It’s back to school for future entrepreneur
Appeal Staff Writer
Today Luis Jimenez will go from the Carson Nugget casino, where he is a food server, to a classroom at Western Nevada Community College, where his ambitions have driven him to pursue a degree in business administration.
Today Nichole Williams, a 29-year-old mother of three from Washoe Valley, will prepare her 7-year-old for day one in first grade at Pleasant Valley Elementary. She’ll drop all the kids off and then attend her first fall class at the community college.
She is trying to make life a little easier for her family by attaining a higher-paid job in the computer field. She spends nights studying with her kids – they show their enthusiasm by hugging her while she crams for tests.
These are just two of the more than 5,000 students who are starting classes today at the college’s campuses in Carson City, Minden and Fallon, and five teaching centers in rural Nevada. Carson City’s collegiate atmosphere is increasing as it is nationwide, with WNCC enrollment up 7 percent compared to last year, according to preliminary numbers released by the college. Enrollment for Hispanic students is increasing, while other ethnicities are staying level.
Jimenez, 22, set his own path to success early.
“I have a lot of ideas about what I want to do,” Jimenez said Friday. “I’d like to start my own corporation (that will) bring in goods from Mexico and then export to Mexico.”
A native of Mexico City, Jimenez was fluent in English by 13, and caught up on American slang by 17. He graduated from Carson High in 2003 and received his green card in 2004 so that he could start attending the local community college. Hispanic students comprised about 9 percent of the WNCC student population in 2005.
Jimenez asked the Carson Nugget vice president, Brad Adams, for the opportunity to work in the marketing department in addition to his food-service job.
“He’s a hard worker,” said Kelly Brant, director of casino marketing. “He’s working full-time in the coffee shop and going to school and working part-time for me. So he’s a go-getter.”
Jimenez assists in managing his father’s janitorial business, Jose Jimenez Fast Cleaning. At the age of 20 he was one of the founding members of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Carson City.
“I don’t want to get stuck,” he said. “I want to keep going as far as possible. My dad always says a good education with some experience will lead to a great future.”
In two semesters, Jimenez plans to complete all his classes at the community college and then transfer to the University of Nevada, Reno.
Williams’ day started off early with preparing her three children for their first day back at elementary school. It’s also her day to go back to school.
“I’m going to take them to school and then I’m going to school myself,” she said. “Then I’m going to pick them up from school at 3:30 p.m. I’ll start my homework at the same time they’re doing theirs.”
Life in the Williams’ household is a little rowdy. They share space in a five-bedroom home with extended family – that comes to five children, six adults and one elderly grandmother.
It’s hard to get quiet time, Williams said, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Living with her sister-in-law, Shauna Townsend, allows Williams to share baby-sitting, and have a friend and study partner.
Townsend said she helps her sister-in-law by reading her chapters aloud and quizzing her. The intense summer coursework, and the day-to-day demands of being a wife and mother, wore heavily on Williams. She broke down and wept a few times.
“I knew if I read to her, she would sit there and absorb it, instead of saying that she didn’t want to do it,” Townsend said.
She read more than 300 pages aloud to her sister-in-law, and quizzed her with index cards while in the car.
Earning an associate’s degree in convergence technology means that Williams could make up to $75,000 a year. Her husband, James, makes a good salary working as a metal fabricator, but they need a double income, she said.
“You can’t get a good job without going to college these days,” Williams said, while sitting on the patio of the WNCC campus in Carson City. “Fifteen dollars an hour is good, but that’s not enough to support a family of five.”
After this realization sunk in, she marched up to the financial aid office one day in May and asked how to pay for college. As a federal Pell Grant recipient, Williams isn’t spending anything out of her own pocket for her education. Her classes, books and supplies come to about $900.
In 2005, 12 percent of the college’s students were aged 25-29. This statistic has increased steadily over the last 10 years.
“I wouldn’t be able to go if not for that,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what kind of help is out there.”
Williams hasn’t yet been able to afford new clothes for her kids for back to school, but she dreams of one day making enough money to buy them name-brand clothing.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.