August 2015 Newsletter
A Dream Becomes Reality
By: Hector Duarte, Class of 2015
In high school, I lost my way and fell in with the wrong crowd. I was hurting myself and those around me. In 2010, with the help of my uncle Hector, I enrolled at MJC in the EOP&S Bridge Program. Bridge set the foundation for me in pursuing my dream of becoming a Registered Nurse.
While in the Bridge Program, I learned how to structure my days, become organized, and learned the discipline it takes to succeed in school and in life. I never saw myself in college, yet after enrolling in Bridge, I had perfect attendance, earned straight A’s, and was awarded the Best in Class Award for my performance in Math. It was life-changing to be recognized for my positive achievement and gave me the confidence I needed to continue on my path toward finishing college and becoming a Nurse.
The lessons I learned stayed with me, and with a lot of hard work and the support of my family and fiancée Letty Blanco, I was accepted on my first attempt into the MJC Nursing Program. When I enrolled at MJC, I tested at a basic skills level and had to complete six math classes and three English classes to graduate. This past semester I graduated from the Nursing program and am now working at Doctor’s Medical Center, my dream now a reality. I don’t know where I would be without MJC.
Determined to Succeed
By: Letty Blanco, Class of 2015
My life was a long list of bad mistakes, attitude, and trouble. I was involved in gangs and other activities that were getting me nowhere. I enrolled at MJC and struggled. I felt as if I didn’t belong, but it wasn’t until I was accepted into the EOP&S Bridge and CARE programs that I began to find my way.
I always thought I was not good enough, smart enough, or had what it takes to be successful in life or in college. Today, I have a college degree and other MJC students look up to me. I am so thankful for MJC and all the programs that have been a part of my growth.
I’m so grateful to my teachers, my EOP&S counselors, Hector Duarte and Layla Spain, my mentor Bryan Justin Marks, and others who helped me to become who I am today. I graduated this past semester from MJC, and I am the first college graduate in my family. This past year I was named EOP&S and CARE Student of the Year, and I graduated with a 3.45 grade point average. This fall I will be attending CSU Stanislaus.
MJC saved my life, changed my life, and helped me create a great life. I will always consider this place my home!
The Motivation I Needed
By: Bunreth Sok, Class of 2014
My mother and father were refugees from Cambodia. In 1983, mom gave birth to me in a refugee camp near the border of Thailand. Later that year, my family emigrated to Texas. Four of my siblings were left behind and one died in the refugee camp so five of us created a new life in the U.S. When I was five, things got much more difficult when I was walking with my brother and I was struck and almost killed by a semi-truck. I was paralyzed from the waist down and had to re-learn to walk. Through physical therapy and determination I learned to walk again by age 7 but was left with diagnoses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Life was dysfunctional in our family and my mother and father struggled to make ends meet. I found my way onto the streets of Stockton where we had moved when I was eight. After my parents separated when I was ten, a life of gangs and drugs became my new normal, in and out of the juvenile justice system. My siblings and I dropped out of school and I never completed my high school diploma. Our little sister, though, was the example in our family and became the first to graduate from high school and college. She reached out to me to take me off the streets and I found myself enrolled at MJC.
That first semester I barely kept my grades above the financial aid requirement of 2.0. When I got my first financial aid check I found the motivation I needed. I worked hard and improved my grades. I learned to write better. I studied hard. I listened to my instructors and mentors. I persevered. I have many to thank, especially Dr. Kimberly Kennard, who spurred my interest in the human services, and my counselors in the Disability Student Programs and Services unit who guided me toward graduation. Commencement day in 2014 was one of my proudest days.
Today, as a single parent of two, I’m working part-time for Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services as a group facilitator for the mentally disabled. My hope is to become employed in the juvenile justice system helping youth to avoid the life I once found attractive. I’m completing my transfer units at MJC to enroll at CSU Stanislaus and prepare for my career in social work. Someone recently asked me what I’d like for my own children and I responded, for me, I had to go through hell to reach heaven. I hope they don’t have to go through the same but find a different and better path. That’s my motivation today.
I owe a lot to my teachers, mentors and counselors at MJC. Thanks MJC!
A Challenging Upbringing
By: Chris Munshaw-Rodriguez, Class of 2004
Dropping out of high school at an early age carved out my independent streak, but left me with limited options. At the time I decided to earn money by working rather than waste my time with school, yet little did I know I was robbing myself of future financial returns. With no formal education beyond the 9th grade in reading, writing, and mathematics, I had essentially stunted my academic growth.
