March 2016 Newsletter
An Anchor in Stormy Seas
By: Moni Azizi
Thirty years ago dressed in my cap and gown, my heart swelling with pride, I was waiting for my name to be called to receive my diploma, doubting that it was true. Three years prior, in my late twenties, I had left a poisonous marriage behind, broken down spiritually and emotionally and moved from San Francisco to my parents’ house in Modesto carrying an 18-month old child in my arms. I couldn’t even have dreamed of this day. I was still fighting the belief ingrained deep in my psyche by my ex-husband that I was only good enough to work at McDonald’s…as he had told me so many times.
When I started at MJC, I had been in this country for about four years. I could read a magazine article looking up every other word in the dictionary. Like all other immigrants from the Middle East who learn to read and write from right to left in their native countries, I had to switch gears in my head and throw away all the rules of grammar and language.
We were a “fresh off the boat” family of immigrants. Four of our five family members attended MJC. We all shared one vehicle. My mom would drop my dad off in the morning to run the small convenience store he had opened, then she would come home to drive us all to school. She attended ESL classes at the college just so she could write checks in the stores and make sense of the bills in the mail. One summer my brother saved enough money to buy a Moped. The three of us siblings sat in a row holding on to each other’s backs, until we got a ticket one day for reckless driving. Then my brother would take one of us at a time and returned home to take the other.
Throughout my studies at MJC I felt as if the teachers had a stake in my success. They invested a piece of their heart and soul as well; Dr. Jim Curl, gingerly walked me through three courses of calculus. Dr. James Johnson taught me not only to solve problems with the Fortran programming language but how to do so elegantly with the fewest lines of code. Tom Eckle opened a window revealing the elements of human psychology. Mr. Davis hammered in those basic accounting principles. And, Gary Philips taught me to never watch a movie the same way ever again. Although my brothers went on to four year colleges and universities and graduated, I was unable to continue with my studies at Stanislaus State as I had planned. I started working in the Bay Area as a programmer and I was able to provide a decent living for myself and my son with a two-year degree in Computer Science.
Some twenty five years later, at the height of my career, I lost my son, Michael, to epilepsy. I found myself grief-stricken and washed my hands of my life and everything that had ever held any meaning for me. Once again, this time in my late fifties, I sold and packed my life and moved to Modesto. Once again, I turned to MJC where I gained inspiration from Professor Dimitri Keriotis who nurtured a relentless desire in me to write. His writing workshops helped me explore parts of my life I’d never discovered.
MJC has touched my life in a profound way. I am a better person thanks to MJC.
A World of Opportunity
By: Jill Ramsey, Professor of Nursing
I came to MJC by default; I had graduated from high school halfway through my senior year and lived in Brazil as an exchange student for 11 months. When I returned home I began spring 1973 semester at MJC because no other college plans had been made. I was so disheartened as I moved through my first semester classes, thinking only of returning to life in Brazil as soon as I could make enough money to purchase the ticket. A counselor, Charlie, who wore the straw hat, noticed me on campus and I remember visiting him on a few occasions after he approached me one day and wanted to know why I looked so sad. The fact that he noticed me and cared meant the world at that time. I continued taking classes that seemed to touch my heart, eventually choosing sciences and nursing over a Spanish language major. I decided I could be a nurse who spoke Spanish and support myself this way. I earned money by working as a tutor for nursing students in chemistry and anatomy, and with this income and encouragement from my brother, I learned to fly rather than purchase that ticket to Brazil.
After many years of nursing, speaking Spanish and Portuguese to my patients, traveling internationally to speak at conferences, working on mission projects, and completing graduate school, I have the dream profession of teaching nursing students at MJC. I’ve been back to Brazil, and even completed a sabbatical project at the Universidade de Caxias do Sul in my Brazilian home town. At MJC I was able to explore the classes I needed in order to find my area of passion. I received emotional and financial support here, met lifelong friends and continue to make wonderful friends among the faculty and the students. It doesn’t get any better than this!
MJC: A Family Affair
By: Wallace “Wally” Morrow; Class of 1942
My mother, Ada Morrow, was raised in a strict family and her father did not allow her to attend college. She always yearned for a college education and finally got her chance when I began attending MJC in 1940. She did not drive, so we drove to school together from our home north of Modesto. She enrolled in home economics and other courses. I enrolled in business courses and had the pleasure of serving as the President of the Associated Students of MJC during my sophomore year. My mother and I finished our degrees and graduated on the same day in 1942!
I went on to a career in public service, working 20 years for Stanislaus County, retiring in 1989 as the elected County Auditor-Controller. I am deeply indebted to the outstanding instructors at MJC for the influence which they had on my life. My family and I are grateful for MJC and the educational opportunities it offers.
Pirate Pride Grows
Modesto Junior College was named as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges to be eligible for the biennial $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Prize is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges!
MJC has been awarded a five-year, Title V grant in the amount of $2,622,764. The Removing Barriers for High Need Students project will focus on three major activities: 1) Removing academic barriers to shorten time to graduation and transfer; 2) Removing procedural barriers by coordinating support services and staff training for superior customer service; and 3) Removing physical barriers through one stop Student Support Centers with online, telephone, and face to face student support.
A new Manufacturing Academy has been formed through a partnership between MJC and the Stanislaus Alliance Worknet in response to the need for skilled workers in the local industry. For 6 months, 15 students will study Electrical, Mechanics, Machining, Welding, Pneumatics and Hydraulics while earning 24 units, completing a college certificate, and receiving career job placement services.
Computer Graphics Prof. Joel Hagen and Anthropology Prof. Dr. Debra Bolter are working with an interdisciplinary group of students to “print” bones from the Homo Naledi discovery in South Africa (See October edition of National Geographic). The British Museum of Natural History and MJC are the only places that are taking 3-D images of the skeletal remains and translating them into 3-D prints, so that in the Anthropology lab, the students may study the bones.
The Modesto Junior College Speech and Debate Team capped off their regular competitive season by earning the regional title for the second year in a row at the Northern California Forensics Association (NCFA) Spring Championship. The tournament was held February 19-21 on the team’s home turf at MJC.
Wally Morrow stepped into our office at the college in November handing me a very generous donation and stating that the gift was given in honor of his mother Ada. Now you know why.
Stories like Wally’s have been rolling in since we began our My MJC Story campaign almost three years ago. They warm our heart and validate the good work this college still provides its students.
Did you know that less than 2% of all philanthropic support for American higher education institutions last year benefitted community colleges despite the fact that community colleges serve 45% of all undergraduate students? That’s right, 98% of all support went to private and public universities. That’s beginning to change here at MJC. In just the past four months, five generous alumni informed us of legacy gifts they have planned for the college, which, in the future, will total about $2 Million to benefit programs and expand student scholarships! How’s that for validation of the life-changing work of MJC!
Our alumni are fantastic! In just one month, MJC will host its 94th commencement ceremony where we will welcome another 2300+ alumni into the club. We invite all MJC graduates of 1966 to join us at the college that evening to celebrate their 50th anniversary as MJC alums! If you graduated in 1966 and would like to join us, please call Sandy Marks at 575-6619. A letter is coming your way as well.
George Boodrookas, Ed.D.