WAAC! at Whatcom

Photos by Esther Martinez

Horizon Reporter

On March 5 and 6, student artwork took over room 108 of the Syre Student Center for the Whatcom Art Awareness Club’s first student art exhibition. The theme was “Illumination: Dark vs. Light.” Here are just a few of the displayed works:

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GED: The cap and gown alternative

by Kelly Sullivan

Horizon Reporter

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Whatcom student Ayanna McCabe, 17, was behind schedule to graduate high school due to stress at home. Her family had been moving frequently, and balancing a job made it difficult to attend school at the same time.

“Getting a GED just made sense,” said McCabe. She started Adult Basic Education classes, or ABE, at Whatcom last fall, and received her results for the test February 22. GED stands for General Education Development. To receive a degree is the equivalent of having graduated with a high school diploma.

“I thought I’d need another year before I took the test,” said McCabe. “All the teachers definitely try their hardest to make sure you are where you need to be.”

McCabe said one of her ABE teachers Denise Ranney was ecstatic when she found out McCabe had passed her test. McCabe would have graduated spring 2011, but by entering the program at Whatcom she received her GED a year before she was on track to graduate.

She is hoping to receive financial aid so she can continue her education this spring quarter, and enter the Nursing Assistant- Certified program.

Whatcom offers a preparation program for any one desiring a foundation or brush up on academic skills, before taking the GED exam.

The program offers basic education classes such as ESL, reading and writing, listening and speaking, Civics classes, basic computer classes, presentation classes and math.

Christie Rector, 36, hasn’t been to school in 15 years. She is also taking the Adult Basic Education classes, and hoping to get into the Nursing Assistant program this spring to eventually become a Health Unit Coordinator. She started her preparation classes in 2009.

“I was terrified to come back to school,” said Rector. “I went in thinking I had no math skills at all. Now after two quarters I’m working on geometry.”

“You can’t fail over there,” said Rector.

“I mean there is so much support. I am amazed at how much Katie knows about everybody, she’s always popping into classes and coming to people telling them what else they need to do to improve their skills.”

Katie Jensen is the Director for Transitional Learning at Whatcom that keeps track of the students involved in the preparation classes.

The program at Whatcom is federally funded so the cost of taking preparation classes is only $25 a quarter, for however many classes you enroll in. The program is not credit based and there is no limit or minimum amount of classes one needs to finish before taking the exam.

“It’s meant to be very accessible to everybody,” said program assistant Tobi Martinez. There are no books required for any of the classes to ensure it is easily affordable to students. “They take the expense away for everybody to get their basic skills down,” Martinez said.

“There’s a multitude of reasons people would be in our classes,” said Martinez. “Some people take it to keep up with their kid’s homework, brush up on education, or gain skills needed for a job.”

There are 523 students involved in the general preparation courses this winter. The number of students that go through the program at Whatcom and succeed at the exam is unknown, however nationwide one out of every 20 highs chool students receives their GED instead of a high school diploma each year.

“What I am more interested in is seeing how many students go on to college,” said Jensen. The fact that the program allows for more students like Rector to become more confident in their skills and successfully transition to college courses, is what the program is most optimistic about.

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by Lexi Foldenauer

Horizon Reporter

For twelve years, Jimmy Kelsey was working five different sections at four schools throughout Seattle, not including the two online classes he oversaw as well.

“That was hard,” Kelsey said with a laugh, “That’s almost two full-time jobs.”

Kelsey, an economics instructor at Whatcom Community College, recalled the day he packed up his belongings from his Seattle apartment and moved to Bellingham. It was September 2001, and he had just landed a position a month prior at Whatcom, after living and working in Seattle most of his life.

“I worked everywhere,” said Kelsey.

The pressure of his numerous obligations led Kelsey to turn to food for solace.

“I was probably stuffing pain in some sense from the stress of the full-time job,” he said.

Kelsey recalled nights when he would open a box of crackers, only to open another right after. Along with frequent trips to places like Wendy’s and Burger King, the continuous snacking led him to a very unhealthy weight, exceeding 400 pounds. It was a Diabetes diagnosis a few years ago that acted as a major wake-up call to his unhealthy lifestyle, Kelsey said. He knew it was time to make a healthy change and lose weight.

