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Follow Our Pathways...
Catherine & Christopher D., Medical Assistants
Years ago, Catherine, 47, and her son, Christopher, 19, were homeless. Catherine had lost her job, she suffered from multiple sclerosis and the pair had no place to live. Their circumstances were desperate. Then, a meeting at their homeless shelter gave Catherine hope. A lifelong D.C. resident, Catherine had always wanted to work in the medical field. She had tried to return to school almost two decades earlier through a city program, but it fell through. Then, at a shelter meeting about CCDC’s Workforce Development Program, she learned she could go back to school—for free—at CCDC. “I couldn’t believe it. I would finally get a chance to go into the medical field. I had always wished to help others - now I will,” Catherine says.
After starting classes to become a medical assistant, Catherine recruited Christopher when his plans to join the U.S. Navy were derailed. Like his mom, Christopher is studying to be a medical assistant. He plans to enroll in a four-year nursing program at UDC after earning his CCDC certificate. He says he may even aspire to become a doctor. “The opportunities are endless,” Christopher says. Christopher says that just because the Workforce Development classes are free, it does not discount the quality of the education. “This is for real. This is a real experience,” he says. “The students that are in this program will get real jobs, real careers. If you come, you will see full classes with 30 people learning real, practical information.”
Christopher and Catherine, who is making straight A’s, often study together. Catherine says she loves her classes and she loves watching her son work to achieve his goacls. “It means so much to me to see my son want to excel and do something with his life. We work as a team,” Catherine says. “I want to encourage others to take advantage of this program—from young people to older adults. I am 47. If I can do it, you can, too. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals.”
Schlain B., Liberal Studies
Schlain B, 23, left her home in South Africa to pursue a goal of high education. When she attended a UDC open house a student told her about the new Community College of the District of Columbia, and soon after she was on her way. “Community college gave me an opportunity to get started on my education,” she says. “The costs, flexibility and the location of CCDC allow me to realize my dream.” Schlain was mindful of college costs and pleased to discover CCDC’s affordable fees. But she felt the most compelling reason to enroll in the college was her ability to relate to CCDC’s students—and she thrives in the college’s supportive environment. “People want you to stay,” she says. “They assist you in every way they can.”
Schlain took full advantage of CCDC’s unique opportunities, joining the Starting Early, Starting Smart program that helps first-year women excel in college. “They really want to make my college experience great” she says. “They hold your hand to help you find your way.” Schlain further immersed herself in the CCDC culture by becoming involved with the CCDC ambassador program, and assisting a professor in setting up forums and talks for the school. Next semester, she looks forward to balancing her time between school, sports and getting more involved in campus activities. CCDC’s academics suit Schlain as well. The CCDC liberal studies program has given her the flexibility she wanted to explore various academic areas before transferring to a four-year university. She appreciates her CCDC professors’ ability to relate the coursework to real life, and particularly enjoys learning from the perspectives of both professors and students in her political science classes.
After Schlain earns an associate’s degree from CCDC, she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international relations. “Because of CCDC, I am inspired. I now know my dream is one step closer.”
Natalia, Business Technology
Natalia, 28, came to Washington, D.C., from Russia to experience American culture, further her education, and better understand the English language. Three years later she has conquered English, moved on to learning Spanish, and become a CCDC student ambassador studying Business Technology. Although Natalia has a Russian law degree, she wants to take on new challenges and continue her academic development through from the U.S. higher education system. Natalia’s multilingual education and penchant for new experiences make her perfect for the sort of career she ultimately hopes to pursue—working for an international organization in a job that allows her to travel. For now, she’s enjoying CCDC’s international flavor. “I really like the multicultural aspect of CCDC—different people, different backgrounds. It makes it very interesting to learn from and get to know others,” she says.
Upon arriving in D.C., Natalia took non-credit classes at Montgomery County Community College. She chose CCDC for credit classes after researching schools online. She says CCDC’s flexible schedule and tuition costs met her needs, and she has been pleased with her courses. “CCDC teachers are very knowledgeable and concerned about you learning the subject they are teaching.” Natalia became a CCDC student ambassador to gain work experience and to help with existing and new services on campus.
Since jumping into campus life two semesters ago, Natalia says she now feels like a part of the school, and likes sharing her enthusiasm. “It has been a good experience to be a student at CCDC. I look forward to helping new students get started.”
