Rebecca Clark always had the goal of attending college. Life, however, took her along an unexpected path. At 17, she dropped out of high school, married, and had her first child. She obtained her GED two years later, in 2003, when she was pregnant for the second time.
It wasn’t until she was 32, that Clark, then a mother of four, decided it was time to finally begin the journey of realizing her goal.
“I told my husband, ‘you know, I’m not getting any younger, and it’s starting to look like my returning to school is getting farther and farther away, so I’m doing it now,’” Clark recalled.
That was five years ago. Clark jumped in to college life with both feet, carrying a full-time class load her first two semesters at the Oakhurst Community College Center. She has since dropped down to a half-time schedule.
“I felt like my home life was suffering because I was gone so much,” Clark said. “Some days, I would be on campus at 9:30 a.m. for class, and then work from noon to 8 p.m. in the computer lab.”
When Clark began college, she was a Cal Works student and had to pick a major. Because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, medical assisting, which was a hot career at the time, was a logical choice.
“I really wasn’t sure about that major, though,” Clark admitted. “And then, when my 16-year-old daughter was admitted to Valley Children’s Hospital because of seizures, I discovered what I really wanted to do. A social worker came around to talk to us, and was there for anything we needed. I thought to myself I’m a people person, and would really love to do something like that.”
Clark’s declared major immediately changed to Social Work. Once she receives her AA in Liberal Studies (in May 2016), she plans on taking some time off before transferring to Fresno State in January 2017, where she will pursue her bachelors in Social Work.
Part of the reason she’s taking a break is for health reasons.
“I’ve been battling Lymes Disease for about five years now. I’ve been having trouble concentrating, have bad headaches and pressure in my head. I’m back and forth to my doctor, who wants to send me to a specialist in San Francisco,” Clark explained.
She is currently in one of her flare-ups, and is having difficulty in one of her two online courses - English, a subject she typically breezes through.
“Normally, I have a 3.5 - 4.0 GPA, but the past two semesters have been really hard. In English, I can read a chapter but then can’t remember what I just read,” Clark continued. “I need to take a break to get my health issues taken care of before attending Fresno State.”
Clark has been married 20 years to Jeff, whom she calls “very supportive” of her decision to return to school. She is also the mother of four children - ages 6, 11, 17, and 19. Besides being a wife, mother and college student, Clark is a federal work study student, employed on the Oakhurst campus as a computer lab technician and office assistant.
“College has been such a wonderful experience,” Clark said. “It’s so important to get a college education ... in today’s world, it’s a must have to get a good job.”
Amanda Gramajo-Enzensperger has been working since she was 15 to help pay her own way. The second youngest of seven children, she has been a student at the Oakhurst center for three years. She began her college studies while a Glacier High School student. Because her older sister, Joanna, 26, has cerebral palsy, Gramajo-Enzensperger decided a career as a sonographer was the perfect choice.
“Joanna can’t talk, is completely paralyzed, and can only move her head a little. I had to take care of her when my parents were at work,” Gramajo-Enzensperger explained. “Because of that, I knew at a young age that I wanted to work in the medical field ... that I wanted to do something where I could help and make people happy.”
She had hoped to attend Fresno City College’s radiology program for two years before entering the two-year Sonography program with Community Regional Medical Center. But, after talking with her school counselor, Gramajo-Enzensperger learned she wouldn’t be able to enter the radiology program (which is based on a lottery system) until at least 2018, which, she said “is just too long to wait.”
The prerequisite for getting into the CRMC program is to either have a degree in radiology or health science. At the moment, where she heads from the Oakhurst campus is anyone’s guess. The lottery system at Fresno City is a gamble, and Fresno State or Merced College could be in her near future instead.
“I just want to get my degree as soon as possible,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where I go.”
Once the time comes to move on, Gramajo-Enzensperger plans on moving closer to the college campus for budgetary reasons. She has and will continue to apply for grants, and is receiving financial aid, as well as scholarships and awards.
She is excited about becoming a sonographer, about giving her patients good news and seeing the joy in their faces. On the flip side, there’s giving her patients the bad news, “... but, I’m sure, the good news will outweigh the bad.”
“I have a very supportive family willing to help me out,” she said, “but I still face the obstacles of money and time. There are classes I need to take now that are not available at the Oakhurst center, so I have to drive down to Fresno. It takes a lot of time to drive between Fresno and Oakhurst, plus there’s the cost of gas. It would be a lot easier to live on or near a campus where classes weren’t so far away.”
Gramajo-Enzensperger currently juggles a full-time school load, and two part-time jobs - working a combined total of 25 hours - in the computer lab on the Oakhurst campus, and as a physical aide for Coarsegold Physical Therapy. While her days may be a little hectic and her schedule a little over-crowded, getting her degree is very important to her.
“With a college degree, there’s a greater possibility that I will get a job and better yet, a job that I really enjoy,” she said. “It gives me a chance to plan my future based on what I like, and once I do get the job I want, having a college education will open the door for so many more opportunities (like promotions), and adventures.”
The Oakhurst Community College Center and Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce are gearing up for this year’s Trunk-N-Treat event, held Halloween night, and are looking for volunteers to sign up as “trunkers.”
Trunkers fill their car’s trunk with candy and park at the college in order that children have a safer trick-or-treat experience from 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. Trunkers are asked to arrive at the college between 3-4:30 p.m. to set up before handing out treats.
Cars are often decorated in Halloween themes, along with trunkers in costumes to help celebrate the “spooktacular” holiday.
To sign up: (559) 683-3940 or email Annie Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.