Kevin G. Walthers: Two words of advice for high school seniors

Dr. Kevin Walthers

A community is a group of people that holds something in common — like shared interests, common goals, or sometimes just living in the same zip code.

At Allan Hancock College, our community is rooted in a culture that values equity and diversity for Northern Santa Barbara County, providing an open, welcoming, and safe learning environment for all.

The last 18 months presented challenges for all our communities, be they educational, social, political, or religious. At Hancock, our community commitment to serving students has been our North Star in making decisions during disorienting times. And while we have internal disagreements about how we should best serve our students, our community’s commitment to students never wavers.

This week, we will test the strength of our community yet again.

On Monday, Oct. 4, Hancock will begin a vaccination and testing mandate put in place by our board of trustees to keep our students, faculty and staff safe from the recent surge of the delta variant. Specially trained staff will continue to greet students at campus entrance screening booths to ensure that students either present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. All students who gain access to campus will then get a daily sticker so there is no differentiation between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

College faculty, staff, and administrators have worked days, nights, weekends planning for this week, and we have been in constant communication with students as our plans took shape.

This is just the latest effort to assure students that they are safe on campus. Health screening booths have been in place since the start of fall, and we have distributed $250 gift cards to more than 5,000 students (paid for through the federal CARES Act) when they show proof of their vaccination. That’s over 70 percent of our students who take classes on campus — higher than the county’s current total vaccination rate.

Students are voicing support for the college’s efforts and commitment to a safe college campus. In recent media reports:

“I think it’s important that we protect one another. If we don’t, we can’t even have classes.”

“I answer like four questions every time I come to class and that's pretty much it. I get a sticker, and it is not a hassle at all."

“The vaccination will help with keeping us all safe in the long run.”

“It’s for our own safety.”

Our efforts are already paying off with low case rates on campus. In the last five weeks, we reported only 51 positive student cases, and only four positive cases among staff and faculty – a positivity rate that is literally a fraction of 1 percent.

Student and employee safety is of utmost importance at Allan Hancock College. The pandemic has challenged every system we have in place, but our faculty and staff have risen to the challenge and are continuing to make countless changes, both big and small, to ensure our students have access, support, and safety when they enter our facilities.

We all look forward to the day when this pandemic comes to an end. But until that day comes, Allan Hancock College remains the community’s college and we are united in our common pursuit to provide a safe educational experience to all students and the communities of Northern Santa Barbara County.

Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D., is the superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College. You can read more about Hancock’s vaccine and testing program at