When people ask me why I chose to attend Modesto Junior College, I sometimes don’t know how to answer their query or even where to begin. It’s not that I regret my decision. No way. And MJC wasn’t my only option, either.
It always surprises me when people accuse MJC of being an impacted, downtrodden school for underprivileged youths or when The Bee has pictures of students sitting on a classroom floor or standing in a doorway, hoping to get a spot in a full class. High school counselors take advantage of these images, frightening high school students who would thrive at MJC by saving money and taking advantage of local resources. Threats of “You’ll never get out of there,” “You’ll get the worst classes, if you get any at all” – believe me, I’ve heard all of them.
I was accepted to every college I applied to. I spent many an hour sitting at the kitchen table poring over homework, after tennis practice or a 4-H event. I pondered going to UC Davis or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and wondered how it would work out. How could I choose the best path for me, my future residence for the next four years, at least, if I was barely turning 17 when I applied for college?
I didn’t want to leave my family so soon, or shell out money I didn’t need to, but if the universities wanted me, how could I turn them down? Calling Cal Poly, which I believed was my dream school, and telling them that I wouldn’t come for fall 2013, was heartbreaking. Clicking “reject” on my UC Berkeley profile felt like the stupidest decision of the 21st century. I felt tortured; the high school career I had worked on for what felt like a lifetime was being wrenched apart by multiple factors.
I talked to many people about colleges, and I felt like there was never an unbiased ear. In the end, Dr. Mark Bender was influential in encouraging me to attend Modesto Junior College.
On my first few days of the school year, there was a wait list. But by the second class meeting, they are gone. If you are dedicated and want to get an associate’s degree and get out, you can get out in two years. The people who get stuck at MJC are the ones who see the two people ahead of them on the wait list and think they won’t get in, so they give up and leave class to hang out with their friends in the quad.
I have friends attending UC Berkeley, UC Davis and Cal Poly, and I think of them often. I hope they are enjoying it and doing well. I hear of statistics like a 26.4 percent four-year graduation rate among students at Cal Poly, or students who attended my high school and were accepted to top schools, only to return home for their sophomore year of college because they struggled with grades and had trouble adapting to their college’s culture. I truly hope that they will stay on track and be successful.
It just makes me sad to see people not taking advantage of a great college right here in Modesto. Thanks to programs such as EOPS (Educational Opportunities, Programs and Services), FYE (First Year Experience) and others, students can get through MJC with all of the resources they need. Not only do students obtain priority registration and eliminate the wait list worries, students are guided as they see fit. Aside from the program requirements of three meetings with a counselor per semester, or peer mentoring/college-prep classes, useful resources are available for free. There is no reason for someone to just get stuck in the all of the “MJC culture” without actually doing it to themselves.
The MJC agriculture department is hands down the best in the Western United States. After taking a year off to serve our state FFA program and being offered scholarships at well-known universities, many California FFA state officers choose to come to MJC. Our dairy cattle judging team wins nearly every national contest it competes in, and our quarter-scale design team just won third in the nation.
Why leave when this is in my backyard? It makes sense to save money, gain experience and then have guidance when transferring to an outstanding agriculture college. It all fits.
There are days when I almost get hit in the head by a football in the quad and I wonder if that would ever happen at UC Berkeley’s Media Studies Center. No matter where you go, though, we are all still getting the college experience. I go to school and I see a thousand different faces, cultures and interests every day of class. I enter the agriculture department to be greeted by so many friendly faces, and I wonder why I would ever ponder choosing anywhere else.
Germann is a freshman at Modesto Junior College and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom Program.