“TOM HANKS PUTS THE SPOTLIGHT ON CHABOT COLLEGE IN HAYWARD” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (January 21-27, 2015; page A7) (Photo credits: chabotcollege.edu; imdb.com)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of Jan. 21-27, 2015


“I Owe It All to Community College: Tom Hanks on his two years at Chabot College.”

That was the title (and subtitle) of award-winning actor Tom Hanks’ op-ed piece for The New York Times which came out sometime last week. I read it through the Facebook post of the Hayward Promise Neighborhood (HPN) the day before the start of our two-day Winter Retreat at Chabot College. Yes, my college is the very same college that Tom Hanks was mentioning with a mix of nostalgia and a “get-real” point of view in his article. Welcome to Chabot College, located along Hesperian Boulevard in Hayward, Alameda County, California. (I mentioned our county since there is also a city of Hayward in Mariposa County, CA.)

So many changes have marked Chabot College since Tom Hanks studied there in the mid-1970s. There are many new buildings now and various construction activities are still going on. Parking is no longer free for those with cars but I ride the bus myself. Despite the changes, our professors are still topnotch in their respective fields. Our school catalog is still extensive, offering many artistic and scientific options to the searching student. The demographics of the student body in Hanks’ time still echoes in Chabot’s halls today, and he writes, “Classmates included veterans back from Vietnam, women of every marital and maternal status returning to school, middle-aged men wanting to improve their employment prospects and paychecks. We could get our general education requirements out of the way at Chabot – credits we could transfer to a university – which made those two years an invaluable head start.” These days, there are more and more straight-from-high-school students enrolling at Chabot because of the lower cost per academic unit and it gives them the leeway to explore their options before going on to a four-year university. There are still older adults, veterans, displaced workers, single parents, and an interesting mosaic of people in the halls of our college.

As a middle-aged adult myself who’s had a rather erratic educational history, going to Chabot College was a godsend. It was the relatively carefree college experience I never had when I was still in medical school in the Philippines 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong – Medicine was my own choice and I remember being exhilarated at living out my dream to study it, but after a while the tremendous physical and emotional stress got to me. I was just barely passing my subjects, too. This time around, I got to pick the classes I want to take, excel in most of them, and now graduate with not just one but three certificates of proficiency. No, I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore. I just want to wrap up my four years at Chabot College – yes, it took four years for me to get ready – and move on to the next chapter in my life which is looking for a job and holding on to it.

In terms of their passion for teaching, I would like to mention a couple of professors who have been so inspirational to me (and I didn’t even get A’s in their respective subjects): Prof. Ming-Lun Ho, my Fall 2013 teacher in Math 43 (Intro to Probability & Statistics) because his love of Math is palpable and his desire to help his students is sincere and far-reaching; and Prof. Dmitriy Kalyagin, my Fall 2014 teacher in Business 7 (Accounting for Small Business) for being so conscientious with his class reminders, being knowledgeable as an accountant who has real-world experience under his belt, and being so approachable. They and my other superbly expert and compassionate teachers made my stay at Chabot College thought-provoking yet enjoyable, challenging yet a thrill of a ride.

Now let me share with you some portions of an article about “The 10 Most Common Excuses for Not Going to College – and Why They’re All Wrong,” written by the College Prep Class Teachers at Tennyson High School, Hayward, CA.

According to this article, you don’t have to have a lot of money, straight A’s in school, or already know what your college major is going to be. “You do have to really want to go to college – and be ready to work hard once you get there,” the article states. Here are the 10 most common excuses for not wanting to go to college – and why they’re all wrong:

Excuse #1: Nobody in my family has ever gone to college before.
Why not be the first? It may be daunting or scary but you’ll be breaking a family “tradition” and establishing a new one by being the first to obtain a college education.
Excuse #2: My grades are not good enough for college.
You’ll never know unless you apply. Colleges don’t just look at your grades and test scores, but also your letters of recommendation, jobs, activities, talents, and interviews. In other words, colleges decide based on the whole person, not just a part.
Excuse #3: I can’t afford it.
There is a lot of financial aid available to help you pay for college – from the federal and state levels, from the colleges you apply to, as well as grants, scholarships, and work study programs. You must do the research yourself or ask for help.
Excuse #4: I don’t know how to apply to college, or where I want to go.
For this one, you must also ask for help from your school counselor, favorite teacher, or someone you know who’s gone to college. Look at college catalogs in your school or local library. With more than 3,000 colleges to choose from, there must be one that’s just right for you.
Excuse #5: I think college may be too difficult for me.
Not likely, if you’re willing to work hard. Tutoring is available from professors and fellow students, and counseling for personal problems is available on campus, too.
Excuse #6: I’m not sure that I’ll “fit in” college.
In college you’ll meet students from various ethnic backgrounds. Seek out your group, but keep in mind that college is also about meeting all kinds of people. This is your preparation for the real world after you graduate.
Excuse #7: I don’t even know what I want to major in or do with my life.
The greater majority of college freshmen don’t know these things either, but college is about giving you choices. You can take courses in different fields and see what you like and what you’re good at. Don’t think that your decision about your life and/or college major is already cast in concrete. It’s OK to change your mind.
Excuse #8: There’s no way I can go to college full time.
Then simply go part-time. There are evening and weekend programs. There are also correspondence courses in home-study programs. Explore your options in this regard.

Excuse #9: I’m too old to go to college.
Not true! You are never too old to learn. Almost half of all full-time and part-time college students in the country are adults older than 25 years of age. If they can do it, so can you.
Excuse #10: I just want to get a good job and make lots of money.
College will help you with that and more. Studies have shown that a college graduate will earn several hundred thousand dollars more during the course of his or her working life than someone who has only a high school diploma.

Now with President Obama hoping to make two years of community college free for up to nine million Americans, as Hanks’ NY Times article says, then this is a signal that the nation’s priorities are being shifted back to strategies for long-term gains. Let’s hope that what good the Affordable Care Act (ACA) did for health care, these two-years-of-community-college-for-free will do for education. Personally, I see health and education as government investments in our most precious resource: the people. Life and peace, not war and death.


Photo by Mary Gow-2015. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

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