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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

Women leaders at Folsom Lake College share their professional journeys
Graphic By: Samin Vafaee / [email protected]

Kellie Butler may have an unlikely mentor, considering her career in education and current role of interim vice president of student services. Butler says her grandmother — her mentor — didn’t even get past elementary school in rural Louisiana. But she instilled the importance of education in her own children and grandchildren. 

“What has trickled down to me is just that hopeful spirit,” Butler said during a recent virtual event. “Making do with what you have and not worrying about where things will go or how they will work out.”

In honor of Women’s History Month, City College students were invited to attend the virtual event on March 17 that highlighted women leaders at Folsom Lake College and their professional journeys. The panelists, such as Butler, came from various walks of life, including doctors in education, current students and school counselors. During the event, they shared their personal journeys and challenges through education. 

The meeting opened with the acknowledgement of how the Los Rios Community College District campuses reside on the ancestral land of the Nisenan, Maidu, Miwok and Me-Wuk. Opening remarks also included references to Asian Pacific Islander solidarity and Black solidarity statements.

Hannah Blodgett, interim dean of student services at Folsom Lake College, initiated the meeting by asking the panelists to share their own professional journeys. 

Victoire Chochezi, faculty equity coordinator and communication studies professor, opened up about her experience moving from the East Coast to the West Coast after graduating and working as a department secretary. “And that’s really where I fell in love with community college,” she said. After deciding she wanted to stay involved with community colleges, she went to Sacramento State to obtain her master’s and later her doctorate degree at Drexel University. 

Another panelist, Jaskirat Kaur, a student success coach, shared a different journey through education so far. “Right out of high school I knew I was going to community college,” she said. “I think there’s a stigma behind the word ‘community college,’ with a lot of highschoolers in just that stereotype of going to community college and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to change that narrative and I’m going to be the student that appreciates the community college environment.’” After doing just that, Kaur earned her associates degree in political science and transferred to Sacramento State where she is continuing her work and hopes to take her LSATs for law school soon. 

Carlie Haug, ASFLC Student Senate leader, also shared a similar love as Kaur does for community college and as a result will be completing FLC with five associate degrees while being a full-time student for just a year and a half. “I am not in student debt at the age of 20 and a lot of my peers cannot say that,” she said. “I love to prove that it’s not just for the kids that couldn’t do better.” Through her time at FLC, Haug attests her opportunities such as serving on leadership panels and speaking with state senators to her time spent at community college. 

Lishia Rahman, adjunct counselor for Center for Excellence and PEAC2E Program, also shared her experience with City College’s Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS). “I had no idea how to navigate the system,” she said. “I had no knowledge of college, how to apply or anything.” 

Rahman believes EOPS was integral in keeping her on the right track for her educational goals by providing continuous check-ins, mandated contacts, bus passes and book vouchers while also keeping her busy from the distractions that could’ve caused her to leave college. “I think of it like the lily pads you need to cross the pond,” she said. “Those were just the little lily pads along my path that really got set for me to jump to the next one and it was very impactful in my success and ability to end up with a master’s degree.”  

A woman’s place in the workforce can also come with stressful tribulations, to which Blodgett asked the panelists how they stay grounded in their careers emotionally, spiritually and mentally. 

For Monica Pactol, vice president of instruction, her inspiration for staying grounded comes from her family. “My mother lives down the street from me so that’s how close family is to me,” she said. With her passion for education and temptation being five minutes away from campus, she admits to having to set boundaries for her mental health. “Being grounded in my family in that when I go see my mother on Sunday, none of this exists. It’s about her and it’s about them,” she said. 

Kaur also shared her personal journey of coming from a Middle Eastern background. “In the Punjabi and Indian community, you kind of get compared a lot.” she said. “But you have your own path and you should stick to it and if that path ventures off, go with it, go with the flow.” She emphasized the importance of not comparing someone else’s educational structure to your own and leaving room for what your mental health is telling you. “Sometimes you do need a month off or that gap semester or submit an assignment late because you don’t have the mental capacity to turn it in on time.” 

The meeting closed with Blodgett asking what advice panelists would give their younger selves on their educational journey to which Butler spoke up about one’s personal journey being for no one else but themselves. Always being a star student and then attending a Big Ten university came with pressure she didn’t realize she had. “What I realized was my journey was not my own,” she said. “I was doing it for my principal investigator, I was doing it for my parents, I was doing it for Black people I didn’t even know.” 

Butler said she now feels proud of this failure because she allowed herself to take back control of her journey. “Don’t sleep on the mistakes and failures, because those are the things that help you get to the next success.”

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