Success Stories

Saving a Dream (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from North Shore Community College Alumni Profiles, retrieved 5.22.11)

Bola Fayoda

Liberal Arts Class of 2005

NSCC  [North Shore Community College, Beverly, MA] alum Bola Fayoda came to America with dreams of becoming a doctor. A friend suggested if medicine was truly his calling, Massachusetts was the place to go and North Shore Community College was the place to start. For Bola, it was great advice.

Enrolling in NSCC’s Liberal Arts Program to take advantage of the College’s transfer benefits, Bola Fayoda carried a full course-load while working full-time. In 2005, Bola earned an Associate’s Degree from NSCC, graduating with honors. From there, Bola transferred his credits to Salem State College and entered the Biology program as a junior with added minors in both Chemistry and Philosophy. Two years later, Bola graduated Magna Cum Laude and, in September 2009, Bola Fayoda started medical school. What was once a dream to become a physician is now a career goal within reach.

Bola found inspiration and motivation throughout his stay at NSCC, but singled out NSCC’s TRiO program and Student Support & Advising Centers. “When I arrived in the US, I had no friends…. I want to personally say thank you to the entire staff of TRiO for their sincerity, as well as unending support throughout my educational career at NSCC. In fact, TRiO is responsible for where I am today and, if not for them, I may not have had a chance to become a medical student this soon.”

Bola also remembers his daily stop in the Student Support & Advising Center to see Peter Monaco, NSCC’s Transfer Counselor. “Peter saw me through my struggling days–he saved me in every way a young man trying to latch on to his dream could be saved.” Bola said the support, information and advice he got from those visits paid off for him not only at NSCC, but also in transferring to Salem State College. By spending his first two years at NSCC, Bola was able to cut the cost of getting a Bachelor’s Degree in half. He also strongly advises students to seek out and use the services available to them at NSCC. “As students, we tend to take things for granted and don’t realize support is there to make our lives better.”

Cooking Up a Future (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Cuyahoga Community College Alumni Spotlight, retrieved 5.16.11)

Alicia Marotta

Alumni of Cuyahoga Community College often credit the College for the professional success they have after graduation. While some say the College helped them determine their futures, others used their experiences at the College as a tool to achieve goals they had already set for themselves. Alicia Marotta is an alumna who took advantage of the affordable education offered at Tri-C [Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH] to help her accomplish a lifelong goal.

“Since I was five years old, I wanted to own my own restaurant near my home. Tri-C helped me achieve that goal,” said Alicia who graduated in 1997 with an Associate of Applied Business Degree in Hospitality Management with a concentration in culinary art. She put her degree to work when she opened her own Italian restaurant, Marotta’s, in Cleveland Heights. Alicia not only created the entire menu but she also oversees all business aspects of the restaurant. “Owning a restaurant is a lot of hours and hard work, but the rewards are excellent. The best part is being my own boss.”

“My experience at Tri-C was the basis of my career,” stated Alicia. “The culinary art courses prepared me to be a chef while the formal education

I received helped me to run my own business. Richard Fulchiron and the faculty of the Hospitality Management program are well versed in culinary arts and they want to see everyone in the program succeed.”

Alicia also knows the importance of scholarship support — she was a recipient of the Tri-C Foundation’s Hospitality Management Scholarship. “Receiving a scholarship was very helpful. I had to work full-time and go to school part-time and the scholarship allowed me to take more courses and graduate faster. Without it, I don’t think I would have been able to continue my education.”

Starting … Stopping … Starting (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from: Community College of Allegheny County, Featured Alumni Profile, retrieved 5.3.11) Read the rest of this entry »

Figuring It Out (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from:  Ilisagvik College “Student Spotlight,” March 2011)

Ray Kasak is a soft-spoken young man from Nuiqsut, the son of Rhoda Mullen and Jerry Sikvayugak. He is pursuing an Associate of Arts (AA) degree at Ilisagvik College [Barrow, Alaska] after dropping out of school in 10th grade and taking a series of jobs with no real future.  It did not take long for Ray to realize that he did not have much of a future if he did not go back to school and get his GED and pursue some postsecondary education.  Ray said, “I got tired of going from job to job. I wanted to have a career in something I liked doing. Maybe I’ll be a teacher. Maybe I’ll go on and get a four-year degree?  Right now, I’m excited to be getting my AA degree.”

Ray credits Ilisagvik’s village outreach as one of the reasons he got back into school.  An Ilisagvik recruiter went to Nuiqsut and Ray found himself listening to the recruiter’s message. Now, with the support of his family, the student services division at Ilisagvik, and financial aid, Ray finds himself on the path to a brighter future. “When I first came here I was homesick,” Ray said, “but then my family really encouraged me and the people at student services really supported me and now I feel like I’m really making it here and liking it. I think by having my family be so supportive and happy that I’m here has made all the difference in not giving up when I was homesick.”

