While confidence in higher education continues to slide across the country, Oklahoma City Community College alumni said they have never been more appreciative of their college experience.
In response to rising concerns about student debt and the value of degrees, researchers at the Gallup analytics firm recently found that a high-quality experience in school blunted such negative perspectives. The recent Gallup study showed that only 48% of U.S. adults expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in colleges in 2018, down from 57% in 2015.
Not so for OCCC alumna Terrisa Singleton, director of Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation.
“Because of financial and time constraints, for years, I believed a college degree was out of reach,â€ she said. “But then I found OCCC. One of the most important lessons I learned from attending OCCC was you can always find a way over or around the barriers to your goals.â€
For some former students, community college was an opportunity to plan out their futures, consider options and expand their perspectives. Internationally renowned musician Edgar Cruz, for example, said he did not have any professional goals after high school and he lacked the confidence to enroll at a university. For others, higher education was always part of their career blueprint, as was the case for Rocky Chavez, founder of the Oklahoma Heritage Group LLC.
Chavez and other OCCC alumni recently shared a few thoughts about what they learned while attending the college and how that experience led to professional success.
Rocky Chavez, founder of Oklahoma Heritage Group, head of Strategic Planning at ONE Gas and business adjunct professor at OCCC:
“The entrepreneurship class at OCCC was taught in an action-based environment. I was able to put theory into practice by writing a business plan with classmates. This eventually led me to launch my first company in the following spring,â€ Chavez said.
“I learned many valuable lessons from running a business while continuing my studies. First was time management to meet business and educational goals. Second was to learn that it is okay to make mistakes as long as a lesson was learned in the process.â€
Terrisa Singleton, director of Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation:
“I started at a four-year university right after high school, but life happened, and I dropped out my sophomore year. While I was fortunate enough to enter a viable career field, I knew I would always be held back by the lack of higher education. Because of financial and time constraints, for years, I believed a college degree was out of reach. But then I found OCCC,â€ Singleton said.
“One of the most important lessons I learned from attending OCCC was you can always find a way over or around the barriers to your goals. This lesson in pushing past â€˜Plan A’ and thinking outside of the proverbial box has served me well throughout my career and my educational pursuits, which recently culminated in a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma.â€
Clytie Bunyan, business and lifestyles editor at The Oklahoman:
“I learned the significance of mentoring. I had some professors who were great mentors and now are my life-long friends. They are an integral part of my success. Now, I mentor young journalists and I see the same hunger to succeed that I had as a student at OCCC. I hope I could make as meaningful an impact on them as my mentors did for me,â€ Bunyan said.
Lacey Lett, anchor and reporter at KFOR-TV:
“Knowing the value of an internship is the most important lesson I learned from attending OCCC. I had seven internships while in college, most of which I received with the help of my mentor and former OCCC professor Gwin Faulconer-Lippert. These internships gave me hands-on experience with the jobs I would be seeking once I graduated from college. In fact, I gained employment from my first internship. I always tell students to apply for internships where you would want to work. It will pay off in the end,â€ Lett said.
Edgar Cruz, internationally renowned musician:
“After graduating High School in 1980, I had no major goals or educational plans. I did not have the confidence to attend higher education institutions like OU, OSU or OCU. The most important lesson I learned from Oklahoma City Community College was to be given a chance at a higher education without the stress of population, cost, competition and travel,â€ Cruz said.
“I felt much more confident to work at my own pace. This boosted my ambition to move forward. After receiving my associate degree in music, I was eager to continue and decided to stay another year to earn my associate in drafting and design, which in turn led me to get my bachelor’s of music in guitar performance from Oklahoma City University. The three years I attended OCCC set the foundation to achieve my professional success as a full-time musician to this day.â€
Murod Mamatov, owner and operator of Ellis Island Coffee and Wine:
“I started as a business major at OCCC when I was first exposed to accounting. It was obviously so important that I ended up changing my major to accounting,â€ Mamatov said.
“The experience I gained helps me every single day. It was fundamental to my career and as a business owner. Accounting is the primary indicator of a business’s health, almost like an EKG (electrocardiogram). By looking at its accounting statement, you can tell if things are going well, if it’s stable or if the business is struggling and why. It’s the heartbeat.â€
About Oklahoma City Community College
OCCC enrolls nearly 20,000 students annually. The college is currently the largest adult basic education provider in the state. OCCC offers a full range of associate degree programs that prepare students to transfer to baccalaureate institutions while other degrees and certificate programs prepare students for immediate employment.