Education is my path.

Recently I asked my college success class to write an essay in response to the following prompt:


Many students are unsuccessful in college because they don’t see how college is going to help them create the life they want to live. Write an essay in which you define both what you want to accomplish in your life and how college is going to be an important steppingstone to that success.


I wanted to share one of my student’s  essays that I found to be particularly moving:



Education is not the last chance but it is the path and the opportunity to enhance better existence for everyone. My adventure started in the Berkshires, an amazing place, with beautiful views and tender people.  In 2008, I came from Mexico City. I decided to come to the USA to start a new and better life with my fiancé, Daniel. He is a generous and hardworking Mexican. In that same year, Dana, my first baby, was born and then my second girl Sophia in 2011. I have different roles in my life: a mom, a wife, a waitress, and now, a student. Even though there are many financial challenges in the journey, I believe that I have the courage to pursue my dream to become a nuclear engineer, create a better life for my family, and inspire my Latin community.

I am sure that learning will provide more opportunities to meet new people and improve how we do the things. Going to college is an option, an option for people who want to challenge their lives and have personal growth.  Personally, I know that it will take some years, but I decided not to postpone and to start now. It is hard to manage the time to study, but every day I say to myself: I can push for a little extra. I reorganized my work schedule and home tasks to make time for my studies. I am certain that to succeed in life we need to focus on our goals. Finishing my college education is one of them. At the National University of Mexico (UNAM), I intended to get a degree in Physics, but financial difficulties and my pregnancy did not allow me to continue. In my soul, I always knew that I was emotionally ready to go back to school at any time. However, there were new challenges in the US: the language, the culture, no relatives, no job, and no friends. With hope in my heart, in 2009, I enrolled in ESOL classes. I worked hard to improve my English in the Adult Learning Program for three years.  Finally, in 2013, I completed the Transition Class at BCC South County. This spring semester, 2014, I am taking English 060, BCC 101 and Project Link. For the fall semester, I have been approved to take MATH 145 and ENG 101, and I plan to major in Engineering and Engineering Technology. I want to become a legal resident of the USA and live here permanently. 

I know that happiness is doing the things that you love, and it is much better if you receive remuneration for doing them. I like serving in the restaurant where I work but honestly, I do not want to perform this job forever. In the future, I would like to be remembered as a person who shared her life knowledge and as someone who challenged other people to aspire, particularly, Latino newcomers and students. I want also to teach my girls that whatever their dreams are, they can achieve them. I see myself in ten years working as an engineer, especially in the field of Nuclear Energy. I am going to enjoy my occupation with the people that are around me such, as my coworkers, family, friends, and the larger society. 


“Summer Melt”

It’s about more than hot temperatures.

Researchers at Harvard found that low income, under-prepared  students who plan on going to community college, often don’t  follow through on attending.  Something happens or in this case doesn’t happen during the summer after high school  graduation and before starting college that causes some students’ intentions to go to college to “melt”.  For low income community college bound  students, in particular, upwards of 40% of them  don’t show up to classes in the fall.

Take a listen to the NPR story that was on Morning Edition a couple of days ago  about how one community is dealing with  summer “melt”.



NPR Media Player.

The Best of Intentions.

I just came back from meeting a group of  students who will begin their first semester here next week.  There were eleven of them, most looking eager, some not so much.  I can’t help but wonder if they’ll all be here in May.  I’ve learned to be doubtful about this, but I’m trying hard not to predict the outcome.

On the first day of class I will ask them what’s the percentage of their commitment to staying in the class.  Last semester all but one of  said they were 100% committed. The one other said she was 95% committed. At the end of the semester, 9 out of 14 finished the course, as well as the entire semester.  So what happened to the other 5? Lots of things, mostly having to do with  complicated lives in one way or another.  This isn’t to say that the others had smooth sailing through the semester.

When I reflect on why some navigated well and others not, I look at some of the differences between the two groups.  One difference was their  maturity or the degree to which there was recognition of the ups and downs in life.  The successful students knew there would be obstacles, but planned for them in advance.

Another difference was the level of commitment to a clearly defined goal.  Those students who knew why they were here, no matter the reason, hung in.  Some students actually developed clearer goals during the semester and this helped them  turn things around.

The  two groups also differed in their ability to learn from both successes and “failures”.  Success taught some students that hard work and their own skills paid off and that failure wasn’t permanent and could be remidied with hard work and support.  In essence, the nine students who made it through their semester had challenges, both personally and academically, but knew and   learned how, in spite of the challenges,  to say on course.

Intention isn’t always enough.  I think this will be one of first lessons we talk about after all students most likely will tell me that their 100% committed.

From GED to College

Project Link Students Spring 2011

Project Link Students Spring 2011

This past semester I had the pleasure of co-teaching a success seminar for a group of students who earned GEDs and were making the transition to college.  The program is aptly named “Project Link” as it literally provides a link from adult basic ed. programs to college.  At the beginning of the course, there were 14 students, affectionatly called “Linksters”.  All were in various stages of commitment to this college path. For most, school had been a struggle.  Some finding it meaningless.  Some finding it too much trying  to be young mothers and students at the same time.

As we moved through the semester, life outside of college intervened, and we lost some students.  This is very typical.  On top of being academically underprepared, Linksters have incredibly complicated lives often working several jobs, raising young children, and/or  dealing with learning  or  mental health disabilities.

This can be discouraging for us, as teachers , but the energy of the group of students who finished, made it all worthwhile.

Our core group became close, often cheering each other on.  In the end, it truly was the power of this small  community that helped each member keep going.

I remember one class in which we asked them to list their accomplishments and to share those with classmates.   Initially, it was hard to think of accomplishments, but as they began to hear each other, lights went on.  One young student, in particular, talked about how proud she is to be in college and to be doing as well as she is.  This is the same young woman who had nothing to share about herself at the beginning of the semester.  She was one who we worried might not last.

We heard similar stories from others.  It was a great moment.

At the last class, they shared some final thoughts.  One of our older male students who started out with no computer skills, gave a very polished power point he called “Get ‘er Done” which is just what he did.

Now that the links have been created,  all the Linksters will enroll in BCC to continue their hard-won battle to come back to school.


Beginning college for many students can be like landing in a foreign country.  There are new rules, a new language (like registrar, financial aid, syllabus), and a new community of students some who have been in this strange land  longer than others.  Put yourself in that place for a minute.  YIKES.  What can be done to help students have a smoother and easier transition to the new world of college?

One very effective strategy that a college can implement Continue reading