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Programs that prepare students to work in fields such as Apprenticeship, Automotive Collision Technology, Automotive Technology, Design and Engineering Technology, Diesel/Clean Diesel Technology, Electronics, Horticulture, and Welding.
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The POST-certified Basic Law Enforcement Academy at ARC prepares you for the many different facets of a career in public safety. We teach equity and how to repair, build, and maintain trust with the communities we serve. Learn more
Great story about ARC vocal jazz student Caroline McCaskey performing the National Anthem before a 2022 Oakland A's game
Join us for How to Develop an Effective Job Search Plan on 12/9 at Noon on Zoom. Your job search is your own, and, yet, in today’s complicated job market, there are common strategies that are proven to work. RSVP to join us for this career workshop:
Brittany Tipton didn’t believe she was cut out for college. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to college, I didn’t think I would be able to get through college, so I joined the Marine Corps, ended up blowing out my knee and came home. [The Marine Corps] changed the way I thought about the world, the way I thought about myself as a person.”
After Brittany returned home, she decided to enroll in American River College, in large part because of the large veteran population. She credits much of her success so far at ARC to Mike Robinson and the Veterans Resource Center. “Mike Robinson is a huge support at ARC. I wouldn’t still be in school without him. [The] Veterans Resource Center helps students all the way through. Not many colleges have that.”
Despite the support she received from the Veterans Resource Center, Brittany unexpectedly found herself homeless and faced with the choice of paying bills or buying food. She applied for a grant from the Veteran Student Emergency Fund and was awarded $450 to help her buy food and move into safe housing. It allowed her to stop stressing and be able to focus on school.
“I encourage anyone who needs it to apply. Without that boost, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in school full-time and work full-time,” says Brittany. “I can get through the day because I know I have somewhere safe to sleep at night.”
Brittany expects to finish her degrees in Paramedics and Fire Technology in a few years, and then hopes to get hired at a Fire Department. With a few years of experience under her belt, she then plans to take the investigators exam.
I emigrated from El Salvador and arrived in California fresh out of high school in 2003. Back in those days, the internet was not what it is today. I had not been exposed to other languages or cultures. My early years in El Salvador encompassed a life of limitations and an ongoing brutal civil war, which meant poverty, insecurity, scarcity, and political unrest. Those were uncertain times, and when you are so young it really stays with you. My parents worked extremely hard but there were few opportunities around.
Once in the U.S., I began working at a grocery store in North Sacramento. I remember people’s looks because I did not understand enough English or could not express myself. I clearly remember pranks by co-workers, their put downs such as “go back to your country,” and other discriminatory behavior. All of this made me feel unwelcome and small. For example, when asked to go grab “clam chowder or ravioli,'' I had no idea what that meant. I did not know idiomatic expressions or pop culture. All I knew was the volcanoes, tropical jungle, and the Latin American history, culture, and cuisine of my homeland. It is a terrifying situation for a young woman.
A few months in, I was able to secure a better job at a large school district. This allowed me to have the headspace to think a bit ahead. I learned about American River College. I went in and it was quite intimidating. I had never been to a learning institution that big ever. All my schools in El Salvador were so tiny in comparison to American schools. I had to ask strangers as to what to do to enroll or how things worked around here. I had no concept of a counselor. I had no idea what that meant. I would meet with them and leave still confused, simply because I had no context to what they were talking about. Finally, I took placement tests and proceeded to take ESL classes. I could have never guessed this would be a decisive moment in my life. Had I not taken the time to learn English well, I would not be where I am today. ARC served as a buffer to the shock of being a newcomer on so many levels. I was among peers who shared a similar experience. I was lucky to learn from dedicated professors. The student support service centers helped me navigate an otherwise intimidating situation.
Unless you are an immigrant, you have no concept of what it is like to walk around not knowing anything. I mean that literally. I did not know cultural norms, which meant I did not know how to act or dress American. I stood out. I had to couch surf as I did not have a place to live just months after arriving. I did not know there were stores that had discounted groceries or places to buy used furniture. My first apartment was empty for a while. For years, I scrambled to make ends meet. Many times, filling my belly with water because I had no food. I had no extra money. I was not financially literate. I lacked most survival skills. The great side of this story is that somehow I learned to navigate everything. This experience made me tough, resilient, and fearless.
After earning an Associate’s Degree at American River College, I was able to transfer to Sacramento State University. Once again, I was truly lost. I still did not understand the higher education system and the difference between community college and a 4-year college. At that point, I had decided to leave my stable job at the school district to pursue my undergraduate degree, which motivated me to start my own business. I worked as a translator and interpreter for about eight years and so it was the logical type of business to go into. I am proud my business has been active and gradually growing over the last 15 years.
