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finding a career path: tim sergent
Poor high school grades turned out to be a blessing in disguise for SRJC alumnus Tim Sergent.
Born and raised in southern Oregon, Tim was visiting an old girlfriend in Rohnert Park after graduating high school and completing a tour of duty in the army infantry when he decided to stay in Sonoma County. Due to those aforementioned low grades, Tim enrolled in SRJC to raise his GPA and obtain enough transfer credits to apply to UC Berkeley.
Tim was impressed with the high quality education at SRJC, the passionate faculty and the beautiful campus. But he didn’t look forward to all SRJC classes in the same way. Tim avoided enrolling in the required Speech 1A class until his very last semester at SRJC. With high speech anxiety, Tim evaded all opportunities for public speaking until SRJC changed his perspective. “My instructor for Speech 1A disarmed my fear of public speaking. She taught me to craft the beginning, middle and end of a speech and speak loudly and clearly.” Although Tim was able to work through his fear, he had not yet realized what a help that SRJC class would be to his future career.
After graduating from UC Berkeley, Tim worked for the United States Senate as a staff assistant for the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There, his SRJC speech 1A class would come in handy.
“I was working late one night and a senate worker suggested I sneak a free dinner from an event going on in the building. As I was gathering snacks, the president of the American Farm Bureau came up and asked me to say a few words to the audience. He had mistaken me for someone of importance, representing the US Senate Committee. There were agriculture representatives from countries all over the world in the room. The president ushered me to the front of the room and I started to panic. I could feel the veins in my jugular throbbing as my old speech anxiety reared its ugly head. In that moment, I flashed back to my SRJC Speech 1A class and remembered what my instructor taught – make eye contact, use a loud clear voice, and structure a beginning, middle and end. I gave a short welcome speech about the important connection between commerce and agriculture to thunderous applause. It was a thrilling and exciting experience, but most importantly, what got me through that moment was the ability to fall back on the training I received in Speech 1A from SRJC.”
Tim also spent time in the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense – Legislative Affairs under the Clinton administrative. As a legislative aide, Tim would occasionally write briefs for the Secretary of Defense on political activities and legislative actions in the foreign countries the Secretary was visiting. “I worked with plenty of Ivy League kids who told me that the first time I wrote a brief, I should expect lots of red lines and edits for revision before it would go on to the Secretary.” Tim’s first brief came back with only two corrections – an added comma and one half of a sentence edited. Tim attributes his excellent writing skills with the foundation that was laid in SRJC’s English 1C class. “My instructor at SRJC taught me that the greatest skill to have in writing is the ability to write in 2 words what can be said in 3.”
Following his time in Washington DC, Tim headed back to the west coast and settled in Santa Rosa. Now a special education teacher for 4th, 5th and 6th graders at James Monroe Elementary, Tim pursued the teaching profession to do work that truly challenged him. His speech and writing skills developed at SRJC still come in handy though. Last summer, Tim joined the Prop 30 campaign and gave presentations at all the city schools and recently returned to SRJC to speak to the InterClub Council. A passionate advocate for education, and now a comfortable public speaker, Tim values his time at SRJC. “I never saw anything on the same level of education as SRJC.”
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