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Student Story: Wendy D

I chose the Computer Office Administration (COA) program here at Central Coast College … to learn new skills for a better career. Due to personal issues, I dropped out of Monterey High School in my junior year. I went to work immediately and had been working consistently ever since. The jobs I’ve had have been menial. My first job was in an ice cream parlor and from there I went on to other dead-end jobs such as a gas station attendant and bagger/checker at Albertson’s.

I finally landed in the restaurant business about 20 years ago and that has been where I’ve been ever since, first as a server and then as a bartender. It is something that I was very good at and I did enjoy the work for most of those years. I learned a lot about running a business working my last job because my previous boss instilled a lot of confidence in me by giving me extra duties, such as some of the bookkeeping and doing the liquor ordering. When he sold the business after having owned it for nearly 30 years, the new owner was quite challenging. He was a very nice person and a “good guy”, but he did not have any restaurant experience at all. Actually, he came from the agriculture business. While I’m sure he was very good at what he did there, he was not very good at this. The restaurant business is a very different animal. It is a 24/7 kind of business. So, after five years, he ended up having to close the restaurant, the place where I had been for the last 13 years. I was in my mid-forties now, and the thought of having to look for another job in the same field really did not appeal to me. It’s a tough business and I was very much burned out on it. I had to file unemployment for the first time in my life.

During an orientation meeting we had through the unemployment office, I learned that it was possible for me to go back to school and they would help with some of the financial burden. That is where Central Coast College came in–I wasn’t really sure which way I wanted to go in my next chapter. I have a lot of interests, but I didn’t see myself making money playing with my dog, hiking, listening to music and taking photographs. (Not yet anyway) I needed to be realistic. Like everybody else, I have bills to pay. I looked through all the training options that the career center gave me and narrowed it down to a few. I was very much interested in the veterinary technician program or possibly the medical assisting program. But I also had always wanted to learn the actual “business” part of business. I had several meetings between the counselors at One Stop in Salinas and the counselors here at CCC, and they were very accommodating in helping me choose which path I should take. But before I could start here I had to get my GED, something that I just never got around to in all those years. I always meant to do it, but life gets in the way sometimes.

So I was approved for the financial aid and I got enrolled at CCC, but that left me with little less than 30 days to get my GED. I ended up enrolling in Monterey Adult School. I thought that the structure would be helpful and I felt I needed that discipline.  As it turned out I did more work on my own at the library, even though my teacher at the adult school was very nice and very encouraging. They give you assessments to help you figure out where you are and what you should be studying. My problem area had always been math. I remember in high school, right about the time we got to algebra is about the time I started having my issues. I had always been an “A” and “B” student before that. The assessments showed that I wasn’t too far gone, so I started studying fiendishly.

The GED test consists of Language Arts (which I scored high on in my assessment), Math, Science and Social Studies. I spent hours upon hours with Kahn Academy videos to help me with my math, as well as non-stop reading and watching videos for the science and social studies. I was kind of panicking at the fact that I had, what felt like, so little time to get this done before classes started. I had to go to San Jose for two of my tests because of the way they scheduled them. The tests in Monterey would not have been in time to start at CCC. When I came out of the math test, I did not feel good about the outcome at all. I thought for sure I had failed it. It was the last test I was to take to earn my GED, and I just felt dejected when I walked out of the testing room. You get your results via email, usually within an hour after finishing the test.  I was so nervous about my result, that I made it as far Gilroy and went and waited in a parking lot for the email to come in. You’ve never seen a happier person when I finally got it and it said I passed. I had earned my GED after leaving school nearly 30 years earlier!

So here I am. I love the idea of this school because of how quickly you get your training. I will have so many useful skills to take with me at the end of these nine months. I chose the COA program because I feel like it is going to give me the expertise I need to tackle the next phase of my life. I’m not exactly sure where it is going to take me, but I know it will be somewhere great. I have been here about 8 weeks now and the experience has been fantastic so far, and I could not be happier with my decision to apply here. I’ve made new friends and the class sizes are small, so you really feel like you’re getting a one on one experience with the instructors. And the instructors really seem to care about your education. I feel like they really want to see you succeed.

The price is right as well. There is no way I could have afforded to go to a four-year college or even a community college, which is what I looked into at first. It would’ve taken at least two years to get the training that I’m getting in nine months here and the cost would have been so much more than what I will be paying here. For the first time, I am truly excited about what the future has in store for me. I know something exciting is out there waiting for me once I am finished here, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be here.

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