Education Enables Alicia Berhow to Hit Home Runs for OC's Youth Alicia Berhow says she grew up poor, but today lives a rich life as Director of Workforce Development for the Orange County Business Council (OCBC). Her story has a beginning that is all too familiar in Santa Ana, but, in her case, has a happy ending. Raised in a single parent household, Alicia's mother worked two jobs to support Alicia and her two younger brothers, still barely keeping the family above the poverty level. Alicia was the only sibling in her family to attend college, and a lack of finances made it imperative that she utilize the community college system to start her post-secondary education. She enrolled at Santa Ana College and she describes her experience of attending SAC like "hitting nothing but home runs," just like her beloved Angels baseball team.
"Attending Santa Ana College was the best decision I ever made," says Alicia. "It allowed me to work full-time, while putting away a lot of my income and going to school part-time. A good education really does open your eyes to the world around you, and the instructors always made their classes enjoyable and interesting." Alicia obtained jobs through a temp agency, and worked for a period in the office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, an assignment that sparked her interest in community affairs.
Alicia has great memories of her days at SAC, particularly the staff and instructors. "They were very supportive and encouraging," she remembers. When the time came for her to transfer to a four-year school, she was was able, in part due to her drive and high GPA, to matriculate into the University of California system. She credits the encouragement of SAC instructors and advisors for giving her the gumption to transfer to UC Irvine, where she flourished.
Alicia graduated in 2001 with a degree in Political Science, and was able to pay off her student loans in one year a feat she also credits to SAC. "I did not have the monster loans acquired by students who skipped community college for a four-year university," she explains.
Responding to her passion for investing in her community, Alicia continued her work for Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, this time as a senior Field Representative on education, healthcare and women's and children's issues. Serving as the Congresswoman's eyes and ears in the community, she helped to identify the needs, which she would then take the information back to the office, where responsive legislation could be drafted.
Currently Alicia serves in a similar role as the Director of Workforce Development for the non-profit Orange County Business Council. The OCBC mission is to increase Orange County's economic development in order to preserve a high quality of life. "My job is to work with business, government and academia to ensure that Orange County students are well trained for the jobs of tomorrow," Alicia explains.
Accordingly, a large part of her job is working with K-12, vocational ROP (Regional Occupational Program), community college and the UC/CSU systems. She collaborates with her alma mater on several grant partnerships. One of her fundamental goals is to reach out to students and demonstrate what an impressive community college system we have in southern California.
Alicia serves as a conduit for business leaders and educators, providing a forum for industry to articulate its needs and help educators develop programming to address those needs. California SB 70 grants allow community colleges to shape their curriculum strategically, and Alicia stresses "We want our homegrown students to be well qualified to succeed in the very neighborhoods in which they grew up and to further the workforce development of Orange County."
"If a poor kid like me from a single-parent family can make it, anyone can," she affirms. "It 's about hard work and personal responsibility. Through schools like SAC, education is affordable, and it is imperative for success."
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