“You can’t be a journalist, you just moved from your country and you don’t speak English fluently.” These are the words Miami Abdulal heard since migrating from Syria.
“Moving from Syria to the United States of America in the aftermath of Civil War between the government and Syrian citizens was the hardest thing for me. Losing relatives and friends in the war was the hardest thing that I had to suffer. Those incidents made me skeptical about everything to the point where I refused to further my education when everyone around me was becoming a doctor or attorney.”
After a long fight with fear, Abdulal decided to pursue her education. Navigating was the hardest part for her because she was uncomfortable with her surroundings. After completing two consecutive semesters at Norco College, Abdulal started getting involved in campus activities. She made friends who encouraged her to be the best and introduced her to campus programs. “My friends told me about the Extended Opportunity Program and how much it helped students. I applied and was accepted. I cried because things were finally working out for me. EOPS and Norco College have helped shape who I am right now.”
Abdulal will be graduating from Norco College with high honors and pursuing her degree in Journalism with an emphasis on Media Studies. She hopes to shed some light on the truth about the Syrian crisis.
“Graduating from Norco College with high honors and transferring to a prestigious four-year institution was never something I pictured myself doing. It would not be possible if it wasn’t for the assistance I received from Norco College and EOPS.”
For Misty Jolly, setting a good example for her children is priority.
Misty Jolly had every intention to go to college after she graduated from high school, but realized that earning money was more important. In 2005, Jolly got married and later had a son. Then in 2009, she gave birth to premature twin girls who spent the first month of their life in a NICU. During this trying time, her marriage was failing due to verbal and physical abuse. She decided to file for divorce and has never looked back.
Jolly became a single mom of three, two of which were preemies and needed special care. Her dad stepped in and provided emotional support for her and her family, but became ill with end stage emphysema and passed away in 2011.
It was not until she was 29 that she decided to enroll at Norco College.
“The first school I looked up on Google was Norco College so I applied in the fall of 2013. Once I started my college experience, I never stopped. My kids motivate me and I want to make sure I set the best example I can for them.”
Jolly credits the CalWORKs program and staff for helping her succeed in college. In fact, she holds a part-time job at the CalWORKs/Outreach office.
“Daniela McCarson has been a huge factor in my success. Through the program she and the staff helped me with school supplies, books, and parking, without judgment. They just inspired and pushed me to do my best.”
Jolly recalls how professor Nikki Capps influenced her career path.
“When I took her English 1A course, she saw something in me that I didn't quite see myself and that was my ability to help others. She emailed me right after the semester ended and offered me a position in the Learning Resource Center as a writing tutor and a position as a lab aide in the Writing Lab. It was because of this that I realized I would enjoy being a teacher.”
After graduating from Norco College in June, Jolly will attend Cal Poly Pomona to pursue an English major.
“Ultimately I would like to teach and would love to come back and teach at Norco College.” Jolly received the Alan D. Pauw endowed scholarship and was awarded the Soroptimist International Live Your Dream scholarship.
“This is emotional for me because something I never thought I would accomplish has surpassed being a dream; it has become a reality and I'm forever grateful to Norco for helping make my dream a reality.”
Mauricio Ruiz decided to serve in the Marine Corps for 10 years before deciding to give college another try.
Ruiz, a child of immigrant parents, was always encouraged to pursue his education after high school, but college tuition was an obstacle and when his grades suffered, he decided to drop out.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for a decade and his life changed from then on.
“After a successful career in the Marine Corps my circumstances changed and I realized that this job was no longer what I needed. I had gotten married and my wife was expecting our first child. I knew it would be a difficult transition for them, so I decided to finish my contract and attempt college one more time,” said Ruiz.
Taking this leap of faith changed his financial situation and his wife went from being a stay-at-home mom to working 45 minutes away from home to stay afloat with finances. His family remained supportive and helped take care of their son.
“I realized that simply having a job would not be sufficient enough for me or my family. I needed a career and the only way this was achievable was to get a college degree.”
Ruiz works two jobs at times while being a full-time student. His motivation to finish what he started 14 years ago is much stronger and he will not give up until he is done.
He is on the path to receive his associate of arts in Psychology and Sociology from Norco College. He would like to transfer to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a baccalaureate degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Mental Health Services to better assist military members. Currently, Ruiz holds a 3.8 GPA and is president of the Norco College Veterans Club and works in the Veterans Services Center on campus.