In 2015, I was able to successfully graduate with a B.A. in Communication Studies with a concentration in international and intercultural communication. Around the same time, I started volunteering for various causes in the community. I was awarded Inspiration Estrella by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2018. That same year, I went to Italy to participate in a highly specialized training on intercultural communication research. In 2019, I served as a Governor appointee as Language Access Manager for the California Complete Count - Census 2020 Office. I developed the Census standards and Census methodology used by the state of California in their outreach campaign. The work I did was so meaningful to me. I hope to build upon it in the future.
My community activism led me to realize I wanted to do something about injustice and inequality. I enrolled at Sacramento State University to pursue a masters in public policy and administration. In May 2021, I joined the 4 percent of Latinas who have attained a master's degree or higher in the United States. I was nominated as CSUS’ Newman Civic Fellow in 2020. I have a deep gratitude for Sac State because that is where I found mentors among peers and faculty, but also made lasting friendships. Over the span of almost 17 years in the language access realm, I have learned a lot and can provide new insights on this topic. As part of my graduate work, I developed www.rethinklanguageaccess.com. A space to discuss and think of innovative ways to address the language gap affecting over 25 million Americans.
Of course, this journey has not been easy. I have put myself through college while supporting my mother back home. There were months I did not know how I would pay the rent or bills. At times, I had to work multiple jobs. I had to still show up in hostile environments despite inner battles with deep trauma. I doubted my ability to succeed. I was ashamed of my accent. I dealt with racist treatment almost everywhere I went. I had to learn content and language at the same time, which meant reading the same sentence too many times to count. It involved being the recipient of microaggressions.
In the end, I can say that this immigrant experience gave me an edge few people have. In fact, I developed a sense of setting goals and mapping a plan to achieve them. I became keenly strategic and intentional. Sometimes I cannot believe how much my life has changed. I grew up having so little. I own a small business, and I am getting ready to open a second venture. I intend to do public policy and/or civic engagement consulting. I continue to give back and serve on community organization boards. I am so pleased I am at a place where I can walk away from hostile environments because of my knowledge, education, and experience. I can choose where I work and what I do. None of it would be possible if I had not been able to learn English and earn my transfer prerequisites at ARC.
To all my fellow immigrants and queer people of color, never give up. Also, once you do achieve your dreams, take the time to help others along the way.
Kelvin Burt is an African American student who is studying to help other students of color living in poverty to find school, stay there, and finish. Kelvin is majoring in sociology at ARC with the hope of discovering the social forces that prevent the upward mobility of people of color, a topic he unfortunately already knows a lot about.
Along with working full-time to help support mom and his six brothers and sisters, Kelvin keeps his academic pursuits in good standing so he can be involved in ARC student leadership and participate as a leader/mentor at school. Kelvin is committed to helping ARC be inclusive and diverse, and is interested in equitable policies, strategies, and practices to reduce the achievement gap.
Kelvin says ARC strives to make sure students feel safe and secure both inside and outside of the classroom. And, he says if you are first generation, low income or even simply new to campus, that caring is important because of the challenges students face. Kelvin will say to anyone who will listen that at ARC, the students feel like they are being supported.
In Rebecca Vail's journey at American River College, she changed majors four times, starting off with Aerospace Engineering before moving on to Mechanical Engineering, then trying out Computer Science before realizing she wanted to study Geography.
"I originally chose ARC because I didn't have the funding to go to a university. ARC was local and affordable and my mom had gone there," Vail says. "It's a great place to get started. And now I had changed my major quite a few times while I was there. And I'm glad that I went to ARC because if I went to a university I would have wasted so much money trying to figure out what I enjoyed."
One of the things that Vail noted is that at ARC, she had the support she needed while she figured out exactly what she enjoyed learning. She found that she was able to complete her undergraduate studies through the school, and that the transfer to Sacramento State was relatively easy.
While transferring, Vail says ARC counselors were able to tell her exactly what she needed to get done.
Looking back, Vail advises current and future students that they find their own path and are open to adjusting as needed.
"If you find yourself at a roadblock and you don't think you can do it, maybe find a different route. The goal is to get through it," Vail says. "If one road isn't the right road for you, try a different path."
After graduating in May from Sacramento State with her Bachelor's degree in Geography, Vail plans to come back to ARC. She wants to take classes needed for Sac State's Master's in Biology program.
"I just really love learning," she says. "I'm hoping maybe one day I can use my education to make the world a better place. I don't know where I'll end up."
