By Jennifer Mistrot and Elizabeth Cook

KENTFIELD (KPIX) — Many students find themselves questioning their career paths after graduation from college. Vicki Diaz Rodes found herself looking close to home for her future job success.

The 22-year-old San Rafael resident is among the several million or so students expected to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from college by the end of 2021. In fact, Diaz just received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Merced.

“I got a double major in psychology and sociology,” said Diaz Rodes. “And a minor in Spanish.”

But her next step may be a little surprising to some. Diaz Rodes is back in school, online for now at College of Marin,  taking computer courses.

“I think it all started with my job search. In the beginning, I realized that every career there is some sort of technological aspect embedded within it,” said Diaz Rodes. “That is one of the reasons why I decided to seek coding skills.”

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Skills that require classes like Calculus, and Introduction to Python are keeping Diaz Rodes focused on a career path she never expected. It’s a common educational choice, says College of Marin’s Dean of Enrollment Services Jon Horinek.

“We have had an increase of students who are coming back who have some sort of higher education experience,” said Horinek. “They are coming back to get some skills to help them adapt to the new economy.”

Skills are needed for a new economy and its divide, both of which have been highlighted by the pandemic. Diaz Rodes has seen her close community struggle with basics like COVID-19 testing and food access

“I remember like helping women in my apartment complex find food banks online,” recalled Diaz Rodes. “It was all in English yet a lot of the resources, the community the AP was targeting was for the Latino community.”

It’s all familiar territory for Diaz Rodes, and her parents. Her mother and father are immigrants from Guatemala.

“Just seeing it firsthand, always having to help my parents navigate apps, navigate websites. It’s a really big problem,” she said. “The lack of diversity when it comes to building certain programs.”

Diaz Rodes is using those experiences as inspiration. She’ll take another five or so computer classes at College of Marin with an eye toward graduate school. Her ultimate goal is to design programs that serve the Latino community. And she wants others to know a community college campus is a good place to get those extra skills needed in today’s job market

“I think a lot of students sometimes limit themselves by not taking courses or seeking out resources because of the financial burden,” said Diaz Rodes. “And I think doing research into community colleges and taking advantage of the programs they offer is very beneficial because it helps you build skills at an accredited level that is beneficial for the workforce.”

College of Marin wants potential students to know there are great financial resources available to help those in need. And many community colleges offer certificates as well as associates degrees so help is out there.

Elizabeth Cook