Carla J., Mathematics
Carla J., 33, has her eye on the future. As an economist, Carla has already earned a business degree, but aims to further her career and some day become a senior executive or entrepreneur. She enrolled in CCDC’s Continuing Education courses to increase her knowledge and pursue her goals. “I wanted to expand my career opportunities,” says Carla, who is working toward certification in project management while majoring in mathematics. “I think the courses at CDCC will help me receive a promotion or start my own business in the area.”
Carla is confident the investment in herself will pay off. “Continuing Education courses help you stand out from other job applicants in the pool when you graduate,” she says.
Oro O., Respiratory Therapy
Oro, 24, started at the University of the District of Columbia in 2007 and switched to the associate degree program at the Community College this fall. Although she says she struggles with English classes, she says she generally does well in school and has always enjoyed academics. At first interested in nursing, she was later attracted by the career potential of respiratory therapy. At CCDC she is taking critical care, disease management, diagnostics, and a respiratory seminar. She attends school full-time and works weekends at Target. The schedule is difficult, but she says, “It’s O.K. I just have to do what I need to do. When you first get there, it seems hard, but the teachers find ways to make it easier.” She says she especially likes the clinical course, which blends classroom instruction with real-life experience. The class has been held recently at the Intensive Care Unit at Washington Hospital Center, where Oro and her fellow students are learning how to operate mechanical ventilators and learning more about respiratory diseases.
Tony C., Nursing
Tony has moved around a lot since he graduated from high school almost 10 years ago, but this year, his grandmother inspired him to come back to Washington -- and to the Community College of the District of Columbia. His grandmother, Sharlene W., had taken her own educational detours in life, working and raising a family before enrolling in law school at the age of 50 at the University of the District of Columbia and pursuing a career in city government. "She decided that she could make it on her own," says Tony, 26, "She showed me never to depend on anybody."
Sharlene had emerged as a particular influence in Tony’s life after his mother died when he was just 13. Some kids would have veered well off track, but, says Tony, "I was blessed. For those years that I had my mother, I had great backing. She made me do what I had to do." Later, that would mean taking honors classes at Willam Penn High School in York, Pa. and performing in musicals like "The King and I," "Peter Pan," and "The Fantastiks." Tony admits to "not being as focused" his senior year in high school, but he went on to earn a one-year certificate at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He met his wife, got married, and "was living my world in Manhattan." But a breakup followed, along with an uninspiring year back in Pennsylvania working at the Home Depot and Lowes.
So, with her encouragement, Tony moved in with Sharlene, now 66, and, embracing his interest in science, enrolled full-time in the Allied Health program at CCDC. Working toward a nursing degree, he is taking composition, basic math, and psychology, along with anatomy and physiology. He sings in the Gospel Choir, hopes to perform in a musical, and is checking out other campus activities. "This college is about building ourselves, building our character," he says. "It’s building a better Tony."
Vicky M., Nursing
It’s a long way from his native Nepal, but the Community College of the District of Columbia has given Vicky an ideal start in a multicultural setting for a planned career as a medical doctor. Vicky, 21, came to the United States two years ago from the flatlands of an otherwise mountainous region to pursue his college education and live with an uncle who works as a government economist. Academically, Vicky was more than prepared for the transition: in Nepal, the high school curriculum is as rigorous as that of some American colleges. Test questions require lengthy essays, not multiple choice answers. High school students routinely study 10 hours a day. And exams cover material that students may have learned a full year before. “I did two things,” Mishra says. “I studied and I played cricket.” Even his own family – his father is a lawyer, his mother is a highly educated homemaker – was academically competitive, he says. “If one of the cousins got a 3.9,” Vicky says, “you had to get a 4.0.”
Despite the value that Nepal puts on education – even the poorest families make it their top priority – the country holds limited professional opportunities for someone like Vicky, who is also fluent in several languages. The availability of opportunity abroad greatly influenced his decision to continue his studies in the U.S. The only catch was the cost: foreign students can pay up to three times more than Americans to attend a public university in the U.S.
Enter CCDC. At a total cost of $6,500 per year (for foreign students), an education that could have been prohibitive became affordable. Moreover, the college’s nursing program provided a solid foundation for medical school. (Vicky is looking into schools now; Dartmouth is his top choice.) For the nursing major, he has taken courses in anatomy, physiology, and microbiology; he also takes physics and math courses because he would like to add an engineering degree to his credentials. He also adds courses in literature and chemistry because, he says, “I just like them.”
It’s a packed schedule to be sure, especially on top of internships with the United Negro College Fund and the Stop HIV Project. Nevertheless, Vicky consistently finds himself where he has always competed to be -- at the top of his class.
Melanie G., Mortuary Science