Former Student Sends a Letter of Thanks

YESSENIA RIVERA
Special to El Vaquero

When I came to GCC, I had no idea of the educational system in the United States. I came to the U.S. in 1987 from Honduras and visited Belmont High school for one day. I did not speak English at that time, and things were very different.

Most of the students at Belmont High were Latinos, but I still felt different from the other students. I decided not to go to high school anymore, as the whole high school experience was terminated in that one scary day.

Seven years went by and I felt that I wanted to do something useful with my life. In May 1994, I gave birth to my son Bryan, but he died only 26 days later. The experience that I went through with the loss of my son was very painful and enlightening in many ways.

I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. But how could I? I still did not speak English fluently. I had finished only up to 8th grade back home in Honduras and I had no idea of how to start. On top of that I was illegal. I did not have a green card and during that time I did not even have a working permit.

I was very fortunate to end up a GCC. I was nervous when I went to matriculate. There were all these questions in the application that I did not understand, and the scariest one was “legal status?.” I had only applied for a green card at that time, but that helped me to get into GCC.

I began taking classes at GCC and I did very well the first semester. The professors were friendly and the classes were not large.

Just the names of these classes scared me; however, I realized that if I worked hard, I could understand what I was being taught and be successful in the class.

My confidence was not only the result of my hard work. As I went through most of my classes I felt that those professors teaching me cared not only about teaching, but also cared about me as a person. I felt that there was a huge effort by most of my professors to get to know me both as a student and as an individual. This influenced me in such a way that when I took my exams.

I still remember once when I went to ask my instructor, Lynn Pomeroy, my final grade in Calculus 1. She asked me to come into her office. Her voice became extremely happy as she said, ” Oh, Yessenia, you did so well on your final! You got your A!” I was borderline between the A and the B so that A meant a lot to me, but the way she delivered the news meant even more. Episodes like that one are the ones that kept me going to GCC with a positive mind. I felt that everyone there wanted me to succeed. GCC was like my second home.

The environment at GCC was so embracing that I ended up staying there for eight semesters! Now, looking back, I don’t think it was all that bad. In those four years, I learned my college English, finished my high school diploma (through the GCC extension) and took all the classes that I needed to transfer to a four-year college. I finished a B.S. in Biochemistry at USC in December 2001.

My experience at USC was so-so. Academically I had no problems, but the biggest problem that I found at USC was the lack of interest that professors had in their students. I had come from a caring environment and at USC I did not find that.caring environment.

At GCC, I was able to relate better with my classmates. During SI hours (supplemental instruction) we would study together and help each other out and I ended up becoming friends with many of them.

Presently, I am a medical student at UCSF. I just finished my second week and I love it. My experience so far has been rewarding. There is a lot of material covered in a short time, but I feel that I am well prepared for the challenge. At GCC, I developed excellent study skills, but most importantly, I learned that with a little love and care you could change a person’s life.

I would not be here today had it not being for my professors at GCC who taught me well, pushed me to the limit, and who cared about me.

I want to thank all of my professors, Including Ann Reed and especially Dr. Jean Lecuyer, who throughout the years was first my professor, then my mentor and friend, and who now I love and respect like a father.

If any student reads this, all I can tell you is that the grades that you get at GCC are as important as those that you’ll get at a four-year-college. This is the time to develop good studying habits and to learn as much as you can. I was successful at USC because I had excellent foundations from the classes that I took at GCC.

Also, remember that the key to success is hard work. I encourage all of you to go to office hours, get to know your professors and learn from them. We are provided with all the resources at GCC; use them!