April celebrates Community College Month. At SIPA Admissions, we want to use this occasion to acknowledge the unconventional journey and achievements of SIPA students who attended community college. Both Joey and I are community college graduates, so we spoke with other students who also had a path similar to ours.

In the United States, 46% of all students in college attend community colleges. As Dr. James Mabry ’81 GS highlighted, in a nation where your zip code can be your destiny, community college students strive every day to prove that this does not apply to them. Community colleges offer a critical avenue for upward mobility for many underserved students, including low-income, first-generation, and racial/ethnic minority students, all of whom are disproportionately represented at community colleges. As community college students are often forced to figure out their path to success on their own, once they do, they have a determination and resiliency that carries them forward.

David Aguilar III, MIA ‘23

“As a first-generation college student, community college symbolizes a significant milestone in my personal academic journey. It reflects the obstacles, failures, and successes that shape the person I am today. Most importantly, it illustrates a chapter in my life that fostered resiliency that I carry with me to the present day. My community college experience prepared me for SIPA by fostering a sense of academic resilience and knowing that by being tenacious I could set goals and achieve them down the road. Furthermore, the community college experience helped me develop a roadmap through a series of obstacles and successes, that in turn, I utilized at the undergraduate level and SIPA to achieve success inside and outside the classroom” (David Aguilar III, MIA ‘23 / ‘21 Pickering Fellow / ‘20 CA Senate Fellow / ‘20 Rangel Scholar/ PCC ‘17,).

Catalina Wedman Alfaro, MIA ‘22

“To begin my preparation for a career in international affairs, I studied abroad in Xi’an, China during community college. Additionally, I gained invaluable experience working at my community college’s office for international students. This job gave me the opportunity to organize an itinerant consular visit from the Peruvian Consulate, thus enabling +120 Peruvian citizens to renew their passport on campus” (Catalina Wedman Alfaro, MIA ‘22 / ‘20 Rangel Fellow / ‘21 Fulbright / ‘21-‘19 FLAS Fellow ‘17 JCCC).

We encourage current community college students interested in SIPA, to engage in opportunities that will develop and strengthen the soft and hard skills necessary for a career in public service and international affairs. For example, enrolling in the most rigorous coursework available, such as classes offered through honors programs, and participating in extracurricular activities such as Model United Nations, student government, and debate. These activities help sharpen a student’s public speaking, analytical thinking, leadership, and writing skills.

So from two community college graduates to the thousands of others out there, we are so proud of you! Keep on paving your way through academia. You are part of a legacy!