Student Profiles: Arezo Baca and Alex Sellen Became Bucks Success Stories
Both will transfer to major universities to complete their academic journeys
On May 19, Bucks County Community College sent the class of 2011 into life’s next round, whether it’s on to a college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree, entering the workforce, or wherever the quest for self-improvement leads.
Amid the day’s importance and emotions were many stories of students whose success was anything but predetermined. Their journey from entering college to graduation or transfer provided its own set of lessons.
Here are two of those stories. Arezo Baca entered scared, Alex Sellen, skeptical. But they leave as successful Bucks alumni excited to face opportunities that once seemed remote.
As the recession began inflicting its misery in 2008, a very pregnant Arezo (pronounced arr-ZOO) Baca was laid off from a financial institution. Both she and her husband, Brian, found themselves unemployed and without college degrees.
Baca, age 28, admits that without the help of Brian’s parents, they probably would have landed in a homeless shelter. Thankfully, their situation improved. They moved in with her in-laws, their beautiful daughter, Sophia, was born, and Brian’s managerial experience got him a sales job.
But Baca (pictured, left) knew she had to return to the workforce, and couldn’t keep doing the same thing.
“I had practically nothing [in experience], except for retail and one corporate job,” says Baca, who was born in Pakistan, fled Afghanistan for the U.S. with her family at age three, then left her family to marry Brian at age 16.
“I never wanted to be in that position ever again – to feel completely dependent on my husband, especially since there’s absolutely no such thing as job security. I remember seeing my daughter and wanting to absolutely do the best for her.”
Her goal to become self-sufficient began at Bucks. She entered through its Displaced Workers Program, which at the time offered free tuition to unemployed Bucks County residents. “Without that,” Baca says, “we wouldn’t have had the means to pay for school.”
Still, Baca was concerned about her past education, which primarily came from a series of less-than-challenging alternative schools in California. Bucks’ professors not only filled her scholastic gaps, they instilled confidence. (Getting diagnosed with ADHD – and treating it – also helped Baca.)
Encouraged by her husband to focus on school and being a mom, Baca’s grade-point-average soared to a robust 3.6. She developed a well-rounded resume, becoming president of the college’s business honor society Kappa Beta Delta and treasurer of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa.
“She really wanted to take care of herself and be a good role model,” her husband Brian says. “It drove her to be passionate about school. She realized along the way that she liked it.”
This fall, Baca will attend Drexel University on a partial scholarship. She wants to become a certified public accountant, and her own boss, of course. Bucks, Baca says, gave her a second chance. “Bucks will take you in at any age, with any faults, and will help you rebuild and set you on the right path.”
Alex Sellenwas a B student in high school, not quite good enough to get into the competitive college of his choice.
Two years later, Sellen (pictured, left), 19 years old, says it was a gift that he ended up at Bucks. It’s where he met so many people that he can't walk across campus without greeting a friend. It’s where he got serious about schoolwork and preparation, instead of struggling to find his niche at a four-year school.
And Bucks is where the hard work and extra-curricular activities – from Phi Theta Kappa to the Centurion student newspaper to giving campus tours as a Bucks ambassador – paid off handsomely. In 2010, Sellen won the Marjorie Brody scholarship for communication majors at Bucks. He also won a PTK scholarship to his transfer school. In August, he’ll attend Syracuse University to study broadcast journalism at the famed S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Sellen’s mother, Roseann, believes Bucks has prepared her son to succeed at Syracuse and beyond. “We saw how Alex grew into a mature adult who could juggle his studies, involvement with student government, being a student ambassador, and working several other jobs, all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA,” she says.
The attitude adjustment started immediately. Away from his longtime friends, Sellen, voted the class clown in high school, knew he had to “put away the jokes and take out his notebook,” a notion reinforced by Bucks’ committed, dedicated faculty.
“They were all just very personable, very eager to help,” Sellen says of his professors. “When you had a question, they wouldn’t just answer it, they’d go in-depth and make sure you knew what they were talking about.” Away from the classroom, Student Life matched Sellen with on-campus activities that coincided with his interests.
Sellen, like Baca, realized that he couldn’t float from class to class and go home. “You’re never going to stand out that way,” he says. “It's funny. More and more I feel like I'm becoming an adult. I think more and more about, ‘How do I succeed? What do I do?,’ because it's becoming more of a reality.”
Just a few months away from a new challenge in upstate New York, Sellen is ready. “It's exhilarating, and at the same time, I feel confident.”
Baca and Sellen are among the thousands of students who have succeeded at Bucks. To learn more about what life-transforming opportunities are available at the public, two-year college, visit the Admissions page or call 215-968-8100.