Stay Connected After You Graduate or Transfer
Los Rios alumni are diverse and multi-talented. They include life-long learners who have taken one class, students who have completed a career certificate program or university transfer, students continuing on to complete four-year degrees, and beyond.
Your bond to a Los Rios College continues beyond completing a class, graduating, or transferring. Our alumni associations exist to keep your connection strong, so that you can reap the rewards in life-long friendships, career enhancement, and other benefits.
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The expansive class schedule allowed me to work and attend school without sacrificing performance in one area over another. The counselors helped me see a path in my coursework that would be engaging and educational. ARC did a good job setting a foundation for me to succeed at the next level. I learned useful study habits and allowed me to gain insight for what worked for me in my studies.
I started ARC in 2011 and took part time classes because I work full time. I graduated ARC December of 2014 and transferred to Sacramento State in the spring of 2015. I majored in Psychology, but I did obtain my first Associates from Yuba College in 2001 in Art. I earned an AA-T at American River College. My compromise between the two? I have exceeding interest in art therapy. I love ARC for its connection with students. Its resources and flexibility to help students succeed in the classroom and beyond. The various programs that supplement classroom teaching such as Writing across the Curriculum [WAC]. For English studies, Math labs and workshops give real hands on free tutorial help. Some Professors may provide credits for attendance. on-site tutoring in the Learning Resources Center on a drop in or appointment basis was great. Coffee on campus is great too. ARC has helped me prepare for 4-year College, as I was able to gain most of my undergraduate general education by utilizing the AA to transfer path. My advice to students is to take advantage of re-entry programs, disability services, or connections to multi-cultural groups and programs. Empowerment is powerful and having the resources to succeed is empowering, so dream big and go for it.
ARC made me feel like I was part of the community. I think if even I hadn't been on the [soccer] team, every professor I had at ARC was so friendly and so educated that I was constantly challenged. I was excited to go to classes and I felt supported, which is super important at a big community college like ARC. I've always been interested in government and I've always been a big reader and writer and I went into Political Science major because of Professor Collihan's class and I really loved it. When I first started at ARC I wanted to be a dentist so I was taking a lot of science classes, which I knew I didn't have a greatest passion for. It was good to realize I'm not good at everything and I really need to focus on what I was good at and figure out a way to excel in that area. Thankfully, taking that political science class with Professor Collihan opened that door for me and I realized that I loved that area and I knew I could do well in making that first step towards that goal.
I found my passion for law working on Accounts Receivable as a Bookkeeper for a local construction company. Time and time again I was in small claims court collecting on past due accounts. Maneuvering through the legal procedures while adhering to the time limitations was invigorating, so I decided to seek out a Paralegal Degree. After deciding to pursue this new career, I enrolled in American River College Legal Assisting Program. After graduation, I transferred from Heald College and DQ University. Currently I am self-employed as a Legal Document Assistant here in Sacramento County. I assist members of the public who cannot afford an attorney or cannot afford to take time off work to go to the courthouse to prepare their court documents. I do exactly what I used to do working as a Paralegal in a family law firm, except my clients provide me instructions instead of the attorney. I prepare court documents,
make copies, file the documents at the court house and serve them on parties or witness name in the action. What I liked best about ARC was the professors. There were two professors who set the foundation for my understanding of the law, Professor David W. Abbott and Professor Julie Brynelson. I did not realize the significance of this until my first semester at Lincoln Law. The legal education I obtained from ARC not only prepared me to be a Legal Assistant/Paralegal, but also put me on the pathway for a Juris Doctorate. My advice to my fellow Legal Assisting/Paralegal peers present and future is that you find your passion and pursue it with vigor. Go boldly into your future and when you fall, as we all have and will, stand up again and continue on. Do not let the struggle defeat or define you, rather let it sharpen and polish you. Hold your head up, for you are perfect. You are the hopes and dreams of our ancestors. Honor them and yourself in the living of your life to its fullest.
I worked in retail management for almost 20 years at companies such as Starbucks and Chipotle. Unfortunately, I was injured at my last job and it forced me out of that industry. I knew I needed to find another career for myself so I looked into becoming a paralegal. I chose American River College because of the affordability and the timeframe in which it would take me to get my degree. I had been going to Sacramento City College on and off over the years however I never finished by degree. Due to this injury, I now had the opportunity to complete it. I chose Legal Assisting because of how many different types of jobs there are in this field: private law firms, government jobs, or companies. What I liked most about ARC is the students! I met a lot of great people in my classes from all different walks of life. Having the professors be attorneys helped me understand the profession better and not only did their real-life examples help but also their different styles of teaching helped me understand the types of attorneys I would/will encounter. The other part that was exceptionally helpful was DSPS. My injury has left me disabled and I was able to get the support/assistance I needed to be successful. My future plans is to get a job! Then to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I advise current and future students to take advantage of all the resources on campus. There are wonderful people working there that are only interested in your success, like Anita Fortman from the Counseling offices, Asha Wilkerson, the department chair, and Julia Brynelson, a professor in the major. Ask for help with whatever you are struggling with because it's a safe environment to do it.
Julia Wong made a strategic and financially-smart decision. Instead of going straight to a five-year accredited college and incurring all those expenses, she decided to enroll in an affordable program close to home and get a great foundation for a future career.
Her encouraging family agreed. They’ve always had Julia’s future top-of-mind, so when they discovered the Los Rios Community College District was offering high school students classes at no cost, they encouraged Julia to start taking some so she could get a head start on her dream career – architecture.
And she did. By the time high school graduation rolled around, Julia had already acquired units at Cosumnes River College, the only community college architecture program in the region that is recognized by several professional schools as being one offering classes that provides transferrable credits. For a promising architecture student like Julia who someday wanted to own her own architecture and design firm, Cosumnes River College was the perfect place to launch her ambition.
Julia loved her classes. Books were easily accessible and although sometimes she faced a waitlist situation at registration time, she says she eventually would be admitted as plans changed for some enrolled students, making room for Julia.
What Julia didn’t anticipate was her new exposure to a diverse college community where students found common ground through their studies. And, she says, there were always community events happening on campus which made it easy to meet people with similar interests.
Julia continues to walk her own path, and her dream of becoming an entrepreneur who owns an architectural firm came true. Be open to opportunities that come your way, she advises, and community college is one, big great opportunity.
Without ARC, going straight to a 4-year institution would have been much more difficult for me to transition to. What I enjoyed the most at ARC was playing soccer. Prior to attending medical school my dream job was to be a professional soccer player, but kept medical school as a backup plan. My goal is to complete a Sports Medicine Fellowship.
My time spent in the ARC Student Association as a student representative helped to surround myself with goal-oriented students that not only challenged themselves to be better, but also the community and school that supported them. ARC afforded me the opportunity to jump start and craft my college experience in a small class size setting.
I'm most proud of graduating from ARC and am even more proud every single time I catch myself speaking on something that I learned in one of my classes or being able to share advice given to me by one of my professors. ARC helped me learn about inclusiveness and the importance of having support to achieve your goals. Community colleges should NEVER be a fallback option, but even in some cases, someone's first choice! While I can't speak for all community colleges in the area, I can for sure speak for this college and all of the wonderful things it has to offer! For students that are like me, not knowing exactly where they want to see themselves in the future, I would say that ARC is an excellent opportunity to try new things, branch out, take a bunch of different types of classes, and see what sparks your interest! I was told once that "Community college is like a buffet" and what’s better than loading up your plate with every option they have!
Did you always want your major or did you change your course?
I attended CRC to continue my basketball and academic careers. When I first got to college, I wanted to be a sports trainer so I got into Kinesiology. I ended up switching to sociology because of the many paths I can take with that degree. Recently, I was able to transfer with a full ride scholarship to play basketball for Xavier University of Louisiana, where I plan on pursuing sociology and minor in education.
What is your main motivation?
Key motivators for me would have to be my family. I want to be great and “secure the bag” and make my family proud.
I used to never take schooling serious before college—now, I see the growth. My future goals are to one day play (basketball) overseas or I would like to work with education and finding greater educational opportunities, environments, and funding for low income areas in the country.
What is your advice to current and future students?
I have definitely had struggles throughout my academic career, but the staff is amazing at CRC.
The instructors and staff are the best part about the college. Everyone is so helpful. One of my professors who motivated me was also my advisor. Not only was she an excellent instructor, but she was available in office hours to just talk. She pushed me to want to be great especially as a young black man. And as an athlete, I can say from experience that the CRC basketball program is top notch. Some of the best coaching in JUCO.
My advice is to find something you love, then make it into a dream.
