Actor Tom Hanks wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled, “I Owe It All to Community Colleges.” It caused a stir among community college students. They compared their experiences to that of the actor’s and reflected on areas where their colleges fell short and ways to overcome those deficiencies. This is the final part 2 of the article. You can read part 1 here.
Much like Tom Hanks, Tyrone couldn't afford to pay tuition at a 4-year university. “In high school I missed out on an opportunity to earn a full scholarship to continue playing sports and further my education. Community college was the best option for me for a variety of reasons. I was accepted into CSULA and CSUNY, but wasn't ready to stop playing basketball, a game I loved. I carefully weighed all of my options and decided to attend San Jose City College (SJCC). Along with a good education, SJCC also offered an excellent basketball program, funneling athletes to big-time programs for sports. I was determined to accomplish my goals, although frustration set in during the freshman year. I didn't think I was going to accomplish my goals. But I stayed humble and refused to let doubt set in. I finished my freshman year with a high GPA. I will be receiving my AA-T in communications, graduating, and transferring to a 4-year university as a student-athlete. My experience at SJCC has been amazing! I haven't had a single teacher who didn’t want the best for me and for my fellow classmates. All my teachers not only taught me subjects but also how to live a meaningful life.”
Lisette believes that by attending a community college, she has fared better than her school mates who moved to 4-year institutions right after high school. “They constantly complain of noise and round-the-clock parties in their dorms. On average, freshman change their majors four times, wasting time and money. I have faced no such distractions at my community college. There is no time to waste. I am taking classes that will help me transfer to a 4-year institution. As Tom Hanks said, taking general ed classes give students an idea of courses they may like or dislike. After my first semester at SJCC, I realized I enjoy business and a bit of law. Taking these classes has given me insight into my purpose in life.” One area in which SJCC is lacking is in counseling. “To begin with, it is almost impossible to make an appointment with a counselor at a time that is convenient for the student, let alone a specific counselor the student desires to see. And when an appointment is scheduled, they are doled out in 30-minute slots. Every time I see a counselor, the appointment is rushed. At times it feels as though the counselors do not take the student seriously. I would like all the counselors to be evaluated on their performances, based on student feedback. Those who score highly should continue; the rest should be terminated.”
This Fall 2015 semester is the last at SJCC for Naomi. “I am sad to be leaving, but also excited to be moving on to a state university. I loved attending City College, the same college my sister attended!” She is grateful that her parents encouraged her to attend SJCC. She started at SJCC as a junior in high school in the Fall of 2012. She took an American Sign Language class for two consecutive semesters. The following year, her senior year, she was able to attend SJCC full time because she had taken the California High School Proficiency Exam. That meant she was able to complete her senior year of high school and her freshman year of college at the same time. “This allowed me to jump a year ahead of most people my age, which thrilled me. This could not have happened had I not gone to a community college. Community college is also where I met my boyfriend in a history class! Additionally, I have had the opportunity to take some really interesting classes as well as some fun PE classes. I met some awesome people, and connected with some really great teachers. Tom Hanks says of the community college that he attended: ‘That place made me what I am today.’ I completely agree. I have learned valuable lessons and life skills from my psychology classes. I am also sure I will see more benefits, although it may be later in my life.”
Regarding improving SJCC, Naomi thinks that adding more sections of interesting and elective classes, as well as a wider selection of classes, would be a start. “That will give students a more well-rounded education, beyond just the required GE classes. When I register for classes each semester, I see a lot of classes that look very interesting, but often there is only one or two sections of that class and they are at a time that does not work into my schedule. This is true for many students. If there were more sections of these classes, and if they were promoted better, classes would fill up and more students could get a broader education. This can become a reality if full-time teachers at SJCC consider teaching some new classes. If there is a wider selection of classes, then there is more opportunity for students to try new subjects, have more job opportunities, and make SJCC a more appealing school.”