North Orange Co. Community College School of Continuing Education
Patty Lujan is a living demonstration and quintessential success story of the North Orange County Community College District's adult education program. Born and raised in Peru, Patty came to the United States in 1974 hoping to find better opportunities. On the cusp of turning 17 and visiting on a student visa, Patty realized she was too young by one year to go to college in America. She enrolled in a local high school and found it extremely overwhelming and frustrating because no one spoke her native Spanish.
After turning 18 Patty was referred to the English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) Program of the North Orange County Community College District's School of Continuing Education on the Cypress College Campus. Once she stepped into the classroom at SCE, she knew she had found the right place. A small program with only three classes, the ESL program called themselves a family. The ESL program consisted of students and instructors from around the world with everyone learning English and experiencing this new American culture together. SCE provided a safe environment where Patty was able to learn English and pursue her goals of attending college and becoming a career woman, opportunities that she would not have found in her native Peru.
Once Patty completed her studies at SCE, she took and passed the test of English as a foreign language (TOEFL) and was admitted into Cypress College. Patty's support system grew with her as many of her fellow classmates followed in her footsteps. At Cypress College they continued their friendship and even took part in the International Club on campus. Many of them are still her friends to this day.
Patty graduated from Cypress College, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Service from California State University, Fullerton and finished her Master of Arts in Education Counseling from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Throughout her college career, Patty was steadily employed by NOCCCD since 1978 working as a Tutorial Center Assistant Coordinator at Cypress College and a Counseling Technician, Interim Transfer Center Coordinator and an Adjunct Counselor at Fullerton College. In 2000, Patty came full circle and accepted her current position within the District as Non-Credit Matriculation Counselor with SCE, right where she started her educational journey.
In her role as a matriculation counselor at SCE, Patty provides the necessary services to help adult students achieve their goals including delivering academic, career and personal counseling. She also works to transition SCE students from non-credit to college credit programs, vocational training or employment. Patty is happy to be a resource for the many immigrant students who are seeking assistance on the process of student visas. It is her personal goal to make the immigrant experience, a seemingly complicated process, as easy as possible for her students.
"I am student-centered," says Patty of her counseling philosophy. "I always try to build a rapport with my students when counseling them. It is important for me to help them feel as comfortable as my counselors helped me feel."
Through her caring nature, Patty has assisted hundreds of students in their quest to learn English, finish their high school diploma or transition to college. Because of her success with students and her own success story, Patty was chosen by her peers to impart her wisdom to the students as the faculty speaker at the 2002 SCE High School Graduation Ceremony.
"I encourage all students, regardless of age, ethnicity and gender to go back to school – it is never too late," says Patty.
Patty's favorite weekend activity is attending her sons' basketball games in Fullerton. She also enjoys going to movies, reading magazines about health, fitness and nutrition. She lives in Fullerton with her husband and two boys, ages 12 and 14.
Patty attributes a lot of her academic success to the undying support of her teachers. She particularly remembers ESL instructors Susana Bruner and Dulce Noor. Dulce was one of the first people to welcome her as a full-time counselor to SCE where she is now her colleague.