Two Austin Community College Alumni from different walks of life, share their stories in hopes to change the stigma of junior colleges.
Written, Photo & Video by Marissa Greene
Once one has come to the point of receiving their high school diploma or completing their GED, what’s next? Well, that may look different for some people. It could be taking a gap year, entering the workforce or attending a college.
“Not going to college was never an option,” says ACC Alumni Network Council President, Lynn Kindler. Like many, Kindler was encouraged to take, at least, one year at ACC by her father. So, she began her educational journey in 1980 at the Rio Grande campus.
Decades later, a first-generation student, Jose Sosa, began his college education at ACC in 2002. “It was a big challenge, to be honest,” he says. “I never thought I would be able to accomplish my associate’s degree.”
Sosa was able to further his education through ESL and math classes to better his GPA at ACC before transferring to a four-year university.
Many pursue community college to make the transfer to a four-year college. However, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, this past fall approximately 13.3 million first-year students enrolled in a four-year university, while 6.7 million students attended a two-year college. That’s nearly twice as many students paying more for the basic courses. What causes this gap – is there a stigma related to attending a community college?
“I had a lot of shame going on…it’s like everybody knew I was going to a community college instead of UT or St. Edwards,” says Kindler. “But I knew I was getting the education I needed because the classrooms were smaller and I was getting the attention I needed from the professors.”
As some may feel a lack of clout at a community college, others feel the stress of juggling daily tasks.
“I had to meet deadlines, go to work, study for my tests, and travel between campuses because I didn’t have transportation at the time,” Sosa says.
Prioritizing these tasks can be difficult for some. ACC works to create a variety of resources provided to its enrolled students, from financial readiness with Student Money Management to goal setting with academic coaches to networking with the Alumni Council.
“I was very disciplined to take my tests,” Sosa says as he took advantage of ACC resources in order to comb through all that he had to accomplish. Once he completed his associate’s, he wasn’t done just quite yet. Sosa took it to the next level by attending Texas State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2013.
“I truly believe in education, it is very important,” Sosa says. “It can open so many doors professionally in so many ways.”
After looking back at all of her accomplishments and her start at ACC, Kindler recommends trying a two-year college before anything else. “It has taken a progression of many years for me to get to the place where it’s not a shame thing to go to community college. In fact, as a career coach…if you don’t know exactly what you want to do and where to get it, why wouldn’t you go to a community college to get the first two years knocked out?”
Kindler completed so many of her classes at ACC that she only had to earn 30 credit hours after transferring to UT. She claims to have a passion for helping others, “when I’m working with somebody and they’re really struggling with something or looking at something in their life, I can help them unlock the knowledge and gifts that they already had in them and wow that’s awesome.”
As members of the ACC Alumni Network Council, Kindler and Sosa show thanks to ACC for being their first steps to where they are today.
“I would like to give back to all that ACC has given me,” Sosa says. “What I tell students is that when I came to ACC I was not very fluent in the language. So if I could do it anybody else could do it.”
Whether you are looking to go back to school or beginning your first semester of community college, think about Jose Sosa and think about Lynn Kindler and think to yourself if community college is really all that bad?
Jose Sosa is a Lead Safety Coordinator at Workers Defence Project and owner of Sosa Income Tax and Adela’s Cleaning Services. He also earned OSHA Safety Certification to educate construction workers and nonprofit organizations about safety in the workplace.
After college, Lynn Kindler had a variety of careers such as an Executive Assistant to the Publisher of Texas Monthly, a mentor coach, Producer and host for Blog Talk radio, a career coach, amongst many others.