Graduate Kimberly Benjamin shares her passion for educationby Jan Janes on Jun 9, 2020
Kimberly Benjamin, one of three Gavilan employees attending university during Shelter in Place (SIP) 2020, has graduated from San Jose State University with her BA in Communication Studies.
Kimberly Benjamin, SJSU graduate May 2020,
keeps the dream of college education alive:
for herself, her family and Gavilan students.
She maintained a keen focus on a college education, even when success was elusive.
“I had gone to college straight out of high school,” said Benjamin. Initial semesters at San Jose State University and area community colleges reflected a lack of direction. “I didn’t even talk to a counselor, I had no ed plan, and I was flailing.”
After getting married and starting a family, education was put on hold. “But it was always a dream,” she said. “My mom was a teacher. Our family has a big respect for education.”
With her kids in high school, Benjamin returned to college. “Okay, let’s take a winter class, see how it goes,” she said. “It went well, I can do this. I can work full time and attend school part time.”
Key to her success was collaborating with a counselor, Blanca Arteaga. “She pulled all my prior classes together, asked about my interests, put together my education plan and I was on my way.”
That first winter class – the dreaded Intro to Public Speaking – turned everything around. “I did really well, understood it, and took another communications class in the spring,” said Benjamin.
She was able to work with two communications faculty members, Denise Besson and Kelly Alviso, who supported her work and wrote letters of recommendation for scholarships. “They are amazing in their passion,” she said. “They give so much extra time to their students.”
After graduating from Gavilan in 2018, she transferred to SJSU.
“One of my driving motivations was to set an example for my kids,” said Benjamin, who described them as wandering, with one not interested at all. “Now all three are in college.”
Her daughter graduated from Gavilan and is on track to graduate from Grand Canyon University with a degree in psychology. One son has returned to Gavilan, majoring in business administration, and will graduate next fall. The other son is enrolled in the automotive program at Evergreen College.
“I am super proud of all three of them,” she said.
Benjamin has worked in student services at Gavilan for a number of years, recently being promoted to Senior Financial Aid Specialist. With SIP, everything changed.
“Because I work with students, daily, it changed how we interact,” said Benjamin. “We can’t have face-to-face meetings.” Advising students, she listens for nonverbal communication to find out what’s really going on in their lives.
“We want to be able to show them how to do things, share screens, and step-by-step what they need to accomplish,” she said. Currently the campus is closed, and Benjamin works from home using Zoom meetings, texting, and telephone to support students seeking financial aid assistance.
“Finishing my own degree in Shelter in Place gave me additional perspective,” she said. “I can see through the students’ eyes and be more available, help them get through the changes in their own lives.”
Benjamin participated in her program’s online graduation ceremony on a Thursday in early May. The very next day she started work on her graduate degree.
She selected Grand Canyon University for three reasons. She received a $5,000 scholarship from the Santa Clara County Board of Education, the program is all online, and she will complete it in 16 months. By August 2021, Benjamin will have earned her MA in Higher Education, Student Affairs.
“Gavilan is a good place,” said Benjamin. “I love our community and the people I work with. I want to continue to grow, along with the college.”
(This is one of three stories about Gavilan College employees who completed university work while working full time at the college.)