, the Hispanic Outlook on Education ranked ELAC number one in California and sixth in the nation for Hispanic students. It is a bi-weekly editorial that focuses on Hispanic education. For more information: https://www.hispanicoutlook.com/
ELAC has a Dream Resource Center (DRC) that offers free immigration legal services for undocumented students and staff.
ELAC was built to give people affordable access to education. It was destined to be a jewel, due to its location said ELAC’s Interim President, Alberto Romani. People come from all over the world to enroll at ELAC.
LAUSD board member Monica Garcia said ELAC has been a Mecca for social change, social equality movements, breaking down stratified barriers for people of color and correcting history.
Vice President of Student Services Julie Benavides said it respects everyones personal values, recognizes their potential for greatness and has helped break cycles of poverty and uplift those that are in despair.