How Community College Changed my Life
Apr, 19 2021
Community Colleges are often underestimated due to false narratives and ideas that surround them. To help spark the eyes and minds of the overlooked influence that our community colleges hold, we asked Stephanie Valenzuela, a Maricopa Community College alumni, to share how her community college experience shaped her life.
Growing up, it was an expectation in my household to pursue higher education. The constant conversation about going to college stuck with me during high school, so I applied to the Achieving a College Education (ACE) Program. That is when my community college experience began. During my high school junior and senior years, I took general education courses during the summer and throughout the school year at Scottsdale Community College.
Financially speaking, my parents could not afford to pay tuition at a four-year institution. Therefore, I did not foresee myself entering university right after high school. Many of my peers were dumbfounded when I shared that I would not be going to a university upon graduating because I had always been known as a bright, disciplined student. There was then, and is still now, a massive stigma around attending community college. Although I wanted to pursue higher education, I also never wanted to place the financial burden of my education on my parents just so that I could “fit in” with my classmates. Luckily, I knew I did not need to go to a four-year institution to be successful.
After finishing high school, I entered the Fashion Design program at Mesa Community College. Still, I quickly realized that I was unsure of my future goals and switched my degree focus to General Arts. Attending a community college allowed me to explore a number of interests and find the path that was right for me. I took classes on religion, sociology, art, music, and even serial killers, all of which helped me work toward my degree.
My favorite thing about my community college experience was the instructors. They genuinely care and are true champions of their student’s success. I met my favorite teachers at Scottsdale Community College, some of which I still run into from time to time. They are world-class and go above and beyond to make sure their students are prepared to transfer or enter the workforce.
I wish more people understood the opportunities and value of community colleges. Students are receiving the same education as a four-year institution for a fraction of the cost. Why wouldn’t you not want to save money during your first two years of college?
Stephanie's story is a reminder of why community colleges should always be celebrated. Community Colleges provide high-quality, low-cost opportunities for many. By dismantling the negative stigma surrounding community colleges, we can see them as the treasures they truly are. By shifting focus on the opportunities they create, versus the type of education institution will help others see how stellar community colleges are for creating and cultivating educational equality.