Looking Beyond the Present

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The term “millennial” describes a generation of people born plugged into technology. It defines a society brought up to believe that they could accomplish and succeed in anything that they set their minds on. This demographic has different characteristics from previous generations. Millenials are drawn to culturally diverse environments and are tightly scheduled multi-taskers. In this generation’s lifetime, they are predicted to have up to eight different careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s no wonder. Millenials were raised in a country cultivated from a society that strongly believes in education as a requirement. They also have the benefit of having more highly educated parents than previous generations. In light of these facts, it makes sense that the carefully chosen path is not always the path taken.

It is easy to see how a student can decide to change their career path or to drop out of college completely when faced with the pressures of satisfying society. The rising cost of a college education and the natural daily trials and tribulations of life can be oppressive.

According to a study from Harvard University, nearly half of the students who enter U.S. colleges and universities drop out before receiving their desired degree. “Education at a Glance,” a report done by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, lists graduation rates within the United States as last among 18 other countries. In comparison, Japan has an 89 percent graduation rate, and Poland a 61 percent graduation rate, which may be an eye-opening statistic for some.

With rumors of educational funding in jeopardy, one thing remains clear: support for education is crucial for the future of the United States as a powerful nation.

Attend any class at San Diego City College, and inspiring people are not hard to find. Former students of San Diego City College have their own stories about overcoming adversity. They understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of a full-time student and employee, and know firsthand what it is to be a wife, a mother, a husband or father, all while attending school.

From student to coach

Take a stroll around the campus and over to the athletics department. There, students can meet Aaron Detty, the head baseball coach for the San Diego City College Knights.

“It has always been a lifelong desire of mine to become a teacher and help people,” Detty said.

Detty began attending San Diego City College in 2000 and graduated in 2002 with an associate degree in selected studies. To further his education, he continued at University of California, San Diego, where he received a bachelor’s degree, then transferred to Azusa Pacific University, where he received his Master of Science in physical education. In 2009, he was hired as an adjunct professor at San Diego City College.

Detty currently teaches applied kinesiology, individual conditioning, aerobic and core conditioning and weight training. Detty is also a certified personal trainer.

“I have always been determined and have had a passion for teaching and loved school,” Detty said. He reminds students at City College to “look beyond the present” circumstances and realize that an “education opens doors and creates opportunity.”

While the nation’s recession is causing layoffs and devastating downsizing, America’s middle-aged and older generations are re-entering or just beginning college. The United States Department of Education revealed that in 2010, 25 percent of students nationwide are over the age of 30. It is reasonable to believe that there could be fears associated with returning to college at an older age. All fears aside, City College students are surrounded by those who have broken those barriers.

Teacher and entrepreneur

If you make your way over to the Career Technology Center, it’s easy to run into professional photographers, published authors and business owners, to name a few.

Stop by the Cosmetology Department any Monday through Thursday and it’s not hard to find Patricia Grooms-Jones. “Mrs. Jones,” as she is referred to by students, paints a different picture of her struggles as a student in college.

“In my family as a first generation college student, there were lots of expectations and no guidance,” Grooms-Jones said, “I started my education at the University of Maryland. I always imagined myself becoming a nurse. They were just so mean. ”

As a tear rolls down her cheek, she’s reminded of the bullying she endured as a black female student attending a dominantly white nursing school. “I never realized how much it really affected me,” she says as she tries to hold back emotion, “Needless to say I dropped out.”

Grooms-Jones went on to be married and with her husband in the military and relocated to Hawaii. In 1992, her husband was deployed back to San Diego. By that time, Grooms-Jones had already started a family and was a mother of two boys. She was ready to start a new chapter in her life and decided to enroll in the cosmetology program at San Diego City College. Her grandfather was in the business since she was a little girl.

She describes the challenges she faced coming back to school and how she found it difficult to learn alongside students who were much younger than her. Despite the odds, she completed the program with honors in 1993 and obtained her cosmetology license shortly after. With her husband on active duty, they were deployed once again. In 2000, she returned to San Diego and enrolled in the Instructor Training Program that was being offered at City College. She was inspired to teach through a connection she had made with Dr. Ella Sloan, an accomplished African-American professor in her cosmetology class. Grooms-Jones was hired as an adjunct professor for City College not long after completing the program.

While working at City College, as well as being a mother and wife, Grooms-Jones managed to find time to attend San Diego State University and received her bachelor’s degree in vocational education. She was promoted to Department Chair of Cosmetology.

With all the experience she had obtained as an educator, it only seemed natural for her to begin a new chapter once again. In 2006, she became the proud owner of The Beauty Haven, a private salon and spa nestled in the heart of La Jolla Shores. With clientele such as local baseball and football players’ wives, it only made sense to be exclusive.

“A small, private clientele allows me to be more social and artistic with customers,” said Grooms-Jones, “My biggest struggles have been time management, and while I was opening my business, just learning the dynamics of understanding how a business is run was very challenging.”

When Grooms-Jones isn’t at her salon or she’s not busy at school, she volunteers for a nonprofit organization called Jack and Jill of America that developed a program called Grandparents As Parents (GAP). The organization provides ways to lessen the financial burden on parents raising their grandchildren.

If she’s not there (for reasons such as attending international beauty shows), she is a project educator for several companies (such as Avalon Hair Products) and a platform artist for Quest Tech Media, where she stands alone in front of up to as many as 50,000 attendees, demonstrating the latest hair trends in styling and coloring techniques.

Grooms-Jones would like City College students to know that learning is a lifelong experience, “I experienced a great start to my education and career here at San Diego City College and I encourage others to do the same,” she said. She currently teaches about 47 students and is attending college classes to further her education and career options.

Determination through challenges

Professor Kim Shafer can be found instructing a cosmetology class, salon business practices, in room V-206. The class offers lectures about and demonstrates to students salon business practices, with makeup applications and a large emphasis on skincare techniques. The classroom is named basic skincare lab, which is a spa like environment that gives students a sense of what their chosen profession will be like in the real world.

Shafer is the owner of Private Eyes and Faces, a permanent makeup and skincare company based in San Diego.

Shafer entered City as a licensed cosmetologist and business owner in 2003. With a passion for teaching, she also decided to embark on the instructor training program offered at City. She continued her education, received an associate degree, then began working for City College the day after she graduated. She explains having feelings of guilt while attending college and learning to manage her time as a mother and student, remembering a time in which her children were sick and when she had to struggle to find daycare while she attended classes.

“There was even a time where my house burned down, (she pauses) that was very challenging,” she said.

Shafer currently instructs about 25 students in the cosmetology department, and is also set to begin instructing esthetician classes at City College early next year. Shafer encourages students to reach their goals and to know that obtaining a desired career is possible with determination.

Through it all, these former City College students are examples of what can be accomplished through perseverance and determination. Their stories also show that success can be attained by beginning an education at San Diego City College. Dreams do come true and persistence can pay off.