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Ohlone College CalWORKs

Portraits of S uccess

Dear Friends and Family of the Ohlone College CalWORKs Program,

It is such a privilege and an honor to present to you our second edition

of the Ohlone College CalWORKs Program Portraits of Success! The first edition featured stories from single mothers and, this year I am pleased to announce that a single father, Greg Harris, has submitted his story. Which proves to me that, in spite of the trend in years past, there are fathers out there who are stepping up to the plate and taking care of their children, even when the mother leaves the home.

I spent 10 years as a single parent, and although I now have a wonderful husband and great partner in life, I still believe that single parents are a cut above the rest. They are both mother and father, provider and comforter. Single parents will always have a special place in my heart and it is an honor to serve them on a daily basis.

I have just finished re-reading the stories and each one has touched my heart and brought a tear to my eye. The stories are so touching and will inspire you to reach for your dreams! So sit back, relax, grab a tissue and may each story touch and inspire you the way they did for me.


Shawna Lujan Ohlone College CalWORKs Program Coordinator

“ Weeping may endure for the night… but JOY comes in the morning!”

The CalWORKs Program at Ohlone College strives to work closely with the staff members of the Social Services Agency; we are not funded through the county. Our purpose is to help students who are receiving cash assistance from the county to be successful in achieving their educational goals. The mission of the CalWORKs staff is to provide quality service and assist students receiving cash aid (TANF) from the Social Services Agency. We demonstrate our commitment to assisting students by

providing supportive services that help students achieve their educational and career goals. We serve as advocates for

CalWORKs students by openly communicating with their case managers. We recognize and appreciate

the socio-economic and cultural diversity of our student population. The Ohlone College CalWORKs Program exemplifies service, innovation and leadership.

What is CalWORKs? California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids is the state’s welfare program for families with children. CalWORKs replaced the former AFDC program in January 1998. CalWORKs funds assist single parents who are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and those in transition from welfare to achieve long-term selfsufficiency through coordinated student services.

What can the CalWORKs Program at Ohlone College do for me? The CalWORKs Program supports eligible students in obtaining their educational degrees and certificates and is available to help students meet their Department of Social Services requirements quickly and effectively by providing the following services: Educational training programs Work Study assignment paid jobs that don’t affect cash assistance Communication between the Department of Public Social Service (DPSS) about a student’s needs, requests and requirements Helpful information on welfare reform and government requirements

Referrals to other departments on campus such as: Disabled Services (DSPS) Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – Child Development Careers (TANF-CDC)

For more information: Ohlone College CalWORKs 43600 Mission Boulevard Fremont, CA 94539-5847 510-659-6152

Mercedez Fernandez

Current Ohlone College Student

There is a saying, “The way you measure success is determined by how many people you bless.”

I have to say that the Ohlone CalWORKs Program definitely has me on track to truly become a success story by equipping me with the necessary tools to navigate and excel in college and in the job market. Due to the educational training programs, seminars, CalWORKs, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), and financial services, I have become a role model for the younger version of myself. Growing up as a young girl, attending college was not even an idea worth entertaining; in my neighborhood the poverty, drugs and police always distracted me. As I came into my adult years and had my first child, I promised myself that I would not subject her to the same struggles and heartaches that I experienced as a minor. Ohlone College became that promise. I came to Ohlone College in 2009, six years after graduating from high school. I am majoring in Administration of Criminal Justice and my ultimate goal is to become a law clerk. I fell in love with the law at a young age. I would visit Stanford University with my mother years ago, and she believed that I would transfer to such a prestigious university. I am currently on the road to transferring, and I also have aspirations to obtain my Master’s degree as well. The staff at Ohlone College, specifically the CalWORKs team, have been a great help during this journey. Because of them, I can say that I am truly a success.



I would not be honest if I did not say that I do not feel like giving up at times, because I do. Life has a way of knocking you down and ensuring that bad things happen to good people. For a while it seemed like I experienced a traumatic event one after another. It started with the passing of my younger sister. After her death the sun did not seem to shine as bright as it used to; up was down and things stopped making sense. It took a lot of praying, family support and support from the College to even begin to believe that things would get better. It’s a relief and a great feeling to report that things have become wonderful. As of now I am the proud mother of three beautiful daughters. They give me the strength and motivation that I need to push through everyday. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my baby sister. I know that she would be proud of my accomplishments, and I use that as my inspiration. CalWORKs has been present through my ups and downs and their commitment has served as a driving force for me to continue pressing on. I hope that whoever reads this story does not feel sorry for me, rather that you appreciate my resiliency and recognize that the Ohlone College CalWORKs team is more than a program; they are my extended family. I opened up with a saying, “The way you measure success is determined by how many people you bless,” I would close with the same thought. Be blessed by experiencing my story so I may be successful.


