Jaelyn MalilayKent Gomez has been teaching Counseling 100 since 2010, focusing on college success strategies such as effective time management, goal setting, emotional intelligence, interdependence, and study skills. As the counselor and instructor for the Kababayan Learning Community, he believes in a holistic approach to serving students, addressing needs both inside and outside the classroom.

“I am a product of the community college system myself,” says Gomez, “I know that life transitions are often difficult, especially for historically under-privileged and disadvantaged groups such as the students that I work with. I know that they lack role models. I know they need additional guidance.”

But Kent also understands that if students don’t feel excited about their class, and if students aren’t inspired and empowered while they learn, then the information he teaches loses much of its value. Guest speakers, Kent has found, get his students excited and provide an opportunity to connect with potential role models.

That’s why he invited Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud to speak to his students. A few days before the November 2014 elections, Dr. Stroud spoke to Kent’s students about her leadership and educational philosophy – that education is the practice of freedom. She asked a series of questions focused around the election: First, how many students had the right to vote, then how many had registered, then how many students planned to vote. The numbers dropped drastically with each question, with just four students in the class planning to vote.

Dr. Stroud stressed that students needed to exercise their freedom – that they needed to have an awareness of what they believed. With this in mind, she left them with an assignment: write down your own educational philosophy.

While 32 students take Kent’s class, just one student completed the assignment: Jaelyn Malilay. A key tenet of Jaelyn’s philosophy? “Education changes your outlook on others and the world.”

Struck by Jaelyn’s initiative, and her drive to discover an awareness of what she believes, Dr. Stroud decided to grant Jaelyn a $1,000 President’s Scholarship. She presented the scholarship in front of Kent’s class, and reminded students that when an opportunity to learn and discover oneself arises they have to seize it – because no one will hand it to them. And sometimes the rewards of seizing an opportunity reveal themselves when you least expect it.

Ultimately, it was Kent’s drive to find compelling speakers for his class that provided a unique opportunity for his students – one that Jaelyn Malilay seized for herself.

Kent’s commitment to inspiring students through varied and unique channels stands as a model for great teaching. And Jaelyn’s initiative demonstrates the very best kind of learning – that which is self-motivated and strives to find a deeper understanding of oneself within the context of the world around us.

Article by Connor Fitzpatrick