Monday, January 31, 2011

Football and Community College





Today I watched community college students play football on the beach and I felt inspired to write this week’s entry immediately (which means I was subjecting my laptop to splashing and sand…but it was worth it).

I should tell you right now I’m not really into sports. I’ve tried but I have never really gotten into it. However, I am aware that I am in the minority, and I recognize the social implications that sports bring to a community. And yet often, sports are not a huge part of community college.

Sports are a huge identifier for university students. It brings people together; it gives them immediate common ground. There is something powerful when so many thousands of people are gathered together in a stadium to cheer together. It brings a certain camaraderie, emotive connection, and sense of pride that helps me understand why it is so popular.  

Pride. Often community college students do not feel pride in their College. Often, they feel they are less than because they are not at a university (see “Crying in Community College” for my story). That is what I hope this blog to help instill. I want to bring pride to community college. I want community college graduates to feel such pride in their school that when they move forward and become successful they will want to give back to their community college.

But unfortunately that is not the case. Alumni associations are almost non-existent in community colleges. And as soon as people transfer they immediately identify with their university. Why is that?

There are many reasons I think – for one, community colleges tend to be seen as a drive-through–limbo version education. You go to class, you go home, and wait for the “real thing.”  

But community colleges can and should be so much more than that.  Football is the other piece to this puzzle, I haven’t forgotten.

I was on a leadership retreat with the community college where I work and there is a few hours of free time on the schedule. I was in charge of getting pictures of the students hanging out on the beach during this break, and when I walked out I saw them all playing touch football. And for me, it was inspiring watching them laugh, interact, build bonds, and simply have fun. Normal college stuff, right?

Not always for community college students. There aren’t often as many opportunities to build new relationships with people you don’t know. Step outside of your high school friends. Discover new perspectives and simply have fun during a time in your life where you typically are not tied down to a 40-hour per week job.

Though as a community college student we may not pack stadiums, paint our faces, and cheer for a team to run a ball across a field, we can still play on the beach. We can still invite a friend from class out for coffee. We can still run clubs, make an impact, and build relationships that last a lifetime.

But the catch is, since community colleges don’t always have the built in social network that comes from football, dorm rooms, and alumni associations, we have to create it for ourselves. We have to change the conversation and create pride in our school. And since I’m not a community college student anymore, I am counting on you.

So the challenge today is very simple. Invite at least one person from community college that you didn’t go to high school with to hang out. If you’re a group-oriented person, get a bunch of people together to go play football on the beach.  Go out to dinner. Volunteer. Invite someone over. Have a conversation. Connect. Socialize. Engage. And have fun.

The more positive social experiences you create in your community college the more connected you will feel once you graduate with your four-year degree and go on to be incredibly successful like I know you will (especially if you’re reading this because that tells me you are looking for ways to reach your full potential). And when you are incredibly rich and successful I want you to get involved with your community college foundation and give back. Or maybe even help start an alumni association.

Community college can be amazing. But you have to make the effort. And if you do, not only will you enhance your life, you will impact the college experience of all those with whom you interact.

So go on, start the next community college ‘football game.' I’ll be cheering for you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Truth About The Book Burden

A special thank you on this week's vlog. 
video


Books in college get a bad rep. I know because my office is across from our bookstore.

People wait in long lines and empty their wallets for books that someone else is making them buy. And then some professor tries to make them read the books for quizzes and tests.

Sounds like fun, no?

Since books come with this heavy weight of duty and work, reading becomes this slow chore that has little relevance to your day-to-day life.

I’m here to tell you that if you ignore that pull towards dissatisfaction with reading and embrace the knowledge right at your fingertips you can actually change the course of your life.

I know that sounds dramatic, but I firmly believe it is true.

I can trace almost every great thing in my life to something I learned in a book. From starting this blog to choosing a graduate program, books have guided my life and can change yours if you are brave enough to let go of the book burden and reach for something more. 

And once you do, the book burden will evaporate and you will feel lighter with the knowledge you have gained. All you have to do is start reading books that are relevant to you, your life, and your interests.

So what are your interests? What do you want to do with your life?  What struggles are you facing? What are you unsure of? What is something you’ve always wanted to explore? What have you always wanted to do but always felt it was beyond your reach?

Read about it and I guarantee you will find answers and be empowered with the tips and knowledge you need to do what you want with your life.