While Vail isn't sure where she'll end up, she is sure where she is going to be spending the fall semester and is excited to be coming back.
I started at American River College in January of 2016, when I was 18, after moving to Sacramento from Williamsburg, VA on my own. Moving here alone brought with it some great struggles that I couldn't have foreseen at that age, but which had a profound impact on me personally. These difficulties ultimately left me homeless/at-risk for a large portion of the time that I was attending ARC, but both during this period and during the period which led up to it, I met some of the most amazing and inspiring professors who were always willing to stay after class to chat with me. Professors like Frank Araujo, Kathleen Collihan, and Betty Chan all advised and mentored me at the most difficult and isolating times in my life, and I can never thank them enough for that.
It was through these reaffirming experiences with the amazing professors at ARC that I, as someone who hated school growing up (I had something like 120 absences throughout high school), ultimately became the student and person I am today. Likewise, growing up, the opportunities for academic clubs like Model United Nations (MUN) were pretty limited or inaccessible for me – but it was at ARC that I came to see their value. Even though I was working in AmeriCorps as a VISTA and still at-risk as far as housing, I decided to join MUN – which is run by Professor Collihan – during my last semester at ARC. While my other responsibilities ultimately prevented me from being able to go to the MUN conference, the experience of getting to work with others in an extracurricular academic context pushed me to continue doing so at UC Davis. Plus, Professor Collihan made it fun, which always makes learning and engaging easier (I'll never forget the classes I took with her as well)! Similarly, it was through the creative-writing festival hosted at ARC, SummerWords, that I learned how much I loved writing. Were it not for the scholarship the school awarded me to attend two years in a row, I might have never found my love for poetry and likewise my love of making music/rapping.
Now, I'm finishing up my last quarter at UC Davis, where I transferred in 2019. Through a variety of research experiences and extracurricular activities here – including doing stories for the university radio station and working on a documentary about institutional racism – I found my home in studying American politics. Last quarter I completed my senior honors thesis on Black respectability politics in the US Congress, and I plan to continue researching this and related topics in graduate school. To that end, I also recently accepted an offer to attend Princeton University this fall to pursue a ( fully funded!) PhD in American Politics with an emphasis on Black politics, class conflict, and political behavior.
While writing my thesis I was also awarded my first fellowship via the American Political Science Association's Minority Fellowship Program. I also got the wonderful opportunity to present my thesis proposal at the Emerging Scholars Conference at the University of Michigan, which helped introduce me to more amazing scholars in my cohort and faculty across the discipline. As a first generation student who grew up poor and often was told by teachers that I was a disappointment (or that I had potential but didn't apply myself), my experiences at ARC with such kind and passionate faculty were incredibly healing and life-affirming. It was there that I learned not only that it was possible for me to love school, but that I might want to give back and teach or research myself one day. Now, I have the opportunity to do so, and I can definitely say that despite the turmoil I went through to get here, I wouldn't be at this point without ARC and I'm forever grateful for that experience. At the very least, I'd have a lot more debt and probably be more cynical about the prospect of higher education otherwise.
Personally, my experiences in community college led me to believe that more people should attend community college first. Contrary to the prevailing advice when I was growing up, I felt that ARC gave me the toolkit and self-confidence to handle the academic rigor at places like UC Davis and Princeton. Lastly, I cannot underscore enough how positively impactful my overall experience was at ARC – the communal environment and incredibly genuine, thoughtful, and caring faculty changed my life – professors and support staff alike! I felt I had the freedom there to pursue all of my academic interests (I started off in English and anthropology before coming to politics). This ultimately gave me the means to find my calling.
For Muzamil Ahmad, going to American River College meant following in his family's footsteps. Wanting to pursue a pre-med education, Ahmad applied to ARC after hearing the science education at the college was unparalleled.
"I took almost all my science courses at ARC and I really enjoyed them," Ahmad said. "I thought I got a really good education and had some of the best professors at ARC."
In addition to wonderful professors, Ahmad found a community at ARC, building friendships with fellow students following the same pre-med track that he was pursuing. He also found a home in the ARC Student Senate where he put his mind to making a difference.
"In every aspect, I had such a great time," Ahmad said. "Some of my best friends I met at ARC."
Ahmad found that serving 30,000 students while on the Student Senate was an incredibly rewarding experience, and it put his pre-med knowledge to work. One of the projects that he focused on was placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) campus-wide and working with EMTs to host basic life support training for staff.
Ahmad then transferred to UC Berkeley and once there, he was elected to a seat on the Cal student senate, which as a transfer student was very uncommon.