According to Jennifer Kiser, Ilisagvik’s Student Advocate, “Ray has been doing great! He is currently a federal work-study student for student services and helps with various tasks from shoveling snow to cleaning rooms. He is very kind and generous. He enjoys spending time with friends and helping others. He really enjoys working with children and wants to have a career that has to do with helping children or helping others. Overall Ray’s positive light and care for others shines through.”

Recently Ray received the highest grade on a test in his biology class.  Instructor Linda Nicholas-Figueroa said of Ray, “In the beginning Ray was shy to ask for help but after the student services set up tutoring sessions for him he became more comfortable and learned that it is ok and a good idea to get extra help when needed.  After a couple of weeks of tutoring sessions Ray felt more confident about how to organize class time along with study time and is no longer in need of tutoring sessions.  Ray is a pleasure to have in class.  He is enthusiastic, positive, outgoing, and fully participates in all classroom activities and discussions.”

In addition, the Dean of Students and Institutional Development, Pearl Brower, states that “Ray is a great student and a great addition to our dorm family here at Ilisagvik.  I commend him for the decision he made to return to school and finish his GED and then to go on to further his education.  I look forward to seeing all of the accomplishments of this young man as he continues to grow and give back to his community.”

When asked what he would say to young people in high school or who dropped out and are now wondering whether they should go back to get their degree, Ray said, “Going to college is an experience you can keep and benefit from no matter what you study. Study something you love and then you can make it a career for the rest of your life.”

Success Stories Series

Written April 25th, 2011
Categories: Success Stories
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Today marks the beginning of a series of posts that spotlight the success stories of Non-Traditional Students.  Many have overcome formidable obstacles, but have persevered nonetheless.  I hope you will be inspired, awed and moved by their accomplishments!

Changing Careers at Any Age …

(reprinted from Schenectady County Community College AlumNews, Spring 2010)

After five decades in preclinical lab research, managing clinical trials, screening drugs, and collecting and processing data, JoanDembinski ’09 traded her business suit for a chef ’s hat and began attending SCCC as a full-time student in the Culinary Arts program. She graduated in May 2009 with an Assistant Chef Certificate in Culinary Arts. Having not had enough, she is back and working on her Associate in Occupational Science degree Culinary Arts, with a Baking concentration.

Joan has been interested in cooking since she was a child at the elbow of her mother in the kitchen. Joan says she is thrilled to have the transition from a business “where people needed medicine” to one where “people need to have good nutrition and meals.” The human relations aspects of both fields excite Joan, as do the intricacies of safety and sanitation.

Retirement is not a word in her vocabulary. Going back to school at age 71 is a challenge for anyone. “The first week I felt as if a train hit me,” she said. But she added that the transition has also been inspiring. “To come to SCCC as an older person, I found and enjoyed a welcoming atmosphere. Diversity is not only cultivated at SCCC, it flourishes. My experience after 50 years away from academia keeps me focused and thankful for the time spent at a wonderful school.”

Joan shares her testimonial about her love for the Culinary Arts program. “Without the excellent training and support from the superb instructors at SCCC, I would not be continuing on this pathway. They have opened up avenues of research, and continu- ing excitement in discovering ways to prepare and present nutri- tional meals. The dedication and care in which subject matter is presented is significant. Remembering and implementing skills brings a quiet smile as I remember the words and helpful hands from a caring chef….my thanks abound!”

Now in her sixth semester, Joan has earned a 3.99 GPA. She works as a member-worker at Honest Weight, a food co-op in Albany, and at Yono’s Restaurant. Rather than taking advantage of scholarship money available to senior citizens, Joan pays her tuition and donates to the College’s scholarship fund.

“I’m enjoying my journey. Whatever the destination, it is irrelevant. Follow your dreams. Do what you love to do.” And, as her mother once told her, “never stop learning.”

Notes from a Gen Xer

by Norma Jones, University of North Texas

During recessions, more non-traditional students (NTS) are returning to earn degrees and learn skills to improve personal economic situations.  As a result, community colleges and universities are competing with newer, online, and private institutions to attract non-traditional learners.  In addition, community colleges and universities have also become increasingly friendly to non-traditional students with online content and flexible scheduling.  I have observed a shift to non-traditional formats such as online classes as well as classes scheduled later in the day to allow for working adults to participate.

The US Department of Education (2002) have assigned the following characteristics to NTS:  delayed enrollment (did not continue onto post secondary in the same year as completing high school), part time, full time employee (35+ hours a week), financially independent (as determined by financial aid services), have dependants, single parents, and have GED instead of a high school diploma.  As of 2000, 73% of all post secondary students have one or more of the above characteristics thus classifying them as NTS.  I find it interesting that the US Department of Education does not include age as a NTS characteristic because in classrooms, non-traditional learners are usually identified because they are older.

