Cerro Coso Community College

Hope Is a Gift

Paula Nelson

When Paula Nelson walked through the doors of Cerro Coso's Kern River Valley campus at the age of 31, she was both intimidated and afraid. "I had been out of school for 15 years," she said. What surprised the single mom was a welcoming staff that truly wanted to help her grow.

Her path in life not always straight and defined, Nelson says Cerro Coso gave her "hope for the future". "I have my children to thank for my going back to school and furthering my education," said the proud mother of three: Spencer (5 months), Peyton (4), and stepson Bobby (15).

Paula says the college helped her grow as a person, made her stronger, and made her more ambitious. But most of all, "it is providing me with the knowledge and skills I need to secure a better future for my family."

After graduating from high school in San Diego in 1997 she moved to Bellingham, Washington, where she found a job working in an Alzheimer's community and immediately fell in love working with the elderly. As much as she loved the work and the people, she quickly recognized her need for a career with less burnout and more prospects. Cerro Coso's Human Services program proved to be the perfect fit, offering a broad range of career options for "helping people in their everyday struggles".

Selected to serve an internship this fall at College Community Health, Paula is thrilled and looking forward to making the most of the opportunity. She has worked very hard, making the President's List in 2011 and 2012 and receiving the President's Outstanding Academic Achievement Award (2012), Outstanding Student Achievement Award for Human Services, and the 2012 Clayton A. Witherow Academic Achievement Award.

After graduating from Cerro Coso in May of 2014, she plans to transfer to CSU Bakersfield and earn a degree in Psychology. Ultimately, Paula hopes to combine her understanding of criminal law and psychology and become a Forensic Psychologist.

The nurturing environment of the KRV campus taught this full-time mom/student/peer mentor/intern that "you are in charge of your future" and gave her the confidence she needs to take on the world.

Paula feels Cerro Coso has changed her life from scared and intimidated to confident and hopeful. "It is a step by step process," she said "and as a peer mentor I get to help other students find direction, set goals, and realize those goals."

Her advice to her fellow students, "Don't give up. The path may change but hope will keep your goals within reach."

For further information, please contact Natalie Dorrell, Public Information (760) 384-6260
Kern Community College District