Mission College Success Stories


Katie BennettKatie Bennett
Associate Faculty - Counseling

School was never easy for me until I began to enjoy it. In high school, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, a seizure disorder that greatly affected my ability to recall lectures, specifically in math. For years, my seizures were not controlled to the point where my drivers’ license was suspended and dealt with physical injuries. Although faculty and staff were supportive, the small private high school I attended did not have a program that assisted students with disabilities, such as epilepsy.

After high school, I went to a community college. I took it upon myself to get more involved by writing for the school paper. I enjoyed writing, in particular poetry and informative pieces. In addition, I began using services such as DSPS (Disability Support Program & Services) and discovered that making use of the accommodations, such as longer test time, and my instructors being made aware of my condition, made a world of difference. In particular, I had to take Statistics three times before I passed and all three times I worked hard. The third and final chance I had to take Statistics I worked weekly with a very dedicated instructor.

Consistent communication with instructors, my counselor, utilizing resources on campus, such as DSPS, school involvement, and more importantly, having a growth mindset is what helped me be successful. When I graduated with an Associate’s degree, I had made it on the Dean’s list and a ‘B’ in Statistics. I was set up to transfer to USF and eventually moved on to receive my Master's. My instructor was so excited that day; she approached me at graduation, giving me this great news of not only passing, but with a 'B'. Now being a counselor and reflecting back, I don’t know who was more excited, me or Ms. Wong.


Nohemy ChavezNohemy Chavez
Faculty - Counseling
Puente Coordinator

"From Struggling Student to Counselor Helping Struggling Students" - In high school, I was the teacher's favorite, student body president, straight-A type of student. I went to UC Davis ready to shine as a Clinical Nutrition major with the goal of becoming a Registered Dietician. My first year at UC Davis was a rude awakening, to say the least. I placed into remedial courses for English, Math, and Science. My courses were in huge lecture halls of 100 plus students and I was scared. The students in my classes were more concerned about getting the A in the class than studying in a group. It was not the best learning environment for me and as a first-generation college student; I didn't know what to do.

My last quarter of my freshmen year, I had chronic tonsillitis and was very sick. I didn't know that I could take a medical leave, and because I did not ask for help, my grades suffered. I ended in term probation for that spring quarter and after my tonsillectomy, I decided things needed to change.

I spent the entire summer reading through the General Catalog and examining which major I can change to. Clinical Nutrition was a lot of science and I hated science. I narrowed it down to two majors and that fall quarter, I took the introductory classes to each. I fell in love with the Community & Regional Development major because it was interdisciplinary and focused on improving communities. I also did internships with professions that interested me, and that is how I found counseling. Now I hold a Master's degree in counseling and love what I do. I am glad I did not let that one quarter let go of my dreams of graduating from college.


Thuy FootThuy Foot
Senior Office Coordinator - Business & Technology Division

I felt that I came “too late” to America and wasn’t sure if attending school was possible. It was actually my parents who said, “I don’t care how old you are, you’re getting an education.” So I enrolled at Mission College and took the English as a Second Language placement test. I scored too low to be in any class! ! I decided to take the ESL lab classes and I came every day to practice. I made friends with English speakers in order to accelerate my learning. Once I tested into an ESL level, I dedicated myself to moving forward one level at a time, while holding a full-time job and caring for family.

It’s funny that I didn’t realize in taking classes here and there (in order to further my professional development), I would end up qualified for 5 Associate degrees and 3 certificates. Along the way, I learned that I needed to take a risk and that you can’t sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you. Although I was shy, I overcame my fears and looked for an hourly job at the school and it was the first step towards building my career. With each job that I have, I challenge myself to learn new things and improve my skills set. My advice to students is to focus on skills development, not grades, use tutoring and study groups and strive to become technology savvy.


Chigusa KatokuChigusa Katoku
Interim Director - International Student Center

If there is one thing that Chigusa Katoku, the new Interim Director of Mission College’s International Student Center, wants students to always remember is to make sure to reach out to the people who really want to help you succeed in your college endeavors. Katoku, born in Japan and raised by a single mother, says "when you have self-doubt, speak to those professors and counselors who care about your success."