Chase it. Catch it. Make it into your reality.
“There’s always a bag to chase.”
Never be satisfied—there’s always more to give.
I took general education courses at ARC and subsequently graduated with a BS degree in Accounting (1971) and MS degree in Management Information Science (1977) at California State University, Sacramento. I'm retired from a twenty-eight (28) year career in California State government from 1977 through 2006. Co-incident to my state career, I completed a twenty-two (22) year career in the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve that included six (6) years of active duty. During my state career, I taught part time for California State University, Sacramento, American River College and Sacramento City College. All three aforementioned careers were due my knowledge in business, computers and information technology. In my "semi-retirement state "since 2006, I've been working
part time as an adjunct professor for a for-profit university and Sacramento City College. I also do small business consulting. Don't be afraid of new opportunities and to leave Sacramento to pursue your life and career aspirations. If things aren't to your liking, you can always come back to Sacramento. My past military experiences exposed me to other parts of the United States and some foreign countries/cultures.
I took advantage of a summer abroad program and traveled with classmates and my Spanish teacher to Costa Rica. It was such an incredible growth opportunity for me both in learning and in confidence building. ARC prepared me for success at Sac State and to finish school eventually with my MBA. But spending six years at ARC noodling through classes as I tried to decide what and who I wanted to be, allowed me to graduate without any student loan debt.
ARC's math and science department gave me a solid academic foundation that was essential to my success as a transfer student at UC Davis and as a medical student. The professors understood the rigorous curriculum that transfer students would need to be able to handle upon starting at their respective 4 year institutions. They built a curriculum that emphasized problem-solving skills that would extend beyond the courses being taught and showed genuine interest in the success of their students. ARC offered me valuable access to STEM resources including study rooms (Science building, MESA), tutoring opportunities where I was able to tutor students in both financial accounting (with professor Ardans) as well as Chemistry (with professor Wheaton), clubs to participate in (AMSA, Phi Theta Kappa), as well as access to information regarding extracurricular activities, (such as volunteer activities, internships). I can say without a doubt, that the education and mentorship I received at ARC is the reason why my dream of becoming a surgeon is now a reality within my reach.
Cosumnes River College architecture alumna Jacqueline Padilla Perez proudly recalls her experience at the college and the impact of her professors.
“What I loved most about CRC is that they offer an amazing architecture program based on the Cal Poly curriculum,” she said. “The professors are top notch, the design fundamentals that one gains from them are phenomenal. I know of many students who have come out of CRC's architecture program that have gone on to become hugely successful in the profession in varied niches.”
Perez said the encouragement she received from her professors kept her motivated. “In my experience the wonderful thing about CRC professors is that they consider themselves to not only be teachers, but also mentors, confidants, and partners,” she said.
Perez didn’t always know that she wanted to be in the architecture field, she was working for Ikea as a coordinator in the sofas and media department and had interviewed for a new position that required her to take additional courses in order to be qualified. Those courses led her to the architecture program at CRC. With support and motivation driven from her family, she worked her way through the classes. After completing the program, she transferred to Sacramento State, where in 2014 she would earn her degree in interior architecture.
“While drawing the plan for my dream home, I literally stopped and exclaimed, ‘This is it, this is what I want to do with my life!’ I will never forget that moment. Architecture and design proved to be the perfect marriage of my creative and mechanical abilities,” Perez said.
The former CRC student has been successful in her pursuit to become an interior designer. With her passion and dedication, she is was recently appointed Creative Director at Miles Treaster & Associates, an interior design and furniture dealership in Sacramento. In explaining her new role she said, "As Creative Director I work with our Sales and Design teams to establish the creative vision for high profile projects. We are currently working on the design of the offices and lounge spaces at the new Golden 1 Center. It has been an incredibly amazing and exciting project to work on! My role is ever changing."
Perez is currently working towards her master’s degree in historic preservation with dreams of spending her golden years restoring an 18th century colonial home. After living in it, she would like to donate it as a house museum for others to visit and learn about history and architecture after she’s long gone.
I emigrated from El Salvador and arrived in California fresh out of high school in 2003. Back in those days, the internet was not what it is today. I had not been exposed to other languages or cultures. My early years in El Salvador encompassed a life of limitations and an ongoing brutal civil war, which meant poverty, insecurity, scarcity, and political unrest. Those were uncertain times, and when you are so young it really stays with you. My parents worked extremely hard but there were few opportunities around.
Once in the U.S., I began working at a grocery store in North Sacramento. I remember people’s looks because I did not understand enough English or could not express myself. I clearly remember pranks by co-workers, their put downs such as “go back to your country,” and other discriminatory behavior. All of this made me feel unwelcome and small. For example, when asked to go grab “clam chowder or ravioli,'' I had no idea what that meant. I did not know idiomatic expressions or pop culture. All I knew was the volcanoes, tropical jungle, and the Latin American history, culture, and cuisine of my homeland. It is a terrifying situation for a young woman.
A few months in, I was able to secure a better job at a large school district. This allowed me to have the headspace to think a bit ahead. I learned about American River College. I went in and it was quite intimidating. I had never been to a learning institution that big ever. All my schools in El Salvador were so tiny in comparison to American schools. I had to ask strangers as to what to do to enroll or how things worked around here. I had no concept of a counselor. I had no idea what that meant. I would meet with them and leave still confused, simply because I had no context to what they were talking about. Finally, I took placement tests and proceeded to take ESL classes. I could have never guessed this would be a decisive moment in my life. Had I not taken the time to learn English well, I would not be where I am today. ARC served as a buffer to the shock of being a newcomer on so many levels. I was among peers who shared a similar experience. I was lucky to learn from dedicated professors. The student support service centers helped me navigate an otherwise intimidating situation.
Unless you are an immigrant, you have no concept of what it is like to walk around not knowing anything. I mean that literally. I did not know cultural norms, which meant I did not know how to act or dress American. I stood out. I had to couch surf as I did not have a place to live just months after arriving. I did not know there were stores that had discounted groceries or places to buy used furniture. My first apartment was empty for a while. For years, I scrambled to make ends meet. Many times, filling my belly with water because I had no food. I had no extra money. I was not financially literate. I lacked most survival skills. The great side of this story is that somehow I learned to navigate everything. This experience made me tough, resilient, and fearless.
After earning an Associate’s Degree at American River College, I was able to transfer to Sacramento State University. Once again, I was truly lost. I still did not understand the higher education system and the difference between community college and a 4-year college. At that point, I had decided to leave my stable job at the school district to pursue my undergraduate degree, which motivated me to start my own business. I worked as a translator and interpreter for about eight years and so it was the logical type of business to go into. I am proud my business has been active and gradually growing over the last 15 years.
In 2015, I was able to successfully graduate with a B.A. in Communication Studies with a concentration in international and intercultural communication. Around the same time, I started volunteering for various causes in the community. I was awarded Inspiration Estrella by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2018. That same year, I went to Italy to participate in a highly specialized training on intercultural communication research. In 2019, I served as a Governor appointee as Language Access Manager for the California Complete Count - Census 2020 Office. I developed the Census standards and Census methodology used by the state of California in their outreach campaign. The work I did was so meaningful to me. I hope to build upon it in the future.
My community activism led me to realize I wanted to do something about injustice and inequality. I enrolled at Sacramento State University to pursue a masters in public policy and administration. In May 2021, I joined the 4 percent of Latinas who have attained a master's degree or higher in the United States. I was nominated as CSUS’ Newman Civic Fellow in 2020. I have a deep gratitude for Sac State because that is where I found mentors among peers and faculty, but also made lasting friendships. Over the span of almost 17 years in the language access realm, I have learned a lot and can provide new insights on this topic. As part of my graduate work, I developed www.rethinklanguageaccess.com. A space to discuss and think of innovative ways to address the language gap affecting over 25 million Americans.
Of course, this journey has not been easy. I have put myself through college while supporting my mother back home. There were months I did not know how I would pay the rent or bills. At times, I had to work multiple jobs. I had to still show up in hostile environments despite inner battles with deep trauma. I doubted my ability to succeed. I was ashamed of my accent. I dealt with racist treatment almost everywhere I went. I had to learn content and language at the same time, which meant reading the same sentence too many times to count. It involved being the recipient of microaggressions.
In the end, I can say that this immigrant experience gave me an edge few people have. In fact, I developed a sense of setting goals and mapping a plan to achieve them. I became keenly strategic and intentional. Sometimes I cannot believe how much my life has changed. I grew up having so little. I own a small business, and I am getting ready to open a second venture. I intend to do public policy and/or civic engagement consulting. I continue to give back and serve on community organization boards. I am so pleased I am at a place where I can walk away from hostile environments because of my knowledge, education, and experience. I can choose where I work and what I do. None of it would be possible if I had not been able to learn English and earn my transfer prerequisites at ARC.
