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Faculty & Staff Success Stories

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Richard Alfaro

Richard Alfaro

Dean of Student Services

Growing up in a single parent household since the age of three had its challenges.  My mom had to work full-time to make sure I had the basic necessities of life, which meant sometimes we would get those notifications from PG&E saying "Power will be SHUT DOWN in 48 hours." 

We were constantly moving from apartment to apartment, so I was used to adapting to new surroundings, but that also meant that I never had enough time to really call a room MY room.  

Unfortunately, school became a non-priority resulting in my poor performance in high school.  Taking an evening class and early morning class my senior year to make up the credits for all my failed classes, so I can at least say I graduated from high school.  

What’s next? Well, college was never discussed in my household, nor was it even a thought in my brain, so I started working at a cardboard manufacturing plant right after high school.  Graveyard shift for three long years, which meant I really never saw the sun, so if you see me my sunglasses hanging from my dress shirt, now you know why.  This was my normal.

For three years I would fall asleep when the sun was rising and would wake up when the sun was setting.  “There had to be more to life than this” is what I would tell myself, hoping to see the sun one day.  It was an honest job, but it wasn’t a career.  I didn’t even know what the difference was between a career and a job, but the one thing I did know was that I wanted to have a job that made me smile when I woke up in the morning, and a job that didn’t constantly want me to look at my watch hoping it was break time.  

“Knowledge is Power” are the words I wrote on the box that would travel with me from apartment to apartment.  These words will forever shape my future.  I held the power to change my normal and create a new normal, one that meant I could go to college, and get that desired career I always dreamed of.  As I type this, I am sitting as the Dean of Student Services, fully humbled by the seat I occupy, understanding that I have a responsibility to do the best I can for students, so they can one day have a job where they are smiling when they wake up, and a career where a clock has no numbers. 

Leandra Martin

Leandra Martin

Vice President of Instruction

"We cannot hire you because you are a woman." 

"Oh my God! You’re a woman?!? I cannot continue this interview …"

 Yes, these were actual comments directed toward me years ago when I was seeking employment as a Chemical Engineer. Three companies flat out told me that they cannot hire me because of my gender. 

Growing up, I had a deep love for math and science which went against the grain at the time. Women were expected to go into “traditional female roles” and I remember my parents fighting for me to take the high school classes that I wanted to take rather than the classes my counselor put me in including choir, home economics and typing courses. I ended up being the only female in my calculus and advanced science courses in high school! 

This trend continued onto college where I was the only female in a 300-person Chemical Engineering department. I was the first female EVER to obtain a master’s degree in Engineering from Iowa State University.  

After I finished my Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering, I was offered and accepted a job at Dow Chemical. This was a bold move for Dow since they had no female employees in their 3 mile by 5-mile facility. Even all the support staff, including secretaries were male. The large building where I worked had one restroom per floor – obviously it was a male only restroom so the first action Dow took after I started was to transition the restroom on my floor to female meaning that all the other workers on my floor had to go up or down stairs to use the facilities! 

I loved my research work at Dow with a highlight of receiving patents for the Pillsbury Dough Boy packaging design and an automobile headliner design. However, I also experienced a great deal of harassment and stereotyping at work, behaviors that are illegal today.  What sustained me during this time was the absolute support of my family, friends and many of my coworkers.   

Another challenge I faced as a child was an audio processing disorder.  I cannot differentiate between certain sounds. It is similar to being color blind. I spent 8 years in speech therapy learning to speak properly and I still sometimes need to read lips to understand what people are saying. This learning disability has helped me to empathize with the many of the challenges faced by our students.   

My background and experiences has motivated me to advocate and fight for students at the community college level. I was extremely fortunate to have others advocate for me and now as the Vice President of Instruction at Mission College, it is my responsibility to advocate for our students. I am very privileged to be able to serve our wonderful diverse community! 

Theresa Tran

Theresa Tran

EOPS Counseling Faculty

"People sometimes compliment me on how well I write or speak English, but that wasn’t always the case. My mother, sisters and I came to the U.S. as refugees from a war-torn Viet Nam in 1975.I went from living in a comfortable household in a tropical climate to being very low-income and enduring the winter snows of Nebraska. One memory that still stays with me is, as a six year-old, I was trying to ask for some tape, but I didn’t know the word. I grunted and gestured, but the nice woman trying to help me couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. I felt incredibly frustrated and helpless. Maybe that’s one reason why I’ve been drawn to helping others, especially those who have faced obstacles and/or are learning another language, like many of the students in EOPS.

One thing that has helped me tremendously throughout my life has been my interest in reading. I often tell students that there is a strong correlation between how much one reads and how well one writes, and that they should read as much as possible. Even in the days when I spoke broken English or couldn’t verbally express my thoughts, I always had the power to read, and that was something that I could control. It doesn’t matter if one is low-income, is learning English as a second or third language, or hasn’t previously done well in school; get in the habit of reading! It’s a solid investment, and the more you do it, the richer your pay-off will be." 

Jennifer Keh

Jennifer Keh

EOPS/CARE Specialist 

Being a mixed race student -1/2 Chinese, 1/4 Irish 1/4 Italian – I always felt the pressure of different cultural expectations. I felt like I fell short in high school where I tried to maintain a 2.5 GPA in order to continue to play sports. 

