Columbia College hosted its first ever "Claim Jumper Day" Thursday, an opportunity for local high school students to learn more about the college's programs.
About 400 students from Tuolumne, Calaveras and Stanislaus county schools attended the event, which included demonstrations on Columbia College programs such as welding and automotive technology.
Claim Jumper Day reflects the college's goal of strengthening relationships with local high school educators, according to college President Dennis Gervin.
The college also intends to build stronger, more-lasting connections with high school students themselves to show them what it has to offer. Studies have indicated that students who visit a college campus are more likely to attend college of any kind, Gervin said.
He noted that a Thursday demonstration by the college firefighting program was especially popular with students. They watched firefighters use the "Jaws of Life" to pry open the doors of a wrecked vehicle.
Other popular attractions were the culinary program, new library and Sugar Pine science building.
"I think they liked that you could talk and eat in the library," Gervin observed.
About 40 current Columbia College students led tours and staffed information tables on the campus.
In addition to high schoolers from Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, students from Oakdale High School attended.
Columbia College has already started offering culinary classes in Oakdale, and it has a property there that may allow it to expand more.
A decision on further expansion to Oakdale, and the college's property in Angels Camp, will likely be made in December, Gervin said.
The college is also planning to start its fall enrollment process in May rather than the end of the summer.
"Claim Jumper Day" shares its name with the college sports teams, which in turn get their name from the Gold Rush days. A claim jumper was one who wrongfully or illegally seized the place of another.
The college itself sits on an old mining claim, Gervin said.
Contact Brenna Swift at email@example.com or 588-4529.