To all my fellow immigrants and queer people of color, never give up. Also, once you do achieve your dreams, take the time to help others along the way.
Going to community college right after high school can be overwhelming if money is tight and scheduling classes around a work schedule feels like threading a needle. Fortunately, community college students are discovering that help is there for the asking, and community college can be an option for everyone.
Just ask Navjot Randhawa. The aspiring early childhood teacher who worked two jobs and maintained a 3.6 grade point average at Cosumnes River College knows all about being overwhelmed. She dropped out of community college shortly after high school out of exasperation and went to work. But the yearning to teach was powerful as were a couple of family role models. Her brother is a sixth grade teacher and her mother, a retired teacher who taught elementary school in India, encouraged Navjot to get back into the college arena. This time – Navjot promised herself – she was going to approach education differently.
Navjot re-enrolled and discovered the Early Childhood Education Program at CRC had a Pathways to Success Program at CRC’s Child Development Center. The Center was a lifeline for Navjot. The program there promotes a student-centered approach to foster the spirit and diligence to be a successful student and lifelong learner, exactly the skills Navjot needed to pursue her goals.
At the Center, Navjot found a community of professors and students who, like her family, shared her passion for teaching, and the resources, textbooks, and computers to use for studying. Navjot received an AA degree in Early Childhood Education, an Associate Teacher Certificate and an Early Childhood Education Master Teacher Certificate, and plans to transfer and obtain her master’s in child development.
Navjot who likes to hike and volunteers at the Montessori Country Academy, squeezes in some fun with friends at their own entertainment space, a converted garage. She tells anyone who will listen her formula for success: get involved and Los Rios Community Colleges will come to you.
Folsom Lake College (FLC) alumna Zainub Tayeb knew from an early age that she wanted to make the world a better place.
“While I knew that I wanted to study political science, my time and experiences outside the classroom at FLC really helped me solidify a career path,” said Zainub. “I fell in love with the work I did with the Student Senate and realized that higher education and social justice policy was something that I was really passionate about.”
This was further cemented when Zainub was invited to attend the Social Justice Training Institute held at the University of Kansas in summer 2017. With 49 other students from across the country, facilitators led participants through activities to further their knowledge of social justice issues and how they could be better leaders and educators on their respective campuses.
In fall 2018, Zainub transferred to UC Berkeley, an institution of higher education well-known for its cultivation of activists and advocates. Zainub said, “I am constantly being inspired by my peers in a time where people are using as many platforms as they can to organize social revolutions or start global conversations. So many voices are demanding long-overdue diverse representation in the media and politics and it is finally being realized. All these combined voices and instances fuel my passion and commitment to my education.”
1. How did you choose CRC?
I graduated from CRC with my Associates of Science in May 2014.
I began attending CRC in spring of 2011 knowing that there was a lot I wanted to achieve. Professionally, I didn’t have very much going for me, and I needed to change that.
I always had a love for computers, particularly information security, so I began by taking some general requirement classes as well as some CIS classes to get myself back into education.
My major was Computer Information Systems Security, in which I attained my Associates of Science. It was always something I had a huge passion for, and with the growing field of Information Security/Cybersecurity being needed by nearly any organization conducting business over the internet, it was also a lucrative degree in which to invest my time.
2. In what ways are instructor(s) at CRC different?
When I was taking my CISS 310 class, I chose to go with the hybrid course, which was more of an online class than on-grounds. I was surprised by the abundance of engagement the professor of this course, Lance Parks, had with the students (including myself). He was always there to answer questions about topics or concepts, and always made sure to follow-up with me so that I understood them.
There were times where I would meet with him during office hours to discuss things that didn’t make sense to me, and every time I would walk away having a much better understanding. Even after I completed CISS 310, I would continue to take my other required CIS classes with him. Over the years, he has become my mentor while navigating my educational and professional career.
Since then, we have become good friends and communicate often. It is this level of commitment professors of CRC and the Los Rios Community College District possess regarding the success of their students.
3. Were there any surprises/struggles along the way, and what did you learn from them?
At one point, I began getting frustrated with the educational path I was on to the point that I made the decision to stop attending college and focus on gaining professional experience.
This is something that I still struggle with, but I have learned that continuing your education leads to pathways previously unknown. There have been topics and areas of study that have fascinated me and led me to pursue more knowledge about them. I’ve never shut the door to education, because there is still so much that I do not know. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. That has been my take-away with regard to higher education.
I was a student at ARC in the Diesel Technology program to obtain an Associate degree. American River College's stance towards the hands-on aspect to careers is what drew me to the college, as I perform best when I can see and feel what I am working on. I was able to get a job as an entry level technician at Coach USA thanks to the Diesel Tech program's help in getting my name out and in to the hands of employers.
After growing up in a tough neighborhood in Oakland – where there was more temptation than opportunity – DeWayne discovered Cosumnes River College (CRC) spoke to him. He connected to CRC's campus because of its serenity and positive atmosphere. He found he could think and reflect more easily without the added pressures of inner-city life.
CRC is where DeWayne discovered the joy of learning. And it is at the Oak Park Community Center where DeWayne shares his learning discovery with youth and teens who can benefit from real-life inspiration. He is there as a mentor, Youth Development trainer, and outreach & development coordinator; he has even advocated for them as an ambassador at city council meetings.
One thing DeWayne wants to do is make people feel the way his instructors at CRC made him feel – enlightened and inspired. DeWayne transferred from CRC to Sac State to study sociology and marketing and began establishing his own brand and non-profit as an artist named Consci8us. “My work, my music, and my coursework all work together. I feel like I’m manifesting everything I’ve worked for.”
It’s not an overstatement to say that the SCC Music Department totally changed my life. I changed careers because being at SCC rekindled my love for music, taught me to sing and gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as a voice teacher.
Tyrna Brown overcame near death, abuse, homelessness, and despair, but she had the courage to reinvent herself in the ARC CalWORKs Program. Tyrna was able to become a proud member of Phi Theta Kappa at ARC, a club for students with GPAs of 3.5 or higher.
Her journey to success started while attending a department of Human Assistance Job Club session. There, Tyrna heard a representative from ARC give a presentation about college that ignited her hopes for economic stability and personal growth. Once Tyrna enrolled at ARC, she never looked back.
When Tyrna found out that she was eligible for CalWORKs, she was so grateful. According to Tyrna, CalWORKs saved her life and gave her a chance to gain independence and take care of her son.
In the spring of 2012, Tyrna graduated from ARC, overcoming the fact that she had dropped out of high school at 16. Tyrna went on to Sacramento State where she pursued a degree in Counseling. Just before she received her degree from ARC, Tyrna proudly stated, "Now I am about to graduate! I've never graduated from anything, not even high school, and here I am. I can't believe it!”
My engineering background has allowed me to look at things, even in business, from multiple perspectives, which allows me to help solve problems. ARC helped me deal with people of different ages and backgrounds. ARC guided me through success in life by allowing me to be creative and look at new ideas for ways to do things. I loved the fact that The faculty was supportive and creative.
I currently have two internships that are both remote because of my impending move to Santa Cruz. One of them is an unpaid internship at Solar Cookers International that I received largely due to being the president of ARC's Model United Nations Club. I help write international policy, oral statements, input sensitive paperwork, and create marketing strategies for Solar Cookers International. The most important part of my success in ARC were the clubs. In the last two years at ARC I had the privilege of becoming a cabinet member of Model United Nations and then the president for my last year. ARC prepared me for my future by teaching me to persevere.
CRC and Honors Program alumnus, Chris Adams, is a true community leader. He runs an educational non-profit. He is a civil rights activist, serving as Sacramento Chapter Leader for the People's Alliance for Justice. He provided community support surrounding the Stephon Clark case. He helped get AB392 (The California Act to Save Lives) signed and was present at the bill's signing.
Having graduated from CRC in Spring 2019, Adams, now living in West LA, is pursuing his Bachelor's degree in sociology at UCLA, where he continues his devotion to political activism and community service. Adams is also extremely passionate about football. He began college after finding out that the career in collegiate football he envisioned for himself at the time would require a foundation in his own college education. As he explains, "I came into wanting to football coach and just needed my BA for that. Earning my degree in sociology is really going to help with any of my future goals."