“I knew I had to if I was going to stay alive,” he said.

Kelsey began researching online for ways to lose weight. He decided early on to avoid procedures like stomach-stapling or banding surgery, and knew he would have to do it the old-fashioned way.

“I focused on resuming a more active life-style and losing weight, instead of being immobile, being bummed out, and being morbidly obese,” said Kelsey.

A lot has changed for Kelsey in the past few years, and recently he had the rewarding opportunity to send out a group e-mail informing his colleagues of some good personal news. The e-mail reads “100 pounds lost” in big, bright red letters. Kelsey signed the e-mail, “My thanks to so many of you who have encouraged and supported the effort.”

Prior to having a heart surgery in 1997, Kelsey had gone through two other dramatic weight losses. He was put on a liquid diet under medical supervision, in which he was consuming an average of 700 calories a day. Kelsey lost 157 pounds while on the liquid diet, which was the lowest he had been in years. He was also given injections to suppress his appetite, which he said did not help much.

“I just kept stickin’ to it,” said Kelsey.

Unfortunately, the diets didn’t help long-term and soon his unhealthy eating habits returned, causing his weight to escalate more each year.

Around 2000 was when Kelsey’s weight gain began to really increase, he said, and by the summer of 2007 he had reached a high of 415 pounds, and said his life was temporarily put on hold. That same summer, a visit from some old friends gave Kelsey the boost he needed. He watched his friends play in a soccer tournament, and felt inspired to be able to get out on the field again himself. Even just visualizing gliding down a mountain on cross-country skis or kicking a soccer ball around were enticing thoughts that provided motivation.

“I felt like I had something to live for again,” he said.

Today, Kelsey has reached a more comfortable weight, which is something that he still works at daily to maintain.

“The hardest part is the first step,” said Kelsey, “just getting started.”

Once you make the effort and start to see some results, it is much easier to keep going, he said. Paying attention to what he eats, and why he wants it, has been a major part of his weight loss. He now chooses to treat himself to really good food, with more nutritional value, and takes the time to savor it. One of his favorite places to shop is Slough Foods, a specialty store in Everson, where he likes to purchase fine meats and cheeses. Another essential part of making such a major life transition is to be around people you love, said Kelsey, which he is certainly doing.

Aside from personal discipline, Kelsey attends St. Joseph’s Diabetes and Nutrition Center for support. He does activities in the therapy pool twice a week, with the guidance of his diabetes and nutrition counselor, Cindy Brinn. Kelsey is eager to enter the rehabilitation program after he gets down to a required 300 pounds, in order to receive a hip replacement. After this next step in weight loss, Kelsey will begin classes to learn how to live with a new hip.

Being an avid fan of soccer, Kelsey loves attending pick-up games, even to just watch them.

“It gives you something to think and relate about,” he said.

Activities he used to enjoy, like soccer, hiking, and bicycling, were no longer something he could possibly do when his weight had spiked, but he is looking forward to getting back out there. He hasn’t been to Whatcom Falls Park in six or seven years, and is eager to go back there to take walks. Among other things, Kelsey wants to buy a tricycle – “a fancy German one to ride back and forth from school,” he said.

Despite being limited to a wheelchair right now, Kelsey has season tickets for the Sounders, and plans on using them.

“I’m goin’,” he said, “No matter what it takes, even though it’s hard.”

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Community Ed: Off the grading scale

by Emily Huntington

Horizon Reporter

There are several non-credit classes that range from how to make a perfect food dish to how to work your BlackBerry, even controlling your finances are offered, and they are much cheaper than a for-credit class on campus. You can learn how to dance, do Pilates, or learn how to cook a dish German style. There are also classes that you can earn certificates in – such as the business of floral design. How, you ask? Through community education at Whatcom. Community education provides skills and training, as well as personal enrichment for people of Whatcom County.

Most classes, said Greg Marshall, Director of Community Education, are three to 12 hours long and are focused on one subject. Students pay for the classes up front, and the classes don’t translate into credit.

Community education is a great way to add a new skill needed for classes or on the job market. “It’s also a great way to learn a new hobby,” Marshall said.

