May 24, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Three Graduating Santa Monica College Students Share Their Stories:

Dakota Black’s life was plagued by tragic events. Genesis Garcia thought her dream of going to UC Berkeley was laughable. Caitlin Corker was a struggling student with a 1.9 GPA who wished she could go to UCLA. On June 16 – amid loud applause and vuvuzelas – Black, Corker and Garcia will be among thousands of students who will graduate from Santa Monica College.

After witnessing the suicide of his brother and losing two uncles to suicide, Black became what he calls “a very, very angry man” and ended up in prison for four years on a felony. After getting out of prison, he became a commercial diver.

“My plan was to hide in the ocean,” says Black, a member of the Blackfeet tribe. With encouragement from friends – he is a self-confessed ‘goofball’ – he made a foray into standup comedy, something that would become a healing process. He has also since appeared as a character actor in TV shows like Drunk History and Justified, and films including Low Down with Elle Fanning and Glenn Close.

Black decided to come to SMC to take a few classes because he was $1,000 short of a helicopter pilot’s license, and he planned on setting aside some of his financial aid money for the license. He enrolled in a general psychology class with SMC professor Laura Guild because it fit into his schedule.

“Professor Guild opened my eyes and made me realize that I can make a difference,” says Black. Subsequently, he decided to major in psychology and help those dealing with suicide or suicidal thoughts.

“Look at me!” laughs Black, who is also a proud father to his 10-year-old daughter, Jada. “I was freshly out of prison a few years back, and here I am doing the right thing.” He now volunteers on the suicide hotline and with several suicide prevention organizations. While he has not found an exact vocation – teaching or counseling are at the top of the list – Black knows that he wants to save lives, and let people know they matter. He volunteers on Native American reservations in several states and is part of a team working on a documentary about suicide on reservations.

Black was accepted into his top choice, California State University, Fullerton, where he will major in psychology. Future plans include a Doctor of Psychology degree.

“When they’re standing over my casket, I want them to say, ‘He made a difference’ – really, in any community that deals with suicide, but especially within my own,” says Black.

Genesis Garcia and her father were in a car accident in their native Guatemala when she was one. He died and she lived. At the age of 11, Garcia would journey to Los Angeles to join her mother who had immigrated earlier. Shortly after being reunited, Garcia’s mother was also killed in a car accident, leaving her in the care of an uncle who was not able to support her financially.

In middle and high school, Garcia spoke very little English and it was a struggle for her to understand much, but she poured herself into academics.

“I ended up graduating high school with a 4.0 GPA,” Garcia recalls. “Even though there was no one to celebrate with me, I liked it – I was doing it for me.” An AB 540 student, she thought that was the end of the road for her, but two days after she graduated from high school, President Obama announced the DREAM Act, which would allow qualifying undocumented students like Garcia who arrived in the U.S. as children to receive state financial aid at public four-year institutions in California.

In her first semester at SMC, a counselor asked Garcia to write down where she would like to transfer, and she wrote “UC Berkeley,” as a joke. The counselor told her that her dream could be a reality. Garcia had a 3.9 GPA, and when the time came, she was encouraged to apply.

When that acceptance email came from UC Berkeley, Garcia admits she “freaked out.” She will be majoring in sociology and wants to be an immigration lawyer.

Caitlin Corker came from a broken home and struggled with grades so low in high school that she could not even attend the graduation ceremony. She then attended Humboldt State University, where she continued to struggle, holding a 1.9 GPA. She hung on to a hope that she could attend her dream school – UCLA – and finally came to SMC, which transfers more students to UCLA than any other community college in California.

“I worked my butt off,” says Corker. She wiped her academic slate clean, retaking all her classes, and got heavily involved on campus, eventually becoming vice president of the Associated Students.

Corker also participated in a research-driven SMC initiative called GRIT (Growth, Resilience, Integrity and Tenacity) to help students who want to develop “non-cognitive skills” – the ability to persevere despite challenges and failures – along with the skills they need to succeed in the classroom. She helped organize activities like You Plus One, a coaching program that provides first-generation students with mentors.

Corker will be transferring to her dream university UCLA this fall, where she will major in political science. She hopes to come back and work at Santa Monica College.

To read more about these three students, and for other stories, visit www.smc.edu/graduationstories.

in News
Related Posts

Los Angeles Metro Sees 15.9 Percent Increase in Median Rent

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Median rent of $2,258, according to recent report By Dolores Quintana The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the issues of housing...

New Renderings for Frank Gehry Hotel Development in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Project would include hotel, apartments, retail and a museum By Dolores Quintana Slowly but surely, plans for a  Frank Gehry-designed...

Shared Mobility Plummets in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Recent report also shows that nearly half of riders make over $100,000 By Sam Catanzaro Shared mobility use in Santa...

Christopher Dishlip Selected as Santa Monica’s New Assistant Director of Public Works

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Public Works Director Rick Valte announced the selection of Christopher Dishlip as Santa Monica’s new Assistant Director of Public Works....

Letter to Editor: Response to Himmelrich’s “We Walk the Talk” Column

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Beau Marks As a Santa Monica resident, I am dismayed by Sue Himmelrich’s response (“We Walk the Talk,” Santa...

Motional And UberEats Launch Autonomous Deliveries In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

There Are Plans For Expansion Into The Rest Of Los Angeles Motional, a global driverless technology leader, and Uber Technologies...

Winston Pies Opening Third Location In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

The restaurant used to be known as ButterCrust Pies Winston Pies is staying in Santa Monica when opening their third...

Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Survive, But The Species May Not Be Doomed

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

Hope remains for the porpoise species not only survive but thrive with human help. By Stuart Wolpert The vaquita porpoise,...

The American Cinematheque Brings “Bleak Week” To Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre And The Los Feliz Three Theatre

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

33 Films From 18 Countries In One Week. By Dolores Quintana Sometimes when things are tough and you’re feeling down,...

Man Who Murdered His Family Members Pleads Guilty To Five Other Killings

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Escobar injured an additional seven other people as well.  By Dolores Quintana A man, Ramon Escobar, has pleaded guilty to...

The price of gasoline in Los Angeles County Has Experienced The Largest Increase Since February

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Gasoline prices in Orange County Have Also Increased By Dolores Quintana Regular self-serve gasoline in the county of Los Angeles...

Santa Monica Travel Summit Of 2022 Returns To Take On Tomorrow

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

The Event Was Held At The Jonathan Club On Santa Monica Beach By Staff Writer The 2022 Santa Monica Tourism...

City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program: Santa Monica Beat – May 16th, 2022

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program * Santa Monica High School Students...

1221 Ocean Avenue Complex Sold For Record Price

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Sold for a record price of $330 million. By Dolores Quintana The Irvine Company has sold 1221 Ocean Avenue to...

Office Construction Is Starting To Rise In Los Angeles

May 15, 2022

May 15, 2022

Property vacancies are still affecting growth.  By Dolores Quintana In March, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area had 3.2 million square...