One thing Adams has learned from his work in advocacy is how to work with a variety of people. Given his experience with many diverse community groups in Northern California during his time at CRC and now with the people in his growing community in LA, Adams says he's been able to figure out how different groups of people work with each other. He describes his recent education in and outside of the classroom in terms of "Learning a lot about how to interact with people. Getting a degree will help me if I want to get into law school, getting a BA will help me do the things I want to do with education and employment beyond where I am today."
Growing up, Adams claims he was never good at school, "I said I couldn't do it," Adams explains, commenting on his self-doubts. "I never thought that I would be an honors student. But then, I did really well for two semesters and got invited to join honors – I think you get a note that you're eligible. And so it was ironic, because just as I was saying I couldn't do it [...] I got the notice. So, when I was finally invited to honors, I was scared initially. I was scared to challenge myself – I thought if I took honors, my GPA would drop and I wouldn't get into the universities." But Adams' successful transfer to UCLA underscores how the CRC Honors Program opened doors for him and increased his self-confidence.
Reflecting on his experience in Honors, Adams notes "The CRC Honors program is really like a close community – everybody kind of knows each other, you'll end up sharing a lot of the same classes. Honors is not a requirement – [program participation is elective], so everyone has chosen to be there – they want to challenge themselves. As Adams explains, "Most of these people wanted to go to university and many of them end up going to those universities. The honors community as a whole [has] bigger goals outside of their immediate experience. It's a like-minded group – they all understand there is a lot of work, but we all try to help each other. We are to share openly with one another without fear of judgment and to help one another. We know it's going to be hard, so we're all sharing this experience and want to be there for one another. If we saw someone struggling we had others there to make sure we [are] okay, to check in on each other." Reflecting more broadly on the program, Adams notes the level of educational support Honors provides: "They are able to prepare you for any university."
While Adams currently getting himself established in LA, Adams notes,"Keeping active in Sacramento is still important to me." His focus is on continuing to grow his network of strong mentors. "I've been meeting a lot of professionals who've studied law and are able to give me a lot more information. Making a bigger impact on the community as a whole is my immediate plan for the future."
Adams already runs a non-profit called Game Changer. "It's supposed to be able to train people with life skills including how to interview, etiquette, study habits, ways to network. Eventually, I'd like to turn it into a general education preparation school that offers counseling and other resources. There's a grant coming up I am applying for to see what little steps I can start to take to make it bigger than it already is." When asked how his time in the CRC Honors program has contributed to his success, he replied "I just really got a great experience. I got to understand that if you do the work and challenge yourself and ask for help...asking for help is the main thing. Just put in the work – you can do anything you set your mind to."
One of the best things at ARC was all the resources available. I had to learn to be my own advocate and decide if playing video games or studying was the best choice. My dream is to be a coder for Google or Facebook and be part of their marketing team.
Folsom Lake College is more than tests, textbooks, and juggling schedules. Just ask Guelta Laguerre. Guelta traveled to California from her home country Haiti to study, and what a journey she is on.
Back home, Guelta attended a Mission of Hope school. The school relies on the generosity of sponsors who want to do their part for the children of a nation that suffers from severe illiteracy due to malnutrition and poverty. Only 50 percent of Haitian children ever attend school in the country that Guelta refers to as destitute.
The school’s sponsorship program is quite personal. Through photos and letters, each sponsor connects with an individual child. And that was the case for Guelta. What makes her story different is her devotion to her faith, her vow to get an education, and the tenacity of Guelta’s sponsor, a Rancho Cordova resident.
When Guelta graduated from Mission of Hope in 2012 and moved on, her sponsor didn’t. She kept wondering about her young student, and even traveled to Guelta’s Haitian village to search for her. With Guelta’s picture in hand, the traveling sponsor went up to villager after villager, gesturing to the picture with a questioning look on her face. Finally, a family friend of Guelta’s pointed her in the right direction. The student-benefactor relationship now had new meaning.
Guelta always wanted to help her fellow Haitians by going to college and learning to grow abundant crops to feed her starving nation. The United States was a logical choice to pursue her dream because it’s home to her newfound friend. However, a slight problem existed. Guelta didn’t speak English.
So instead of taking her first science class when she landed in Sacramento, she took English — at Sac State’s English Institute — as a second language learner. She studied and learned, worked hard and learned more. All while suffering personal loss and a sometimes-overwhelming guilt for not being there for family. Yet, she sailed through the English classes. Guelta was ready for college.
At Folsom Lake College, Guelta was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a student ambassador, club president of International Life and bound for UC Davis’ freshman class, 2018. There she is continuing her studies in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program.
Guelta has an active social life, and even has become accustomed to some American food (never chicken teriyaki). And what Guelta considers a gift from above, she now has two families. She will live with her sponsor family until the day she can return to Haiti and make a difference.
So far away from home, Guelta has found a home—at Folsom Lake College.
Taking social sciences classes at ARC, and later UC Berkeley, strengthened my analytical skills, reading comprehension, and writing skills that I continue to use on a daily basis. I was exposed to so many great professors that really cared about the success of their students. ARC allowed me to develop my leadership skills as the president of the Model United Nations Club on campus. My favorite part of ARC is their incredible faculty and the student life on campus. I was exposed to so many great professors that really cared about the success of their students. I felt prepared when I transferred to UC Berkeley because I was already exposed to performance expectations of professors at ARC. I also appreciated ARC's support for a vibrant student life on campus.
Since Abby Cheng was 12, she knew that she wanted to become a doctor. However, her decision to become a physician changed along the way. Instead, she obtained a Ph.D. in Cell Developmental Biology and now works to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.
Cheng's interest in biology and the sciences grew, as did her interest in sports. Upon graduating from ARC in 1989, Cheng was offered a full ride volleyball scholarship to Arkansas State University (ASU), where she received a BS in Science in 1991. But her plans to apply for medical school changed after completing a research project in the laboratory with one of her ASU professors. Cheng wanted to discover new information that could contribute to curing diseases and impact many people rather than treating one person at a time as a medical doctor.
Thinking back to ARC, Cheng remembers a Physics professor in particular that helped inspire her love for science. Cheng says "I received a solid education from ARC and the professors in the science department fostered and encouraged my love of the sciences." She found her passion volunteering for Science Club for Girls (SCFG), a nonprofit organization with a mission to increase science literacy and confidence in K-12 girls from underserved communities, seeking to engage them in free science clubs and providing access to female mentors in STEM fields. In 2010, she joined the SCFG staff and worked through different capacities in the organization, eventually becoming the Director of Volunteer Programs.
Cheng now works with several colleges in the New England area, engaging students as volunteers and teaching them that volunteering can positively impact their career development. "Graduate schools and medical schools want to see that an Applicant is well-rounded. It's not just about classes or grades, but also what the individual is doing to better their community."
In 2016, based upon her collegiate athletic and professional accomplishments, Cheng was recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and awarded the Silver Anniversary Award given to former student athletes on the 25th anniversary of the end of their intercollegiate athletics eligibility.
Thank you for joining me as a member of the ARC President’s Circle. Your donation means a lot to the success of our students and programs. The PC events bring us altogether in our shared passion for the college. I look forward to meeting you at one of our upcoming fun and engaging PC events.
"What I like best about ARC was having access to practicing GIS professionals who teach the classes and are passionate about their work. This is a huge asset to the program. ARC helped prepare me for the future by providing technical classes in the growing and sought-after field of geospatial technology. Lastly, being able to take night classes while holding down a day job was another aspect of ARC I value greatly.
At ARC, The classes were small which was great for student/teacher exchanges. The Political Science instructor let me lecture the class about the origins of the Vietnam War for 3 days because the class was so riveted by the topic. Perhaps with that ARJC provided me with a sneak preview of my future profession! The school also provided me with a scholarship named after Doris E. Raef.
ARC has prepared me for the future by providing education and a professional skill set that gave me the courage to pursue higher education and to overcome life barriers including language, financial and social. I was guided by professors and counselors with patience and no judgment. As an emigrant student, I felt welcomed, respected, and supported. EOP&S was another service that contributed significantly to my success. Today I am a proud American citizen, a taxpayer, and an educator giving back to the ARC community that gave me everything unconditionally.
"ARC provided me with the fundamental tools to study, analyze and question academic subjects and ideas so that I could nurture my intellectual appetite and design my own scientific endeavors. Thanks to ARC professors, staff, curricula, and facilities I was able to unearth the scientist in me and to become engaged with the communities both around and at a larger scale."
Felipe Rodriguez knew he wanted to fight fires since the day he happened to be at a station as a child for a toy drive. They were giving away toys to families in need. But college seemed like a long shot.
