Sara Mendez, who recently received her BA in Early Childhood Education, commuted for almost two years from her workplace in Brawley, California to Brandman’s Palm Desert Campus -- a nearly two-hour commute each way. Sara was part of a group of twelve students that worked at Migrant Head Start Brawley Center and all commuted to Brandman together. They were able to use a 12-seat van provided by the agency that supports the Head Start Program.Sara Mendez, pictured here with students from her class.
Today, Sara is an Instructional Assistant at the Migrant Head Start, Brawley Center. Before beginning Brandman in 2011, Sara was a Community Assistant for the Riverside County Office of Education. Wanting to advance in her career she applied to the teaching department to become an Instructional Assistant. “We all knew in 2013 that teachers in Riverside County needed a BA. It was my personal goal,” explains Sara. “Some of my co-workers knew about Brandman and told us it would be a good match for us,” Sara adds.
The students live in the Imperial Valley area around El Centro and Calexico. “We all learned to drive the van and we would take turns driving.” The group would either meet in Brawley or El Centro. The gas was paid for. The group drove to Palm Desert almost 100 miles each way leaving at 4:00 to make a 6:00 class which ended at 9:00. “Most of the time we didn’t get home till 11:30,” recalls Sara.
Due to budget cuts the van was no longer available since last October.
“That was not going to stop us,” explains Sara the mother of three. “We decided we would take online classes to finish our degrees. Before I started my husband, my parents and I put together a plan so I would be able to complete my education,” she adds. “Sara and her group are a perfect example of successfully blending online and on ground classes,” explains Donald B. Scott, M.Ed. Assistant Director of Advising & Retention at the Palm Desert Campus.
“Brandman was very supportive. Sometimes we were a little late and they waited for us to begin class. They would set up arrangements sometimes for us to leave a little early which was really helpful,” Sara recalls. "I received an excellent education at Brandman from instructors who are very professional
Looking to future job opportunities, Sara will be applying for a teaching position. She will now be able to meet the requirements thanks to her Brandman degree. In addition to a new position she is also looking forward to expanding her personal and professional growth.