UDC Slideshow

Follow Our Pathways...


Catherine & Christopher D., Medical Assistants

Years ago, Catherine, 47, and her son, Christopher, 19, were homeless. Catherine had lost her job, she suffered from multiple sclerosis and the pair had no place to live. Their circumstances were desperate. Then, a meeting at their homeless shelter gave Catherine hope. A lifelong D.C. resident, Catherine had always wanted to work in the medical field. She had tried to return to school almost two decades earlier through a city program, but it fell through. Then, at a shelter meeting about UDC-CC’s Workforce Development Program, she learned she could go back to school—for free—at UDC-CC. “I couldn’t believe it. I would finally get a chance to go into the medical field. I had always wished to help others - now I will,” Catherine says.

After starting classes to become a medical assistant, Catherine recruited Christopher when his plans to join the U.S. Navy were derailed. Like his mom, Christopher is studying to be a medical assistant. He plans to enroll in a four-year nursing program at UDC after earning his UDC-CC certificate. He says he may even aspire to become a doctor. “The opportunities are endless,” Christopher says. Christopher says that just because the Workforce Development classes are free, it does not discount the quality of the education. “This is for real. This is a real experience,” he says. “The students that are in this program will get real jobs, real careers. If you come, you will see full classes with 30 people learning real, practical information.”

Christopher and Catherine, who is making straight A’s, often study together. Catherine says she loves her classes and she loves watching her son work to achieve his goacls. “It means so much to me to see my son want to excel and do something with his life. We work as a team,” Catherine says. “I want to encourage others to take advantage of this program—from young people to older adults. I am 47. If I can do it, you can, too. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals.”

Schlain B., Liberal Studies

Schlain B, 23, left her home in South Africa to pursue a goal of high education. When she attended a UDC open house a student told her about the new Community College of the District of Columbia, and soon after she was on her way. “Community college gave me an opportunity to get started on my education,” she says. “The costs, flexibility and the location of UDC-CC allow me to realize my dream.” Schlain was mindful of college costs and pleased to discover UDC-CC’s affordable fees. But she felt the most compelling reason to enroll in the college was her ability to relate to UDC-CC’s students—and she thrives in the college’s supportive environment. “People want you to stay,” she says. “They assist you in every way they can.”

Schlain took full advantage of UDC-CC’s unique opportunities, joining the Starting Early, Starting Smart program that helps first-year women excel in college. “They really want to make my college experience great” she says. “They hold your hand to help you find your way.” Schlain further immersed herself in the UDC-CC culture by becoming involved with the UDC-CC ambassador program, and assisting a professor in setting up forums and talks for the school. Next semester, she looks forward to balancing her time between school, sports and getting more involved in campus activities. UDC-CC’s academics suit Schlain as well. The UDC-CC liberal studies program has given her the flexibility she wanted to explore various academic areas before transferring to a four-year university. She appreciates her UDC-CC professors’ ability to relate the coursework to real life, and particularly enjoys learning from the perspectives of both professors and students in her political science classes.

After Schlain earns an associate’s degree from UDC-CC, she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international relations. “Because of UDC-CC, I am inspired. I now know my dream is one step closer.”

Natalia, Business Technology

Natalia, 28, came to Washington, D.C., from Russia to experience American culture, further her education, and better understand the English language. Three years later she has conquered English, moved on to learning Spanish, and become a UDC-CC student ambassador studying Business Technology. Although Natalia has a Russian law degree, she wants to take on new challenges and continue her academic development through from the U.S. higher education system. Natalia’s multilingual education and penchant for new experiences make her perfect for the sort of career she ultimately hopes to pursue—working for an international organization in a job that allows her to travel. For now, she’s enjoying UDC-CC’s international flavor. “I really like the multicultural aspect of UDC-CC—different people, different backgrounds. It makes it very interesting to learn from and get to know others,” she says.

Upon arriving in D.C., Natalia took non-credit classes at Montgomery County Community College. She chose UDC-CC for credit classes after researching schools online. She says UDC-CC’s flexible schedule and tuition costs met her needs, and she has been pleased with her courses. “UDC-CC teachers are very knowledgeable and concerned about you learning the subject they are teaching.” Natalia became a UDC-CC student ambassador to gain work experience and to help with existing and new services on campus.

Since jumping into campus life two semesters ago, Natalia says she now feels like a part of the school, and likes sharing her enthusiasm. “It has been a good experience to be a student at UDC-CC. I look forward to helping new students get started.”

