Student Success is at the Heart of Paradise Valley Community College as it Celebrates 30 years in the Northeast Valley

Contributed by: Denise Estfan
Journalism and English professor at PVCC
Advisor of the Puma Press school newspaper


To say PVCC has made a huge impact in the Northeast Valley in the past 30 years is an understatement. When the college opened its doors in Fall 1987, 3,781 students were enrolled; today the school serves close to 12,500 students annually. Over its tenure, the college has educated 166,889 students in the Northeast Valley and conferred over 13,513 degrees and/or certificates.

Cayman Martin knew she wanted to attend Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) because of the familial atmosphere with a focus on the success and wellness of the students.

Martin had many positive influences with numerous faculty members and her advisor while at PVCC. “Many people played a huge part in my success as a student and really helped to guide me through my first years of college. They were all very invested in student development and wellness, and I am very grateful to have had them as resources,” said Martin.

Martin is currently in her second year of medical school pursuing emergency medicine.

Junior Michael is another alumnus who credits PVCC instructors and faculty with much of his academic success. “PVCC offers a top notch educational experience for Merit Scholars as well as individuals who are looking for two additional years to grow before transition to a four-year institution. PVCC is set in a friendly environment, led by dedicated instructors, providing varied opportunities for a rewarding higher ed experience, ” said Michael. He is currently the Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Mountain Ridge High School.

Dr. Paul Dale, college president, said that the school’s most notable contribution to the community is student success. He said that students transferring from PVCC “do as well as slightly better than the ‘native’ university students when it comes to completion and graduation rates.” He also said that each year there are over 4,300 former PVCC students enrolled in one of the three state universities, Grand Canyon and many out-of-state universities each semester. Additionally, certificate and AAS degree programs allow students to directly enter the workforce.

What began as The Northeast Valley Education Center in 1985 and was then dedicated as PVCC in 1987 is now a thriving comprehensive community college serving the Northeast Valley. Before the students, the campus and signature programs like Nursing and Fire Science, there was just a piece of land and a great need for a college in the Northeast Valley. Someone who was instrumental in getting the college up and running is Beth Koehnemann, Paradise Valley Community Council Chair. She said that it was the surrounding community that really made the college a reality. “Out of the three colleges built about the same time (Chandler, Estrella Mountain and PVCC), PVCC was the only one who had to find land, pass a bond issue in the immediate area and help to lift a building moratorium imposed by the, then, State Community College Board. To accomplish these feats, our local and national elected officials, plus hordes of citizens from Cave Creek, Carefree as well as the Greater Paradise Valley area, banded together for the common cause. They manned phone banks for the bond issue passage and attended scores of meetings. As one of the District’s officials said to me after the dedication, ‘This is truly a community college,’” said Koehnemann.

The school has been embedded in the community ever since.

Dale said, “Over the past 30 years, PVCC has grown to be a fully comprehensive community college inclusive of the addition of niche occupational programs, extensive co- curricular programs, fine and performing arts, intercollegiate athletics and the establishment of the Black Mountain site to serve northern Maricopa County and the communities of Cave Creek and Carefree.”

Though student success is at the forefront of PVCC’s mission, the college provides more than just classes for credit; it also continues to serve the Northeast Valley by offering enrichment opportunities to the community. The College provides courses that all ages can take; additionally, the Fitness Center hosts a very well subscribed Silver Sneakers program, and during the summer months, numerous discipline specific camps are held on campus including fine and performing arts, math and science and creative writing.

PVCC’s commitment to the community has never been stronger,. Dale said, “Students who leave PVCC are equipped as critical and creative thinkers with life-long learning values, and it is my sincerest hope that many of our students are also able to make positive social change in their places of work, communities and local neighborhoods. It is literally the thousands of PVCC alumni making the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, the state of Arizona and many other communities a better place for all.”

More information can be found on the 30th Anniversary website at