PRESS RELEASE: Oxnard College and CYPHER work on a cutting-edge workforce development partnership that promotes the capacity of youth to develop pragmatic, community-defined solutions to climate change and health disparity

OXNARD, CA (May 28, 2014)- Community, business and education leaders gathered in Oxnard College to develop the capacity of the youth in addressing the local and global challenges of climate change and health disparity. The ‘outside-the-box’ program is called Hybrid STEAM, and it is a partnership between Oxnard College’s STEM program and CYPHER, a community-based organization focused on building a pipeline of ‘thinkers, doers, and advocates’ in climate resilience and health equity. The overarching goal of the Oxnard College-CYPHER partnership is to engage and motivate students, faculty, and key constituencies in Ventura County in innovative solution-making on local manifestations of the overlap between climate change and health disparity already being felt across the county and the broader Southern California region.

“As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” says Dr. Cynthia Herrera, STEM Director, Project ASCENSION, at Oxnard College. “Working with students throughout Ventura County, I have become critically aware of how important career exploration and self-efficacy integration are for a well-rounded education. This partnership between Oxnard College and CYPHER will creatively link traditional and non-traditional learning, environmental-social consciousness, career exploration, and innovative entrepreneurial methodologies to expand the student’s knowledge-base in a holistic continuum of experiences that they may not have had access or exposure to obtain. This project builds on the existing Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Art curricula, and enhances them by injecting the real-world challenge of solving climate change and health disparity—a truly cutting edge youth and workforce development framework.”

Ventura County’s economy has evolved from one that is dependent on agriculture and natural resources to one that draws technology, alternative energy, bioscience, healthcare, military operations, and manufacturing. With a population well over 800,000, Ventura County is the twelfth largest county in the state. Its diversity of resources, businesses and population provide the perfect conditions for innovation and excellence to support this Oxnard College-CYPHER pilot project.

“We are equally proud and excited to be working with such a forward-thinking program, like the STEM Program at Oxnard College,” says R. Bong Vergara, Director at CYPHER. “It affords us a real-world opportunity to apply the best ideas of multiple professional fields, like social work, law, public health, education, and business in helping aspiring youth to be change-makers. We, at CYPHER, believe in the inherent wisdom of the youth and the community in solving local manifestations of climate change and health disparity. Working with a college is an ideal way to demonstrate just how real-world training can spark innovation.”

“The idea of utilizing a collaborative structure across curriculum for teaching a geoscience class is an effort to make the sciences more engaging and increase the student success rate at Oxnard College,” adds Professor Christiane Mainzer, Geography Department at Oxnard College. “The collaboration of the Physical Geography and Art Appreciation, (both GE courses that transfer to the 4-year institution), allows the students from both classes to share service learning projects that deal with sustainability where students will have direct experience with issues they are studying in the course and opportunities to analyze and solve problems or issues in a college campus environment. Service learning is one of the “high-impact educational practices” that engage students intellectually. The relevance of college learning is interwoven into real-world settings as students experience and practice service to the community.”

“Students of art and students of science benefit from hands-on learning and from an exchange of ideas and processes,” says Professor Lucy Solomon, Art Department at Oxnard College.  Science-oriented students utilize creative tools in this new context, while art students solve real-world problems alongside the geoscience students: together, artists and scientists can make a bigger difference!”

This multi-dimensional youth development approach aims to prepare Ventura County students for diverse STEM careers, while simultaneously promoting 21st century learning opportunities, creating tomorrow’s ‘techno-savvy’ workforce, promoting environmental-social consciousness, and manifesting forward-thinking leaders of the future.


CYPHER centers its focus on the youth (13-24 years old) who are often the least consulted community member when it comes to their point of view on world issues, including climate change and human health. CYPHER programs enable the youth to create and inspire their peers and local community to trust in their own solutions to climate change and health disparities. CYPHER achieves this trough partnerships with local STEM programs, a fellowship program, and an annual “Sustainable Earth Decathlon” (SED). For more information, visit the CYPHER homepage at


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