Finding Community Inside and Outside Community College – The Bowdoin Orient
For many students, their first year of college is a formative experience. Bereníce Flores ’24, Issie Gale ’25, and Jenna Barac ’25 have the unique position of being freshmen for the second time, as part of the first cohort of transfer students from Bowdoin Community Colleges.
The College has updated its transfer credit policy to ensure a diverse candidate pool. Flores, Gale and Barac are three of the five students in this year’s cohort.
Bereníce Flores identifies as an “eccentric” and non-traditional student. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Flores is a published poet and former stand-up comedian, joining the junior class at a community college in Minneapolis.
“I’ve lived a lot of lives,” Flores said, “I sold rugs. I was a real estate agent for six years at one point. I was a personal trainer…I was a singer in a band of punk-rock.
After exploring a variety of careers and hobbies, Flores decided it was time to go back to school.
“When I finally got to community college and walked through those doors, I almost walked out,” Flores said.
Flores faced immense challenges throughout high school, due to an undiagnosed learning difference and a difficult home life. With the support of her community college faculty and her thirst for knowledge, her initial belief that she did not belong in higher education was crushed.
“I didn’t know I had ADHD,” Flores said.
Likewise, Gale was also unaware of their undiagnosed ADHD. The small, tight-knit community of Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) was the welcoming environment they needed to succeed academically.
“I’ve really been able to connect with my peers, connect with my professors, and build relationships that have helped me do my job because I never want to show up to class unprepared and not be able to contribute to the conversation. “, said Gale. . “So having that element was crucial for me because if I don’t feel some kind of outside force, I won’t submit in time.”
In fact, SMCC faculty members played a significant role in Gale becoming the first student to transfer from a community college to the College of Maine.
“When I came for Admitted Students Day [at Bowdoin]the dean I had emailed with mentioned that my literal english teacher had really advocated for me [as well as] my history teacher,” Gale said.
Gale’s experience at SMCC also deconstructed their initial skepticism of community college. This distaste for the community college stemmed from the elitist views disseminated during Gale’s time at Falmouth High School.
“The remaining insights that I accidentally learned from Falmouth have been completely discarded because the SMCC environment and culture is just amazing,” Gale said.
Gale’s roommate, a transfer student to a community college in Chicago, also shares positive feelings about her institution.
“I really felt a lot of shame. I didn’t tell anyone that I was going to the community [college] besides people I trusted [for two years]”, Barac said. “I just needed someone to pull me back and say, ‘you’re amazing, look at all the accomplishments you’ve made and look at where you’re going and all your future ahead of you. ‘”
Flores, Barac and Gale hope to reframe the language used around community college, deconstructing biases and misconceptions along the way.
“Just give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m like a student like you,” Flores said. “Don’t assume we don’t listen to the same music.”