November 2015 Newsletter
MJC Reveals Life’s Options
By: Kathleen Ennis, MJC Professor
I was almost the first person in my family to go to college, but my mom beat me to the punch. She started taking classes at MJC when I was 12 and she was 37. She went on to transfer to CSUS and earned her BA in psychology, and spent most of her professional life as a drug and alcohol counselor for Stanislaus County. She was a typical returning female student: utterly focused and enthusiastic, never taking her education for granted. Her favorite teachers were “the Henrys” (Henry Hahn and Henry Osner), and I remember she had a wild crush on Richard Sweeney. I have fond memories of attending classes with her at MJC a few times after I wondered out loud what college was like. My mom didn’t mess around. “Come on, I’ll show you!”
Interestingly, my father resented my mom’s quest for an education, although he paid her tuition and worked hard to keep this resentment in check. He was older than her by 16 years, and when they met she was a young, struggling widow with two toddler sons. He rescued her, in a way, and was very scared of both her burgeoning intellectual independence, and her increased ability to take care of herself financially. And, yeah, she eventually divorced him and never remarried (she’s 72 now). My mom definitely taught me that education gives you options in life.
And yet, still, I almost blew it.
I dropped out of high school in my senior year. I didn’t fit in socially, and I was smoking copious amounts of marijuana which totally zapped my motivation. After leaving school I worked a series of low-paying jobs, ratcheted the drug use up a notch, and entered into an abusive relationship. Obviously, my self-esteem plummeted. I knew I was screwing up. My poor parents were bewildered. Although neither of my brothers had finished high school, I was supposed to be the smart one, and here I was making all the worst choices. I knew that I needed to take control of my life, that I wanted more options. And I also knew from watching my mom that education was the key to making those options available.
When I told my parents I wanted to give college a try, they were 100% there for me both in terms of emotional championing and financial support. I’m so profoundly grateful to them both for their unwavering confidence in me. So many of my friends had parents who “washed their hands” of them, but my parents never gave up on me even after I gave them every reason to do so. I also owe a lot to Jim Johnson and Allan McKissick, two of my first teachers at MJC. They recognized something in me that I had long ceased to see. They helped me see myself as smart and strong and powerful. They seemed to genuinely enjoy having me as a student, and that did so much in terms of making me feel like I belonged at MJC. Their classrooms were places where I felt competent and valued and appreciated, and that literally changed the trajectory of my life. If you value yourself you don’t do dangerous drugs, you don’t stay in abusive relationships, you dare to aim high. I’m a teacher now because teachers literally changed my life. MJC teachers. I’m essentially here now to help change lives, to make sure my students feel competent, valued, and appreciated.
Aside from being the Coordinator for Library Instruction at MJC, I’m also very involved in the local arts community. All of those Readers’ Theater and Storytelling classes I took from Jim Johnson must have made an impression. In 2001 I helped found Modesto’s Prospect Theater Project, where I serve on its Board, act as its Managing Director, and occasionally step out onto its stage. Thank you MJC, for being such a huge, profound part of my life for almost 35 years!
A Passion for Politics… And MJC
By: George Ferris, Class of 2009
The education, relationships, and experiences I gained while attending MJC have been a huge part of the successes I have enjoyed since graduation 6 years ago. Growing up in a single-parent home on Section 8, I quickly realized that if I was to be successful, I needed an education. MJC allowed me access to the scholarships I needed to make my biggest concern in college how I was going to do on my next test, not how I was going to pay for school. My time at MJC started in June of 2008 when I signed up to be a member of the MJC Pirates. Also during that summer I was a part of the college readiness program and was voted “Best All-Around Student.” The classes I took at Modesto Jr. College not only expanded my thinking to see the world from a different perspective, but also challenged me academically. The tough assessments I worked on prepared me so that when I transferred to a University I was performing at a level similar to, if not better than, my peers.
In 2010, I transferred to Utah State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Since then I have interned In the California State Assembly for Assembly Member and California State Republican Leader Kristin Olsen. I also made my way to Washington, D.C. where I interned in the United States Senate for Utah Senator Mike Lee. I am currently living in Salt Lake City, Utah with my wife Anna. I am running my own Political Social Media and Field Operations business where I have worked with clients that include: Logan Utah Mayor Craig Peterson, Presidential Candidate Ben Carson, State Representative Johnny Anderson, and Congresswoman Mia Love. I hope to continue my work in politics and make my hometown proud. I may currently live in a different state, but my heart still is very much at MJC. I am and will always be grateful for Modesto Jr. College.
Persistence Pays Off
By: Jaimee McGuire, Class of 2005
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to attend college, but I wasn’t really sure if I was truly college material. I was a smart enough kid, but social anxieties and a rough upbringing caused me to question my abilities.
At the age of 15, I dropped out of high school but later took and passed the proficiency examination. I became a medical assistant at the age of 16 and began taking classes at MJC when I was 17. I was not successful due to a lack of maturity and no true sense of responsibility. I later returned to MJC in my early 20s after having a child and trying to determine where I needed and wanted to be in life. I attended for a few semesters and then left again. Finally, when I was in my 30s, I made the decision to obtain a college degree. I had worked in the medical field most of my life so I decided to take the prerequisites for the nursing program.
I graduated with my Associate’s Degree in Nursing in April 2005, the first person in my family to complete college, and began my nursing career at Doctor’s Hospital. I then obtained my BSN in 2007, my MSN from Missouri State University in 2009 and my Doctorate in Nursing from Chatham University in 2010. Today, I am a Family Nurse Practitioner and a full-time Associate Professor in a nursing program in Missouri. I truly believe that none of my successes would have been possible had I not had such a great experience at MJC. I will forever remain grateful to those who guided me and inspired me. Thank you, MJC!!
The Good Fortune of a College Education
By: Ted Sypolt, Class of 1948
MJC has a special place in my heart as it provided a great start for my education upon returning to Modesto after WWII. I graduated from Modesto High school on June 15, 1944 and didn’t leave for the Navy until the next day. I had no intention of going on to college until I was informed about the benefits that were provided by the GI bill, by Luverne Donker, MJC instructor of Agriculture. Thank goodness. For local veterans, MJC was the best show in town! Having attended a community college, a state college and a UC, and, after being employed 40 years in the educational field, I still feel attending a community college right out of high school is the best decision anyone can make. Both educationally and economically. To this day when asked who my favorite teacher was I give the name of a teacher I had at MJC. Not only did I receive a good education at MJC, I met Helen Andrews in a chemistry class whom I later married…and we’re still going strong, 65 years later!
On October 24 I attended the 50+ Club’s annual meeting and dinner. Club membership includes those who have resided in Stanislaus County for 50 years or more. The 50+ Club was formed in 1941 and gathers only one time each year to celebrate a local organization of note. This year the club honored Modesto Junior College. It was a great evening of Pirate Pride!
When our MJC president, Jill Stearns, asked, “who in this audience has attended or worked for MJC?” — 70% of the hands were raised. After club president, Wes Page, singled out 94-year old Doc Wait (former MJC Ag instructor), and 94-year old George Litt (’42), he then asked “will all those 90 or older please stand or raise your hand.” At least one dozen more people stood and waved including Pat Clark, Eugene Mould and Wallace Morrow. Dozens more rose when their branch of the military was flashed on the screen. It was an awe inspiring evening.
It’s comforting and rewarding to know that there are tens of thousands of people in our community and elsewhere who value and continue to care about this great college. They know what this place meant to them and they are pleased to see that the good work continues.
George Boodrookas, Ed.D.