Anne George, French instructor and former community education teacher, says that students who participate in community education fully choose to be there, and are motivated and demanding students with a definite goal in mind. These goals could be anything from going on a four-week vacation in Paris to working for Doctors without Borders in Africa, George explained. If something isn’t working for them, they let the instructor know right away. Community ed students are also self-starters, which results in them perhaps bringing more to the table than a credit class that is graded and filled with exams.

Some students even take community education classes to compliment their for-credit classes on campus. For example, you could take a Spanish class through Community education to learn a new angle and use that to your benefit for your for-credit Spanish class on campus.

Among other things, it can be “a non-threatening way to gain confidence in a difficult area of study since it is non-graded,” George said.

To sign up, go to Whatcom’s Web site, and click on the “community & continuing education” tab, and follow the instructions on that page. Also included is the classes offered for the quarter and prices of classes.

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It’s a wrap

by Matt Benoit

Horizon Editor

The Whatcom men’s and women’s basketball seasons came to very different conclusions this year. While the Orca men vied for postseason glory at the NWAACC Championship Tournament, the Orca women failed to make it to the postseason and finished the year with their worst record in the last six seasons.

Men’s Basketball

At the NWAACC Championship Tournament, held March 6 through 9 in Kennewick, Washington, Whatcom entered as the North Region’s second seed, playing their first game at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night against Pierce College. Tied at the half, the Orcas outscored Pierce by seven in the second half, defeating the Pirates by a final score of 66 to 59.  Jason Brown led Whatcom with 14 points scored.

The next day, the Orcas were handed their first loss in a tight game, losing toYakima Valley by a final score of 60 to 56. Trailing by three points at the end of the first half, Whatcom was only outscored by an additional point in the second half, and held a two-point lead going into the final minute of the game before Yakima’s Willie Blodgett sunk a three-pointer, giving the Yaks a lead they would not relinquish.

Connor Oldham led Whatcom with 10 points scored. With the loss, the Orcas were forced from the winner’s bracket into the consolation bracket. Whatcom concluded their season with a Mar. 8 matchup against Walla Walla, losing 59 to 56.

The Orca men’s team finished the regular season with a league record of 11-5, tying Bellevue Community College for second place in the NWAACC’s North Region standings. Whatcom ended the season by winning 9 of their final 11 games, including a mid-season streak of seven wins in-a-row.

Head coach Chris Scrimsher said in an e-mail that he was pleased with the team’s overall performance throughout the season, but never comfortable.

“We know we can always improve, and we strive to get better each day,” Scrimsher said. “It’s about peaking at the ‘right’ time and I think we’re getting closer to accomplishing that.”

Scrimsher said he expects to have a good core of returning players next season. “I’m excited about their potential,” he said.

Three players—Paul Jones, Matt Peterson, and Elon Langston—were given all-star honors. Jones was voted to the first team of North Region all-stars, while Peterson and Langston will represent Whatcom in the Sophomore All-Star game, to be held March 14 at Pierce College.

Women’s Basketball

The Whatcom women’s basketball team struggled to find consistency after a head coaching change this season, losing their last three games in-a-row and finishing sixth in the North Region standings with a 7-9 record in league play.

Head coach Piper Nims was released from her contract with the team on Jan. 21, and Becky Rawlings, who had served as head coach of the team for first 11 years of the program, was named interim coach.

“It was challenging,” said Rawlings in an e-mail. “I had just five weeks with them and the teams we were playing had about four months to prepare.” Still, she said her team did a great job of responding to the changes the coaching move brought.

“I was really impressed with their athletic talent and their team camaraderie.”

Rawlings said she will probably only be back with the team as a fan. “I’ve done my coaching stint and it’s time for someone else to have an opportunity,” she said, adding that the recruiting process for a new coach is well on its way with several qualified candidates being looked at.

Even though the team missed the playoffs by one game, their season-ending losses came against the first and second-place teams in the North Region, and were by only three points a piece.

“It’s hard not to think of what this team would have been if I had coached them the whole season,” Rawlings said. “I can honestly say that they were probably one of the most athletically talented teams that I have seen come through WCC.”

As for next season, Rawlings said nine first-year players are expected to return.

In the end, Rawlings said the biggest highlight was the way the team handled adversity throughout the season.

“I truly believe that we were one of the top four teams in our league,” she said. “We just had a large hole to dig ourselves out of.”

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The official student newspaper of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington