News - 07/12/2013

MiraCosta College Helps Student Define Her Future

Chom Miller

Talk about a challenge.

Chom Miller was a 60-year-old Korean emigrant who couldn’t read or write when she lost her husband to multiple sclerosis three years ago. Whenever Miller would look in the mirror, she’d see someone short on options.

 Then she found the Community Learning Center at MiraCosta College.

 “I didn’t know what to do,” Miller remembered. “My husband and I, we were always together. But he wasn’t going to come back. I had to do something. I thought maybe I’ll try school. I have nothing to lose.”

Less than a year later, Miller was no longer illiterate. She earned her GED. Then she enrolled in college courses at the Oceanside Campus.

Now she is on the President’s List for her academic achievements and planning to transfer to a four-year university.

The Community Learning Center offers a wide variety of tuition-free, noncredit courses at its main campus in Oceanside and at several other locations throughout Oceanside and Carlsbad. Its Adult High School Diploma Program prepares adults for higher education and increased employability regardless of background.

Miller swears by the program.

“I didn’t know this college was this good,” she said. “It changed my life around. The help they gave me was incredible. They gave me so much help. The tutors, the librarians. The tutors were great. I couldn’t believe it.”

Miller hardly spoke any English when she immigrated to America in 1978 with her then-fiancé, Philip Miller, a pharmacist in the Navy. “I didn’t know how to read or write or anything.” Eventually, though, she went to bartending school, which she completed by memorizing the looks of each bottle and how to mix various drinks. The couple eventually moved to Oceanside from their home in Michigan several years ago, but Philip Miller died of multiple sclerosis in 2010.
“When my husband passed away, I had nobody,” she said. “I had spent all my time taking care of him. Now I had 24 hours a day to do something, besides the few hours of sleep.”

Miller didn’t know what to expect at the Adult High School Diploma Program, but she was in for a surprise nonetheless. “I would take a test and I was always the last one to finish. But I got my test back and I would have a 96 or a 97. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe it.”

GED in hand, Miller decided to start taking college courses, where she has done equally well. “I was thinking maybe I will go back to Korea and teach English, but it’s hard to learn English. The more English you learn, the harder it gets. So I can’t do that. So I’m just going to graduate from MiraCosta College and get my four-year degree for right now.”

Miller says she remains committed to moving back to Korea, but her plans beyond that remain in flux. For now, she’s intent on continuing to learn.
“It’s not all me,” she said of her success. “It was MiraCosta College. They did so much for me.”

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