Community college programs offer university transfer credit and entry-level job opportunities
2 students share how College of the Siskiyous helps them reach their professional goals
Jon Peters isn't your average undergrad. At 59, the single father of three has returned to college to pursue a career in early childhood education at College of the Siskiyous, a small community college located in far northern California.
Unable to work in his former field due to complications related to a surgery, Peters looks forward to rejoining the workforce –– and bringing his passion and experience in early childhood education to the classroom.
"The inability to do what I used to do now opens a window to do this," Peters said. "I truly love kids. The choice is a no-brainer for me."
The Early Childhood Education program at College of the Siskiyous is just one of the ways that students can begin a new career after completing an associate degree. The program also allows courses to be applied toward a four-year university program.
Here is a look at three of the college’s programs — Early Childhood Education, Alcohol and Drug/Human Services and Fire/Emergency Response Technology — and how they are making a difference in the lives of students and people throughout the community.
Child Development and Early Education
College of the Siskiyous offers an associate of arts degree in early childhood education and an associate of science degree for transfer to a university. Both provide an emphasis on the needs of children and families who live in rural communities. All early childhood education classes at the college are currently available through distance learning using Canvas and Zoom technology.
Students go on to become preschool or infant-toddler teachers and site directors; Head Start teachers or site directors; family child care providers; or attain entry-level positions in family services agencies. Students transferring to a four-year college can earn their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to become leaders in child development and early education.
"The program does have a good reputation," said Peters, who hopes to work for Head Start after he graduates. "One thing I would want people to understand is how hard this is. So many parents are strained to the breaking point financially. Parents have to drop infants off at day care because they must go back to work too early. Dropping off a 6-week-old baby to be taken care of by a stranger is heart-wrenching. As someone working in ECE, you can provide the warm heart and warm lap that is fundamental to development. You can truly make a difference."
The college also has an on-site child development center –– a collaboration between the college and Shasta Head Start. It serves as a mentor teacher site and a lab school for the college's Early Childhood Education program. Students at distant sites work with mentor teachers through the California Early Childhood Mentor Teacher Program, held at sites throughout the county.
Upon completion of College of the Siskiyous' Early Childhood Education program, students fulfill the requirements of the California Department of Education Child Development Permit Matrix, which complies with the California Department of Social Services' requirements for employment in early education programs.
Alcohol and Drug/Human Services
Like the Early Childhood Education program, College of the Siskiyous offers two paths for students who want to pursue a career in human services fields. The Alcohol and Drug/Human Services program leads to entry-level employment in human services and transfer credits for bachelor's degrees in social work, counseling, rehabilitation or related professions.
The college also offers a certificate of achievement in alcohol and drug/human services, which is required by the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals.
Courses include the physiological and pharmacological aspects of substance abuse; family counseling; relapse prevention; and law and ethics.
Upon graduation, students can begin entry-level careers as drug and alcohol counselors, employee assistance counselors, health workers, divinity workers, and corrections, adult and juvenile caregivers.
Fire/Emergency Response Technology
College of the Siskiyous' Fire/Emergency Response Technology program provides the skills required for becoming a career firefighter. The college offers a number of specialized courses that are certified by the California State Fire Marshal's office, the National Fire Academy and the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Upon completion of the Firefighter 1 Academy course, students are eligible for California State Fire Marshal certification and qualified for entry-level firefighter positions. Some students also choose to transfer their credits toward a bachelor's degree program.
Rachael-Anne Boughton enrolled in the fire program in fall 2020 after pursuing different programs at other colleges over the years. At College of the Siskiyous, she found the right fit.
“I tried different things before coming to the fire academy, and I didn’t finish them because they couldn’t provide what I needed for a satisfying career,” said Boughton, who plans to pursue a career as a city firefighter after she graduates. “There was something missing. I found it with fire.”
Boughton remembers a trailer next door catching fire when she was 15 and her dad helping to extinguish it with a garden hose.
“Seeing the chaos, but people rushing into action made a difference,” she said. “I didn’t know then it would serve as fuel for finding my purpose or career.”
A career in firefighting is especially important now since California has been experiencing hotter and drier summers, which have led to extreme fires, she said.
“To make a difference you have to have the bodies to do the work,” she said. “You need the frontline workers cutting line, the people supplying water, people who know how to form a plan of action, logistics, food and housing. It’s a collective of different people coming together to get it done.”
The program takes work, Boughton said. But she’s reminded that she is pursuing a career that is helping people.
“I’m going to make a difference, and an easy way for me to find that is to find that heart to push through the challenges,” she said.
Learn more about the programs at College of the Siskiyous that help students find a new career at siskiyous.edu.