"What I kept hearing was, 'Oh, well, you're a transfer student – transfers don't win,'" Ahmad said. "What helped me get elected was the experience I had at ARC."
As Ahmad works with his staff on things such as meetings, planning and different projects on the Cal campus, he has found that his experience at ARC was not only rewarding but prepared him to successfully transfer and engage in his new campus community. Although it wasn't easy at first to see beyond the stigma of attending a community college, it is a decision he wouldn't change for anything.
"I would see all my friends – they went straight to 4-year universities. I'm living with my parents still," Ahmad said. "But I would do it over again the same way every single time because it's so worth it. The people you're able to meet, all the classes you're able to take. It really builds you up and sets you up for a UC experience."
For students entering college for the first time, usually the main goal is to discover purpose and go on to find success. Retired American River College counselor James Mar, also known as “Mr. American River,” believes his work as a counselor, and helping students gain clarity and direction, was fulfilling his destiny and true passion.
“Students mainly need to hear to follow their heart and to follow their curiosity. Those two will give you happiness in the future,” he said reflecting on how one encounter with a counselor at Sacramento City College changed his entire perspective on higher education.
Straight out of El Camino High School, Mar was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley to study engineering, but declined the offer and instead enrolled in Sacramento City College.
As an engineering major, Mar said he felt like he was a bit misguided and was struggling with some of his required courses. He said he worried that if he continued into the profession things would collapse. This led him to meet with a Sacramento City College counselor to explore his options.
Mar said that even today, he remembers how impactful meeting with a helpful and kind-hearted counselor was for him.
“She asked me the question, ‘What do you love to do?’ and this really paused me because in Chinese philosophy I don’t think that way,” Mar said. “You think of other people and fulfilling what their desires are. To think of what I wanted was very foreign to me.”
Mar was raised by what he calls “Old Chinese” parents with a culture very familiar with fulfilling the parent’s desires academically and professionally, which caused an immense amount of stress and pressure when it came to decision making. Ultimately Mar felt that his parents played an important role in creating a drive for success that stuck with him as he pursued his career, but the counselor he met with played an important role in choosing to put his dreams first.
After that meeting, Mar changed his major to psychology and went on to graduate from Sacramento City College. He furthered is education by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Francisco State University in 1970 and a Master’s degree in Counseling (School; and Marriage, Family & Child emphasis) in 1974 from Sacramento State University. After receiving his Master’s degree, he took a part-time counseling position at Encina High School which led to a full-time crisis counseling position at McClatchy High School where he worked with Asian gangs.
“I wanted to help people in some capacity, whether that was in social work, high school counseling, a community-based organization; I was involved with student advocacy work while in college and strongly felt I needed to change society,” Mar said.
His passion for helping misguided students eventually led him to a part time counseling position with ARC in 1975 and various other roles including Dean of Student Development for a decade.
“The memorable moments for me were when I got to watch each student fulfill their dreams and find what truly makes them happy,” he said.
Even though Mar officially retired in 2014, he has still volunteered part time, continuing to benefit student success and academic fulfillment as a counselor.
Mar went on to become an ARC donor and developed three different student scholarships, the Jane Mar Leadership Role Scholarship, the Albert Mar Veterans Scholarship and the Judy Mays/James Mar Psychology Scholarship as his lasting legacy and contribution.
“I’ve helped many women and people of color go through the process of unfolding their cultural and religious impact and help put clarity in their own thoughts and hearts,” Mar said. “That is the main skill of a counselor to me. It’s not just giving advice, but helping them see what’s truly in their heart.”
Mar has advised and consoled students of all statuses, backgrounds and life-stages; students pressured to enter certain career fields where they would not be fulfilling their real passion. His goal as a counselor is to remind students that following their own dreams over a family member’s expectation for them is an important part of finding true happiness.
He has also donated towards plaques under two of his top female student’s names; one a Russian-Ukrainian student whose dream was to go to Berkeley and to an international Moroccan student whose dream was to go to Stanford.
“All of it taught me to teach from experience. I’ve had a very rich life and am very blessed. I loved what I was doing every minute at American River,” Mar added. “As I get older, I feel very fortunate in my life, and wouldn’t change a bit.”
Indigenous Land Use Statement
We acknowledge the land which we occupy at American River College as the traditional home of the Nisenan, Maidu, and Miwok tribal nations. These sovereign people have been the caretakers of this land since time immemorial. Despite centuries of genocide and occupation the Nisenan, Maidu, and Miwok continue as vibrant and resilient tribes and bands, both Federally recognized and unrecognized. We take this opportunity to acknowledge the generations that have gone before as well as the present-day Nisenan, Maidu, and Miwok people.