The Federal Student aid services (2005) classify NTS as over 25 and as of 2005, over 27% of undergraduate students considered to be non-traditional.  Furthermore, they estimate that between 2006 to 2017, over 25 enrollment will increase by 19%.  Factoring in marketing generations, and as of today, the noted ages corresponds to Generation X who were born between 1966 and 1980.  I identify as a Gen X’er in addition to my other non-traditional characteristics.  In family life, Generation X were the first generation to be sent to day care centers.  Our parents experienced tripled divorce rates and we were also the original latch key kids.  I spent a lot of time at other people’s homes and am amazed at how the younger generation seemingly had at least one parent to come home to.  As a result of instability in homes, and forced independence, Generation X became the first yuppies where we made more money than previous generations.  We worked hard and played even harder.  Lifestyle brands such as The Sharper Image thrived during this time.  As a result, in classrooms and in teaching, my personal feelings regarding early hours and unpopular projects don’t matter.  We’re here to do a job and do it well.  We also witnessed Black Monday of 1987 and our extreme experience lifestyle changes resulting from the current recession.  As a Generation X’er, I sought stability because of unstable home and work lives.  Also, in most cases, the decision to return to or continue education is a marketing one because Gen X’ers are trying to find a means to earn money.  Thus, I suggest that community colleges and universities consider Generation X needs when developing recruiting and educational plans.

As a Generation X NTS, I am in my second year of my masters.  I am also a teaching assistant with my own classes.  So, I have experienced NTS education both as a teacher and as a student. Currently, I am in a Communication + Aging class where I am a couple of years older than my professor.  I am old.  I am older than half my professors.  One of them is actually from the same high school and graduated one year after me.  Being an older TA has advantages.  I don’t have to hide my age from freshmen who are four-five years younger than me and address myself with a title.  As a GenX’er I want stability so, last minute shifting content, schedules, and deadlines via email and text annoy me.  I’m learning to adjust to the faster pace of the wired babies.  Unlike my Millennial peers, I do not want constant handholding or affirmation.  I am amused by younger concerns, such as love and angst, that I haven’t dealt with in the better part of two decades.  But, these are my peers and this is my existing situation.  So, as an overachieving Gen X/Yuppie, I learn to adjust.

Connecting the Dots

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Last week I was invited to hear the keynote speaker at a student conference being held at our college on behalf of our students.  The conference was geared towards preparing our students for leadership roles in their careers.  The keynote speaker was a former student who had taken my class “Speech & Public Speaking.”  Unfortunately, she was “snowed-in” in New York City and had to give her speech via Skype audio.  Her PowerPoint presentation was given simultaneously.

I remember her … even though it had been five years and a thousand students ago.  “Nickie” was the dream student.  She was an Art Education teacher out West and decided to make a career change by enrolling in a program at our school.  She was in her mid-twenties when she came to be a student in my class.  Nickie was an eager student whose mind was open and ready to take in the lessons that were offered to her.  She was unusual in that she did not treat “Speech class” like a class with assignments.  Nickie approached the class with the attitude of “How can I use this to help me with my career?”  That difference was all the difference.

During the 10 weeks she was in my class, she had an interview in New York City for an internship.  We had just covered argument-based persuasion, so she went to NYC with this new-found knowledge and felt prepared to handle the presentation and interview.  She did get the position, and returned to our classroom fired up about using the tools acquired in the classroom in the “real world.”

She had “connected the dots.”  We, as professors, offer “dots” to our students.  It is up to the students to connect them, to have them make sense, to use them.  Nickie was a Non-Traditional Student (NTS) in that she had already earned her Bachelor’s Degree and was pursuing a rewarding career.  She opted to change direction when she realized she needed and wanted more.  Even though she did not fit the numeric definition of a NTS (out of high school at least 10 years), she had a fully mature attitude toward learning and was highly motivated to effect change in her life.

She graduated in 2007 and has pursued a successful career as an independent designer, obtaining numerous contracts with prestigious firms.  She has also participated in many college-related events even though she lives in a different region of the country.  When she was asked to give the keynote address she requested that her former professors be e-mailed and invited to attend the opening program of the conference.  Before her presentation began, I asked the coordinator of the conference to let Nickie know that I was there.  Consequently, when she was wrapping up her speech, she gave an enthusiastic “shout-out” to me and thanked me for all she had learned in my class.

Yes, I did provide the dots she needed to help with the change in her career.  However, it was up to her to connect them – and so she did!

Second Chances

There are many people out there who did start college (at varying levels) but did not complete the degree program. The following article discusses students who took the leap and returned to school. Colleges are giving returnees the opportunity to finish what they started. Perhaps this article is talking about you?

Click here to read article.

Any time! Any place! Any age! Congratulations Ms. Soares!

California woman earns college diploma at age 94! Click here to read her story.