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.
Director - International Student Center
If there is one thing that Chigusa Katoku 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."
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.
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!
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.