“Seeking Connection and Support at Community College”

Upon embarking on my journey at community college, my initial perspective revolved around using it as a stepping stone toward a local four-year university. Hindered by the negative perceptions associated with two-year colleges, my expectation was merely to endure my time there without considering the potential for enjoyment or significance.

Contrary to my preconceptions, my experience at Los Angeles Pierce College provided a different reality. This community college environment has introduced me to a supportive network comprised of peers, educators, and counselors, fostering an inclusive atmosphere that fosters excitement for learning.

The transition from Northwestern University to Pierce has allowed me to juxtapose two contrasting college landscapes – a prestigious private institution renowned for academic rigor and sports prowess against a commuter college embodying diversity in student demographics, backgrounds, and aspirations. Through this comparison, I’ve come to recognize that the community college experience isn’t merely a shadow of traditional universities but a potentially superior alternative for certain students.

At Pierce College, I’ve found a sense of belonging primarily because the college mirrors the cultural and demographic landscape of my hometown. Being immersed in a setting as diverse and multifaceted as Los Angeles enhances my engagement and comfort. Rather than being isolated from the city’s essence, the college is integrated with the unique identities and experiences that define L.A.

From an academic standpoint, community colleges offer a flexible learning environment that caters to a wide array of students without compromising educational quality. The opportunity to engage in challenging coursework within intimate classrooms, supported by professors willing to engage in meaningful discussions on their subject matter, research, and teaching experiences, has been immensely encouraging.

Whether it’s collaborating with fellow students on articles about the Pierce Brahmas baseball team for the school newspaper or delving into astronomical concepts in an interactive lab, my three months at Pierce have facilitated the establishment of a tight-knit community.

As conveyed by my peers, my encounter is not an exception.

For Juliette Hagobian, a first-year Pierce student, community college has provided a space to introspect on career aspirations and cultivate personal interests. Immersed in the English department, she has formed friendships and mentoring relationships, reviving the school’s poetry club.

“The essence of [community college] is that opportunity for us to collaborate and have conversations and understand different perspectives,” Hagobian expressed. “The most important thing to me, personally, is that sort of connection and finding my people. And I’m finding myself, too.”

Hagobian’s initial skepticism regarding community college, stemming from a disapproving environment at her Armenian private high school, has evolved positively since enrollment. While anticipating a transfer to a four-year university, she acknowledges the enriching experiences available in the present moment.

“In my community, it’s seen as a less-desired option or a last resort,” Hagobian noted. “Now that I’m here, I see all kinds of cool opportunities and student drive.”

Gayane Zazyan, a psychology major at Pierce, not only benefits from community college opportunities but actively supports her peers as the student government president.

“I think one of the things that made me feel comfortable and got me where I am was that I was open-minded to utilizing [Pierce’s] programs,” Zazyan shared. “College isn’t easy and I try to spread the information to my peers as well, because there are so many amazing resources here.”

One such recipient of Zazyan’s guidance is her mother.

“She started with ESL [English as a second language], just one class at a time,” Zazyan recounted. “I feel proud of her, and my parents are proud of me that I’ve been able to go this far.”

Graduating from Pierce this spring, Zazyan attributes her current trajectory to community college.

Diverging from conventional rigid learning structures, community colleges cater to individual student needs, serving nearly 2 million individuals in California alone.

“There’s a reason we call them community colleges,” Susanna Cooper, the executive director of the Wheelhouse Center for Community College Leadership and Research at UC Davis remarked. “They create community and they’re accessible. I think it’s a hallmark of community colleges, all that they do to help their students succeed.”

It’s imperative to reconsider the perception of community college, both academically and socially, free from any associated stigma.

●●●

Delilah BrumerCalifornia Student Journalism Corps.

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