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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Davis Center students overcome academic pressure
City College students Luca Moretti (left) and Matthew Corey stand on the second floor of the Davis Center of Sacramento City College Monday, Apr. 1, 2019. (Ben Irwin/[email protected])

by Kasina Vaewsorn | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Growing up in Davis, City College student Matthew Corey saw adults pushing certain kinds of higher educational paths on students.

“Four-year was always the way you were supposed to go,” Corey says. “I remember my dad, when I got my first bad grade in junior high, making fun of me and telling me, ‘You better shape up, or you’re gonna be going to community college.’”

Corey laughs, retelling this story, but at the time he was terrified.

“Originally, I was like, ‘Everything is gonna fall apart. I’m never gonna be able to do anything.’”

According to Corey, this is one of many similar stories from students in the Davis community. He says the pressure to succeed is high, and many students internalize this pressure.

Fellow classmate and City College student Luca Moretti remembers when he told a friend about his parents’ advice.

“My parents have told me since I was like 5 or 6, ‘Just do what makes you happy.’ I said that to some kid who I was friends with in ninth grade. He laughed at me for five minutes and then went on a rant about how much I’m gonna be failure,” says Moretti.

Both Corey and Moretti see City College as a smart option and one they both have benefited greatly from. Corey notes his low GPA in high school and says that his current success as a community college student will help him pursue his goal to be a lawyer.

“I have really high odds right now of getting into UC Berkeley, and with my 2.1 GPA and no SAT score in high school, I’ve gotta say, probably [I was] not a top candidate,” says Corey. “And that makes a big difference.”

After struggling with math in high school, Moretti decided to attend City College.

“Basically I just didn’t feel confident surrounding math, and you have to have four years of math [in high school] to go to a four-year college,” Moretti says. “So that’s why I’m doing community college—because I have anxiety surrounding math.”

Although he understands math just fine now, what didn’t go away, Moretti says, is the stigma from peers about attending community college.

“I have friends of mine who are at Harvard, Georgetown—like all of these people at high-level universities and institutions—and I still feel like, even though they’re close friends of mine, they look down on me,” says Moretti. “I still have that feeling. It does feel like you are taking the inferior path, but it’s the best path for me, you know—I have to do that.”

City College student Isabella Campos also attended Davis Senior High School. She acknowledges the stigma surrounding community college, but knew it was the right path for her.

“When I spoke to one of my teachers before entering the college level, they told me it’s about what I need as an individual, like he noticed for me it was better when I had smaller class sizes, more one-on-one situations, so that’s why I chose to come here because I knew I was gonna have that environment,” says Campos.

Corey, Moretti and Campos appreciate having a local campus to attend. Corey has taken many classes on the main campus but favors the Davis Center and says it feels like a community, even if it appears most students don’t hang around campus after class.

“When you see someone on the street, the interaction is very different,” says Corey. “In the Davis Center I feel a lot less weird just talking to people because it’s a smaller community and there’s—I would say—like a closer vibe to it.”

According to Don Palm, recently retired dean of the Davis Center, the size of the campus may have something to do with that.

West Complex student housing sits across the street from City College’s Davis complex Monday, Apr. 1, 2019. (Ben Irwin/[email protected])

“The main campus feels faster to me. There’s a different kind of excitement that goes with the main campus and the scale—it’s a little bit like the difference between a town and a city,” says Palm. “We [at the Davis Center] could get to know students pretty easily because there were about 2,000 students, and that’s compared to 23,000 or so on the main campus. It’s just a lot more accessible, a lot more of a feeling of community.”

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“You can just sit and I always bring some snacks, just casually chat about improvements we would like to make on the campus, or experiences you’ve had that either you really were happy about or you’d like to see change,” says Gaytan. “It’s a way for me to really understand the experiences students are going through and give me some guidance on what I wanna focus my attention on and then prioritize, so it’s a great way to just connect and share.”

Staff members like Student Personnel Assistant Tammi Driver love to support students’ success. Driver wants students to know that she is always available to help them.

“They can always come talk to me. I would love to help them be successful,” says Driver. “That’s my biggest thing is that I’m here and able to talk and would love to give them all the resources they need to get to their goals.”

According to Palm, the accessibility of resources is what makes community college such a valuable option. The chance to form relationships with faculty and staff is a little harder to come by at most four-year institutions, he says. However, in a university town like Davis, it can be challenging to get through to young students and their families.

“There’s just a whole culture of academia that’s kind of status-based, and an awful lot of the folks who are faculty at UC Davis have really worked hard to establish their place in this status-based culture, and community colleges don’t fit on that status ladder, so we’re a little bit invisible to the faculty, who are the parents of these children.”

When Palm served as dean, he often visited the two Davis high schools, Davis Senior High School and DaVinci Charter High School.

“I always went to those college nights in spring, you know, for parents,” Palm said. “Very few people came to see our talks. Some did, but not very many. It’s a bit of a tough nut to crack.

Still, Palm says, “You might be surprised how many students come over.”

There are 459 students currently enrolled at City College from the two high schools in Davis, which numbered 2,055 in combined enrollment for the 2017-18 academic year, according to school profiles from Davis Senior High School and Da Vinci High School.

“That’s a fairly significant number—a fairly significant percentage of the graduates from Davis High who are at City College,” Palm says.

City College English Professor Marci Selva has experience teaching at the Davis Center as well as coordinating an English program for international students through UC Davis. Over the years, students have opened up to her about feeling ashamed of staying home and attending community college.

“They do get some discouragement. I think some of it is family, some of it is peers who are going on to a four-year right away,” says Selva. “I’ve had students tell me, ‘I feel like I’ve been left behind by my friends.’”

Selva has also learned how high schools approach students’ options nearing the end of high school.

“What I’m hearing from students is that high schools tend to treat every student like they’re going to a four-year university immediately after they graduate,” she says. “For a lot of students, that’s not the case.”

According to City College Career Technical Education Transitions Coordinator Miela Zitelli, there are many good reasons to attend community college after high school. Zitelli helps high school students taking Career Technical Education classes transition into City College.

“It’s better to come to community college to complete your general education sequence because students who do complete the first two years at community college have a higher success rate of completing their bachelor’s degree,” says Zitelli.

Students like Moretti and Corey definitely see these benefits.

“I think going to Sac City has been incredibly helpful for my education, and will enable me to graduate college after transferring to UC Davis with zero debt,” says Moretti.

Corey observes that his peers at four-year universities sometimes take on more than is healthy.

“What I’m saying is people rush towards their future goals because there’s some theoretical happiness at the end of the journey, and then it’s like, ‘OK, but is there really enough to pay off the four years you spent torturing yourself?’ I’ve always been concerned about happiness, and I think people forget to consider their own happiness.”

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