Carla J., Mathematics

Carla J., 33, has her eye on the future. As an economist, Carla has already earned a business degree, but aims to further her career and some day become a senior executive or entrepreneur.  She enrolled in UDC-CC’s Continuing Education courses to increase her knowledge and pursue her goals. “I wanted to expand my career opportunities,” says Carla, who is working toward certification in project management while majoring in mathematics. “I think the courses at CDCC will help me receive a promotion or start my own business in the area.”

Between working full time and enjoying her hobbies—writing, reading, and cheering for sports teams from her home state of Ohio—Carla has a packed schedule. She says the online, six-week Continuing Education courses offer great flexibility, and she has asked UDC-CC to add on-campus project management, citing increased demand.

Carla is confident the investment in herself will pay off.  “Continuing Education courses help you stand out from other job applicants in the pool when you graduate,” she says.

Oro O., Respiratory Therapy

Oro, 24, started at the University of the District of Columbia in 2007 and switched to the associate degree program at the Community College this fall. Although she says she struggles with English classes, she says she generally does well in school and has always enjoyed academics. At first interested in nursing, she was later attracted by the career potential of respiratory therapy. At UDC-CC she is taking critical care, disease management, diagnostics, and a respiratory seminar. She attends school full-time and works weekends at Target. The schedule is difficult, but she says, “It’s O.K. I just have to do what I need to do. When you first get there, it seems hard, but the teachers find ways to make it easier.” She says she especially likes the clinical course, which blends classroom instruction with real-life experience. The class has been held recently at the Intensive Care Unit at Washington Hospital Center, where Oro and her fellow students are learning how to operate mechanical ventilators and learning more about respiratory diseases.

Tony C., Nursing

Tony has moved around a lot since he graduated from high school almost 10 years ago, but this year, his grandmother inspired him to come back to Washington -- and to the Community College of the District of Columbia. His grandmother, Sharlene W., had taken her own educational detours in life, working and raising a family before enrolling in law school at the age of 50 at the University of the District of Columbia and pursuing a career in city government. "She decided that she could make it on her own," says Tony, 26, "She showed me never to depend on anybody."

Sharlene had emerged as a particular influence in Tony’s life after his mother died when he was just 13. Some kids would have veered well off track, but, says Tony, "I was blessed. For those years that I had my mother, I had great backing. She made me do what I had to do." Later, that would mean taking honors classes at Willam Penn High School in York, Pa. and performing in musicals like "The King and I," "Peter Pan," and "The Fantastiks." Tony admits to "not being as focused" his senior year in high school, but he went on to earn a one-year certificate at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He met his wife, got married, and "was living my world in Manhattan." But a breakup followed, along with an uninspiring year back in Pennsylvania working at the Home Depot and Lowes.

So, with her encouragement, Tony moved in with Sharlene, now 66, and, embracing his interest in science, enrolled full-time in the Allied Health program at UDC-CC. Working toward a nursing degree, he is taking composition, basic math, and psychology, along with anatomy and physiology. He sings in the Gospel Choir, hopes to perform in a musical, and is checking out other campus activities. "This college is about building ourselves, building our character," he says. "It’s building a better Tony."

Vicky M., Nursing

It’s a long way from his native Nepal, but the Community College of the District of Columbia has given Vicky an ideal start in a multicultural setting for a planned career as a medical doctor. Vicky, 21, came to the United States two years ago from the flatlands of an otherwise mountainous region to pursue his college education and live with an uncle who works as a government economist.  Academically, Vicky was more than prepared for the transition: in Nepal, the high school curriculum is as rigorous as that of some American colleges. Test questions require lengthy essays, not multiple choice answers.  High school students routinely study 10 hours a day. And exams cover material that students may have learned a full year before. “I did two things,” Mishra says. “I studied and I played cricket.” Even his own family – his father is a lawyer, his mother is a highly educated homemaker – was academically competitive, he says. “If one of the cousins got a 3.9,” Vicky says, “you had to get a 4.0.” 

Despite the value that Nepal puts on education – even the poorest families make it their top priority – the country holds limited professional opportunities for someone like Vicky, who is also fluent in several languages. The availability of opportunity abroad greatly influenced his decision to continue his studies in the U.S. The only catch was the cost: foreign students can pay up to three times more than Americans to attend a public university in the U.S.

Enter UDC-CC. At a total cost of $6,500 per year (for foreign students), an education that could have been prohibitive became affordable. Moreover, the college’s nursing program provided a solid foundation for medical school. (Vicky is looking into schools now; Dartmouth is his top choice.) For the nursing major, he has taken courses in anatomy, physiology, and microbiology; he also takes physics and math courses because he would like to add an engineering degree to his credentials. He also adds courses in literature and chemistry because, he says, “I just like them.”

