Today, we bring you a Student Success Story about Teresa Moses, who overcame obstacles, wants to help create social justice programs, and practices her probabilities while she drives a bus for work.
Having an open mind, a curiosity and desire to learn, is a highly underrated skill. Whether you are a child struggling to try a new food, a person experiencing a new culture for the first time, or a student taking their first statistics class, being open minded is essential to not just learning information and moving on, but to actually enjoying the process of learning itself and maybe even inspiring you to learn more.
That last example, the statistics class, applies to Teresa Moses, a current Coastline College student studying for her Associate of Arts Transfer in Psychology and her Associate of Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Teresa was “a little bit apprehensive about statistics” when she first enrolled because many of the people she’d previously spoken to had their own “negative experience” with it (I can back that up, as someone who can’t do math without extra fingers at hand).
But through her time at Coastline, including a Communications course and a counseling class taught by her future Coastline counselor Amy Evangelista, Teresa acquired “nuggets of information” that she can pull from and utilize day in and day out, including for her job as a bus operator in the Bay Area.
On her route, Teresa now says she practices her probabilities throughout the day. The numbers run through her mind as people get on or off: “So when I get to the first stop, and pick up no one: ‘okay, I’m zero for one.’ If I get to the second stop and I have three people: ‘okay, I’m three for two.’”
It’s not just statistics that she applies from her schoolwork either. From her psychology classes, she has learned to analyze her prospective bus passengers. It’s a way of not just maintaining safety, but helping others potentially have something as simple, yet elusive, as a good day or pleasant experience. Applying, not just memorizing, the material came up again and again in my conversation with Teresa. She says those are skills she acquired and honed in her time at Coastline:
“This time that I’ve been in school, learning different things, working with other students and with various professors, has taught me to see everyone as a blank canvas and accept them for whatever it is that they bring to paint with.”
A willingness and desire to allow others their own story, their own “canvas,” is what has led to Teresa’s success at Coastline. Beyond that, seeking to apply the tools from her classes also makes sense considering her goals to combine her psychology coursework with further education on the criminal justice system. The fact that Coastline’s programs were available to everyone, including those who are incarcerated, regardless of “what stage of life” people are in, struck a chord with Teresa.
“There have been institutions and different organizations and systems that I have fallen in over the span of my life,” Teresa says. “And some of them did well, some of them were supportive, and some of them kind of left me in the cracks somewhere.”
This leads to Teresa’s “ultimate goal” to “learn the language that [she’s] lived for so many years,” utilizing psychology, social, and criminal justice to help and heal others. As Teresa said, language, the ability to communicate our feelings and circumstances to each other, is paramount, in and out of the classroom. Language allows us to be at our most fully human, sharing with others our pains, loves, and longings.
Teresa continues: “The saddest part is when I graduate and I won’t have the same relationship anymore with Coastline.” While that’s true, the skills that were finessed at Coastline and borne out of life experience will remain with Teresa for the remainder of her education and even beyond, leading to another recurring theme in my conversation with Teresa: not getting trapped in the past.
“Sometimes you can feel stuck or feel like ‘what future really exists for me?’” But she knows, better than most and certainly better than me, that what’s past is past, and all you can do is make the best of the present and future. She said it better than I ever could: “I can’t change anything that’s already been done, but what I can do is not allow it to define what I have left.”
Teresa ended our conversation with a quote by bestselling author and professor Brené Brown, who often writes and lectures about vulnerability, confidence, and shame: “She could never go back and make some of the details pretty, all she could do is move forward and make the whole beautiful.” However, I happen to think the way Teresa put it was just as good, if not better.
As you can see from the first photo in this post, Teresa’s Wall of Motivation is a wonderful encapsulation of her goals. The timeline keeps her eye on the prize and the positive reinforcement peppered throughout exemplifies my conversation with Teresa and her upbeat, look-ahead perspective. She’ll continue to work toward her Associate’s degrees and further her education past that to achieve her goal of helping others as a licensed Therapist; if only more people were invested in learning and giving back, as Teresa is, the world would be a far kinder place.