Melanie’s Story

Melanie Motley considers herself a typical college undergraduate because many community college students share her story. It’s a tale of loving school and loving to learn, only to find that deciding what to study is more of a challenge than the studying.

To compound matters, those same students may have hard-working, encouraging parents that are telling them, “Don’t waste time. Get over to the community college and acquire a skill.” Sounds easy, but so often the one “wasting time” has no idea what they would like to study or what kind of work they would like to do for a career.

“The horticulture department is a really small and close-knit department. Everyone felt like family immediately. We are still really close, and we continue to teach each other like our teachers taught us.”

When Melanie started at American River College (ARC), her idea was to get an associate degree in general science and transfer to Washington State to study marine biology. She stuck to the plan and earned the degree. Then Melanie had second thoughts. Maybe, marine biology wasn’t a good fit. Maybe, Melanie didn’t want to study the sea after all.

While contemplating such life decisions, Melanie became more and more interested in sustainable farming. She took some classes and became hooked. Melanie thought she knew her goal, but what happens frequently to other students happened to her; an interesting professor or an elective class uproots the game plan. A degree reset may prolong acquiring requirements, but disrupting the plan, making a pivot and starting anew is often the moment when passions are discovered, and students find themselves exactly where they want to be. As did Melanie.

She realized she loved landscape design. She did the coursework and graduated in May with an associate degree in horticulture along with that general science degree. She says she hopes to transfer and study soil science at UC Davis and is so grateful she found “home” in the ARC Horticulture Department. It was the camaraderie in the small and close-knit department that Melanie found so rewarding, and gladly spent an hour and a half via public transit just to get to the ARC Student Garden in the redwood grove.

Melanie advises community college students just starting out to keep their options open and keep an open mind, as it is hard to know what your passions and strengths are until you try something new. So, Melanie recommends, explore away and find your true self at American River College.