Today, Dana Craig is the assistant principal at Northview High School in Covina, but back when he was a high school student himself, that prospect seemed unlikely.
"I never thought I'd be a high school assistant principal," says Dana, whose experience at Mt. SAC opened his eyes to a world of possibilities.
Dana enrolled in the liberal studies program at Mt. SAC. He also took extra science courses because of his interest in physical therapy.
"Mt. SAC provided me with the guidance that I needed to take a full load of courses and make me university eligible," Dana says. "The teachers here at Mt. SAC helped prepare me for what was ahead."
While at Mt. SAC, Dana took advantage of the extracurricular opportunities that were offered and was part of the Mountie wrestling team. He excelled in athletics and was named a two-time All-American in wrestling. But he also was mindful of his course work. Together with the support he received from his professors, Dana built confidence in his academic skills.
"They helped me believe in myself and gave me the confidence to do well academically," he says.
From Mt. SAC, Dana transferred to Brigham Young University on a full-ride wrestling scholarship. He earned his bachelor's in health sciences, taught elementary school and high school for the Covina Valley Unified School District, and later was named dean and assistant principal at Northview High. He went on to earn his master's in education and coached Northview wrestlers to nine CIF championships and a state championship.
In 2005, he would go on to earn his master's in education from Azusa Pacific University, but Mt. SAC always has a special place in his heart.
"Mt. SAC was the place that sharpened my skills set and provided solid constructive feedback."
In fact, several of his family members have attended Mt. SAC, and everyone in his family, at one time or another, has attended a community college.
From being someone who was ready to quit school to becoming student body president, May Ochoa sure has come a long way in a short time. Now a psychology major and the Associated Students President, May has the potential to do great things, and she credits a lot of that to the support and help she has received at Mt. SAC.
"At one time, I thought the possibilities of going to college were zero," says May, who dropped out of high school and later went to continuation school before enrolling at Mt. SAC. An undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. when she was 4, May had resigned herself to getting any type of job she could instead of going to college.
"I didn't see the point of bettering myself," she said. "I just gave up and stopped going to school for a time."
But when she did return to high school, a chance meeting with Mt. SAC's High School Outreach team made a huge impression on her and presented community college as a viable option for her.
"That meeting changed my life," reflects May, a California Dream Act student. "I saw that there was hope for me to go to college and achieve my goals."
May enrolled at Mt. SAC in fall 2011 and immediately took advantage of the services designed to help students who were the first in their families to attend college. She got help from the Counseling Department and participated in the Bridge Program, a cohort program designed to help "first-in-family" students transition to college.
"The people at Mt. SAC really do care about you and about helping you achieve your goals," she said.
Then she gradually became involved with student government and wound up being elected the Associated Students President for 2013-14 in a landslide victory. May plans to graduate from Mt. SAC in 2015 and continue her studies at UCLA as a psychology major.
And if anyone is undecided about going to college or thinking about quitting school, May has this sage advice: "I'd tell them to come to Mt. SAC. You won't regret it."
As a 2013 Mt. SAC graduate and mother of three, Dianna Blake is well on her way to earning a bachelor's degree in English from Cal State Fullerton and realizing her dreams. The road to "today" wasn't easy--juggling parenting with schoolwork--but she credits Mt. SAC with preparing her and giving her the confidence to succeed.
"I gained confidence through my experiences at Mt. SAC and realized that I could do this," exclaimed Dianna, who was previously a "C" student in high school and not completely sure of her abilities in a college setting.
Once she took the next step and enrolled at Mt. SAC, she was on her way. Classes in the Honors Program prepared her for the rigor of university academics. She brushed up on her study skills and eventually took more challenging courses.
"The hardest part was stepping out of my comfort zone and taking classes that weren't 'safe,' like science and math courses."
Dianna recently finished her first semester at Cal State Fullerton, where she was named to the Dean's List for her exceptional grades. Her plan is to continue her education and get a master's degree either at Fullerton or USC. Eventually, she would like to teach English at a community college.
But no matter what the future holds in store for her, Diana will always remember where the foundation was laid for her success.
"Mt. SAC has a higher level of academic standards and sense of community that helped prepare me," she says.
A few months ago, Autumn Seebold had just graduated from Garey High School in Pomona. She knew she wanted to go to college, but was unsure of just about everything concerning it.
"I was nervous about going to college," Autumn recalls. "I didn't know what to expect, didn't know if I could handle the workload, and didn't know where the resources to go to college would come from."
Soon afterwards she discovered Mt. SAC's Bridge Program, a six-week program designed to new high school grads make a seamless transition into college life. Students take refresher courses in cohort groups that provide the support, encouragement, and motivation necessary to succeed.
"Everyone in the Bridge Program was really open and helped to engage us with college life," she says. "The professors were down to earth, and we got to know everyone in the program. It helped me to not feel alone anymore."
Once Autumn took advantage of the opportunities available, the doors to higher education were opened to her. She learned firsthand what college life was like, wich support programs were available, and where to find the resources she needed to attend college, including financial aid. "Bridge gave me the confidence to move forward and succeed," she said.