Fatima Blackman Current Ohlone College Student

My name is Fatima Blackman

and I was born in Sacramento,

California. My mother raised me

until I was three years old, then due to my mother’s drug problem, I was put into the foster care system. At that time, I really did not have a full understanding of what drugs were. All I knew what that I was being moved from one foster home to another. Finally, I was placed in a home with Mrs. Townsend. She treated me with respect and assured me that everything was going to be okay. She took care of me as if I was her own child. I will never forget Mrs. Townsend. I moved in with her when I was nine years old and stayed with her until I graduated high school. When I was with Mrs. Townsend I was so happy. She treated me as though I was wanted; she was full of warmth and taught me how to be a well-mannered young woman. Everything that I do is a result of her love for me. She took the time to care for me, and love me for me, not where I came from. She loved me like her own daughter; she helped me with my homework and would reward me when I did well on math or spelling tests. She included me on family outings and as a result, my love for her grew. When I turned eighteen years old, I was curious to know about my biological parents. I never heard the Townsends say anything negative about them. I was able to reconnect with my mother but until this day, I have not met my father, nor do I know who he is.


Now that I am twenty-six years old, I am a mother of two handsome, outgoing, smart young boys. They are my world, they are my comfort when I am sad, and they are my motivation to do better in life. When I am sick, they make me feel better. They are a dream come true. Currently, I am attending Ohlone College and I am going for an Associate of Arts degree in Administration of Justice. The CalWORKs program is helping me reach my goals. CalWORKs helps me meet my deadlines, pick the right classes, and they offer emotional

support. In the little time I’ve been at Ohlone all the students in the program have welcomed me warmly, just like an extended family. I can talk to the staff on a personal level and they do not judge me. All of the staff has a warm and welcoming heart. They often ask me if I am okay and if I need extra help. They are such wonderful mentors that I need in my life every day. Soon enough I will graduate and be able to thank the Townsends and the CalWORKs staff at Ohlone. They believed in me when no one else did and I am forever grateful.


Kashawna Williams Current Ohlone College Student

Growing up, school was always

an escape from loud foster homes, stereotypes and the scary streets of Oakland.

In high school I was considered an average student because, to my teachers, I wasn’t failing but I wasn’t excelling at all either. In my senior year of high school I became pregnant with my daughter. I made the decision to have my baby while continuing to achieve my diploma. It was very difficult, for my first two trimesters but I excelled at achieving


my diploma from a strategic charter school known as Oakland Military Institute. After my graduation I had turned 18 years old and it was time for me to emancipate out of the foster home I was living in and transition to my first one bedroom apartment. Shortly after I moved I gave birth to my daughter. Parenthood was new to me and not having the support of relatives was very hard while trying to maintain a job at Pizza

Hut. Three months after I had my daughter I became pregnant with my son. This pregnancy brought on a deep depression which brought on clarification that I alone couldn’t handle things. Working forty hours a week at Pizza Hut still wasn’t making ends meet. That alone only paid my rent. I have always been a firm believer of giving things up in life to let new things enter and make its way, and with that very thought in mind I put my thirty days notice in at both my job and my apartment in hopes of a new beginning. I placed my children and myself on many waitlists for family shelters around the county while we bounced back and forth to in-laws and previous foster parents’ houses looking for a place to sleep at night until there was space available at any of the shelters. I called the Tricities Abode Homeless Coalition, and they took me and my children in, but in return I had to be actively looking for work or education. I chose to go to community college and finish my education. Surprisingly Ohlone was a college located near the shelter. I knew nothing about enrolling. I didn’t know the first thing to do when taking college courses and the tuition worried me as well. One day I caught the bus to Ohlone College and it dropped me off near Building 7. I walked into Ohlone looking for some assistance on how to enroll. Admissions and Records was closed at the time and I thought about going home and giving up, but

Jasmine Pinegar-Kelly CalWORKs Program Peer Mentor Current Ohlone College Student H UMA N

coincidently the EOPS/CalWORKs/ CARE window was open. I was familiar with CalWORKs as it was aid I was receiving from the government, but to see it at Ohlone sparked curiosity. I was welcomed by the staff member at the window, who let me inside her office and told me step by step the process of enrolling in school. I was told that because I received CalWORKs my children would be provided childcare and my tuition, books and supplies would all be taken care of at no cost to me. This was great news to me. Not once have I ever known of these programs offered to mothers like me across the state. I felt adopted into a family I never had. Once I was enrolled in the CalWORKs program at Ohlone, this qualified me for many other programs such as CARE and EOPS - all support teams I can depend on today. Many of the women in the program shared the same background and concerns that I did, and when classes began I found many of the women registered in classes that I too was registered in. It became clear to me that I was not alone in my journey of completing my AA in Administration of Justice, or my life; that I now had a family. For many semesters now, the CalWORKs program at Ohlone has done more than I could have expected for me and for my family, as counselors, mentors and friends. Ohlone’s CalWORKs Program has molded me into a woman that I never dreamed I could be.

