Photo of NOCRC Directors Janeth Manjarrez
October 29, 2020.

These days, we’ll take silver linings wherever we can find them.

As we roll with the pandemic’s punches for the seventh straight month, the NOCRC community is coming together to help students — and each other — weather the storm. Even amid the darkest clouds, we’re finding unexpected rays of resiliency, positivity, and most of all, hope.

We’re honored to spread that sunlight, sharing uplifting stories throughout the NOCRC community and beyond. Together, we can uncover more silver linings than we ever could alone.

Teamwork Tops Travails

“During the quick transition to remote learning, it became evident that one of my students, who is deaf, was struggling to navigate Canvas,” recalls Michelle Patrick-Norng, Disability Support Services Counselor at North Orange Continuing Education (NOCE).

The challenge seemed insurmountable: not only was this the student’s very first online class, but there was a language barrier as well. As a recent immigrant, the student was fluent in Arabic Sign Language, yet still straining to learn the many nuances of American Sign Language.

But no hurdle is too high when the devoted NOCE team is on your side to deliver extra support and encouragement. The struggling student found an instructor willing to go the extra mile to meet with her, an interpreter, and a DSS counselor. Using the “share screen” option in Zoom, the team helped the student navigate the course modules seamlessly.

“The instructor was not required to hold any Zoom or phone meetings with the student,” shares Patrick-Norng. “But she wanted to help this student to be successful.”

Thanks to the personal determination and high-touch support, the student completed the class with flying colors. “Our entire team was so proud of her accomplishments,” beams the counselor.

It’s just one of the hundreds of stories demonstrating the power of timely support to overcome remote learning challenges. The key to success? According to Patrick-Norng, it’s an excellent collaboration, creativity, and flexibility employed by the NOCE faculty and staff in serving students of all abilities.

“I am inspired by the incredible progress that students with disabilities are making every week with their online classes,” says Patrick-Norng. Instead of a hindrance, distance learning has actually become a tremendous boost to programs. She foresees virtual classes continuing to expand and increasing new opportunities, even when campuses can safely reopen.

Despite the pandemic’s many challenges, these hard-earned victories by Disability Support Services and NOCE give the caring counselor great hope:

“Our student population never ceases to amaze me with their motivation, determination, and commitment to lifelong learning.”

Overcoming Crisis with the NOCRC Family 

When a close family member died from coronavirus complications, Special Projects Manager Dave Afshar leaned on the strength and friendship of his NOCRC colleagues to get through the tragedy. “My entire team was tremendously supportive,” recalls Afshar, who especially appreciated a caring e-card he received from his coworkers.

“This is a difficult time for just about everyone, and I’m sure my colleagues are also working through their own struggles,” confides the project manager. “Still, they were able to reach out and empathize — it gave me a sense of belonging and affirmed that we are, indeed, all in this together.”

For Afshar, the close connection with his coworkers continues to give him hope and helps him overcome “doom-and-gloom mode.” He believes it is vital to surround oneself with good people in challenging times, and he’s incredibly thankful for his tight-knit NOCRC family:

“Times are tough, but knowing that this is a shared experience, rather than something I have to work through alone, definitely gives me hope.”

An Excusable Absence

Last semester, NOCE Adjunct Instructor Karlsten Yago found himself worried: a top student in his Job Skills class didn’t submit assignments for an entire week, which was entirely out of character. With all the challenges people are facing in this pandemic, he couldn’t help but be concerned. When the instructor reached out, he discovered that the alarm was actually a cause for celebration:

“[The student] said that she finally got a job and was trying to negotiate her work schedule so that she could successfully complete her summer class,” relates the instructor, doubly relieved that his student was safe and that his lessons were paying off. “I was so proud of her.”

For nurturing teachers like Yago, watching students achieve their dreams is the inspiration that makes the hard times worthwhile. What gives him hope for the future, he says, are “narratives where students are becoming more independent and successful.”

Master of the “Can-Do” Attitude

“My colleagues are a blessing to me every day,” shares Regina Russell, Administrative Assistant II at NOCE. In keeping with a culture of positivity and promoting education, this first-generation college student credits NOCE and a former colleague for pushing her to master more in her personal and professional life.

“I took a chance and applied to California State University, San Bernardino, and could not believe that I was accepted!” effuses the adult education professional turned grad student. Now on her way to a master’s degree in public administration, she says she’s glad that she took her coworker’s encouragement to apply.

“Through all of this, I have learned that the only limitations we face are the ones we create for ourselves,” affirms the new graduate student, who looks forward to the chance not only to better provide for her family but also to give back to the community. “If I can do this, what else am I capable of achieving? It does not just stop here.”

Her philosophy? If you don’t know where to begin, reach out and ask questions. By asking for help, Russell acquired the courage and the know-how to submit her grad school application and start living her dream.

No doubt, she says, it’s because the “NOCE Way” rubbed off on her. And with her can-do attitude, Russell knows she can go anywhere, no matter how daunting the external circumstances might seem.

“‘If you think you can, or cannot, you are probably right,’” says Russell, quoting Henry Ford. “Which do you choose?”

Do you have a story of hope to share? Please contact us at