Faculty & Staff 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
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."


 

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.


John MosbyJohn Mosby
Vice President - Student Services

“NO, NO, NO, and NO.” This was the word that hit me time and time again throughout my educational journey. In high school, my counselor told me, “no, you won’t make it to college.” In college, I was told that no, I wasn’t going to make it to graduate school much less write a dissertation.  After my PhD (and 250-page dissertation), I was told no, you won’t be able to land a vice president position at a college. And here I am now, VP of Student Services at Mission College.

Every “no” that confronted me was a personal challenge for me to defy others’ notions and perspective on my limitations. I have been blessed with a family who provides unconditional love and therefore all the no’s I heard from the outside world were strongly counteracted by YES, you can do anything. But living with all this negative bias against me had me question what was happening to the other young people around me who actually BELIEVED what was told to them. It inspired me to become a mentor so that I can help others who need the support towards achieving their goals and defying the naysayers.

I am the first in my extended family to obtain a doctoral degree and I don’t take the letters behind my name lightly. I know I bear responsibility as an African American male to bring a voice to the table to advocate for the future of all our students (and faculty and staff). I love the makeup of the community college (where I can walk alongside a 15-year-old and also connect with a 75-year old). The ability to change the chapter of someone’s life and provide 2nd, 3rd, 4th and multiple chances invigorates me each and every day.

 

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.


 

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