After getting into a bit of legal trouble I had no choice but to clean up my act so I enrolled at MJC. After my first week of classes I realized I was in over my head. I was terribly shy, unconfident, and socially awkward, which actually impeded my ability to learn. It wasn’t until I made a few friends that I began to open up. Only after a semester of navigating classes, finances, and part-time jobs, did I really start to feel comfortable truly identifying myself as a full-time student. I then joined a few campus clubs and helped organize events. Each new social activity slowly increased my social acuity, which eventually led me to joining the student government at ASMJC.
My time with ASMJC is where I really started developing my own voice; I participated in campus discussions, engaged with professors outside of class, and joined student organizations that spanned across the state.
Because of my previous mistakes it had taken me 5 years to transfer, something I didn’t even know existed when I enrolled. Sure, I changed my major many times and it took me longer than the average, but if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. The students, staff, administrators, and professors all made a lasting impression on me for the better. The support and level of care that I received from those years are invaluable and I’ve made lifetime friends because of it. I have so many great memories that span from heated classroom debates to events in the quad, and even representing students at the state capital. One of my better memories was being selected as the graduation speaker for my graduating class. It is a proud moment that I’m glad I was able to share with my mother.
There are many outstanding individuals from the MJC community that I’m sincerely grateful for, unfortunately the list would fill up a few pages. In short, my thinking was challenged, my worldview expanded, my passion evoked, and my character polished – that for me is the essence of MJC.
After a bit of backpacking through Mexico I transferred to a 1-year program at the Diplomatic Academy. From there I transferred to Humboldt State where I studied abroad in Mexico and completed a BA in Economics and a BA in Globalization Studies.
I had such a positive experience at MJC that after undergrad I returned to help build leadership with students, clubs and other members of ASMJC. After a short period of time I left MJC and went off to graduate school at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California where I completed an MBA in Strategy and Marketing.
Despite dropping out of high school, getting into legal trouble, and being the oldest in my MBA program, I know without a doubt that if I had raced through my time at MJC I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, which is earning the salary I want while working remotely from an ocean view balcony in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
MJC Memorabilia Drop-Off
When: Saturday, September 19th
(8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
Where: MJC East Campus – North Campus Way (Off of College Avenue near the Morris Building)
You’ve shared your incredible stories with us.
Now we would like to capture MJC’s history by collecting your MJC memorabilia.
September 19th marks the 94th anniversary of the first day of school at MJC in 1921. This September 19th we’d like to celebrate by asking you, our alumni and friends, to join us on campus and to bring along any MJC memorabilia you might have. This can include anything from a letterman sweater or jacket to yearbooks, jewelry, clothing and pictures. And…stay awhile to share your story with us!
The Alumni Association will have booths set up on North Campus Way (off of College Avenue near the Morris Building) to collect donated items.
For more information please call (209) 575-6619
MJC Football Kickoff Dinner
Tickets include two 2015 season passes to MJC’s home football games!
The stories on these pages are perfect evidence of the power and impact of a higher education. Many of our newest alumni come from diverse and difficult life circumstances. They work hard to overcome personal and academic barriers. And, if they are determined, they succeed and change their lives in incredible ways. Chris, Bunreth, Letty and Hector are all examples of the great work MJC does every day. These, and thousands of students like them, receive the caring and thoughtful guidance of the faculty, staff and administrators here at the college. It gives us pride to read these stories and to know the work we do is transformational. It makes a difference. Who says you can’t change the world? MJC does every day!
I’m reading an excellent book titled Our Kids: The America Dream in Crisis, by Robert Putnam. It’s a commentary, with research to support it, on how the American Dream has become more elusive for our children. Clearly, without the community college and higher education systems, the dream would be impossible for many. There are more than 12.5 million students enrolled in public community colleges in the United States. That’s around 46% of all students in higher education. At least 40% of America’s first generation college students are served by the community colleges. That number is even higher at MJC. This is still the best place to start your higher education, regardless of your background.
We welcome all of our alumni and friends to drop by on Saturday, September 19 at the MJC East Campus between 8am and 1pm to share any MJC memorabilia you might have, but also to share your story with us. We’d love to meet you in person.
George Boodrookas, Ed.D.