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Success Stories

Dr. James "Booker" Preston had been practicing podiatry in Orange County for many years when he decided he needed a venue for artistic expression.  After buying a hand-held carving tool at a local Home Show in Anaheim, he was introduced to gourd carving at the International Gourd Festival at Welburn Gourd Farm in Fallbrook, CA. 
Gourd carving necessitated a different set of skills than he was familiar with, and the Santiago Canyon College Adult Continuing Education Program offered at the Orange Education Center, came to the rescue.  In order to jury into fine arts show, quality photos of his work had to be provided.  The Photography and Photoshop classes at SCC Orange Education Center, and the invaluable guidance and tutelage of John C. Haverstick, his instructor, were a terrific resource and have enabled Booker to successfully promote his work in the renowned Kimball Arts Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Sun Valley Arts Festival in Ketchum, Idaho.
Booker is now an award-winning gourd artist and photographer.  His work has shown for the last two years at the Laguna Beach Art-A-Fair, held each summer from June through August.  His fine art automotive photography was also juried into the Art-A-Fair this year and will be on display along side his award-winning gourd carving this summer (
Samples of his work can be seen at
Maryanin Sotelo immigrated to the United States with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Mexico. However, due to her inability to speak English, she was unable to work in the United States in her field. Instead, she worked in jobs such as house cleaner, babysitter, farm worker, and even sold boxes of strawberries on the streets. Whatever job opportunities were presented to her, she took; no job was too hard. 
Maryanin was determined to grow personally and professionally in her new homeland – USA. She soon realized that without the ability to communicate in English, she would not be able to reach the goals she had set for herself. Instead of going home to rest after work, she would take several buses and walk to school to attend her English as a Second Language classes at the Orange Education Center (OEC), the Adult Continuing Education division of Santiago Canyon College. She was determined to learn how to communicate fluently in English.
Gradually, she progressed from English as a Second Language (ESL) Transition classes (basic English) to her current level of ESL Intermediate 2.  Maryanin states that she has had several outstanding ESL instructors throughout her enrollment at OEC, however, Grazyna Kopydlowska continuously motivated her to keep learning and not to give up. She considers her one of the instructors that really made a positive impact in her life as a student. 
According to Maryanin, OEC and her instructors provided her with many opportunities to learn English, gain confidence, an in turn, fuelled her ambition until she attained her goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur.  Maryanin Sotelo currently owns 14 stores which offer services such as check cashing, money wiring, travel arrangements, several beauty salons, and a Laundromat, to name a few. She now also utilizes the OEC Career Center to recruit students for employment opportunities available through her businesses. She is a true believer of the term “Paying it forward.”
Rails Rasay has been described by his instructors and counselors as a high achiever, focused on accomplishing his goal of completing his high school diploma, and soon after, enter the Army where he will be entering the Linguistics Program. 
The soon to be Orange Education Center high school graduate has a GPA of 3.57 and is determined to continue his education with the ultimate goal of attaining an MBA from UCLA.    
Ramil’s career goal is to own his own business and travel the world. With the determination and drive displayed while completing his educational goal at the Orange Education Center, there is no doubt he will be a success in accomplishing his future goals and ultimately becoming a success in the business world.
Tammy Pineda became the first member of her family to attain a high school diploma on June 4, 2010; she is part of a family of seven siblings. She attended the high school program through the Orange Education Center (OEC), the division of Adult Continuing Education for Santiago Canyon College. 
Tammy Pineda is an 18 year old cancer survivor.
Her fight with cancer started at the age of 12, and led to a series of malignant tumor removal operations, followed by 25 rounds of radiation.  She is now cancer and seizure free!
She attended the high school program at OEC as a full time student with a GPA of 3.0. In spite of her battle with cancer, she rarely missed a day of school.
She continues her education at Santiago Canyon College   Tammy also serves as a volunteer at Mary’s Kitchen (a soup kitchen for the homeless and poverty stricken members of the community). And, is an active member on an advisory board to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.  She also serves as a “Foster Sister” and mentor to a developmentally challenged teen.
Tammy gives credit to the Orange Education Center teachers and staff (secretaries, teachers, aides and counselors) who made the most difficult time of her life, easier. She is looking forward to continuing her education at Santiago Canyon College and in the near future enter the medical field, where she feels she can make a difference.
Joshua Lofink
Approximately – 1 Year at OEC and received his High School Diploma in Summer 2012.
Joshua went on to enroll at Santiago Canyon College in the Fall 2012, and is currently enrolled as a Full Time Student.
Joshua’s goal is to complete his general education and transfer to a 4 year university and attain a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a minor in Industrial Design, and then proceed to attain his Masters in Mechanical Engineering.
His career life goal is to specialize in Rally Racing performance vehicle design, with an emphasis on specializing in SUBARU mechanics. One day, he plans to open his own custom Off-Road Performance vehicle shop.
Hi Dr. Frias,
Just call me the tortoise and the hair, slow and steady wins the race. I'm going to get my nurses aid certificate and my home health aid certificate so I can work in health care as I work towards my RN. I have always thought about compassionate end of life work and I think I want to specialize in that. All of my family that has passed I kept them at home and care for them. I think there is a need for a loving support system as you approach the end of your life time. Big thanks to Orange Education Center I had major problems in my life when I was in your program. That program helped me in more ways than the              diploma. Mr.Tomlinson always made me laugh with his good cop bad cop routine he wasn't about to put up with any wise guys. Every person at Orange Education Center touched me and helped me more than they will ever know.
Thanks again,
Bev Pace