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How is a CalWORKs Student Like a Tomato Plant?

The office of the CalWORKs Parents Program is located in the San Fernando Trailers, over by the outdoor basketball court and the Verdugo Gym. (Not an architectural highlight of our beautiful campus.) We have one very small patch of dirt directly outside our office at SF 115 and, because we do not have a sink, sometimes our staff members pour their leftover coffee or water in that patch of dirt. Roubina Babakhanians, one of our Student Services Assistants, pours her coffee there more often than anyone else.

A few weeks ago we noticed a plant was growing in the patch of dirt. It was probably a weed, but, because we suspected it was growing as a result of Roubina's leftover beverages, we all began referring to it as "The Roubina Plant." One day I walked by and noticed The Roubina Plant had tiny yellow flowers...

flowers

That looks like a tomato plant, I thought right away, but how could it be? We continued to pour our beverages onto the plant, all of us curious to see what would grow.

Then one day... TOMATOES! (We think)...

fruit

It dawned on me then that this funny little fruit plant is very much like the CalWORKs Program...

WHY WAS THERE A TOMATO SEED IN THE LITTLE PATCH OF DIRT OUTSIDE OUR OFFICE?...

Maybe the seed was carried from far away by the wind to SF 115, and landed in the dirt outside our office.
Most of our CalWORKs students are recent refugees from far-away countries. They, too, land at GCC, planting themselves in the CalWORKs Parents Program.

A LITTLE BIT OF NOURISHMENT CAN GO A LONG, LONG WAY...

We gave that plant just a little bit of water, but now it is growing into a big plant that will bear fruit.
The CalWORKs Program provides little bits of help to our CalWORKs students (money for books and supplies, childcare, support, encouragement, and understanding), but we believe the information and compassion we provide make a very big difference in the lives of our students.

TOMATO CAGES ALLOW A PLANT TO GROW BIGGER THAN IT WOULD ON ITS OWN...
Education is like a tomato cage. It provides a structure that will undergird our students' entire future. Our students do the growing, but the education they receive at GCC will always be there for them, helping them know more, see more, understand more, and do more.

THE HEAT JUST MAKES YOU JUICIER...

It can never get too hot for a tomato plant. The hotter it gets, the bigger and juicier the tomatoes grow.

As parents receiving welfare, CalWORKs students have difficult lives:

-They are committed to succeeding in school, but the needs of their children are always their first priority.

-Because they are adults in their twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties, CalWORKs parents are nontraditional students and sometimes feel out-of-place in a college environment.

-Many begin GCC as ESL students and report that when they study they need to read their textbooks twice or three times to understand.

-CalWORKs students are extremely low-income. The stress that comes with struggling with poverty, with homelessness, with domestic abuse, or with food insecurity does not make their job as students any easier.

But the heat makes CalWORKs students juicier. Talk to our students and you will find they are interesting, determined, tenacious, and funny.

THIS PLANT WILL BEAR FRUIT...

CalWORKs students are not just in school for themselves. They are rebuilding their lives on a foundation of education. They are studying at home with their kids. They are modeling what it looks like to go to college. The education CalWORKs students receive at GCC will bear fruit, not just for themselves, but for their children and for our community.

AT OUR ANNUAL CELEBRATION WE ASKED OUR CALWORKS STUDENTS TO HELP US MAKE A POSTER BY WRITING WHAT THEY WERE PROUD OF.  WE TITLED THE POSTER "BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED..."

bloom

I AM SURE YOU CAN GUESS WHAT WE ARE PROUD OF... OUR STUDENTS. 

We are also incredibly proud of our amazing CalWORKs team.... 

At Verdugo Campus: Roubina Babakhanians, Renato Loredo, Pamela Rosas, Debbie Stepp, Karen Tu, Marilu Villa, and student workers Mineh Baghomian, Varduhi Grigoryan, and Siranush Ohanyan

At the Garfield Campus: Naira Badalyan, Ophelia Carrasco, Victoria Issakhan, Kathy Kostjal, Mike Serot, Juliet Sulian, and student workers Ana Zakaryan and Juliet Tarverdi-Masihi.

I invite you to visit our CalWORKs Tomato Plant and our CalWORKs Program. Stop by any time, or make an appointment to meet with me. We love our program and our students and we want the GCC community to know about all the beautiful things that are blooming over in the San Fernando Trailers.

 signs

from below

frog

garden