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Success Stories

Angel I. Rodriguez

A typical day for me is getting up at 4:00am in order to catch my first bus then transfer at the UCI Medical Center by 5:00am to the bus that will drop me off in front of Santiago Canyon College. This has been my routine since April 16, 2014. The fact that I am homeless, staying in Costa Mesa, CA, has made things more challenging for me.

When I was asked "Why was it important for you to get your high school diploma?"

My answer was simple…when seeking a job; I realized that younger people had more education than I did. I’m in my 30’s. I then decided to go back to school and get my diploma.

I quit school in May 1994 – that date reminds me of the day when I made the biggest mistake of my life. I wish I could go back in time and stay in school. I keep thinking of all the time I wasted. But reality is, I can’t go back in time.
But finishing high school and attaining my high school diploma became my driving goal. However, the challenges I kept facing were 
    1) Transportation – paying for the bus pass 
    2) Getting enough rest. I sleep about 3 hours.

But I did it! I completed the SCC Adult High School program and received my diploma in May 2015. My mother couldn’t believe I was graduating with my high school diploma. She believed me only after seeing my diploma in my hands.

I started college classes at Santiago Canyon College in the Fall 2015.

I don’t believe I would have gone to college, if not for the strong encouragement of the counselors at SCC Division of Continuing Education. Through my introduction to college via the STARS program by Counselor Rosa Salazar De La Torre and Student Services Representative Isabel Garcia, they connected me to Juana Galvan from the EOPS program at SCC credit programs.

My goal is to become financially self sufficient. Once I graduate and start my work, I plan to return to SCC and offer scholarships to students. I want to focus on offering financial help to purchase bus passes to students that need them in order to get to SCC to complete their education.

For some people all they need to succeed in life, is a way to get to and from school. I know for me, that’s what I needed.

Right now, I am working on completing my general education classes. After I finish that, I’ll focus on what I want to do for my career. I want to specialize in Radiation Therapy. I researched careers and that led me to my selecting Radiation Therapy. It’s in great demand.

What I treasure the most from my experiences at Santiago Canyon College is the letter my instructor Ann Wu sent to me, asking me to return to school when I had dropped out of the Adult High School Diploma program/classes. That letter is what motivated me to visit the SCC Division of Continuing Education counseling office and speak to Rosa Salazar De La Torre. I explained to her that transportation was the reason I could not attend. Rosa immediately found a solution. And the rest is now part of my success story.

I will return to Santiago Canyon College once I finish my education and career goal….I want to return, as I stated before, but as a financial contributor. I want to see and help students reach their goals. I don’t want their inability to pay for bus passes to keep them from their goals.

Katerine Mejia

While attending ESL Classes at the OEC Provisional Education Facility (CHAPMAN Site), I saw a GED Test Preparation in Spanish flyer. I didn't know what a GED was – I asked a representative from Admissions and Records. Once it was explained to me, I discussed it with my father, he agreed that I should enroll in the class.

I started the class in summer 2015. I was determined to finish and pass the test by December 2015.

With the test preparation I received from the GED in Spanish preparation, the instructor Mr. Milton Ledezma great patience and teaching methods, I learned all that I needed.  My instructor was so supportive. The students in my class celebrated with me, my passing the test. It was as if we all had passed.  By my passing and attaining the GED, the students that are still in the GED test preparation class told me that they are now more motivated than ever. It was a group win!

Now that I have my GED, I  will now be able to transfer to a college credit program, and I now qualify for financial assistance thru FAFSA.  My career goal is to become a doctor.

I know that the support of the staff at OEC, the motivation and encouragement from my GED Test Preparation instructor Milton Ledezma, are the reasons I reached my goal. Thank you!

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.”