Chigusa’s journey from Japan to the US was filled with self-doubt and adversity. However, it was the help of those who cared about her as a person that kept her moving forward, even when she doubted that she could succeed. "I was always trying to find myself and it was tough coming to the US," says Chigusa, who attended a Junior College in Japan before coming to study in the US for a year at UC Irvine.

It was at UC Irvine where Chigusa began to expand her horizons and felt for the first time that there were no limits on what she could pursue, or where she could soar to in her life. After leaving UC Irvine, Chigusa returned to Japan and earned a Bachelor's Degree and later earned a Master's Degree in the US.

Chigusa believes that students, even when in doubt and uncertain if they will make it, should always have the courage to move forward. "There were times early on in my educational career where I wanted to quit. Give up. Yet, my mother told me that once I started something that I must finish it."


Albin LeeAlbin Lee
AA-T Psychology, Mission College
BA Psychology, UCLA
Primary Academic Counselor at HS2

I attended Mission College from 2010 to 2012. After transferring to UCLA, it was amazing. All my hard work paid off. I was attending a school I never dreamed was possible. I will be honest and say that I did relax a bit that first quarter, but students should really continue running. The pressure to do well was high so I did enjoy the new environment and level of competitiveness, even though it was hard. The university is definitely bigger than community college, with a much younger population. The support wasn’t as close and personal as students get amongst the student services at Mission. Students just have to be prepared to use what they learned and do a lot of research themselves once they get there. At the university, the resources are there. You just have to take that extra step to find them. Support services that were helpful at UCLA were the Career Center as well as my departmental counseling office, but not as helpful as Mission's support services.

Prior to transferring, I wish I knew more about liberal art schools as an option. Although I know now that it isn’t for me because I wouldn’t trade my UCLA experience for anything else, it would have been good to broaden my knowledge of other universities to apply to. Also, at Mission, I wish I had gotten closer with my professors so I'd be in the habit of doing this when I got to UCLA.

I'm now working as an academic counselor and plan to apply for graduate school. I hope to become a community college counselor.

"Never settle. THINK BIG, because you are just as capable of getting into a competitive university as the next student. Think of Mission as another chance and take full advantage of it!"


Xuan LuXuan Lu
Program Assistant - Disability Support Program and Services (DSPS)

I came to Mission College in 1994 and started at the ESL levels. It was very difficult at that time for me and I dropped out for one semester to attend Cosmetology school since it seemed to be the quickest way in obtaining employment. It turned out to be a health concern for me and I returned to Mission determined to earn an Associate’s Degree. While juggling work, family and school, I earned the A.S. degree in Computer Information Systems.

But there was a yearning for a Bachelor's degree that I could not shake off. However, it took me years to gather up courage to do this since I questioned the amount of time and money it would take to reach my goal.

However, I received great advice from a colleague (Hozi Ringor) who said, “you need to start somewhere … do something … take it one step at a time.” With this mentality, I created an education plan that I took one step at a time and I did not let the long time frame scare me. While working full-time in the EOPS office, I went to CSU East Bay part-time and in 5 years, I earned my Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration. Persistence and focus really pays off.


Sammy MestizoSammy Mestizo
AA - Social Science, AA- Liberal Arts, Mission College
BA Anthropology, Latin American & Latino Studies, UCSC
English Instructor, Madrid Spain

Like most new students, I experienced an up-down-and-up-again phase during my first quarter at UC Santa Cruz. I was initially excited for the newest chapter in my life. However, I nearly dropped out of university in the middle of my first quarter at UC Santa Cruz. The overwhelming workload, along with the loneliness of being a new transfer student, was not at all what I expected from that common "best four years of my life" college experience. What convinced me to continue my education were the good marks I received on my term papers. I eventually realized that college would be challenging - very challenging - but also that it would be possible.

The quarter system and upper-division courses are more demanding than the semester system and the general-education classes available at Mission College. Upper division courses are more specific and challenging as the material in one course is almost always essential to your future courses. It is best to take the time to at least skeleton-read the majority of the assigned readings and not procrastinate on assignments because your knowledge of the subject will suffer, which will most certainly affect your marks in future classes.

