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Overcoming Barriers: Part 1

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Narrator: Walk onto any community college campus and you'll see students walking between classes, taking a momentary break, or maybe studying. Every one of them has a story. And every one of them has faced difficulty at some point in their journey - a journey that has brought them to higher education. But despite these difficulties, they are here, continuing on, getting an education, working to improve their lives. In this video you will hear the stories of students, instructors and advisors, all of whom have faced barriers of their own. Maybe you will identify with someone in this video. Or you may hear a story that is much like your own story. What is important to know is that as you face your own difficulties, you are not alone. While all of us have a unique story, many of us share common themes, common successes and common barriers. Hearing how others solved or overcame their barriers, you may find the beginning of a solution for dealing with whatever barriers you may be facing. As you listen to these stories, it is our hope you will find comfort, support, and even inspiration. Barriers come in all forms. Some are obvious; others are hidden. Some barriers may arrive as something seemingly insignificant, yet undermine all of the effort you are making toward your goal. Other barriers can be handled quickly and effortlessly, even though they look to be insurmountable at first. There are an unlimited number of issues that can be considered barriers: time, culture, physical barriers. Others include finances, language differences, geographic barriers. How ready are you for higher education? Are you shy or outgoing? What type of support do you have? Are you returning to school later in life? Are you trying to take on too much at one time? What types of pressures do you have on you as you are trying to attend college? All of these things can stand in the way of your education. As we begin this journey to understand barriers, remember a couple of things. Not all barriers are the same; challenges for one person may be inspiration for another. You are not alone or the first person to face these barriers. Hearing the stories of others facing similar difficulties will hopefully point you in the direction of a solution. There is always support on the campus of the school you will hopefully attend. You may have to do a little looking, but there are people at every school who want you to succeed and will help you in every way they can. And, understand that college is a natural time of change and growth. In Part One of this video on overcoming barriers, we are going to look at two important factors: money and family. Both can be seen as inspiration, and both can be barriers. It depends on your individual perspective. We'll start with money. If you are thinking about going to college, the first question that may occur to you is, "How am I going to pay for college?" Anh Hua (Student): My family cannot support my tuition here, so I applied for financial aid and the South Seattle Foundation scholarship. Paul Ung (Graduate): I was lucky enough that my work - working for my dad - helped me provide enough money to pay for community college. Laura Molina (Parent): We didn't have that money at home. I was trying to feed three kids, and I just couldn't do that. Long Ngo (Graduate): We all got to go through the rough times, and sometimes we just can't afford it. Jonathan Girmatzion (Student): So, one obstacle was looking for resources to pay for school. Maria Lopez (Graduate): The challenges that I found was not being able to understand the financial aid process. It was very difficult at the beginning and I always thought I was going to end up with this huge debt, everybody always say you're going to end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Linda Graham (Student): Not having support, not having money, not having the means of transportation even - Aisha Gordon (Student): I know part of the issue that I see with a lot of my friends and my friends' children, and just people in general, is where is the money to go to school? How am I going to pay for my education when I come from a single-parent family? You know, it's not like my mother is going to have the money to pay for college for me. Narrator: Aisha is like many students. She wanted to attend college but had no idea of how to pay for college, let alone balance this with the other commitments in her life. Aisha Gordon: Well, I had to think a lot about time and financial things because I have a son. So, I wasn't exactly sure how that was going to work as far as spending time with my son, having time to work, and go to school and do my homework. Vincent Beardsley (Student): I was a little was the basic nervousness of not knowing exactly how things were going to work. That, and, uh, it was just sort of a leap of faith, in a way. Narrator: Vincent had similar concerns. Vincent Beardsley: I had heard stories from other people who had been on financial aid, and they were able to support themselves and their family. But before I had... A few years back when I had gotten a phone call from one of the guys at North Seattle. He had said that both him and his wife had gone back to school at the same time, and they had a child that they were raising. And they were able to support the both of them going through school with financial aid. That, in itself, gave me a lot of hope. Narrator: As Huy Nguyen will tell you, take that leap of faith. Don't let the question of funding stop you from pursuing a higher education. Huy Nguyen (Student): When you start college, you don't ever afraid if you don't have the money to go to school. There are funding. There are resources that will help you on the way. If you have trouble with that, come talk to the supervisor, advisor, faculties on campus. They'll show you the way to overcome, they will show you. They try to find a way of helping you get through that difficulty. And they're very supportive. Narrator: A number of resources are available to help fund your higher education. There are scholarships, financial aid, grants, and loans; plus, there is work study available on campus. You can find information about these options on the website for any college or university or by visiting the campus of any higher education institution. Ask someone like college instructor Bob Dela-Cruz, and he will tell you they'll work hard to find you funding. Bob Dela-Cruz (South Seattle Community College Instructor): Academics at the community college is so, so significant, so important because it is available to everybody. The community college is there for all of us within the community, regardless of your financial situation, regardless of your family background. You have the opportunity, students have the opportunity to come here and then to get into academics and find out if this is what they like. And now, once you have that, you have so many opportunities, so many options which you wouldn't have if you only had your high school diploma. Nicole Alefaio (Student): Like you can just get like a scholarship just for being, just for being your ethnicity. For saying 'I'm Samoan' - I can get a scholarship just for saying that. Like they... schools want you if you have an ethnicity or a cultural background, they want you to come to their school. 