E-NEWSLETTER - December 2010
Executive Director’s Message
On a Saturday morning in September, about 18 members of the Glendale College Foundation board and staff gathered in the impressive Glen Oaks Escrow building (thanks to Scott Akerley) to make plans for the coming year. Led by newly-installed President Ellyn Semler, the retreat was stimulating and productive. The group came up with some impressive goals, which you can read about below. In this issue you’ll also find a story about one young man whose life has been changed at Glendale Community College through dance. He made a new beginning here at GCC, and his positive experience can inspire all of us to start 2011 with optimism and determination. After reading about Reo Cho, we hope you will be moved to help our annual appeal efforts by visiting us at www.glendale.edu/foundation.
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season from all of us at the Glendale College Foundation!
GCC Student Dancing His Way to a Brighter Future
For Reonaldo Cho, life has been an uphill climb. Born into a poor family, he spent his first 11 years moving between Compton and Koreatown, frequently changing schools and—as the only son in a traditional Korean family—feeling responsible for his family.
At age 20, Cho still carries that sense of responsibility but sees a better life ahead because of Glendale College. “When I came to GCC in 2008, I wanted an education but that’s all I knew. I loved being active and had played every sport I could—baseball, football, volleyball, basketball, soccer. But I’m too short for basketball and too skinny for football, so one day I took a dance class and shocked myself by liking it.”
Two-and-a-half years later, Cho is planning a career in choreography or dance instruction, something he never dreamed of when he was growing up on the mean streets of Los Angeles. “As a little kid, I thought I should be bringing money into the house,” he said. “My parents didn’t push that on me, but I could see they were always struggling.” His father’s erratic income from construction work often wasn’t enough to buy food and pay the rent, so Reo (as he’s called) started earning money at the tender age of seven.
“I did the only thing I saw kids around me doing, I was a runner. Only problem is, I didn’t realize I was carrying drugs, literally taking a package and running as fast as I could to a waiting car,” he said. “I didn’t know it was bad, didn’t even know what I was carrying when I was seven. It was just a way to bring money home.”
The money and the satisfaction of helping out came to a quick halt when he was 10 and got caught red-handed. “The undercover officer believed me when I told him I didn’t know what I was doing, and because I was so young he let me off with a warning…no probation, nothing,” he said. “He thought I had learned my lesson.” Reo thought so, too.
Eventually his dad got a raise, and the family was able to move to Glendale when Reo was 11. With improved surroundings and better schools for him and his sister, things went well for a few years. “We had put all the bad memories behind us, and then my dad died. I was 15, a sophomore at Hoover (High School), and besides losing him we lost our only source of income, so I had to go to work,” he said.
He worked two minimum-wage jobs but the family couldn’t make ends meet, so he reverted to old behavior. “I was dealing drugs again, but this time I knew it was wrong and it bothered me, so I saved a lot of money and quit dealing. By then I had graduated high school and enrolled in GCC. I was going to make a clean start.”
When a friend suggested they attend the GCC dance concert, Cho was skeptical. “I didn’t want to go, but it turned out to be a real turning point for me,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the athleticism and beauty of the dancers, how expressive every movement was. I thought it would be easy and decided to try it.”
He was hooked from the first jazz class he took with instructor Victor Robles, but realized right away that it was definitely not easy. For one thing, he found out that his 5’6”, 100-pound body was surprisingly inflexible. “I had never done anything so physically demanding,” he said. “Victor worked me hard, kept pushing me, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. I always want to be the best I can at what I do, so it was disheartening and motivating at the same time.”
Another instructor, Dora Krannig, has seen him evolve from awkward to artistic. “In my ballet class a couple of semester ago, he was new to dance but determined, with an incredible ability to focus,” she said. “When he enrolled in choreography I was shocked to be confronted with such a keen artistic sense. He has a rare gift for somebody who started dance so late…I believe there’s a future for Reo as a choreographer.”
