Flexible Class Offerings Alleviate Stress, Promote Student Success

Juggling fast-paced lives, family and work responsibilities and perhaps financial uncertainty, some Santa Feans find it difficult to attend college. A growing number of students are discovering that SFCC’s flexible schedules make it possible to pursue their dreams.

Balancing work and education

Javier Gonzales, 30, works full time at Allegra Printing. The Santa Fe native faced challenges in high school and didn’t picture college in his future. After participating with the nonprofit YouthWorks, Gonzales said he realized college could become a reality.

“I discovered that you can go to college at your own pace,” Gonzales said. At SFCC, he took the majority of his classes at night or online, and his employer allowed him to take some daytime classes. When his father was diagnosed with cancer, Gonzales became determined to finish his degrees so his father could see him graduate. “One semester I was taking 15 hours and working full time,” Gonzales said. “Dad died before I graduated, but my family was proud of my accomplishment.” He finished with two degrees: an Associate in Arts in Business Administration and an Associate in Accounting.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d like online classes, but I tried it and loved it,” Gonzales said. He will pursue a bachelor’s degree online at the University of New Mexico.

Busy mom’s online classes smooth the way

Jennifer Carranza, 43, a dental assistant instructor at CNM, had considered earning another credential for some time. SFCC’s flexible schedule for the Expanded Functions Dental Auxiliary Program made it possible. She took a class online during the week, attended a lab class on Saturdays and had a practicum at La Familia Dental Clinic, on campus. It wasn’t easy with her busy schedule, but she received her certificate in December.

SFCC’s Dental Department Director Dr. Aamna Nayyar was Carranza’s professor and coordinated her practicum. “Aamna is an excellent online instructor. She is very present and presented coursework in a way that was easy to follow,” Carranza said.

Graduates are eligible to take the certifying exam. “The credential’s shining feature is the ability to place and shape restorative dental fillings. This allows dentists flexibility to accommodate patients, provide better work flow and adapt to the growing (often underserved) needs in the community,” she said.

Marine vet takes mix of online, in-person classes

Wayne Vigil (Nambé), 46, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1991 to 1995. He then worked for 20 years in the gaming industry. Today, he is the head ranger at Nambé Falls & Lake Recreation Area. The father of six enjoys his job, and is eager to learn new skills to earn better pay. His wife and his tribe are encouraging. “Without their support, this would definitely be harder,” he said.

“At the casinos, I maintained equipment, which are more electronic – like a computer – than mechanical. So I thought computers and information technology could be a good field to study,” Vigil said. He has received financial support from Nambé Pueblo and SFCC Foundation’s Veterans Scholarship as well as from the Workforce Solutions WIOA (Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act) program.

“It was an adjustment. I haven’t had formal classes since 1991,” he said. “It was hard at first, but I’m more comfortable. I started with in-person classes, and now I take classes online, too. It’s pretty cool. Online no one can judge you by the way you look or talk. With my job, it’s been convenient.”

He takes a mix of in-person and online classes. “The flexibility of online classes is great, but you still need to get your homework in on time,” Vigil laughed. He’s working toward an Associate in Applied Science in Computer and Information Technologies, with a concentration in Computer and Network Security.

Pursuing a master’s degree in Santa Fe

Jocelyn Hernandez, 22, earned an Associate in Arts in General Studies and an Associate in Arts in Criminal Justice from SFCC. She then received a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from New Mexico Highlands University at the Santa Fe Higher Education Center. Now, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

“Learning about domestic violence while studying criminal justice was eye- opening,” she said. “It made me want to go into social work to help people cope with these issues.”

Going to NMHU at the HEC, she can continue to earn money while pursuing her studies. She works part time at NMHU during the week, and on weekends at Olive Garden. Taking classes in Santa Fe has been great, she noted. “Honestly, if I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue my studies in Santa Fe, I’m not sure if I’d ever have gotten my bachelor’s degree,” she said.

To learn more go to sfcc.edu/flex and sfcc.edu/hec.