My name is Jasmine PinegarKelly and I have been a participant in the Ohlone CalWORKs program for about 2 years now. I am majoring in

Human Development with hopes of transferring to CSU East Bay to complete my Bachelor’s with a focus on women’s studies. A few years ago I became pregnant with my first child who is now 5. When she was a couple months old I decided to attend Cosmetology school because I enjoyed helping others feel good about themselves. After obtaining my License I proceeded off into the work field. I was not getting the sense of achievement that I was confident I would get in this career. I needed to do something more beneficial to others. It’s one thing to help people feel good on the outside but I wanted to help people feel good inside.



I have always been the go-to friend for resources and questions or advice. I guess you can say I have been through a lot. At 18 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Mia who is now 5. I applied for the City of Fremont`s Housing Scholarship which I was granted. So I went from sleeping on a couch to having my own apartment. My new educational journey at Ohlone began in 2010. In 2011 I gave birth to my son Julian who is now one year old. Being able to have this program and Shawna there to help guide me and always have my back has been exceptional. She has truly inspired me to further my education and help others. This program has showed me the true meaning of “You can do it!” I am proud to be a part of this program and once completed I will always give back to the CalWORKs program at Ohlone.

D Delia Martinez Current Ohlone College Student

I have always wanted to attend

college. However, life happens and

sometimes our goals become distant dreams rather than a possibility. I am a single mother of two children, a son and a daughter. When my son was two he was diagnosed with Autism. The doctors recommended a lot of therapy and schooling, so I did everything I could to help my son. My son’s needs are very high and require a lot of patience and understanding. I had little time to do things that took me away from my children, so I figured that my life was not going to turn out the way I had always envisioned. I thought that I would have to put college off indefinitely. As time went by and my children got older I still felt like I needed to complete my goal of graduating college. It was something that at first was just for me, but now I wanted to do it for my children. I wanted to make my children proud of me and to see that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to. A couple of years ago I got the confidence that I needed to make the first step and applied to Ohlone College. I was very nervous to come back to school after ten years. I had no idea if I would excel or not be able to keep up, but I figured it was worth a try. My first semester I did everything online and rarely came to campus. It was hard and a lot of work but I finished my first semester at Ohlone and was very proud of myself. I was able to juggle school, my children, and my family


all at once. It did not come without making any sacrifices and sometimes it was difficult to manage everything going on in my life. I started to doubt if I could make it to the end on my own, so I started to look around for resources. I found out about the Ohlone College CalWORKs Program and applied. It has been one of the best support systems that I have ever had at school. The staff makes you feel like you can complete anything and no matter what your background is or how hard your life is you can

complete your goals. Sometimes I do get overwhelmed with everything, just like every other student, but I feel like if I have any problems they are always willing to help. I have been attending Ohlone College for a couple of years now and am making good progress towards graduating with a degree in Human Development. I plan on transferring to San Jose State University and continuing my education. I want to work with special needs children and their families and offer them the support I received.

Greg Harris Current Ohlone College Student


How did I get to where I am now? I became a single father

almost four years ago. I had a good job, a nice condo, was single and raising three children. Life was good! Then the economy tanked, and work started slowing down. Finally, I was laid off. I began looking for work in a very depressed job market, and the few jobs that were available were low paying. I would have taken a low paying job except that I could not get one; the competition was stiff. I was then facing a different set of circumstances. I was in my fifties, single, unemployed, and raising three children. Life was not quite so good anymore. I was competing for low paying jobs with younger, more educated applicants. I did not even have a high school diploma much less a college degree. I continued to look for work, went to school at night, and received my GED. After that, I realized could actually earn a college degree. It was about this time that I ended up on CalWORKs. I enrolled at Ohlone College and the Ohlone CalWORKs Program. I can say that if it were not for this program I would still be competing for work with college graduates. Ohlone CalWORKs has allowed me to continue my education. In turn, this has given me the oportunity to set the example for my teenage son as well as my two daughters. Now I can look to a future where I have a more satisfying career. Ohlone College has been an unbelievable experience for me. From the very moment I walked through the doors I have been

helped in my endeavor to achieve my dream. I have felt from the beginning of my first class here that the mission of this college and the goal of the faculty is to see to it that I succeed!