Reading non-fiction books are the fastest way to hear someone else’s advice, research, and experience, and as you’ll soon learn from the networking book I’m currently writing, the best way to figure out your life is to listen to the advice and experience of others.

So are you pumped and ready to rid yourself of the book burden and start changing your life but not sure where to start?

Here is a step-by-step guide to get you started (oh and yes, this is this weeks challenge):

   1.  Go to http://www.amazon.com/
   2. Choose “Books” under the search drop down menu  
   3.  Start typing in subjects that interest you. Consider “how to be a [insert dream job here]” or a biography of someone you admire.
         4. If you’re not sure what your interests are, start with these key words:
a.      Choose major
b.     Career test
c.      Internships
d.     Money for college
e.      First resume
f.       Personality test
g.      Procrastination
h.     Time management
i.       Networking
     5. Buy the book on amazon.com, half.com (cheaper), or see if you can find it at your college or local library for free. If you can’t find it free, buy it – trust me. There is no  better  investment than purchasing a book that you know is going to help you figure out your life.

If you start reading books, I can 100% guarantee you will become successful beyond your wildest dreams. IF, of course, you actually read them and put the advice into practice.

So if you’ve read (or watched) this far I’m very impressed with you. I know books aren’t the most exciting topic, but I promise you if you take this advice it will be the most rewarding thing I could ever give you.

So get your first book today, and buy it if you have to. There is no better investment you can make than in your own learning and success.

Signing off on today’s Monday Morning Motivation,

Isa

Monday, January 17, 2011

If MLK Jr. Can do it, Why Can't You?

So I was going to post today’s blog on Tuesday because I knew no one would be thinking about school on a Monday off. However, as I began to write this entry, which I already planned last week to be about the power of one, it hit me – today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a perfect day to post on this topic.  

Now I’m no history buff so I’m not going to embarrass myself by trying to give you a bunch of historical examples, but I know, just as we all know, that Martin Luther King Jr. was one man who created long over-due freedoms, broke thick barriers, and led a nation towards ideals that most at the time probably thought would never come to fruition.

What seemingly impossible problems have you seen in your life or in this world that you wish you could make better for someone else?

What is something small you could start doing today to make an impact on that problem?

So, what are you waiting for? What excuses are going through your head right now? I bet I can guess a few:

-      It’s too big for me
-      It’s out of my control
-      I don’t have the time
-      I’m not smart enough
-      I’m not a great leader

I’m sure all great leaders struggle with those uncertainties at first. But it’s the choices you make despite the fear and doubt that make the difference.

What would have happened if Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t make those choices to act, to speak, to advocate?  You may think someone else might have done it.  But would they have? We’ll never know. What we do know, however is that he did make an incredible impact in our world because he made choices to make an impact where he saw and experienced a problem. What excuse do you have?

Only you have lived your life. Only you have seen the problems you’ve seen. Only you have the ideas in your head.  Use them.  Realize that you can do bigger things in this world. You do not have to settle for getting some basic degree that slides you into some boring job. In fact, if that’s all you’re going for, no wonder you’re so unmotivated in college. I would be too.

Start noticing the problems that you see every day in your world and in your life. It doesn’t have to be global or even national. It can be in your family. Your school. Your community. The more personal, the better. The more passionate you are, the better.

And doing something big doesn’t mean it has to look big to anyone else. It just has to be big to you.

For me, I always felt the non-traditional, community college student’s potential and worth was not always understood or talked about. And I had many excuses about why I couldn’t really help. And then I just started ignoring those fears and started a blog anyway. And now here you are. This is happening right now because I just went for it.  I had the power to make this connection between us. But let me tell you, it took me a long time to realize I had any power at all. 

So I’m telling you today, you have power. You have so much power to do things you may think are impossible now. But you’ll never know that power until you use it.

So challenge #2 is for you to open up a word document and at the top type out a problem that you see in the world or in your life that means something to you. And then just start writing all of the things you know you could do in the next week to start creating a solution to that problem.  And then, the biggest challenge is to actually pick one and do it.

And another bonus challenge for only the truly dedicated, e-mail your problem and solutions list to isa@communitycollegesuccess.com. I’d love to see what kinds of amazing things you guys are going to do.

 Signing of on today’s MLK Jr. Monday Morning Motivation,

Isa

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crying in Community College


I cried like a little girl when I first came to community college.



