By Wendell Jenkins
Being raised by parents who always believed in the power of education helped me realize from a young age that higher education wasn’t just a choice but the only pathway to a prosperous life.
My mother was the greatest influence I had in pursuing higher education. She was always taking college classes at night. Anything I needed to know about Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), I could learn from my mother. She was a math teacher, and after school, she would enroll in classes at El Camino College because she always stressed the importance of furthering development in her speech.
Right after I graduated from high school, I enrolled there too. We even had a class or two together. Math, of course! She was a math teacher.
Both of my parents are college graduates. My father moved here from Detroit and attended UCLA, working for the USPS from college until retirement. He graduated Magna Cum Laude. My mother moved here from Dallas. She went to Southwestern Christian College and Pepperdine University and has her BA and MA in education/Single Subject Math Credentials. As a teacher, she attended many schools throughout her career, including El Camino College and Cal State Dominguez Hills.
The strange thing is that no matter how much importance was placed on the matter of going to school, I had not developed any sort of comprehensible study habits, not even as a magnet student with a math teacher for a mother.
In high school, I even got disqualified from walking the stage because I was running the streets instead of going to my AP Government class. I failed it with 31 absences. The problem in college was not going to class. My friends either went to school elsewhere, many of them to UCs and HBCUs in far-off southern locations or did not go at all.
I went from having a solid pool of associates to be distracted by to having absolutely zero friends in a city I was not from. I had the ability to get up early and catch the bus. I learned that in elementary school with the magnet bus, and in high school, I was able to ride public transportation by myself.
Getting to class was more or less a non-issue. In fact, it was probably what I was best at overall. My problem was homework. Good choice, right? Yeah. H-Dubyuh. I hated it. This presented me with a huge problem. I started out surprisingly strong most times. I would get A’s on tests and quizzes. And anything done in class, I did, of course. But as the semester rolled on, my sharpness would wane. The classes I was brilliant in at the beginning would, without fail, get increasingly difficult. The late assignments would pile up. The deadlines came and went, and I showed up every day until I could no longer bear the embarrassment that I felt.
Another terrible beast that tormented me throughout most of my early attempts to educate myself was self-isolation. I went from school to school without engaging with counselors and other students, without going to events, or even checking my school email, basically without being informed.
Finding the right guidance
When I first started going to junior college, email was not as prevalent as it is now. While at SMC, I remember disregarding my school email, most events, and all clubs, per usual. It was not until I came to LATTC that I fully immersed myself in the student culture and began to see the value of all the happenings around me. I saw scholarship information, auxiliary classroom activities, and all kinds of opportunities to share or request assistance, all these things taking place around me that would have been completely unknown to me in my previous state of isolation.
Then, I realized that, like me, there are many students who are not unmotivated, but they’re just possibly uninformed, afraid, and dealing with financial woes. Basically, most of us need to have additional support as we navigate personal development.
As a person who has run scared, and even completely disappeared from my own corner, I want to be in someone else’s corner to say, “Hey, you can do this, and I can help. It’s what I’m here for.”
Recently, I joined United Way of Greater Los Angeles as a College Outreach Fellow for the Community Impact team. I supported the planning and execution of the Way2Success event, a resource fair for community college students. For one, the turnout was substantial. More than two hundred and fifty participants from two campuses.
That is a great number of individuals from a relatively small pool who are showing interest in themselves and going even further to make their goals more attainable by maximizing the use of available resources. It is in our best interest to encourage the youth and non-existing professionals to acquire skills, learn trades, and or earn degrees and certificates to give themselves an advantage in this competitive and costly world we live in.
My journey was not an easy one. Having parents attending college and graduate school helped me in some ways to understand the system, and even so, I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed additional guidance and tools. I can only imagine how overwhelming it can be for students who are first-generation college students to find the right resources and support.
Thanks to the partnership with LATTC and LACC, UWGLA now offers the Community College Success Resource Toolkit for first-generation community college students, where they can find step-by-step guidance and other support services available to them to ensure a successful college journey.
One can never make it too simple for students to comprehend. Creating a place for students to seek out many different kinds of assistance is a wonderful idea. Oftentimes, needs are the same or related, as are the solutions to the many varied problems students face. The toolkit operates as a sort of all-seeing eye, meeting the needs of the individual, picking them right out of the crowd.
I want to continue pointing people in the right direction, a theme that has recurred throughout my time at LATTC. My college journey had its ups and downs, but now I’m proud to be in the position of helping others find their own ‘Way 2 Success’.
You can find the community college toolkit here. Stay tuned to our work for more exciting things to come!
STAY CONNECTED WITH UNITED WAY OF GREATER L.A.