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Anne Kepner has worn many hats throughout her career in Silicon Valley. Currently a partner at Needham Kepner & Fish, she also serves as the Trustee for Area 3 on the West Valley Mission Community College Board (MVMCCD); she is currently serving as the Board President and is also a member of the Legislative and Policy Oversight Committee.

As an active community member and resident of Santa Clara for the past 30 years, Kepner started a nonprofit, Friends of Wilson Preschool, served for 20 years on the local YMCA Board of Managers, serves on the Executive Committee of the Santa Clara High School PTSA, is the President of the high school’s Athletic Boosters, is the Past Chair of the Mission City Community Fund Board of Directors, and also serves as an Advising Board Member of the Santa Clara Schools Foundation, among many other volunteer positions.

Just like the Kylli team, she shares a passion for providing services that will help the community thrive, citing elements such as access to educational opportunities for people of all ages, neighborhood-centric offerings, open space and ample options to walk and bike for fitness and transportation. She applauds the efforts Kylli has made as a strong supporter of Mission College through participating, volunteering and sponsoring several of the College’s events.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Anne and learn more about her role at WVMCCD, the Board of Trustees’ goals, and the advantages of having a place like Mission Point close to Mission College.

Q. Tell us about your role as a member of the WVMCCD Board of Trustees and how and why you got involved.

A. As a long-time resident of Santa Clara, I became very involved in the public education system when my three children (a daughter and twin boys) entered the school system at various grade levels. Serving on the Central YMCA Board of Managers and being an active member of the San Jose North Rotary Club led me to want to become even more engaged in our community, especially to help advance the well-being of our youth. I went through candidate training with Emerge California in 2014 and decided to run for an open board seat on the WVMCCD when Trustee Buck Polk retired, largely driven by my desire to make a positive impact in the community. It was a very competitive race, which I won, and I have been on the board ever since.

Community college has played an important role in my personal life. After a rocky start at UC Irvine, I returned home to regroup and attended De Anza Community College. With a smaller class size, I got to know the professors well and thrived. After graduating from De Anza, I transferred to San Jose State University and then pursued a law degree at the University of California San Francisco School of Law (formerly named Hastings College of the Law). I have had a wonderful 30-year career as a civil attorney in a boutique firm with my two partners, Craig Needham and Kirsten Fish. More recently, I have been developing a mediation practice, using my civil practice skills to help others resolve their disputes and avoid the risk and cost of litigation and trial.

I really feel tremendous passion for what we do at the community college level because it presents an incredible opportunity for anyone who wants to pursue an education or learn new skills to advance their careers. We serve so many individuals in California—with about 2 million students coming through the community college system every year, it’s the largest public education system in the country.

Q. As you consider the amenities at Mission Point, which do you find of particular value to the Mission College community?

A. I’m looking forward to this part of North Santa Clara developing and becoming more dynamic as projects like Mission Point come to fruition. Mission Point will bring a new level of energy to the area, with more services and amenities being available to Mission College students and faculty. The synergy we have already created will continue to increase over time as we find innovative ways to partner, such as identifying exciting internships and job possibilities for students.

As I think about all that Mission Point encompasses— walkability, affordable housing and childcare, plus commercial and retail space—I see lots of exciting benefits for the Mission College community. Since the pandemic, we’ve been in a transition period to get people back on campus, and I believe having more amenities available, such as being able to walk to Mission Point to shop or visit a great café, will provide just one more reason for students to come back. It will really add to the health of our college community and create a level of vibrancy.

The other aspect I’m really excited about is Mission Point’s goal of increasing walkability, specifically how it complements surrounding anticipated projects, like the Patrick Henry Drive Specific Plan. Instead of building more roads and contributing to carbon emissions and traffic, developers in the area have embraced a vision that creates ways for students, faculty, workers, visitors and residents to easily access open spaces, greatly increasing local walkability.

This not only beautifies the area, but it encourages people to get out of their cars and move via foot, bike or other methods during their breaks or to reach public transit. As Mission Point comes to fruition, I think we will see an increase in the overall well-being of our community. We live in a beautiful area where we have wonderful weather the majority of the year, and offering thriving, open-air environments like the ones proposed at Mission Point will facilitate greater enjoyment of and access to dynamic outdoor settings.

Q. What are some of the Board’s goals and achievements you are most proud of?

A. Our goal is to prepare our students to achieve their personal educational goals, and since I joined the Board, we’ve implemented significant changes to help our students succeed. For example, there’s been an emphasis on all students, with the aid of college counselors, creating an education plan, the data shows having an ed plan is a key factor in increased student completion and success. We are very focused on helping students meet their goals efficiently, which for many is obtaining degrees and transferring to four-year institutions. In fact, many students now are taking credits that will count towards their four-year degrees, and the transfer rates to CSU colleges and UC schools has been increasing. We are also working to increase dual enrollment among local high school students which creates an easier transition from high school to community college.

In recent years, we have demonstrated our determination to find ways to help our students achieve their goals by alleviating costs associated with attending college. Last year, the Board voted unanimously to eliminate parking fees, health services fees and childcare fees for all students at West Valley and Mission College. We are also partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank to support our food pantries, allowing students who need nutrition assistance to shop weekly for free and even take food home. Finding and maintaining affordable housing is also a challenge for many of our students, so it will be helpful to have projects like Mission Point nearby where ideally students and/or faculty can live in the available affordable housing units.

Most recently, the Board voted unanimously to offer free tuition to students who live within the service area of WVMCCD. Thousands of students have taken advantage of this opportunity and the enrollment at both colleges is increasing. We are very blessed to have the support of the community and are working to provide a quality education to those who are interested in pursuing their educational dreams.

Q. How can the broader community of Santa Clara contribute to the sense of community and belonging you are building for your students?

A. We live in a wonderful community, and we continue to see increased engagement from our neighbors—for example, they are sponsoring and participating in events and activities on campus —and this level of collaboration is so important.

In turn, we want to be a good community partner and act as a resource to our neighbors. We’re always seeking to connect our students with groups, agencies and companies and encourage community stakeholders to join us on campus to foster these important opportunities. Mission College President, Dr. Seher Awan, is very committed to community outreach, as is her staff. We’re excited to continue building partnerships and exploring how we can work together to strengthen our community.