Down on her luck, Caitlin Corker didn’t know what to do. Her parents were divorced, her uncle passed away, and everything fell apart at home.
Her grades dropped to the point where she couldn’t attend her high school graduation ceremony and her college admissions were revoked. She decided to attend Humboldt State University, where she still struggled to get by and left with a 1.29 GPA.
She worked at a construction company for a few years and felt stuck, so she saved up her money and decided to go back to school.
Despite feeling discouraged about her adversity, Corker still had hope and dreamed about going to UCLA one day. She decided to go to SMC where she met her savior, counselor Karen Legg, who told her she could realize her dream even though her GPA was low.
“I knew I needed to work really hard and I knew my chances were really slim,” Corker says. “I worked my butt off. I had to retake all the classes because of the mistakes I made a long time ago. And then I got into UCLA!”
She credits her work ethic and her involvement with SMC clubs and students across campus.
“SMC has truly been the best experience of my life. It really has. Everyone here is so amazing. And I’ve learned so much inside and outside of the classroom,” Corker says. “I truly can’t thank everyone here for the amazing job they’ve done in making me grow. Not only educationally but personally as well. I’ve learned so much about myself.”
Corker worked at the Career Services Center, where it opened her eyes to the wide variety of helpful student services and activities SMC has to offer.
She took a lot of workshops and joined a variety clubs, eventually becoming vice president of SMC Associated Students and serving on a variety of committees to improve students’ lives.
“There is a sense of community at SMC and everyone truly wants the best for their students. Personally, the gain that I’ve made is that I’ve been so lucky to be in a position where I get to meet all of these people,” Corker says.
To name a few, Corker has been involved in the Student Affairs Committee, District Planning and Advisory Council, and a new coaching program called You+1.
“Caitlin has represented the SMC student voice well and has worked on initiatives that run the gamut,” says Brenda Benson, Dean of Student Services. “Caitlin has made the most of her time at SMC. She is wise beyond her years and has made a significant impact at SMC.”
Her latest project is Consent Month with the Title IX Task Force to empower students, faculty staff to create safe environments.
“Everyone on that committee has been so supportive in spreading the word and getting the information out to the teachers, who also having been so supportive.”
Corker’s got grit. And that’s not only because she’s involved in the GRIT Initiative, which encourages students to be successful no matter what circumstance if they are determined, hard-working and resourceful.
“The students have grit. How do we show them that they have it and bring it out?,” Corker says.
Grit is also about having a sense of purpose, connection and engagement to flourish academically and personally.
“I always say I’m lucky and I never take credit for the work I did to put myself in that position. Something I learned throughout this entire process is to acknowledge myself and take credit for what I do,” Corker says.
Benson sees the best in Corker. “Her quiet strength and measured approach have always served her well and I quickly learned to listen to what she had to says.”
Corker is graduating with associate degrees in Liberal Arts: Social and Behavioral Sciences as well as Public Policy.
She is transferring this fall to UCLA, where she will major in political science with a potential minor in educational studies. Corker would like to go to law school or graduate school for education administration.
“Even though I’ve done a lot a work, it’s been a group effort on campus to get me where I am.” I hope to come back one day and work here at SMC,” Corker says.
Reflecting on her success here at SMC, Corker recommends that students take initiative getting involved in student life.
“Take a chance,” Corker says. “When you first get on the campus, it can be very overwhelming because you don’t know anyone. But if you join a organization, join club, volunteer somewhere, work somewhere, and reach out, someone will help you. Take a chance on that and you will really grow.”
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