It’s a packed schedule to be sure, especially on top of internships with the United Negro College Fund and the Stop HIV Project. Nevertheless, Vicky  consistently finds himself where he has always competed to be -- at the top of his class.

Melanie G., Mortuary Science

Melanie often has to explain her choice of major to incredulous friends, but as she sees it, a career in funeral directing makes perfect sense for someone interested in science and spirituality. The Community College of the District of Columbia is one of the few area schools to offer a program in mortuary science, and Melanie says the curriculum has been well worth returning to D.C.

A graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where she was a solid student, a cheerleader and a member of the track team, Melanie at first attended Hampton University, where she studied marine biology. But she soon questioned her choice. “I had to find myself,” she says. “It took 10 years but I finally did it.” Returning home, she took some non-credit courses at Prince George’s Community College, but she says, “I was idling, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” That all changed when she started working at her uncle’s funeral home in the District, a mortuary that specializes in Muslim services. In a Muslim funeral, Melanie explains, the burial is environmentally friendly; the bodies, which are not embalmed, are wrapped in a plain cotton shroud and interred in plain wooden caskets. There are no flowers and no crying. “People laugh, but I really enjoy the work,” she says. “With Muslim funerals there are things like spiritual washing, and I feel like I’m helping the person go into the afterlife. It makes me feel good to help the family accept death.”

Melanie’s credits from Hampton transferred to the University of the District of Columbia, where she enrolled first, and at UDC-CC she is taking courses like Funeral Service Orientation and History of American Funeral Directing. The mortuary science major also includes anatomy, psychology, accounting and management. “I love the teachers, and the advisor is great,” says Melanie. “They make learning fun and they help keep things in perspective.” Melanie now attends school full-time and works only part-time at the mortuary. “My uncle is much more focused on my finishing school than worrying about who’s going to answer the phone,” she says.

Ide O. B., Nursing 

Ide, 26, struggled to get through school in his native Niger, but it wasn’t because he was a poor student. On the contrary, he attended university in the French-speaking African nation and was headed for a career as a lawyer or a journalist. The problem was that his education was constantly being disrupted by prolonged teachers’ strikes – including one that lasted for three months. The strikes cost Ide a lot of time and often dampened his motivation.

In the United States, where he moved to follow a cousin in medical school, he found a different story – and far more opportunity.  In Niger, he explains, students are pigeonholed early, sent to high schools that concentrate in math and science or in the liberal arts. Ide says he was inspired by his cousin’s course of study, but as a graduate of a liberal arts high school he was essentially barred from pursuing a science career at the university level. “With a liberal arts degree, you can’t go to medical school,” he says. “But here, now, I have a chance to do what I want to do.”

That would be nursing, with a specialty in gerontology. Ide is now in his second year of nursing studies at the Community College of the District of Columbia. Having started in 2007 at the University of the District of Columbia, he has taken courses that include English as a Second Language – he has spoken it only since middle school – along with Spanish, calculus, and a practicum.  Also a member of the Student Senate, Ide says he has been highly impressed with the nursing curriculum and the level of instruction at the college. “They are really great teachers. They emphasize critical thinking and they keep it challenging,” he says. “They always try to put our learning before everything.”

Natalee H., Computer Science

Natalee, 31, had a lot going for her when she applied for a promotion at her former job. She was already the lead information specialist for the company. And she had served as an information manager with the U.S. Air Force, providing help desk support at universities near base. What she did not have, however, was a college degree. And that was a no-exceptions requirement for the job. Not only did Howell not get the position; she had to train the person who did. “That was the last straw,” says Howell. “I realized the way to go was to get your degree.”

As it was, Natalee, the first in her family to attend college, had barely graduated from high school. At Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va., she was an A and B student, she says, until she met the father of her child. “I loved school -- period,” she says. “But then I was a single parent, and I was working on developing my relationship instead of taking my behind to school.” Her grades plummeted, and she finished high school, she says, “by the skin of my teeth.”

Fifteen years later, the Community College of the District of Columbia presents Howell with a fresh opportunity to catch up on what she missed in high school and to pursue an associate’s degree in computer science. Along with the curriculum, she likes the price: She had started at the four-year University of the District Columbia, paying $6,500 a year in tuition and fees, but says she now takes the same computer courses for a yearly cost of just $1,870. Developmental education is part of the package, and Natalee says she is particularly grateful for the required course in elementary composition.  She recalls applying for a job with the CIA and struggling to write the required essay. “I realized how limited my vocabulary was,” she says. Calling herself a “big mouth and a skeptic,” she says she is energized by the atmosphere in the class. “We talk about real world things. It’s like a debate.”