And there was another calling for Felipe too. He wanted to serve his country in the Navy. As a son of immigrants, he had a warm appreciation for freedom and opportunity and wanted to give back.
When his stint in the Navy was complete, it was time to get back to firefighting. Felipe was all in. With the help and inspiration of his favorite counselor who advised him on how to access all the Los Rios campuses to meet his class needs, Felipe was able to balance his schedule between work and school. He achieved his immediate goal of becoming a firefighter by taking many fire science courses and completing an AA in Social Science. But Felipe sees building a solid foundation for higher education as his real Los Rios accomplishment.
The first to graduate from college in his family, Felipe says getting an education can be tough, but you’ve got to keep going. He is the first to say: Los Rios and Folsom Lake College offers a foundation for life.
Being in the Music Department at Sac City was a huge way that I made friends – I would even say soul mates – in college, a huge component of how I found myself in college. Music really does connect you to people forever.
Susana’s plan is especially remarkable because when she graduated from high school (barely), she had no plan at all. She’s the eldest in an income insecure immigrant family, and her parents expected her to work after high school. She entertained the idea of community college only because her best friend was going, so she enrolled at SCC.
Susana’s ambitions changed when she was selected to attend the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' (HACU) Capitol Forum as a SCC representative. Each spring, SCC students at this forum lobby their elected Congressional representatives hoping to shape and promote future legislation that will benefit all students, particularly those in underserved communities. SCC is the only campus in the region to expose students to these opportunities.
Attending the HACU Capitol Forum changed Susana’s view of what she could dream and even impacted her entire family. Susana understands now that growing up in an immigrant household doesn’t predispose her to the types of jobs her parents have, and she is worthy of the opportunities offered to anyone with an education.
Now that she has her AS in Business Administration from SCC and a degree in economics at Sac State, Susana is giving back at SCC. She is working with the HSI-STEM Equity and Success Initiative Project, a federal grant made available to recognized, Hispanic-serving institutions. Her job now is to support/mentor underserved and low-income students in school by being an advocate for them and an advocate for equity.
Through education, Susana learned that her heard voice can be heard, and she can advocate for herself, her family and her community. Barraza for Congress? Why not?
Navjot (Navi) Kaur is a math superstar who will generously tutor anyone who thinks they can’t be one too. That’s Navi in a nutshell, but that fails to include her immigrant upbringing where English had to be learned, her amazing work ethic that netted her a 4.0 GPA, or her incredible contribution to Folsom Lake College.
Despite her heavy class load and difficult course choices, Navi managed to serve as president of the FLC Math and Engineering Club, participated as a student representative on the hiring committee for the math, science, and engineering dean, was the director of finance for the FLC Clubs and Events Board, and was a student representative for the Folsom Lake College Technology Club.
Her instructors at FLC agree that Navi is indeed a singular sensation. Whip smart, humble, and helpful, she not only believes in herself, but also believes everyone has the potential to learn and do something great.
The first-generation college student’s parents think she’s special too. Although they live in India and did not complete high school, they have emotionally supported and encouraged Navi’s choices and are very proud (Navi’s sister also lives here and is studying computer science).
Now Navi is off to UC Davis to obtain her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a concentration in communication controls and signal processing. “I’m becoming a leading woman in tech, my way," Navi shares. She still tutors at FLC. According to Navi, if she can be an electric engineering major and a research scholar because of her academic experience at FLC, then the other students there can reach their dreams, too.
I started at American River College in January of 2016, when I was 18, after moving to Sacramento from Williamsburg, VA on my own. Moving here alone brought with it some great struggles that I couldn't have foreseen at that age, but which had a profound impact on me personally. These difficulties ultimately left me homeless/at-risk for a large portion of the time that I was attending ARC, but both during this period and during the period which led up to it, I met some of the most amazing and inspiring professors who were always willing to stay after class to chat with me. Professors like Frank Araujo, Kathleen Collihan, and Betty Chan all advised and mentored me at the most difficult and isolating times in my life, and I can never thank them enough for that.
It was through these reaffirming experiences with the amazing professors at ARC that I, as someone who hated school growing up (I had something like 120 absences throughout high school), ultimately became the student and person I am today. Likewise, growing up, the opportunities for academic clubs like Model United Nations (MUN) were pretty limited or inaccessible for me – but it was at ARC that I came to see their value. Even though I was working in AmeriCorps as a VISTA and still at-risk as far as housing, I decided to join MUN – which is run by Professor Collihan – during my last semester at ARC. While my other responsibilities ultimately prevented me from being able to go to the MUN conference, the experience of getting to work with others in an extracurricular academic context pushed me to continue doing so at UC Davis. Plus, Professor Collihan made it fun, which always makes learning and engaging easier (I'll never forget the classes I took with her as well)! Similarly, it was through the creative-writing festival hosted at ARC, SummerWords, that I learned how much I loved writing. Were it not for the scholarship the school awarded me to attend two years in a row, I might have never found my love for poetry and likewise my love of making music/rapping.
Now, I'm finishing up my last quarter at UC Davis, where I transferred in 2019. Through a variety of research experiences and extracurricular activities here – including doing stories for the university radio station and working on a documentary about institutional racism – I found my home in studying American politics. Last quarter I completed my senior honors thesis on Black respectability politics in the US Congress, and I plan to continue researching this and related topics in graduate school. To that end, I also recently accepted an offer to attend Princeton University this fall to pursue a ( fully funded!) PhD in American Politics with an emphasis on Black politics, class conflict, and political behavior.
While writing my thesis I was also awarded my first fellowship via the American Political Science Association's Minority Fellowship Program. I also got the wonderful opportunity to present my thesis proposal at the Emerging Scholars Conference at the University of Michigan, which helped introduce me to more amazing scholars in my cohort and faculty across the discipline. As a first generation student who grew up poor and often was told by teachers that I was a disappointment (or that I had potential but didn't apply myself), my experiences at ARC with such kind and passionate faculty were incredibly healing and life-affirming. It was there that I learned not only that it was possible for me to love school, but that I might want to give back and teach or research myself one day. Now, I have the opportunity to do so, and I can definitely say that despite the turmoil I went through to get here, I wouldn't be at this point without ARC and I'm forever grateful for that experience. At the very least, I'd have a lot more debt and probably be more cynical about the prospect of higher education otherwise.
Personally, my experiences in community college led me to believe that more people should attend community college first. Contrary to the prevailing advice when I was growing up, I felt that ARC gave me the toolkit and self-confidence to handle the academic rigor at places like UC Davis and Princeton. Lastly, I cannot underscore enough how positively impactful my overall experience was at ARC – the communal environment and incredibly genuine, thoughtful, and caring faculty changed my life – professors and support staff alike! I felt I had the freedom there to pursue all of my academic interests (I started off in English and anthropology before coming to politics). This ultimately gave me the means to find my calling.
Tell a little about yourself and how you came to attend ARC.
My name is Barry Frazier and I am from Stockton, CA. American River College was a blessing in disguise. Leaving high school, I only applied to one school and did not get in. I was heartbroken and I had no backup plan. I was really lost, but my cousin went to school at ARC and thought it would be a good idea if I went too and so a week before classes started I enrolled.
When did you attend ARC?
I was a student from Fall 2013 to Spring 2015 and graduated with an AA in Language Studies. I took a year off of school to train for track to make the Oklahoma University’s track team and began OU in Fall 2016.
Why did you choose OU? Have you graduated from OU?
I embraced the challenge presented before me. New school, new city, different weather, and different people. A little bit of a culture shock, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I saw it through to the end. Barry Switzer helped influence my decision to attend OU because of name sake. (I thought I was going to be welcomed with Crimson and Cream carpet). I graduated from OU with my Bachelors in Communications in 2018.
What was your major at ARC? Is it something you always wanted to do or did you change your major?
I received my AA in Language Studies at ARC. I have always been interested in languages, and the more I learned, the more I can communicate with others. Both of my degrees have complemented each other.
Do you currently work?
I am a math tutor at Madison Elementary School in Stockton, CA. My job is to help students understand the content they struggle with the most.
How do you think ARC prepared you for your future?
ARC has prepared me for my future in many ways. The most important thing I learned is to always bet on myself, no matter how rough the circumstance may seem. In tough times, I continue to fight, continue to hope, and continue to have faith.
Please share a little about your experience with WAC and/or RAD.
