From as early as she can remember, Sokcon Swing has wanted to be a teacher, but the road that led to her goal wasn’t always smooth.
“I’ve gone through so many trials and tribulations,” she said. “Unlike most of my childhood friends, my parents didn’t grow up here. I didn’t have the same resources they had,” she added.
Swing moved the U.S. from Cambodia with her family in 1982 as they fled genocide, and as a first-generation college student her parents couldn’t help her apply to colleges, nor did they have the resources to help her financially.
“We lived in low-income housing where there were slum lords, we had to move several times,” she said. “They couldn’t tell me how to fill out a college application, they didn’t have money for me to go to school. I had to navigate the whole college system with a little help from my sister who is only two years ahead of me.”
Swing, 33, eventually did figure things out and finished her degree at the Stanislaus State Stockton Campus in May. Her academic success and perseverance have been noted by the California State University Chancellor’s Office, honoring her Oct. 15 at a reception in Sacramento as part of its Celebrating the Adult Learner campaign.
It’s a storybook conclusion to her winding college journey.
“I went to college right after high school,” she said. “I went to Butte College for a couple of years. I went to Chico State for a couple of years. I changed my major three times and then I moved to Stockton.”
A short time later, Swing took a job as an after-school program facilitator at Rio Calaveras School in Stockton. While there, she said a coworker encouraged her to finish her college education.
“One of my supervisors had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences (BASS) at Stanislaus State, and told me about the BASS program because she knew I wanted to finish my degree and that I had to work to support myself and my family,” she said.
Swing enrolled in the 17-month program, which rotates every cohort between the Turlock and Stockton campuses.
“It’s an accelerated, hybrid program so it was evening classes in Stockton on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-10 p.m. and also some online classes,” she said. “The program enabled me to work full time and go to class at night.”
Upon graduation in May, Swing said she began seeing the benefits of her new degree almost immediately. Not only did her salary increase dramatically, but as Swing was finishing her credential program, she was hired to teach sixth grade at Rio Calaveras.
“Everything I learned in the BASS program — organizational communication, cultural anthropology; we studied a wide variety of material — it’s all relevant to what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m so grateful for what the program has done for me. My parents always told me my education is my key to success in this country and I never took that for granted.”