There I was in the crowded advising waiting room, crouched in a corner, hoping that since I’d already been waiting there an hour they’d call my name soon. But they didn’t. I looked around at the fellow students sitting in chairs. They looked harried. Bored. Alone.

My first memory of community college was far from the glorified picture I had imagined. I originally had planned on going to a small private school on the beach that specialized in a particular major. I pictured driving down to the small campus, having my dad unload my stuff, my mom help me pick out my books, and then saying good-bye while I was off to a fun and goofy orientation where I would meet my lifelong friends.

Instead I was crying alone in a crowded room of people who looked forgotten. I was going to college where “anyone” could get in.  But what I didn’t know then that I know now, is that community college is not about “anyone” being able to get in. It’s about “everyone” being able to get in.

If it weren’t for community college I would have either had to defer my college education for a semester, or have had to put my parents in $100,000 worth of debt.

Three weeks before I was supposed to move to my dorm, I received my freshman schedule and the bill for the year - $25,000.

 I grew up in a lower middle class family and we didn’t have a lot of money to begin with. And during my high school years both of my brothers ended up in the hospital. One woke up paralyzed one morning, and weeks later the other had a seizure in the middle of the night. I’m happy to report both brothers are now in perfect health, but the hospital bills, physical therapy, and pills wiped us out.

As a first generation college student, my parents didn’t know a lot about the higher educational world. But they loved me a lot, encouraged my academic pursuits, and in their infinite love for me said they would take out loans for me to go to college wherever I wanted. I guess they were already in debt for such horrible things that going into more debt for something positive didn’t seem like a bad idea. My dad was the kind of guy who sold his car to buy me one, and my mom the kind who lived in a trailer when we were little so she could stay home with us.  

So when I opened my first college bill, my stomach dropped at the magnitude of two five’s and three zero’s staring me in the face. Was I really willing to put my parents in a total of $100,000 in debt so I could go to a private school? I knew the answer before I asked the question.

No.

So three weeks before I was supposed to move away I drove to the local community college and waited in the crowded advising room to choose my schedule.

Little did I know I had chosen so much more.

Though initially I had felt like a failure ending up in a college where “anyone” can get it, I soon realized the privilege it was to get to go to a college where everyone could get in. I met single moms looking to make a better life for their kids. I met people from other countries looking to get an education that they so desperately appreciated. I met former fast-food workers ready to take hold of their piece of the American dream.  I met first generation college students making strides in their family history.

And I met local 18-year-old students who didn’t always have the encouragement or motivation they needed in high school, but who were ready to change and take ownership of their education and their lives.  

This blog is dedicated to all of those incredible students I met in my two years at community college. It is also dedicated to the inspiring students I talk to every day in my job as a Student Life coordinator.

This blog is for any community college student who ever felt like crying during their college experience. It’s for any community college student who wants to get good grades, graduate, and make a difference in the world with their talents. This blog is for anyone who is willing to go the extra mile, listen to the advice of the experienced, and make the most of every opportunity.

This blog will feature the most vital strategies and tips that helped me succeed in community college. It will also feature a lot of advice I wish someone had given me while in college. I will share stories, musings, and interviews with some of the most successful community college graduates I know.

Every blog will come with a challenge or a call to action that is guaranteed to help you reach your goals and break the barriers that sometimes hold you back from the potential you know you have.  How can I make such a guarantee? Because I will never give you a challenge that didn’t work for me.

So with the beginnings of this first blog and the beginnings of your Spring 2011 semester, I challenge you to walk through the doors of your first class and really notice the people around you. Resist the temptation to focus on your phone in those sometimes awkwardly quiet moments before the professor walks in. And start a conversation with someone. Ask them if they’ve heard anything about this class. Compliment them. Engage.

And today’s challenge comes with a bonus challenge for only the truly dedicated. Sit in the front.

Every good thing that happened to me in college happened because of an incredible peer or professor.  Take the time to get to know them. Amazing things will come from those connections.

How do I know? Because I also ended my community college experience crouched on the floor crying. But that time it was because the President surprised me with the announcement that I had won the $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. Around me friends I had made while at community college cried for me. Professors who wrote the scholarship recommendation letters hugged me. In that moment the “community” of community college was all around me, and I knew I had made the best choice of my life.

Make your choice to go to community college a great one. And I’ll be here to help in any way that I can.


Signing off on today’s Monday Morning Motivation,

Isa