After hearing the experiences of students at other universities, I realize how spoiled we are as MC students, with numerous staff who are willing to help students reach their goals as quickly and easily as possible. EOPS, the transfer student resource center, and all of the racial/ethnic/identity resource centers were all very helpful. However, I believe the most helpful support services were my professors, given the importance of assignments for your academic career and that professors have a higher expectation for essay writing at a four-year.

I am currently teaching English in Madrid, Spain, the city where I studied abroad. (side note: study abroad!). I will continue my education in a master’s program or, preferably, in a PhD program for anthropology. I am very interested in becoming a professor of anthropology and researching the intersection of tourism and race.

My advice for other transfer students: Try establishing an effective study routine in preparation for the rather demanding work load of four year universities.


Joseph OrdazJoseph Ordaz
Faculty - Music
Conductor - Mission College Symphony

When I entered San Jose State, I went in as a Business Major only because I wasn't ready to admit to my mom that I wanted to be a Music major.  Fortunately, I had met a piano professor from SJSU and went to meet him right away during my first week of college.  I was able to start taking piano lessons with him while taking my GE classes and eventually started taking classes toward the music major my second year.  Of course, I eventually had to change my major and tell my mom.  But it still wasn't easy.  I failed my first music theory exam and overall did not do well in my first year of classes.

But I knew that music was my calling.  I would sit in class and think about how I would be teaching my future music classes.  Eventually, I became a member of the performance ensembles, was performing in solo recitals, conducting the orchestra, and my GPA improved every semester until I graduated.

At the graduation ceremony, my mom asked me if I wanted to go back for a business degree.  My answer...I was going on to get a Master's degree in music next, which I did at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  I started playing in a professional orchestra while still a graduate student and taught my first college class at age 27.  Eventually, my mom understood and saw that I had a goal.  That's the key: keep your eyes on your goal!


Linda RetterathLinda Retterath
Faculty - Math

I spent my childhood living in different countries and had to change schools frequently. Because of this, I sometimes came to a class at a different level than where my peers were. I had to work very hard to catch up to the right level. I learned early on from my dad (who was a pioneer within the computer industry) about what it meant to be successful: "There were other people who were smarter than me, but I worked harder and so ended up being more successful."

I really faced this challenge head-on when I took my first physics class in college (I did not take any physics in high school) and in my first quarter, I received a "C-." Not satisfied with this result, I took on as a personal challenge to myself to earn an A next quarter. I created a strategy where I went above and beyond the homework given (doing ALL the problems, not just the ones assigned) and I went every single week to office hours to get my questions answered. As a result, I got my "A"!

My message to students is to be persistent and know that you can grow your intelligence. Physiologically, your brain can change – for the better! Intelligence is not born; it’s created through hard work and discipline.


Chad WalshChad Walsh
Trustee, Vice-President of West Valley-Mission Community College District Board of Trustees

In June of 1984, I was 17, I barely graduated high school with a very low GPA, and I was living in my car (a beat up white 1973 Mustang). I went to Moorpark Community College and told a counselor I wanted to be an Electrical Engineer because I wanted to learn how to put chips together like the chips I had seen on an Apple 2 circuit board. The counselor said, "Oh, you want to be an electrical engineering technician." "NO!" I said. "I want to be an Electrical Engineer."

Three years later, after working my way from Intermediate Algebra, Intro to Chemistry, Intro to Physics, and pre-college English to Linear Algebra & Differential Equations, Advanced Chem, and Quantum Physics with roughly a 3.5 GPA, I transferred to the Electrical Engineering Department at UCSD and went on to obtain a BSEE from UCSD and an MSEE from Santa Clara University and got a job as a chip engineer at National Semiconductor.

My favorite quote from a Moorpark Instructor: After missing class one week I bumped into the instructor on campus and he said, "Missed you in class today." I gave him a bunch of excuses, to which he responded, "Flaked out huh! Well, your choice." He then casually walked away. A poignant reminder that I was responsible for me; and no one else would be. Absent a serious emergency, I never missed his or any other, class again.