Natalee is attending UDC-CC full time, taking 17 credits this semester. At first apprehensive about the work load, she says, “The whole experience has been great. You have teachers who explain things on a level you can really understand.” After UDC-CC, she plans to pursue a B.A. in computer science with the goal of getting a job as network administrator and ultimately as a chief information officer. “Not to take anything away from my daughter [now 13] but I wish I could go to school all the time,” she says. “I’m trying to be ‘total student.’ And I want to join clubs. Being part of something makes it even better.”

Corey L., Nursing

“School has always been challenge for me,” says Corey, 39. Some of that frustration had to do with work -- employers who said they were flexible about Corey attending some college classes and were anything but – but most came from the schoolwork itself. Corey did well at Robert E. Fitch High School in Groton, Conn., but he says, “I always had to work harder.”  The workload and the expectations would be even higher in college, he knew, so when he considered going on to college, he says, “there was an element of fear, of not succeeding.”

At the same time, Corey, who works as an Emergency Services technical specialist at Children’s Hospital in the District, had hit a ceiling in his profession. “There is no room for promotion or advancement in the role I’m in,” he says. “And the economy is absolutely a factor.”

Enter UDC-CC. Encouraged by family and friends – Corey is the first in his large family to attend college – he enrolled part-time in the college’s degree program in microbiology, choosing UDC-CC over such local institutions as Bowie State University and the University of Maryland. “I knew a lot of people who had gone to UDC [the flagship University of the District of Columbia], and I had heard tremendous positive things,” Lewis says.

Corey’s schedule is demanding – he arrives on campus at 7:30 a.m. to prepare for classes that start at 9:30 a.m., and works at the hospital three days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  But he is getting a boost from the Student Success Center and a course in study skills. “It’s all about professional development and developing me as a person and making lifelong friends,” he says. Corey says he is also interested in joining clubs and participating in student government at UDC-CC. “It’s only my second week here and I already have a great sense that this is for me,” he says. “There are just those situations in life where you just know right off that it’s for you.”

Oscar V., Graphic Design

Oscar, 22, knows what it’s like to work hard and to overcome tough odds. Born and raised in Guatemala, he had to learn English at age 16, and then adjust to life with a foster family in the U.S. When he pushed himself (not always, he admits) he earned good grades at Ballou High School, and after graduation in 2007, got an OSHA certificate in electronics from the Job Corps. Out of necessity, he has worked since he was a very young boy. “I have always met my own needs,” he says.

Although Oscar is now working as a waiter, his aim is to become a graphic designer. It’s a challenge that the Community College of the District of Columbia is ready to help him embrace. With federal grant money, Oscar is pursuing the college’s two-year graphic arts program. “I love art and drawing, painting, visual art of all kinds,” he says. “At times I’ve wanted to be a psychologist or an engineer, but out of all the things I like, the one I have the skills for is art. I like to be creative. And the more I say it the more I know that a graphic designer is what I want to become.”

Oscar chose UDC-CC after a tour that left him impressed with the arts program and the facilities. He says that juggling college with a fulltime job is tough, and he must combine art courses with prerequisites to brush up on math and English. “I’m a busy person,” he says. “But I’m gonna be O.K. If you truly want something, you’re gonna make it happen.”

Anthony P., Hospitality Management

“A good student who slacked off a lot” – that’s how Anthony, 24, describes himself at Friendship Edison High School, a public charter institution in Washington, D.C. He enjoyed math and history, but says he had less success with English, including reading comprehension. “I wasn’t a good writer,” he says. “Maybe I was just too lazy to think.”

That was then. Now, as a student at the Community College of the District of Columbia, Preston is getting the essential help he needs with English composition. But it is all a precursor to the courses he really enjoys as he pursues a one-year certificate in hospitality management. “I love to eat and cook. I like people, and I want them to be comfortable,” he says.

Anthony’s interest in the culinary arts first took him to Baltimore International College. But he transferred to UDC-CC, he says, for its affordability, its closeness to home, and its smaller classes. “I felt I could grow better here,” he says. “The instructors are very knowledgeable, and they love to get the students engaged and to make sure they really grasp what they are doing.”

This semester, Anthony is taking accounting, facilities management, business math, and hotel management. He’s attending full-time and doing an internship in the front office at Catholic University. It’s a full plate, he says, but he is taking advantage of UDC-CC’s Student Success Team, which is helping him to build his resume and hone his study skills. Although he has supportive family and friends, he is mindful that of all his friends who went to college, only one graduated. “I want my bachelor’s degree, then a master’s in hotel management,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to have my own hotel and restaurant.”

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