Fullerton College Centennial


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I am Sandra Gabel and I am an Emeritus Counseling/Faculty Member of Fullerton College.

I came to Fullerton College in 1983, thinking I would only commute for a few years and then try for a counseling position back at Chaffey College where I had started my second career in education. My first career was being a high school foreign language teacher and a stay-at-home mom. When I was hired at Fullerton College I had just moved to Rancho Cucamonga and my commute was a 35 mile trip from house to parking lot B and it took me about 45 minutes. When I retired in 2003, the drive was about 1.5 hours each way and pretty stressful. I actually never meant to drive 20 years, but I loved my job, my wonderful fulfilling career as a Counseling/Faculty member at Fullerton College.

When I became a counselor, it was an exciting time in the early 70’s when the Women’s Movement made a big push to support and encourage women entering the work force or returning to college. At that time, women were underrepresented in community colleges. Now the picture is quite different. From writing grants and developing pilot programs for “displaced homemakers” and “second career seekers”, Women’s Centers evolved into Adult Re-Entry Centers and ultimately became Career and Life Planning Centers. In developing the Career and Life Planning Program and Center here at Fullerton College we wrote pilot programs, initiated new classes in Career Decision Making; addressed the psychological and emotional support systems needed to be an “adult student” while managing school, taking care of a family, holding down a full or part time job. Quite different from being 18 and a fulltime college student, at the time. The counselors that I worked with that were so highly involved in the creation of the Fullerton College Career and Life Planning Center were Ann Peralta, Lola Coxford Brown, and Brian Couron. While there were other counselor instrumental in the career planning courses, we four developed the center that was created in the 100 Administration Building.

The anecdotal success and heartwarming stories of my students over 20 years are just far too numerous to mention but I can tell you that among my favorites were those first generation students; students seeking new careers after a downturn in jobs, students suffering job change due to injuries; the re-entry student who had messed up their academic record many years before and were now ready to get serious. One of my favorite counselees was a woman in her mid-70’s who just wanted to complete a college degree and be a lifelong learner, telling me she did not want to sit in a rocking chair in her later years. She got involved in many campus activities, worked on campus, made stellar grades and I was able to nominate her for a Woman of Distinction award. She received that honor. She was a role model of excellence to all the younger students in her classes, encouraging and supporting them with her joy of learning. It was also a great joy to mentor our student employees, who went on to intern with us and actually become our counseling colleagues when hired here or at other community colleges.

I really loved the opportunity I had as a counseling/faculty member to go beyond the classroom teaching and counseling. One semester I wrote and received a vocational grant to go out and job shadow in the fields of fashion, interior design, nutrition, and child development in order to better inform students about every day work life and expectations in those career fields. I was a principal writer of T.A.P. (transfer achievement program) which went on to become a model program on our campus and nationally. In counseling I always had a passion for “teaching students to be students”, especially first generation students. I was part of the team that developed classes in Academic Success and College Survival, Career Decision Making, Developing Job Seeking Skills, Assertive Communication Skills and Developing Self Esteem. Some of those classes are currently not being taught due to an emphasis on transfer classes and limited budgets. I was a presenter at many conferences on Becoming a Master Student. I co/developed the first AA degree in Transfer Studies just before I retired. I also spent my last years counseling Liberal Studies and Child Development majors and worked closely with the state universities on teacher preparation programs and taught the Teaching as a Career class.

Besides counseling, teaching, writing grants, I had the privilege of being Faculty Academic Senate President during a very critical time of legislation AB1725 and also served three years as Counseling Department Chair. I loved the diversity that these service areas contributed to my personal growth as an educator and for providing me an opportunity to give back to the college on a leadership level. I received several wonderful honors from the college and I will long treasure the friendships I made with colleagues and students.

I never did move to Orange County. It is ironic that when I started my community college career I was commuting from Anaheim to Chaffey College. After I bought a house in Rancho Cucamonga, I got this incredible opportunity for a fulltime counseling position at Fullerton College. As I often told my students, if you don’t love your job, you would not commute up to 2 hours a day to get there! I loved my job…I loved and love Fullerton College and my wish is that Fullerton College celebrate many more centennials.