When Jeanny Olivares, 22, crossed the stage at the College of the Canyons commencement ceremony, she received two associate degrees in marketing and accounting, which she earned in just a year-and-a-half.
The achievement was remarkable in and of itself, especially when you consider that most students take two years or more to earn one degree. But her accomplishment was even more notable because of a setback she experienced that forced her to make a detour through COC.
In the fall of 2013, her father nearly died from an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta.
“The doctors told my family it was a miracle for him to survive,” said Olivares, who graduated from Canyon High School in 2013.
An engineering student at the University of California, Merced at the time, Olivares was forced to return home to live with her parents in Canyon Country and put college on hold.
“It set me back in college because my dad is who provides for my family and my mom wasn’t working at the time,” Olivares said.
A year and a half later, Olivares was able to get back on track.
She enrolled at COC for the spring 2015 semester because of its affordability and proximity to home and made up for lost time. With the help of the college’s winter and summer session classes, Olivares was able to quickly complete all the required coursework for her two associate degrees.
“Thankfully, COC provided me with the financial aid to continue getting my education here,” said Olivares.
To help pay for the cost of textbooks, which can cost more than $1,200 a year, Olivares took a job in the college bookstore in order to benefit from the employee discount.
Born to Salvadoran immigrants, Olivares joins a growing number of graduates who are boosting the degree completion rate for Latino students at College of the Canyons. As reported by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office’s 2017 Student Success Scorecard, the degree completion rate among Hispanic students at College of the Canyons is 74.5 percent, a significantly better rate than the statewide average. According to a 2015 report by the Campaign for College Opportunity, only about 39 percent of Latino undergraduates taking classes at a California community college earn a degree within six years.
“COC has helped me accomplish my goals by providing me with opportunities that I didn’t know existed,” said Olivares, who was a member of the student Advertising Club and a marketing intern in the college’s Public Information Office. “COC has helped me become better prepared for CSUN.”
Olivares’s decision to pursue a career in marketing was inspired by a marketing class she took during the spring 2016 semester.
“It was such a different class compared to any other class I’ve ever taken,” said Olivares. “It was so much fun and it let me put both my creative and business sides into one subject.”
With the help of the Cooperative Work Experience Education program, or CWEE, Olivares had the chance to gain real-world marketing experience as a paid PIO marketing assistant under the direction of Wendy Trujillo, director of advertising and social media at the college.
“I feel extremely lucky that Jeanny found our intern posting and applied,” said Trujillo. “She has been an invaluable asset to the department and has added a youthful voice and opinion to our marketing efforts.”
Olivares assists Trujillo with the college’s social media presence on Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, and helps create ad campaigns.
“I have learned how marketing campaigns work and how much time and thought has to go in them for them to be successful,” said Olivares of her PIO internship. “I learned that time management is key. Time management is a really huge component that goes into everything that is done in PIO. It has also helped me with my schoolwork and how I now manage my life.”
Olivares will be transferring to California State University, Northridge in the fall to study marketing with the goal of becoming a market researcher or digital strategist.