Friday, April 30, 2010

FURTHER INFORMATION:       STACY ARMSTRONG (626) 857-4082, SAM LEE (626) 914-8855


Unique Citrus College Project Highlights Alumni Success
by Stacy Armstrong


Everyone loves a good story – especially when it involves second chances, overcoming obstacles, and fulfilling dreams.


According to Sam Lee, Citrus College is a “factory” for such feel-good tales involving students.  In fact, the dean of language arts has been spearheading an effort known as "My Citrus Story," which is designed to spread these student stories throughout the community.


“The My Citrus Story campaign unearths stories of students whose lives have been changed, sometimes dramatically, by their experiences in the community college system, then puts these accounts on display for all to read,” Lee explains.  “The driving force is to inspire individuals in the community to realize that change is possible and hope for a better life exists.”


The idea for My Citrus Story developed during the summer of 2008, right after the grand opening of the college’s Louis E. Zellers Center for Innovation.


“I pulled together a group of staff, faculty, and a board member to plan the artwork that would be displayed in the new building.  It was during one of these planning sessions that the idea of using student stories as artwork was introduced,” Lee said.  “The idea was expanded upon, but soon was put on hold when the state budget crisis hit home.  I decided to continue working on the project, which had evolved into My Citrus Story.  My hope was that it would provide encouragement and inspire hope during these gloomy financial times.”


Lee says the members of his team first began collecting information in September 2008.  Some of the first submissions were stories from a single mother with four children who returned to school, a high school dropout who enrolled in Citrus College 25 years later, and a student with a bachelor's degree who just wanted to take a German class.


"The experiences of these first three people not only reflected what an important role the community college system plays in helping people succeed, but more specifically they demonstrated how Citrus College and its employees work to provide hope and inspiration to all sorts of students," he said.


After the information was received, a creative team created posters to display on campus.


"The use of the posters is a highly productive way to inspire people visually because it marries images and stories, enabling the audience to connect with each subject on an emotional and intellectual level," Lee said.


A year and a half later, the team has the process of creating a My Citrus Story down pat.


"The process is managed by Mick Curran, project coordinator and an adjunct English professor who has an extensive background in marketing, film and television.  He believes in the project enough to do whatever it takes to get it up and running," Lee said.  "Jasmine Helm, a former Citrus College student, is a gifted artist who designs and publishes the posters.  Jolie Elman, a web specialist in the Citrus College TeCS Services Department, has been wonderful in helping us keep the website up and running."


Lee says that photographs provided some of the magic behind My Citrus Story.


"Citrus College's accomplished photographer, Roy LaBomme, has contributed what can only be adequately described as his genius at capturing the very essence of each individual whose story has been published," he said.  "While their stories grip someone once they begin reading, it is Roy's outstanding abilities as a photographer that first capture one’s attention."


Of course, My Citrus Story would be nothing without the students.


"The type of person who makes a good My Citrus Story candidate is someone who has discovered something surprising and life-changing as a result of taking classes at Citrus College and interacting with our employees," Lee said.  "We are always looking for students who demonstrate the value of the community college system through their success.  We aren't just concerned with academics, but we also want stories that serve as reminders that second chances are available and that there are people at Citrus College who provide help and support to ensure eventual success."


The campaign is not about glorifying an individual or trumpeting Citrus College's many successes, Lee is quick to point out.


"It is a way of inspiring others while also highlighting the fact that Citrus College and the entire community college system play a crucial role in the state's educational system," he said.  "At a time when state and federal budgetary cutbacks threaten educational funding for every level of student, the benefits offered by the community college system are often overlooked.  The various student achievements featured in My Citrus Story are examples of how higher education is making California a better place to live and work."


Lee hopes to see the campaign expand in future months.


“We will soon be noting the students' high school and would like to get posters displayed on our area high school campuses,” he said.  “Also, as we develop our video library, we hope to broadcast My Citrus Story on our local cable access channel.”


The focus of the stories will also become more defined.


“We are hoping to highlight inspiring achievements of individuals in various college disciplines, specifically in performing arts, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” he said.  “We would also like to feature more students alongside their mentoring faculty members as a way of accentuating the important contributions of our dedicated and engaged instructors.”


In the meantime, Lee hopes people will visit the campaign’s web site ( and read the 28 featured stories that include alumni of all ages, disciplines, and backgrounds.


“Citrus College is in the business of changing and improving lives,” he said.  “My Citrus Story helps communicate – even in our small, modest way – that education and community colleges are very important.”





FURTHER INFORMATION:       STACY ARMSTRONG (626) 857-4082, SAM LEE (626) 914-8855