Adult Re-Entry Center assists students returning to campus

Starting over (Oliver Yu)

MaryAnne Shults

After helping special-needs children in a local elementary school, Dorothy Friedlander realized she wanted to be the teacher, not just an aide. She enrolled in a night class at Saddleback College and quickly discovered that balancing a job, school, and raising a family were more than she could manage. Then she found the Adult Re-Entry Resource Center.

The center offers advisement, resources, referrals, workshops, support groups, conferences, and scholarships. The scope of the center includes life-skills, education, employment, volunteerism, self-development, independence and social well-being.

“The demands of being a wife and mother and working full time cause enough stress,” said Friedlander, 42, special education. “Now add in the additional stress of class time, homework, and studying. I wasn’t getting the support from my family that I needed.”

Friedlander found resources and tools at the center to ease transition back into college.

“I appreciated their advice and their support,” Friedlander said. “I think this is something other women should be aware of because it’s difficult to make the transition when feeling alone.”

The center prides itself on helping re-entry women who make up the majority of its visitors. However, everyone is welcome.

“This is a center for everyone, students and non-students, men and women, re-entry or continuing students. It is open to the community,” said Sholeh Alizadeh, the Center’s director. Many students, particularly unemployed men, need a job as soon as possible to be able to pay bills.

“One example is a man coming from a health-related field,” Alizadeh said. “We can get him through the phlebotomy certificate program in six months.”

The center helps update students’ resumes.

A total of 80 new videos are available to assist with job searches. Alizadeh said that today’s re-entry women are performing traditional roles as wives and mothers.

Many are single parents. Many are Farsi-speaking and find not only language barriers, but cultural barriers as well.

When the center was established in 1976, it was only open part time. The original purpose was to assist women wanting to return to college and then to enter the work force.

Today, it serves both men and women, as well as high school dropouts who want to enter a trade or those who desire a career change or lifestyle upgrade.

“Others want to meet new challenges, widen horizons, and find self-fulfillment,” Alizadeh said. “You can’t fix a problem in two minutes. There are usually several issues and I must get to the root. I often refer to a Turkish proverb:  ‘No matter how long you’ve traveled on the wrong road, turn back.”

The center’s comprehensive resource library features books, tapes, brochures, pamphlets, online resources, and educational and training programs. Workshops take place year-round on various topics.

Men and women also attend specialized support groups including groups for general re-entry students, international students, and Farsi-speaking students, as well as workshops about assertiveness, building self-esteem, and stress management.

On-campus and off-campus referrals serve a wide range of students’ needs including academic counseling, career guidance and planning, and job placement services.

Referrals to off-campus organizations and agencies are based on an individual’s needs and are available for housing, food, clothing, medical assistance, and legal assistance.

Annual scholarships, available through donations from various organizations and individuals, are awarded to deserving re-entry students. The center provides assistance with the scholarship application process.

“Every year I help qualified candidates apply,” Alizadeh said. “If I know them well, I will write them a reference. So many women’s opportunities awards are presented by non-profit organizations. Yet candidates are scared to apply assuming they are only based on grades, not criteria and need.”

The Adult Re-Entry Resource Center is located in SSC 140-C. It is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information visit www.saddleback.edu/rwc.

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