Rosalinda “Rosa” Cota has been apart of South Mountain Community College since 1996. She originally attended classes at the Guadalupe Center and the main campus before earning her Master’s Degree. She is the Student Services Manager overseeing SMCC’s Achieving a College Education (ACE) Program.
Rosa attended Marcos de Niza High School and didn’t have plans that involved continuing her education after graduating in 1996, since she thought college was only for students that knew about it or that had college-bound families. Because of that, Rosa remembers not focusing on her schoolwork while in high school because she just wanted to do teenager things. Her high school experience did not prepare her for college. Rosa, however, believes that taking classes at South Mountain Community College and the Guadalupe Center ultimately prepared her to be successful at Arizona State University.
As a young woman, the director of the Guadalupe Center encouraged Rosa’s family to encourage her to take a few college classes. The Director of the Guadalupe Center was a family friend and knew her students of the Guadalupe Center, she helped Rosa with her challenges in math classes by getting Rosa a tutor which taught Rosa that it was okay to ask for help when she needed it. So Rosa spent a year taking as many classes as she could at the Guadalupe Center before transferring over to the South Mountain Campus in 1997.
Although South Mountain Community College is a small campus compared to other Maricopa Community Colleges, it was still bigger than the Guadalupe Center, which intimidated Rosa during her first visit to the campus. The Guadalupe Center staff took care of the responsibilities that Rosa would now have to figure out on her own, such as financial aid, finding the bookstore, and advising. Luckily while exploring the campus, Rosa and her mother ran into another family friend that was a professor and who encouraged Rosa to become a work-study student in the Business Services Department. Rosa took advantage of the opportunity, which led to her becoming director of the ACE Program at South Mountain Community College.
After graduating from South Mountain Community College, Rosa visited Arizona State University’s main campus and was overwhelmed so she decided she didn’t want to go there. At the same time, her boss had a baby and left the job which led to Rosa getting that position. The job gave her more responsibilities and led to her feeling that she should go back to school, which her colleagues also encouraged. Instead of going to ASU’s Main Campus, Rosa chose to go to ASU West. Even though the drive sometimes took an hour long, Rosa appreciated the smaller campus. While she was a student at ASU, they got Rosa a grant to keep working at SMCC before she applied to work in the Technology Services. She worked full time at the Technology Services and was a full time student at ASU, which was difficult but SMCC worked with Rosa and flexed her schedule to keep her employed and a student.
After she graduated from ASU with her Bachelor Degree and before she started a Master’s Program, Rosa got a position working in the SMCC Counseling Department as an office coordinator. It was here where Rosa helped get the ACE Program going. She enjoyed her time while working there for a year and she feels that her new boss inspired and challenged her. When a position opened up to become an ACE Advisor, her boss helped her get ready for the job and Rosa fell in love with the ACE Program. When her boss took a leave from work, she brought Rosa in to be the director of the ACE program for three months until she applied for the position when her boss left.
Rosa’s favorite days at South Mountain Community College are when she awards ACE cohort sashes to students graduating from the program. These sashes are symbols for the students that their hard work paid off and they were able to show the sashes off when they graduated from high school. Rosa is proud that she and her colleagues were able to bring in new ideas to incentive and retain the ACE program students. They allowed students to choose their classes, study times, and created resources for students such as more study labs during the weekend or over the summer.
Rosa hopes that the community embraces and engages with community colleges more, she feels that community college is the foundation that some students need in order to be successful at a university. She wants her students to know that she and the other staff are there to make students successful, that education is important because no one can take it away from you, and it allows you to maneuver throughout society by having some kind of degree.
Student Researcher: Geneva Angulo, Spring 2020