My experience with RAD/WAC was awesome! Everyone was so helpful and they had a lot of faith in me to succeed. I was in WAC from 8am until whenever they closed, so I spent a lot of time in the LRC. For every paper I wrote I was able to get it reviewed over and over until I felt confident that my paper was strong. WAC/RAD challenged me to be a better student. There was constructive criticism, and I needed this in order to become a better writer. My grades for every class shot up because of it. I applied the same work ethic into other areas of my life and excelled. To simply put it, there was growth in all areas of my life.
I am a first generation college student and never thought that I was smart enough for school, but then realized that it is passion that makes the difference. You have to find what you are passionate about and then go do that. Creating a life that I do not need a vacation from has been the biggest motivating factor for me.
I started attending ARC the spring semester of 2014. My fall semester 2014 I became more involved with the PUENTE Club, which was being advised by counselor Manuel Ruedas. Manuel Ruedas introduced me to the PUENTE club but also to a whole new world of academics.
Having the support and encouragement of my counselor was very important to me pursuing an ADT. I never really saw myself in higher education or even being able to transfer to a four year, but due to my counselor and professors being so persistent and encouraging, they motivated me to transfer.
During my stay at ARC I came across many individuals that were very helpful to my success here. It has been amazing to be part of ARC and to see that there are faculty, staff and administrators that truly care for their students and the community. I mostly enjoyed the opportunity of being part of the PUENTE Project learning community as well as being part of TRiO SSS.
I feel very privileged to of been involved with these programs because I am aware that not all colleges offer programs like theses for their students to excel and remain in school.
When I first started college, my major was Criminal Justice. I changed my major to general education at ARC. When I got to HNU I declare Multimedia Arts and Communications as my major. I later changed it one last time to Business Communications. I am currently an Officer for the California Highway Patrol. I graduated the academy in June 2017. After graduation, I was stationed in San Francisco. I really like the variety of classes ARC had to offer. ARC helped me succeed by providing a 4-year education level of professors at a 2-year college. I never felt as if the professors were "easy" just because it was a community college. ARC helped prepare me for my future by allowing me to play softball while getting and education. I learned to manage my time between the studying and the athletics. I advise current and future students to follow your dreams. The road is going to be tough but don't ever give up!
As a first generation college graduate, Iveth Lopez Obeso’s graduation from Folsom Lake College (FLC) in May 2018 was a proud moment not only for her, but for her entire family.
When Iveth immigrated to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico in 2000, she encountered linguistic barriers, radical cultural differences, and a blend of both economic obstacles and educational opportunities.
Iveth used her bilingual communication skills as a Student Ambassador at FLC to provide information to other students beginning their educational journey. “It was an honor and a learning experience to interact with the families of other first-generation students, helping to de-stigmatize higher education for underrepresented minorities.”
As a Student Equity Advocate and the founding president of the college’s LatinX Club which provides a support network for Latino and Latina students on campus, Iveth was also on the planning team for a regional event that brought nationally-recognized DACA scholars to FLC to discuss the current issues facing the fluctuating U.S. immigration policy and its effect on the “Dreamer” population, particularly students of higher education.
“My goal is to pursue a career in law to advocate for social justice, immigration reform, and human rights,” Iveth shared. With a strong work ethic and the passion and grit to make her dream a reality, she is currently attending UCLA.
Cosumnes River College and Sacramento State graduate (cum laude) Sarah Aboueljoud will tell you something surprising. The Dominican University of California bound, future physician assistant says she cut class in high school, graduated without the know-how to study effectively, and walked away with the false assumption that she was bad at math.
Sarah remembers vividly the day she discovered the math lab at CRC. She says that was the day she learned college is not so much about getting the correct answer as it is learning how to solve problems. By the end of her first year, and with the help of caring professors who taught her how to be a good student through positive academic habits, Sarah actually was a good student.
At CRC, Sarah says classes felt more intimate because teachers knew her by name. She found them welcoming, accommodating, and willing to listen. They understood that life gets in the way sometimes, Sarah remembers, but the teachers had a passion for learning and giving their students the tools to thrive.
A tool to thrive that Sarah relied on was the campus itself. She loved spending time at the fountain and listening to the sounds of the flowing water, and her favorite building at CRC is the Winn Center. To relax, Sarah would walk the hallways, soak in the rays from the large windows and admire the art and photography on the walls. Otherwise, Sarah spent her days hanging around her newfound home away from home, the anatomy lab in the science building. She credits the campus for supplying the learning environment she needed.
Sarah was amazed how easy Los Rios Community College District made it to get an A.S or A.A degree and open a world of career possibilities. With every class she took, she says she learned something about herself and new skills to apply to her personal life.
Sarah readily admits that going to CRC eased her transition to a four-year college and allowed her time to mature and figure out what she truly wanted. She is convinced that community college helped guide her by mapping out a career path toward the profession she loves.
Sarah is the first in her family to study for an advanced degree, and is proud to set a new standard for higher education within her family. What she’ll take to grad school is what she acquired at Cosumnes River College: the means to be successful.
ARC allowed me to become the first college graduate in my family, leading me to where I am today. The benefit I received from attending ARC goes beyond academics. The personal support ARC made available to me consistently made a positive impact on my life as a student and even now as an alum. I still attend ARC for courses needed to support my endeavors in my graduate programs. I have attended quite a few other colleges and not one operates at the level ARC does in regards to ensuring all signs point to a successful outcome. I get emotional thinking about the support I received to achieve my degrees and move on the four-year, etc. Initially, accounting was my major in 2001 although I had a strong interest in nursing. After a few semesters, I decided to change to nursing.
I settled in pre-nursing for quite a few years - plugging away at all the pre-requisites. Once I had all my pre-requisites a few years later, my interests changed to the laboratory side of healthcare. Through ARC's chemistry and biology courses, I learned that I enjoyed laboratory science more than nursing. The courses required for a B.S. in laboratory science program were easily fulfilled through ARC's science department. What I like best about ARC, besides the excellent academic environment, is the staff and faculty.
My experience with ARC and the Accelerated College Education (ACE) program has been amazing. I was 40 years old and working as an administrative assistant for a local hospital. It was a good job and it paid the bills, but I wanted more for myself and my family. I decided to go back to school with the hopes of starting a new career. I did not have the option of going to school during the day, so I needed something that allowed me to work full time while I completed classes. I found the ACE program and it immediately caught my attention due to the accelerated pace and the fact that all classes were laid out in a pattern with an end goal of transferring to a 4-year institution.
The ACE program was a savior because the schedule allowed me to work and support my family while taking classes. The fact that I did not need to compete for a seat in classes or figure out what classes met which requirements on my own was invaluable. ACE Coordinator Megan Bevens was always available by phone, email, or in person to walk me through the next steps and guide me through the transfer process. She made it so easy and I can't thank her enough. I attended the first orientation and was very impressed with Megan and the rest of the program and staff. I signed up for the first 8 weeks of classes in the Fall of 2015 and almost immediately the cohort bonded and felt like old friends. We met before classes and sometimes after class to complete assignments or help each other study. It was that feeling of fellowship among peers that motivated me to stay connected with classes. One of the first classes I took was HCD 310, College Success, taught by Professor Jennie Econome. I feel that class was key to preparing me for what to expect in higher education. Honestly, I wish that class had been offered in High School because I think I would have been more successful in college at an earlier age.
I transferred to Sac State, majoring in Social Work in the Spring of 2018. The momentum from my success at ARC carried over and I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's of Social Work in the Summer of 2019. I applied and was accepted into the MSW program and the Title IV-E program, starting in the Fall of 2019.
I just completed the MSW program this Spring. Because of my Title IV-E stipend, I am required to work for a county in California for at least two years to fulfill my payback obligation. I applied to several counties with the hopes of relocating back to the bay area. I recently accepted a position with San Mateo County as a Social Worker in Child Protective Services. The starting pay is more than double what I ever made before going back to school. I can actually afford to live in the Bay Area quite comfortably.
I never in a million years thought I would be starting a new career at my age, but I am so excited for this next chapter. I really do credit the ACE program, Megan, Professor Econome, and the rest of the staff at the Natomas Center for helping me realize my potential and directing me on a path to success.
Most people view fast-food chain jobs as a first job opportunity or a temporary job to get work experience, or work your way through college. For Nolan Ruiz, American River College alumnus, what started as a temporary McDonald’s job with his father’s business in high school came full circle in 2013 when he became an official McDonald’s restaurant operator and eventually an owner in 2015 of now 20 locations.
Ruiz said the affordable cost was what drew him to ARC at first, where he majored in business administration, but upon looking back felt he had received a valuable education and experiences at ARC that contributed to his success moving forward and his passion for advocacy in local communities.
