Since Mrs. Loomis’ kindergarten class at Parkway Elementary School in Fall 1963, through and including last Monday, August 26, 2013 at Santa Monica College, I have celebrated, and I do mean celebrated, 50 straight “First Days of School”.  I have either worked in or attended educational institutions for half of a century.

The Sunday before “The First Day of School”, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s right when they opened at 8am.  Employees were still stocking items on the shelves for the day.  In the first aisle, the conversation between two employees went something like this:

“You still in the nursing program?”

“Yeah, I am taking Microbiology this Fall.”

“Microbiology?  That sounds hard.”

“Yeah, but it is what I want to do.”

In the next aisle, the conversation went something like this, two different employees:

“School starting for you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, parking is gonna be hell.  Taking classes in summer was much easier.”

“You almost done?”

“Close. But I will be closer at the end of December.” (Big smile to his co-worker.)

And then, as I was at the check-out counter, the young man saw my SMC fleece jacket.

“You work at SMC?”

“Yes I do.”

“What do you teach?”

“I am a counselor.  I help students transfer.”

“I went to SMC, and I got into Chico, but family drama happened, and I didn’t go.  And I also dropped my math class in my last semester.”

“Goodness, you were that close, and you let family drama get in the way?  If the drama is over, get your butt back in school.  You aren’t getting any younger, and you are only going to get further behind in your math.  You don’t use it, you lose it.  You know having a degree opens up all kinds of opportunities, and life only gets more complicated as you get older.”

And then out loud I said, “Hope you can get back in the saddle sooner rather than later.”

His reply, “That is definitely my plan.”

Fiscal years begin July 1, New Year’s is January 1, but there is nothing better, more hopeful, more energizing or more important, than the “First Day of School”.  My anticipatory questions in 1963 were “Who am I going to meet today?  And what am I going to learn today?”  Last Monday, they were “Who am I going to meet today?  And whose life can I change today?”.

So, fellow WACAC members, enjoy the first day, week, and/or month of school and change lives.

(Future blogs: Obama’s agenda for higher education, international recruitment, the community college option.)

By Dan Nannini