If only statues could talk. Well, in fact, these can.
More than 70 statues with speakers implanted in their chests tell the stories of City College of San Francisco and other community college students whose lives have been changed through the support they found at two-year institutions.
The statues are part of a moving art exhibit called “Student Success Stories Project,” a mix of art and advocacy aimed at demonstrating how the state’s 110 community colleges have impacted Californians from all walks of life. It’s also and attempt to show the faces of students being affected by budget cuts.
More than a dozen statues are of current and former City College students.
All are on display at the Yerba Buena Gardens during Community College Week, which runs through Friday.
“We wanted to show the contributions that we’re making to California and that we’re providing solutions. And how community colleges are transforming people’s lives,” said Leslie Smith, associate vice chancellor of government relations at City College.
City College students painted the human-size dolls, which started as white, canvas outer layers in the shape of a person but without arms and legs delineated.
One is of a former heroin addict, the other of a student aspiring to become a medical doctor, and yet another of a single mother who never thought she could afford to go to college.
The face is a digital-quality photo of a community college student. A push of a red button on the statue’s chest will prompt the life-size doll to speak.
“There’s nothing more passionate than to hear students’ voices themselves,” said Smith of MP3 recordings.
One of the stories is of 22-year-old Diana Muñoz.
When Muñoz, a former undocumented student, was admitted to UC Berkeley after graduating from high school, she realized that paying in-state tuition without the assistance of federal or state financial aid was out of her reach. As a then-undocumented student, she was ineligible for federal or state funding.
She enrolled at City College instead.
“When I got the admission letter I had to read it twice to make sure it was real,” she said. “That’s when I realized it was impossible because I didn’t have residency. It was heartbreaking.”
For three years, Muñoz took math, English, writing, and many, many business courses. In 2007, she adjusted her immigration status. She changed her major to engineering and transferred to Stanford University in the fall.
“I feel blessed,” she said.
“It was a way for me to say, ‘No more cuts,’” said Raymundo Hernandez, 37, a City College business student, of the state cuts to the two-year community college.
“It was a lot of work but I also found a lot of support and mentorship from my art history teacher,” said Sachi Henrietta, a former City College student and art project participant, of her three years there.
In a green dress and glasses, the statue of Henrietta reads, “My instructors are some of the most influential people in my life. I love CCSF.”
The statues have traveled to Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim and Sacramento, among other cities. Smith said she’s looking for a permanent home for the art installation.
“The statues make people feel,” Smith said. “Its an effective way to reach people and to make them feel and dream.”