“[ARC] provided me an excellent education. The quality of professors was exceptional,” Ruiz said. “Seeing how American River College worked its mission in education with the support and connection it had with the local community was a great lesson in civic responsibility and leadership.”
Ruiz attended ARC from 2000 to 2002, where he became the student body president, started his own painting business for a summer, participated as an honorary member of the ARC Foundation Board and addressed the student body in the midst of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
He went on to obtain a B.S. in business administration from Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley and a J.D. from McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. He had been practicing law for three years as a prosecutor and was looking into opening his own law firm when an unexpected opportunity arose in 2013.
Ruiz’ father, who was the owner of the franchise where Ruiz started, had contacted him about rejoining the family business, which was flourishing. Ruiz’s father had grown the organization from one to nine restaurant locations.
After becoming an operator, Ruiz used his savings to purchase a stake in the company, which was one of the nine restaurants. With no opportunities to expand in Sacramento or in the surrounding area, Ruiz decided to branch out and look at other opportunities in other states.
In September 2015, Ruiz sold his restaurant and home in Sacramento and used the money to purchase a three-store package in St. Louis. Since then, he has grown the franchise from three restaurants to 19 and is currently closing a twentieth.
He is also on the Board of Directors for the Ronald McDonald House, is a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis and recently became a member of the Regional Business Council where he puts his advocacy skills to use.
“I found that my advocacy skills are used within my organization primarily. All skills come to bear within the organization and those I have the privilege of leading,” Ruiz said. “It’s a lot of work, but you’re not just teaching them to be a better leader or manager, you’re teaching them to be better with relationships.”
CRC Honors Program alum, Dr. Jacob Velasquez, offers a unique perspective on the value of Honors as a new member of the faculty at his alma mater. Originally from Sacramento, Velasquez feels fortunate to be back and close to family after his adventures between being an honors student and teaching at CRC. Throughout his academic journey, Velasquez kept in touch with his former Honors instructor, Rick Schubert, who appreciates the scope of his colleague’s relationship with CRC. Schubert notes, “Jacob is at the start of his career as an academic professional, the culmination of a considerable transformation. He came to CRC as a Marine Corps combat veteran, already married, a parent, the first in his family to attend college, unsure exactly what direction the rest of his work life would take, and unsure of the value of his own ideas. But he left CRC with a clear sense of where he wanted to go in his professional life and how to get there. He left a confident scholar, knowing that his ideas have value, his interests are important, and that pursuing them makes a positive difference in the world. He’s a testament to the transformative power of our Honors Program.”
Honors helped Velasquez to set his goals and achieve them providing him, Velasquez says, with the skills vital for academic success. And Velasquez has certainly been successful, transferring to UC Berkeley for his B.A., earning a Ph.D. at UC Davis, and landing a faculty position at CRC. Paramount among all of the benefits he acquired through Honors, Velasquez explains, “was the confidence I gained that led me on my path toward becoming a professor, and that helped me overcome the many obstacles I encountered along the way.”
When asked about his experience as a CRC student before and after joining the program, Velasquez notes that Honors provides the opportunity to approach General Education from the standpoint of a topical focus. Recalling his own experience in Philosophy of the Martial Arts (HONOR 364), he observes that students in the seminar don’t merely study philosophy in general, but instead study philosophy as it relates to martial arts. The benefit, he points out, is the opportunity for students to connect the subject matter to something specific in their lives and to see it as a part of a larger conversation.
Another important difference between Honors courses and other courses, Velasquez notes, concerns class size. The smaller number of students in an Honors course, he attests, gives students not only greater access to the instructor but also to the material itself. Velasquez remembers being an active participant in delivering material during Honors class meetings, as he and his fellow Honors students were able to present their original research and answer each other’s questions about the topic of that research.
Reflecting on his Honors experience, Velasquez says two of the most important lessons he learned were that he was capable of contributing to a community of scholars who have interests like his own, and that pursuing his own research is very fulfilling. Turning to the present, he says “I'm very attracted to the idea that, by teaching here, I am helping students who are a lot like I was gain an ability they can use to make their lives better in the same way that I was able to.”
I attended ARC the following summer after I graduated from Walnutwood High School - Independent Study in spring of 2014. I completed all of my General Education and graduated from ARC in spring of 2016 with an AA degree in Social Science before transferring to Cal State East Bay. I love attending ARC because they have amazing professors there. Because my education is important to me, I've often talked to my teachers after my classes ended and I visited them during their office hours to ask additional questions. They were so willing to help me succeed in all of my classes and I got to develop great professional relationships with them. Also, Out of all four Los Rios College, ARC has the best swim team and I could see myself excel there. At the 2015 conference championship, I raced my heart out in the 100-butterfly final and when I touched the wall at the end of the race and looked up at the time board to see that I went 59 seconds - first time under a minute! It was a special moment for me. I truly believe if you push through those hard moments, then you will find yourself achieving things that were once thought impossible to accomplished.
Before law school, I enrolled in and completed, the American River College Legal Assisting program. The curriculum, esteemed faculty there, and its ABA approval played a key role in developing my legal career. After completing the Legal Assisting degree at American River College, I started Lincoln Law School of Sacramento's evening Juris Doctor Program in 2011. Almost immediately after beginning the ARC program, a classmate of mine introduced me to their employer Therese A. Adams, a local attorney who advised the legal assisting program in its development and its ABA approval. I was hired right away as a part-time Paralegal at Adams & Hayes Law and then after completing the program accepted a full-time position there. ARC created the opportunity for me to obtain a great job and this was a huge benefit. The Legal Assisting coursework was also a valuable preview to my first year of law school. Going into the first year, I already knew basic Contracts theories and was very familiar with the elements of many Intentional Torts and Negligence - this
really allowed me to excel. Also, taking the Probate and Estate Planning elective at ARC, in large part, inspired me to pursue my current practice area. I encourage Legal Assisting students to make the most of the program. Get involved in the Legal Assisting Club, and reach out to American River College Alumni. Pick-up any practical experience you can. There are plenty of opportunities available if you look in the right places. ARC qualified me to work in the legal field, it introduced me to a network of legal professionals, and it proved to be an invaluable source of academia for me.
I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for the SCC Music department. Not only did it provide me with the foundation on which to build a professional career from scratch, it was a safe environment to really explore my instrument, make mistakes, and build my confidence as a performer.
I transferred to UC Davis and graduated with my B.S. in 1992. ARC prepared me well for higher education. I loved the fact that the
professors at ARC were genuinely interested in teaching and working with the students. The teacher/class size ratio was very conducive to collaboration and personal interaction. We were there to learn, and the teachers were there to help us in every way they could. While participating in the Human Powered Vehicle competition at ARC, we built the recumbent bicycle in the engineering department, utilized all of the engineering principles we were learning to prepare the report, then got to race the bike and have a lot of fun in the process. I have had several teachers that believed in me and encouraged me to trust my intuition. I also participated on a few teams that collectively worked in a beautiful and seamless fashion. When things go right, it is amazing. I am always seeking that dynamic.
ARC to me is a foundation; I feel as if I can always come back if I need to learn a new skill. I made the most of my educational mistakes when I was at ARC and learned from them. I was a better student by the time I left ARC. Attending for 2 years and transferring
was a smart move; my college expenses were low and I enjoyed being on the cross country/track & field team.
For the first time in my life I took academics seriously, became involved with a service organization (Circle K), emerged myself in campus life, and student government. The standards at ARC were high and I worked hard to meet them. I learned how to work successfully with others and accept constructive criticism. These lessons have served me well throughout life. I would tell future students: Hold on to dreams, be persistent, and always remember that it's never too late.
CRC's Honors program's alumna and Sacramento native, Sarah (Hutter) Wilterson is a graduate student at Princeton University, where she is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and neuroscience scheduled to defend her dissertation in 2021, embodying the spirit of inquiry she acquired while at CRC.
As Wilterson explains, “For me, CRC was so many things. I started taking my first classes on campus when I was about 14—homeschooled growing up, I was able to start enriching my education through courses like math by the time I was in high school. After this initial introduction to community college, I graduated [high school] and enrolled as a fulltime student at CRC studying in equine science, believe it or not. I originally intended to spend my life working with horses.”
Wilterson marvels at her transformation from a teenager pursuing supplemental advanced general education, to pursuing an associate’s degree in equine science, to her current passionate work as a psychology doctoral candidate at Princeton. This evolution, she says, was made possible largely by the flexibility and support she enjoyed as a student at CRC. When asked why she initially elected to explore Psychology, she answers:
“No great philosophical reason— I just wanted to take one of the courses. I ended up talking to a lot of people. My time in the honors program offered a group of dedicated mentors. Finding people who will support you is important. Really important. The Honors Program is a great way to meet mentors who can help as you move through college and beyond.” Looking back on her CRC experience as a whole, Wilterson adds, “Being involved in such a diverse range of programs over the course of so many stages of my academic and professional career, I truly feel I got the ‘full experience’ at CRC.”