Cho looks forward to transferring to either CalArts or Cal State Long Beach after completing an A.A. and dance certificate from GCC with the goal of choreographing or teaching dance. He’s realistic about his chosen profession, however, and also plans to earn a certificate in medical assistance or a related field so that he can hold a “day job” while pursuing his dream. “I don’t want to be in a position where I’m not earning enough to support my family. My mom and sister have always been there for me in the bad times, and I’ll never forget that,” he said.
If you are interested in helping students like Reo, please contact Lisa Brooks, executive director of Glendale College Foundation at (818) 551-5196 or Lbrooks@glendale.edu
Retreat Energizes Foundation Board
The retreat started with breakfast, of course, and a preview of the new Foundation video now being finalized. For the rest of the day, the focus was on selecting and prioritizing Foundation goals. The consensus for the top goals included developing an annual signature campus event that would involve faculty, staff and students and also be a draw for the community. “Many local events are held at restaurants, halls and hotels,” said President Semler. “We have an exceptional campus at GCC and we want more community members to see it and be proud of this spectacular Glendale resource.” Dianne Endsley, chair of the Community Relations Committee will be heading these efforts.
Following is a summary of other defined goals.
- Open the newly formed President’s Circle to more members. “When people see how much we value their support, and the enormous difference their membership makes, more community members will want to join,” President Semler said.
- Help spearhead an intense alumni outreach effort in conjunction with the Alumni Association. Discussions included how to access alumni records through Facebook and other social media, and offering more opportunities for alumni to reconnect to GCC;
- Focus on a Legacy/Heritage Circle-type campaign. Planned Giving has proven to be an excellent way to generate funds for many institutions, especially those with such a long and rich a tradition as GCC. New board member Brent Mason has agreed to chair these efforts.
Task forces were formed for each goal, and everyone left energized and focused on an exciting year ahead.
President’s Circle Funds Making a Difference on Campus
In its inaugural year, the President’s Circle of the Glendale College Foundation has funded grants to three campus projects and the first one—the Los Angeles Writers Reading Series—was a tremendous hit with faculty, staff and students.
GCC English instructor Jocelyn Heaney thanked the Foundation for its sponsorship of the recent event that filled Kreider Hall. “This series was started to give students the chance to meet first-rate Los Angeles authors that they are studying, and also to give them a glimpse in the career of writing,” said Heaney.
The standing-room-only audience was engaged and appreciative for Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin, whose work The Lost Art of Reading has just been released, and memoirist Bernard Cooper, author of The Bill from My Father and Guess Again.
Ulin opened the program with insights into the challenges of reading in the age of technological distraction. “Our culture suffers from a lack of serious, deep thought,” he said. “Reading generates empathy for other people, other ways of thinking, being, and a quietness and stillness.”
The mood shifted slightly, from thoughtful to humorous, when Cooper took the podium and read from his account of receiving a bill from his father for paternal services totaling $2 million. The bill itemized amounts for food, clothing, tuition and so on. “My father’s bill was an abstract, unpayable enormity,” he said. “My life had been boiled down to nothing more significant than a check for a cup of coffee.”
After the lively session, students gave their reactions and it’s safe to say, from the following comments, that everyone considered it time well-spent,
“I loved that David Ulin said that re-reading a book that you haven’t read in a while brings the present and past together and shows how much you’ve changed.”
“I am taking my first college English class and have never been to anything like this before. The reading was great because seeing the authors added a level of realization to the pieces we’ve read. Also, the Q & A gave me an inside look at their writing methods, where they write and how and what they read.”
“Ulin and Cooper’s writing was unfamiliar to me. When they began reading, I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised. When I read a novel, I am often at a loss about a writer’s intentions but hearing their voices breathed new life into their texts. The reading inspired me to develop my writing style.”
Grants were also given to the debate team and the Eclipse literary magazine from the President’s Circle fund. The Circle has more than 30 members who support Glendale College in an ongoing, sustaining way by contributing a minimum $1,000 unrestricted gift. Membership is renewable each year. (For more information, please contact Foundation Executive Director Lisa Brooks at 818-551-5196 or Lbrooks@glendale.edu.)