Today, Autumn is enrolled in her first semester at Mt. SAC. She's currently taking general education courses, but is leaning toward a major in the medical field. She has gone from being uncertain about the future to being optimistic and confident in her abilities. What a difference a few weeks can make! And she owes it all to the Bridge Program.
"Bridge gave me the confidence to move forward and succeed," Autumn says. "Plus the experiences and friendships you make are lasting. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat."
As a 2013 Mt. SAC graduate, Yomeri Castuera looks forward to continuing her education at UC Irvine and fulfilling her dream to become a physician. But her dreams weren't always so secure, until she experienced Mt. SAC.
"I love Mt. SAC," she says. "It's where I laid the foundation for my education and success. My experience there gave me the confidence, study skills, and knowledge to do well here at UCI."
In high school, academics were not exactly at the top of her list. "It was only once I came to Mt. SAC that I started to take school and studying seriously," she says.
Yomeri took advantage of the many opportunities Mt. SAC offers. She got involved in student government and eventually joined the Honors Program--building confidence in her abilities and leadership skills along the way.
But it wasn't easy. There were plenty of long hours and times she wanted to give up.
"The support I received from my professors and advisors encouraged me to continue," she says. They are all here to help students."
A neurobiology major, Yomeri plans to become a physician, because she wants to give back to the community--much like she was helped during her days as a Mt. SAC student.
"If it wasn't for Mt. SAC, I don't think I would be where I am today," she says.
As the medical director for Group Health Medical Centers, Dr. Marc Mora heads a team of 600 physicians who care for more than 400,000 people in the Seattle, WA, area. But coming out of high school, he wasn't seriously thinking about going to college--much less becoming a physician . . . until he came to Mt. SAC!
"Mt. SAC provided me with the opportunity to explore my options," he says. "My experience there taught me about the world, what's out there, and what I wanted to pursue. It helped me figure out what was important to me."
Coming from a family background where college wasn't significant, Marc worked part time as a cook in restaurants while attending Mt. SAC. It took him four years to complete his program, but the experience allowed him to find himself and discover that he had a passion for science.
While he explore different fields and took a variety of different classes, Marc learned the importance of studying, how to focus, and what to focus on. He says Mt. SAC gave him the time and space to experiment with different content areas as well as the time to improve his own learning style and habits.
After graduating in 1984 with an associate degree in biology, Marc went on to earn a bachelor's at UC Irvine and his MD at UC San Francisco. Since then, he has enjoyed a distinguished medical career, having garnered accolades as the recipient of Group Health Permanente's 2011 Jerome Beekman Leadership Award. He has also published clinical and policy articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Yet after 23 years as a physician, Dr. Marc Mora still looks back with fondness on his days at Mt. SAC: "As I look back on the great opportunities that I have had and been able to take advantage of, I believe that many of them began because of my time at Mt. SAC."
Before you know it, Gina Guerrero will graduate in December from UC-Riverside with a bachelor's in English Literature. Even though she transferred from Mt. SAC, she never lost her connection with the school.
"I'm still connected to people at Mt. SAC," says Gina, a 40-year-old mother of six who has her sights focused on teaching high school. "It's just so amazing after all this time."
Before Gina first enrolled at Mt. SAC, she was homeless and in an abusive relationship. But she saw a light at the end of tunnel and began taking a few classes. "Going to college changes your life drastically, and going to Mt. SAC completely changed my life," she says.
Gina says her success wouldn't be possible without the help she got from such student support services as the Re-Entry Center, CalWORKs, and Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS). With determination and a little help, she made it through the first half of her college experience.
Soon Gina will embark on her career path, with some promising prospects in the works. But she'll never forget her Mt. SAC connections. "They're just like family to me," she says.
For someone who didn't plan on going to college, Elisa Marin has certainly blossomed at Mt. SAC. She currently represents students on the Board of Trustees and believes that her college experience has been life-changing--a testament to her personal and academic success.
"It's actually been transformational," Elisa says. "My experience here and the people I've met here have given me the confidence and encouragement to believe in myself when no one else did."
Elisa's high school experience was less than stellar. She admits she often skipped classes, and grades were always a sore subject. She transferred to a continuation school and was told that she was not "college material." Yet after being inspired by a Mt. SAC High School Outreach representative presentation, she spoke to advisors and counselors at the college and then decided to give Mt. SAC a shot.
"Definitely give Mt. SAC a try and allow the people there to help you," she advises friends today. "Mt. SAC provides the support that a lot of students don't receive at home."
Elisa's path to success started at Mt. SAC's High School Adult Program, where she earned her high school diploma. Then she enrolled in college courses and got involved in the Associated Students, which "had a huge impact on me," she says. "That drove me to do better." She served as a senator in the student government, got involved in Students in Free Enterprise (a student business club), and later was elected as the student trustee on the college's governing board to represent students' interests.
At this juncture along the path, Elisa realized she had found a home at Mt. SAC. "In fact, I spend more time at Mt. SAC than I do at my own house."
Now Elisa carries a 3.0 GPA and will graduate in June. She plans to transfer to UC-San Diego as an international relations major next fall, but she will always remember the place and the people who helped her achieve her goals.
"The people who work here at Mt. SAC are all about helping students succeed. Mt. SAC will change your life."