Lisa Benjamin, Computer Information Systems

Lisa graduated from Cypress College with an associate degree in computer information systems, along with an additional three CIS-related certificates. Born and raised in Central California, Lisa was involved in a tragic car accident that left her paralyzed for about half a year and in physical therapy learning to walk again for another three years. She later moved to Southern California to pursue a degree in athletic training; although she completed her degree, her spinal cord injuries put an end to pursuing that line of work. She now plans to enter the workforce with hopes of pursuing a career in college administration.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in a small town in Central California where, for me, sports and art were life. I always struggled with academics—things didn’t click very easily for me as they did for other students, especially in math. Not knowing at all what I wanted to do for a career after my high school graduation, I entered the workforce where I worked a few different types of jobs before realizing I wanted to become a manicurist. I always loved doing nails, so it seemed perfect for me and a way that I could get paid for my artwork.

Off to beauty college I went, but after graduation and before I could take the State Board Exam, I was in a tragic car accident, where I suffered a spinal cord injury. After the accident, I was left quadriplegic for two weeks and paralyzed for roughly six months. I will continue to suffer from lifelong nerve pain and some lingering paralysis in different areas of my body. Keeping a positive attitude, I thought, “What is the worst that could happen now,” considering the doctors had no idea what my outcome would be. So, I pushed forward with one goal in mind: walking. Learning how to walk again was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever had to do. Having to endure this was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. I don’t take life for granted and every day I remain upright is the best day I could ask for. I am not guaranteed to walk forever, so I enjoy every step I am able to take.

After three years of therapy, I thought, “I am ready to take my State Board Exam.” I did, and passed. I was now a licensed manicurist and ready to feel normal again. I landed a sweet job at a very prestigious day spa and thought I had finally made it. However, after a couple years, I realized that I needed to grow beyond what my small town had to offer.

Not sure where to go or how to get there, I went online and found a roommate finder. I found a few people in the area where I wanted to live in Southern California and set up some appointments. After meeting with everyone, I picked the best out of what I had. I quit my job, gave notice at my apartment, registered for college at another institution in Orange County, and moved.

My major was athletic training. I felt a passion to go in that direction due to the hours I spent in therapy. I was hoping to help others and motivate them to accomplish what seems almost impossible while keeping a positive attitude. Eager to learn and help, I landed an internship in the training room at my school. However, my hopes were cut short when my own injuries caught up with me and I was no longer able to continue my studies at a higher educational institution with that being my major. Even while still struggling with mathematics, I overcame those setbacks and graduated with my associate degree.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Not being from Southern California, I actually chose Cypress College based on the campus when I went to the swap meet they hold on the weekends. As we were walking through I was looking around and thought, “I could go here. It’s really nice.” I was trying to return to the workforce and applying for job after job, only to realize my computer skills were, let’s just say, not up to par for even the minimum requirements. Knowing I needed to return to college, I remembered that campus I saw at the swap meet. I then went to the Cypress College website and noticed all the CIS (Computer Information Systems) classes the college offers at many different levels, and I was sold. I registered right then and started to look at which classes I wanted to start with, hoping that come registration time they were available. They were and I was ecstatic. I do wish that I had found Cypress when I first moved down here.

I am able to achieve my goals because of the time I put into my studies and all of the resources that are available to me that I take advantage of. Without the extra help outside of the classroom, I wouldn’t have the grades I have. I put in the extra work and ask for help when I need it.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I originally was going to take just a few different classes in computer programs to brush up on my skills. After taking a couple classes, I realized I needed more than to just “brush up.” A lot has changed in 20-plus years, so I grabbed that catalog and planned my path. Now I’m about to enter my fourth semester and coming up on completion of three certificates and another associate degree. I am beyond thrilled about what I have accomplished and the fact that I was able to maintain straight A’s for the first time in my educational career.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about my family and the bond we share. Coming close to losing my life made me realize at a young age who was really there and who will always be there for me. My family supports me in anything I choose to pursue, and having them to back me up is the best motivation I could ask for. Whether I succeed or fail, the love they give is always the same, and I could not be more thankful for them. This gives me the motivation to always try and give it my all.

Also, I love to oil paint. Both my grandmothers helped me to discover art in all its forms and the way you can just get lost in your own imagination. Standing in front of my easel in my studio is one of the best ways to escape the stresses in my life and gives me a lot of joy. I have painted my whole life, and I always will as long as I am able.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I think that most of the teachers I have had at Cypress had a hand in where I am today. However, Mrs. P. (Pelachik), is always available to answer questions and guide me along the way. She encourages me when I begin to doubt myself or brings me back to reality when I am completely overthinking something. She has known the answer to every question I have ever asked, from “how do I do this” to “who should I talk to about that.” You can tell she loves teaching and enjoys watching her students succeed. It has been a complete joy to have had her as a teacher and mentor.

Also, I’d like to give a shout out to Theresa, Ayman, and the many teachers who help in the lab. Without the lab, I don’t know where I would be, hours after hours, days upon days, a million questions later, they are always there to help me through what I don’t understand, even though the answer is sometimes (most of the time) right in front of me.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plan after graduation is to enter the workforce, hopefully at the college level in administration. I do plan on returning to college while working, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business and eventually obtain a master’s degree. I would love to be able to interact with students on some level to encourage them and watch them succeed as I have.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Once I find a position, my long-term goal is to stay there; I am loyal and have roughly (hopefully) 15 years left in the workforce. So, to find a position that I love would just be perfect to me. To retire from a fantastic, satisfying job is the plan. Also, since art is my passion, I will be returning to Cypress to take more art classes when my schedule allows.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of myself, my determination, and everything I have been able to accomplish simply by not giving up. I may not have taken the easy route, but that’s OK because I found myself along the way. Also, staying positive even when there were not many reasons to has helped me complete everything I have ever put my mind to. Despite the fear, injuries, age, I put all that aside and pushed forward to achieve any goal I set for myself.

I am proud of my family, as well, for always encouraging me along the way.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Success is at your fingertips. Don’t let the fear of failing stop you from becoming a better you. Cypress offers an educational path for everyone at every level. Enjoy your time here. There is so much Cypress has to offer. Set goals for yourself and stay on top of your educational plan. Sometimes we don’t know what we want to do until we have taken a class in that area or vice versa. We go in with one path set in our minds and we find another path of interest instead that leads us to a better life than we could have ever imagined. Enjoy the ride and the amazing experiences that await.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

One of the best decisions I have made was to attend Cypress College. The time and effort the professors, administrators, and staff put into our success is priceless. I am genuinely going to miss my days at Cypress. I have excelled as a student, grown as a person, and have proven to myself that I can accomplish anything. Thank you, Cypress College, for everything you provide to your students to ensure our success.

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