I graduated from high school and attended West Valley College in Fall 2000, but dropped out when I found out I was pregnant.  At that time, I was not aware of programs that provided support for students like myself such as EOPS/CARE. I got married and worked full-time and held multiple jobs to support my family. 

After 10 years of marriage, I went through a divorce and it was a turning point in my life. It was then that I resolved to go back to school, realizing that my degree and education were things that could not be taken away. 

I returned to school as a single momat West Valley and Mission and graduated in Fall 2013 with an AA-T in Sociology from West Valley. I transferred to San Jose State University and graduated in Spring 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology as a first generation college student. Right now, I am attending an SJSU graduate program to earn a Master's in Counselor Education and a PPS Credential. 

My advice to students is to take it one day at a time.  Although you want each and every day to be perfect and all homework and reading completed before class, there will be times when it is a struggle.  The key is to keep moving forward.  And if you're a parent, learn to see your education as an investment. School can pull you away from family time, but it doesn't make you inadequate in any way. Pursuing an education secures your future and that of your children. Be proud of your efforts and achievements! 

My motto is "Live Your Legacy!"

Niall T. Adler

Niall T. Adler

Director of Marketing & Public Relations

My family has always valued education, specifically writing. My great great grandfather, Bill Cuddy, was an editor for the Oregonian, my grandmother helped design one of the first libraries in my hometown of Albany, CA and was also an editor/writer and my other grandmother, Regina Zimmerman Kelly, wrote historical children's books and was a high school teacher for decades in Chicago. My mother was a lifelong learner, receiving her two degrees later in life and my father paid for night law school by working during the day.  All valued learning.   

The greatest thrill in my career has been seeing the shy freshman, graduate and someday "figure it out"-- being drafted by a major league team, representing their country at the Olympics, getting married, having a family-- to see one of your "kids" on TV has always been a proud moment, knowing how far each has come.   

My advice for our Mission College students: Be curious. Don't accept good enough. Know there are people around you willing to help you succeed. And know that from this other end, many times, we don't realize the impact we've had. We do it because we love watching you succeed.

Albert Moore

Albert Moore

Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, West Valley Community College District

My family have long embraced the motto of “learning by doing” and that’s what occurred for me growing up. I learned about the college environment by being my mom’s personal cheerleader and partner in crime when she returned to school and earned her college degree in my teen years. I recall when she rushed to get ready for her evening classes, I would stand outside the door of the bathroom and go over her study notes and class materials with her. My father was a truck driver and every Thursday during one high school summer, he would have me go on “ride-a-longs” with him. He demonstrated what his own father-in-law wanted our younger generations to learn: "look at how hard I have to work due to my lack of education. See me as an example of hard labor and aspire for more." 

Equipped with an engaged family who did not prescribe my pathways for me, I went to college and opened myself to the vast richness of all disciplines; taking classes from different subjects and fully immersing myself in the learning experience. I graduated Magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and certificate in Latin American Studies aiming to become a diplomat! 

Life has a magical way of transferring what we aspire to do into very meaningful and related experiences! By being involved with many volunteer and community service activities, my desire to help people and make a difference solidified. I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work with field placement done at the University of Pennsylvania working with gay and lesbian students, where I provided individual and group counseling. And from there, using the skills learned through this program, I have moved through a wide spectrum of student services work (counseling, student life and activities, student leadership, admissions & records). I may not have become an ambassador with an official title of “diplomat” to my name but I certainly have felt like one at some point or another in my work! 

I find myself now in a leadership position that allows me to use the culmination of all I have learned to continue mentoring, supporting and coaching those around me. I believe whole-heartedly in the work that I do and hope my story allows our students to recognize how important it is to seek mentorship in your lives and to find your passion, so that the learning experience can be truly as meaningful for you as it was for me.

Daniel Peck

Daniel Peck

President of Mission College

I recently ran into a woman with whom I went to grade school and high school, and she immediately began reminiscing about all the "good times" we had in school. I politely agreed, but inside was thinking about how very different our experiences had been. The truth is, I never fit in at school. I was often harassed and teased for being different. I spent much of my time alone and struggled in situations with lots of other kids. I felt like I was the only one that was different.

My escape was figuratively and literally through my education. I became focused on my schoolwork and spent much of my free time reading dozens and dozens of books. In the pages of books, I learned about ancient philosophies, dreamt of solving mysteries, and discovered that not everyone speaks and thinks the same way. The card catalog became my friend, and I discovered that there were actually other people who felt the way I did and I realized the world was so much bigger than my small experience had shown.

I began to hunger to learn, and soon found myself focused on my schoolwork. This gave me the sense of purpose I needed, and led to opportunities for scholarships and the ability to afford to go to college out of town. When I did get my first taste of college, it was a truly life-changing experience. I met so many people from so many backgrounds with so many differing experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. I quickly learned that there is no one right way of approaching life. I fell in love with this freedom and slowly gravitated to sociology, a field which is all about understanding the impact of social structures on individuals. Even in my current role, I feel I still use my sociology as I think about the barriers many of our students face and the ways in which we structure opportunities for our students.

I feel truly humbled to have had such amazing opportunities in education, and sometimes can't believe that this awkward kid who couldn't fit in now gets to lead an amazingly talented, diverse, and dedicated group of people who serve an even more diverse and talented group of students.

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