Therese Gonzales Current Ohlone College Student


Going back to almost four years ago, I was a 19-year-old with low self-esteem who was conscious about her postpregnancy body. I was fresh off

from high school with a 9-month-old baby. I decided to go to Ohlone so I could stay close to him and be a hands-on mom. I struggled in my first few months at Ohlone because I did not know about the CalWORKs program on campus. I just wanted to go to my classes and finish the semester with passing grades. I managed to find my way to Building 7. I needed help paying for my books and little did I know that this would be the beginning of a new life for me. All I wanted when I got in the CalWORKs program was to stay in compliance so I did everything I had to do. I went to the summer workshop and would not even talk to anyone. Every day of that workshop, I wondered if I would ever get close to the other ladies in the program and if I would ever be as open as them. Towards the end of the workshop, Shawna offered a chance to get in the work-study program; I did not know whether to apply or not. I conquered my fear and applied for the job anyway. On my first day of work in the CalWORKs/EOPS/CARE department, I was nervous as heck! “What should I say? What if they don’t like me? What will happen if I don’t meet their expectations?” Those were some thoughts that were running through my head. As time went on, I started opening up and started becoming more comfortable


with everyone in the department. After a year of working in the office, a few circumstances changed in my life and I had to switch into another department. The CalWORKs and EOPS program has given me confidence to handle this situation and go on my own. I found myself working in the Admissions and Records department, with much more confidence than when I first started as a student at Ohlone. I learned how to voice my opinion with much more confidence and learned how to not let people step on me. I know none of this would be

possible if it was not for CalWORKs and the workshops that they offered, as well as the wonderful staff in the department. Now that I am so close to transferring to a University, I am scared once again. I would say that I will have separation anxiety from everyone in CalWORKs and EOPS. They have always been my support system and I know that they always have my back. On the other side, I feel more ready to transfer than three years ago. I would say that by the end of this semester, I will be a butterfly that is ready to explore the world outside of Ohlone.


Lora WilliamsAshworth Mental Health Clinician abode services After graduating from Ohlone in 2008, I transferred to UC Berkeley

to earn a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies. During this time I began working on campus for Student Parent Programs and Services to help support other lowincome students who were also juggling parenthood. During my last year as an undergraduate, I decided that I wanted to pursue a Master of Social Work degree and applied to all of the local programs, including UC Berkeley. In 2010, I graduated with my B.A. with honors and was accepted into UC Berkeley’s M.S.W. program. As I worked on my Master’s, I continued my work with Student Parent Programs and Services as a project coordinator for their CalWORKs=CalGRADS program to help build support for CalWORKs students at the UC level. In 2012 I completed my M.S.W. program and began employment with Abode Services as a Mental Health Clinician, where I continue

to work today. In this role I provide mental health services to homeless individuals in Alameda County and I am working toward becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I finally feel like my education has allowed me to come full circle and support others who live in poverty and are trying to pull themselves out of it, the way that I was supported through my journey to success. Without the financial support of CalWORKs, and more importantly, the consistent support of Ohlone’s CalWORKs program staff, I would not have been able to complete my educational goals and lift my family out of poverty. Today I truly believe dreams can become goals and goals can turn into reality, as long as you have proper support, you keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you never give up on them!

Shawna Lujan CalWORKs Program Coordinator ohlone college Since the last Portraits of Success was published in 2008,

I have since completed my Masters Degree in Communication Studies

from San Jose State University and I currently work at Ohlone College as the CalWORKs Program Coordinator. My son, Trevor is now thirteen years old and is about to start high school! I think that the biggest change in my life was that my last name changed from “Luce” to “Lujan.” In 2010, I married my best friend. Not only did we marry but I inherited three more children, so I went from a single mother of one to a married mother of four. Life is wonderful! As I reflect on my life, I realize that the changes in my life started with that first step I took onto the Ohlone campus as a CalWORKs student. The education, the love, the support and the encouragement that I received at Ohlone gave me the confidence I needed to continue on to SJSU and eventually to earn my Masters Degree. Having my degree made me realize that I did not need to settle for anything or anyone but to strive for the best. I have the best husband, one who treats me with love and respect, a husband who encourages me, not one who belittles me. I have a wonderful job where I can pour encouragement into the lives of many single parents who are in the similar situations that I was once in. I love and admire each of the students who comes through my office door and look forward to seeing where their journey will take them!


Ohlone College 43600 Mission Boulevard Fremont, CA 94539-5847 510-659-6152

Ohlone College CalWORKs Portraits of Success 2013