Reflecting on some of the differences between life at Princeton and while at CRC, Wilterson notes that the CRC Honors Program’s, “Small classes, and material that professors are genuinely excited about, are great for exploring topics in the way that the experts wish you could.” In comparing her time at Princeton and CRC, she says “The experience is a bit like the difference between swimming laps and a water park: sure you enjoy swimming, but the water park is special.”
Speaking of the connection between her academic past and present, Wilterson says:
“We've just started our fall semester [at Princeton] and every new group of students makes me think of [CRC Honors Program faculty member Dr. Rick Schubert] as I strive to pass on the gift that [he] gave me. I teach a Research Methods Lab, and my favorite phrase this year is, ‘But why—who cares?’ The students seem to respond well to the challenge of that question.”
Still connecting on a regular basis with the academic orientation she developed while at CRC, Wilterson reaches back to concepts from her time at CRC to connect to her students at Princeton today—carrying forward the spirit of critical inquiry she internalized as a student in CRC’s Honors Program.
Schubert explains that there is a question he asked of Wilterson and her fellow students on a weekly basis in the Honors seminar she took with him while at CRC and still asks of his Honors students today. After requesting a summary of the reading and receiving a ready answer from his seminar students, he always follows up with “But why—who cares?"
His question is an invitation to Honors Program students to go beyond a surface understanding of the reading to a critical engagement with the material that leads students to do their own original work alongside the author of the material. The Honors Program at CRC invites students to think beyond the surface what to the why, transforming students from passive consumers of academic information to actively productive scholars in their own right.
Schubert explains how excited he is to see the impact this approach has on the academic progress and growth of students like Wilterson:
“I’m deeply gratified to know that Sarah is still carrying forward, and sharing with her own
students at Princeton, the spirit of critical inquiry that she acquired as a student in CRC’s Honors Program. That spirit is central to what our Honors Program is all about.”
He emphasizes that all interested CRC students are invited to apply to the Honors Program, which offers not only enhanced IGETC-satisfying General Education courses, but an array of co-curricular opportunities and support services. Honors students have the chance to attend and even to present at academic conferences and symposia, to participate in special field trips and social events, and to receive support from the program’s counseling and academic advising services.
Explaining how CRC acted as a vehicle for change for her and what she continues to gain as a CRC Honors alum, Wilterson says:
“CRC is a continued source of support and guidance. I only ever took one actual Psych class, during my time at Cosumnes, but I got the full experience. I got to talk to a lot of people I might not have met otherwise. I asked questions. Professors took the time to explain to me what each career path could look like. That made the biggest impact--to have people sit down and actually talk with me and together we outlined what I want my career path to look like.”
Wilterson is proud to count herself a member of the CRC family who continues to actively benefit from her robust educational experience at CRC and who continues to grow professionally with the support of her mentors at CRC.
Gurvinder Sidhu is the first to admit that acquiring his diagnostic medical sonography degree at Consumes River College (CRC) was rigorous. However, he did have insight while acquiring it that many community college students don’t. Gurvinder knew firsthand the benefits of a college education. He and his wife had already earned degrees in their native country India before moving to the United States.
As a practicing physician in his homeland, Gurvinder assumed that he could carry on his dedication to healing in his newly adopted country. But rules and regulations got in the way, and Gurvinder found himself starting over at CRC, a prospect he at first found a bit depressing.
Gurvinder didn’t realize he had a very American problem. He had to find a way to work and support his family and be a partner in raising two young children while maintaining a full schedule of college-level courses. Luckily, his wife and family were supportive, and so were the faculty and staff at CRC. Gurvinder says they understood his unique situation and helped. Their support and willingness to extend a hand is a kindness Gurvinder won’t forget.
He also won’t forget how prepared he was to enter the workforce once he had his degree in hand. The experienced faculty and staff were extremely knowledgeable, and he considers CRC’s ultrasound/sonographer program excellent. He found the practicing clinical hospital sites to be the best, and was impressed with the infrastructure, labs, classes, library, and sports complex at CRC.
Gurvinder says the job offers poured in after graduation, and he was hired immediately. He is happy with his good salary and his wife and children are very proud. He can affirm now that everything worked out. At CRC, he made lasting friends, and by practicing in a medical field, he is living his life the way he says he was born to do.
I liked the pace of the classes as well as the knowledge and interaction of the instructors. I remember Anthony Marcelli (I hope I spelled it correctly) and Sharon Olsen-Hansen as my favorite Calculus instructors. Ann Hanks and the entire physics department rubbed off their interest and excitement for physics onto me that inspired me to pursue the Electrical field of Engineering. Of course, Ms. Moreno with her statics and dynamics class showed me forces and load distribution that I still think of when I look at any structure today. I also enjoyed the mixture of students from all walks of life, age and backgrounds as I was able to learn and appreciate the differences as well as similarities of all students.
For students entering college for the first time, usually the main goal is to discover purpose and go on to find success. Retired American River College counselor James Mar, also known as “Mr. American River,” believes his work as a counselor, and helping students gain clarity and direction, was fulfilling his destiny and true passion.
“Students mainly need to hear to follow their heart and to follow their curiosity. Those two will give you happiness in the future,” he said reflecting on how one encounter with a counselor at Sacramento City College changed his entire perspective on higher education.
Straight out of El Camino High School, Mar was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley to study engineering, but declined the offer and instead enrolled in Sacramento City College.
As an engineering major, Mar said he felt like he was a bit misguided and was struggling with some of his required courses. He said he worried that if he continued into the profession things would collapse. This led him to meet with a Sacramento City College counselor to explore his options.
Mar said that even today, he remembers how impactful meeting with a helpful and kind-hearted counselor was for him.
“She asked me the question, ‘What do you love to do?’ and this really paused me because in Chinese philosophy I don’t think that way,” Mar said. “You think of other people and fulfilling what their desires are. To think of what I wanted was very foreign to me.”
Mar was raised by what he calls “Old Chinese” parents with a culture very familiar with fulfilling the parent’s desires academically and professionally, which caused an immense amount of stress and pressure when it came to decision making. Ultimately Mar felt that his parents played an important role in creating a drive for success that stuck with him as he pursued his career, but the counselor he met with played an important role in choosing to put his dreams first.
After that meeting, Mar changed his major to psychology and went on to graduate from Sacramento City College. He furthered is education by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Francisco State University in 1970 and a Master’s degree in Counseling (School; and Marriage, Family & Child emphasis) in 1974 from Sacramento State University. After receiving his Master’s degree, he took a part-time counseling position at Encina High School which led to a full-time crisis counseling position at McClatchy High School where he worked with Asian gangs.
“I wanted to help people in some capacity, whether that was in social work, high school counseling, a community-based organization; I was involved with student advocacy work while in college and strongly felt I needed to change society,” Mar said.
His passion for helping misguided students eventually led him to a part time counseling position with ARC in 1975 and various other roles including Dean of Student Development for a decade.
“The memorable moments for me were when I got to watch each student fulfill their dreams and find what truly makes them happy,” he said.
Even though Mar officially retired in 2014, he has still volunteered part time, continuing to benefit student success and academic fulfillment as a counselor.
Mar went on to become an ARC donor and developed three different student scholarships, the Jane Mar Leadership Role Scholarship, the Albert Mar Veterans Scholarship and the Judy Mays/James Mar Psychology Scholarship as his lasting legacy and contribution.
“I’ve helped many women and people of color go through the process of unfolding their cultural and religious impact and help put clarity in their own thoughts and hearts,” Mar said. “That is the main skill of a counselor to me. It’s not just giving advice, but helping them see what’s truly in their heart.”
Mar has advised and consoled students of all statuses, backgrounds and life-stages; students pressured to enter certain career fields where they would not be fulfilling their real passion. His goal as a counselor is to remind students that following their own dreams over a family member’s expectation for them is an important part of finding true happiness.
He has also donated towards plaques under two of his top female student’s names; one a Russian-Ukrainian student whose dream was to go to Berkeley and to an international Moroccan student whose dream was to go to Stanford.
“All of it taught me to teach from experience. I’ve had a very rich life and am very blessed. I loved what I was doing every minute at American River,” Mar added. “As I get older, I feel very fortunate in my life, and wouldn’t change a bit.”