'We want you to come to our school.' So just saying 'I have brown eyes'-there's all these really random scholarships. You just got to find them. They're everywhere. Francesca Maipi (Student): Even for being a girl and going to college...they'll give you a scholarship for that. Narrator: In fact, if you do some research, you will discover there are scholarships and other forms of funding for just about any group of people with which you can identify. Common themes for scholarships might be academic achievement and goals, talent as an athlete, your ability in fine arts and even your cultural or ethnic background. While some students may not feel they need any financial help, it is important for every student to consider all the resources available to them. Stephen Coates-White (SSCC Advisor): For financial aid, sometimes I'll have student tell me, 'Oh, I'm not going to apply for financial aid because my family makes too much money' or 'We're just going to pay out of pocket.' Things happen, life changes, and a parent or a spouse might lose their job, and you may need financial aid at some point in that time that you're studying here during that year. So, I always say, 'Apply anyway. Let someone else deny you or tell you that you don't have an award coming to you.' Or, I'll have students who say, 'I'm not going to apply for that scholarship because I don't think I'm worthy.' But I say, 'But student, what if you did apply, and they did award you?' 'Well, that means I could do this, this and this.' And so, let others deny you. Do the things that you can control and then let others take a look at it, and you might be pleasantly surprised that you do get something - an award, maybe a scholarship, something. But if you don't even participate or choose not to do it, you're denying yourself. And so, it's really important, I think, just to take the time and energy to do those things that you're considering because they might pay off for you. Narrator: And this type of funding is available at smaller private universities, too. Jason Moy (Seattle U., Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions): That's something a lot of students will just not even look at Seattle University or other private schools because they look at our initial tuition costs and get scared off a little bit. The good news is that we do offer a lot of scholarships and financial aid to transfer students here at Seattle University. The good news is that we offer two transfer scholarships that we award year-round. Narrator: And once you've found the important funding you need, be sure to keep on top of deadlines. Teri Eguchi (SSCC Advisor): So many times we see students who apply late. Their financial aid hasn't been completed yet. They're in school, and they're hoping that everything gets straightened out, and it's not going to interfere. But often times it's because they don't end up being eligible, it does interfere with their education, and they have to drop out, or they're not able to continue. So that's a huge barrier financially because of the failure to plan at the beginning, at the front end. Narrator: Any number of students will tell you that if you take the risk to find the funding, it will be worth it. Just ask Aisha Gordon. Aisha Gordon: For a few years there, before I decided to come to college and everything, I didn't really do much. And, for me, knowing every day I have something to get up and get out of bed and go do - that makes me, at the end of the day, feel like I've accomplished something. It's huge. Narrator: One of Aisha's biggest motivators for going to college is her son. She knows a college education will help to provide for her son and set a good example for him. Family plays a significant and complicated role in a student's decision to pursue college or university. Geni Sheikh (Student): I just want to add that families really support to the students. And if you're a mother, and you have a husband, your husband is the number one support who can help. If your wife is going to school, don't just think like, 'Oh, she's going to school.' She's really going through a lot. She needs the support from you. Xavier Maipi (Francesca's Father): The typical Micronesian family does not have that on its priority list, talking about education, college at home. Sochetna Chhay (Student): I know since I was young that I have to go to school to the end, till I cannot go any more, so I can have a better future. Apasara Jitviriyanon (Graduate): I think for the family part, support on an emotional and understanding about they have to study hard. And like, what I say, give them some time to study and provide some space for study that is... It will help a lot. Peterson Chum (Student): My family supported me in many ways throughout this whole process, financially, emotionally and it's been a great experience. Ilhan Wheliye (Student): For me, it wasn't ... There's no obligation besides just going to school with my parents. Ever since they got here, it's just like 'school, school, school.' When I got older, I had to learn how to balance things out - like going to work, going to school and how to get up there. That was just the obstacle that I went through. Connie Maipi (Francesca's Mother): For many families, Pacific Island families, it is already pre-decided what your position is going to be in the family and even what your family's position is in relationship to other families or clans on your islands. And so there are certain families that are considered the leaders, and it's expected that their children will be leaders. And then you have other families where they are not expected to become educated and become more than what, basically a caste system, in a way. They're not expected to be more than what every person in their family had been in the past. Ikran Ismail (Student): I think, for me, one of the biggest obstacles was my family. I felt like, for me, I had a responsibility to be a sister, a cousin... to be a niece... and I'd always let my problems at home get to my education. Sokunthea Kong (Graduate): I had to ask my husband for advice and he suggest me to get a short course, called nursing assistant, because I always wanted to be a nurse when I was young. So, he's always there to advise me, to support me financially and also take care of my kids while I was at school and that kind of helped me, motivate me. Damaris Valdez (Student): I think one of the struggles for me was having the support of my family. They didn't quite understand why I wanted to go to college. It was more important for my mom to see me graduating from high school because she didn't finish high school. And so she was like 'just finish high school' and then that was it. That was the only conversation we had. Patrick Torres (Graduate and SSCC Math Instructor): I'd say that it was my parents that really helped me a lot in going to college because they wanted me to focus on school a hundred percent. And without their support, I don't know if I could even make it. Sy Ear (SSCC Advisor): It's a family expectation that we go to college. And that's instilled into our behavior, our future thinking. It's instilled by my parents, because my dad is a high school teacher, so I didn't really have a choice. I had to go to college. Francesca Maipi: They might want to go to school, but there's a lot of family pressure sometimes to find a job and send money back to them because they really need it or want the money. Narrator: We all know families play a significant role in our lives. Since every family dynamic is different, it is no wonder that families can have a wide variety of impacts. Families can be a great source of support or can, unwittingly, create barriers for a potential student and their desire for higher education. Sometimes they can be both at the same time. Tram Dang (SSCC Instructor): We're originally from Vietnam, and I have five people in my family. We came to the United States in 1988, but we left Vietnam in 1986. So after the war, my parents, the 80's was a very difficult time in Vietnam, very low resources, limited resources, so everyone was trying to get out of the country. So, I started the third grade here. And I was, during elementary school, middle school, I was a very motivated student. I did really well. But when I got to high school, I didn't do too well. I wanted to... I didn't have a good time in high school. I was trying to take AP classes and doing Running Start, way more than I should have. And so it was really overwhelming and I didn't do well and it kind of spiraled down. But the whole time when I was struggling with school, I didn't really tell my parents much about it. So they didn't know, they just thought she's doing fine. She's always a good student. Things like that. And so my Dad was really, really in shock. I can still remember the day when I told him. I was the oldest so they expected that 'she would have to go through college and get a really good degree otherwise her siblings would not follow in her footsteps,' things like that. I think, like, sometimes you feel like it's too overwhelming and you feel like you don't know if you can do it. I think it helps to have people who say we're here to support you and to give you the help, so do what you can and let us know where you're failing and then we can have the support to help you. Narrator: Counselor Stephen Coates-White has had many discussions with students regarding the pressures that family can add. Stephen Coates-White: I just wanted to go back to family expectations as well. I think that's another big barrier because when we're talking about life balance and being the superhero like I was mentioning - it really means having some pretty hard conversations sometimes and not necessarily discounting what family expectations are, but listening to those and also engaging family in what you're doing on campus and sharing some of your own needs or what you're able to do and not able to do. And those are really hard conversations just in respect to culture and some family values and other types of things. So, I would encourage students not to shy away from those hard conversations, but to engage in them because in part of that process, at least you can potentially find some solutions with family and maybe even inviting family in and being part of what you're doing on campus so that they can see the importance. I think it's something that I would highly recommend. Narrator: While it may not be easy to achieve for some, the student, receiving the support of their family, will play a large role in the student's success in college. Teri Eguchi: The importance of support from their families - emotional support - knowing that this is tough being in school. It takes a lot of energy, and they need to be cheered on every once in a while to hang in there. Times get tough. If families can understand that and be there for them, cut them a little slack sometimes, maybe they're not going to get all their chores done, but they're studying for a test. Make sure they have a nice, quiet place to study. Become involved, as much as their student will allow them to in what they're learning. And the deadlines - financial aid deadlines - and try to be supportive making sure that you're providing the information that they may need so that they're going to be able to go to school. So, it's finding ways to help out even though maybe they have not gone to school themselves before and this is the first time someone in their family is, but there's so many ways that they can be there for their student, letting them know that they believe in them and that they're there for them, rooting for them all the way. Narrator: If you are facing an issue, and it is placing a barrier between you and your success at college or making you think twice about pursuing higher education, you will find resources on most campuses to help you with these issues. They may be counselors, instructors, or they may be fellow students. Chances are the seeds to a solution are there for you. In Part Two of Overcoming Barriers, we will look at other situations that pose difficulties for students, like language differences, lack of good role models, and poor educational background, and ways that students have overcome those barriers to be successful.

Video Details

Duration: 24 minutes and 19 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Seattle Community Colleges Television
Director: Seattle Community Colleges Television
Views: 37
Posted by: scctv on Nov 2, 2012

Every community college student has faced some sort of barrier. There are all sorts of barriers, from money issues, family issues and language barriers, to learning how to balance your priorities, finding motivation, lack of self confidence and more. Hear from student, instructors and advisors how about the barriers they’ve faced and how they learned to overcome them. Making Achievement Possible (MAP) Video Series: MAP is a college success video series designed to help students, potential students, and their families learn to navigate the college system and gain the skills necessary for academic success. MAP consists of sixteen short videos, each with curricular materials for instructional use. More information is available at

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