Charlie Briones

Overcoming misfortune and reinventing his life at SRJC

After a life of struggle, professional success, then unfortunate health issues, Charlie Briones turned his life around with the help of Santa Rosa JC loving community, and is now heading toward a new career as a Math teacher.

Charlie Briones has overcome innumerable obstacles that could make his youth take an unfortunate turn. He never knew his father and his mother was institutionalized when he was 14 years old, leaving him literally on the street, in a rough part of San Francisco’s Mission District. He was able to survive and eventually, with only nine years of formal education, art skills and enormous determination, he went into interior painting. He became one of the leading industrial artists in Northern California and superintendent for a well-respected company. Then, after over 20 years of professional accomplishments, a work accident left him disabled, without any hope of ever working in his field again.

Battling depression and post-traumatic stress, Charlie needed to put his mind into something, so he returned to school to get his high-school diploma at SRJC. As he studied, he discovered that he likes to learn, fell in love with mathematics and continued taking classes. He credits SRJC with saving his life: “Here I go, from a way to fight depression, to—I got a whole new life and I got goals. I am building the second part of my life and it is more than a dream now, it is within my grasp.” During the last four years of studying at the JC, Charlie won many scholarships for his academic performance; among them were the Teaching Fellow, the Carol Cochran Schaffner Education, and Dream Big. His hard work motivated his wife to also study here for a career and technical certificate in child development.

Tutoring in math and mentoring other students became important parts of Charlie’s college life. He helped other students with their homework, volunteered in the Tutoring Center and made many friends of all ages while studying here. He said that ‘Helping others gave me a purpose in life, made me feel so good,” and it also shaped his dream for a future as an educator. Charlie achieved his GED at SRJC, and three associate's degrees in natural sciences, social behavior, and transfer mathematics.

In his motorized wheelchair, Charlie drove on the graduation stage under the oaks, in May 2015, shaking hands and sharing cheerful words with so many students he mentored and other members of our community inspired by his perseverance. He then transferred to Sonoma State University to get a bachelor’s in history with a minor in mathematics, and to accomplish his big dream of teaching high school students—or even become an instructor at the JC.

SRJC changes lives every day. College IS affordable, and the staff of the Financial Aid office are available to help you. We have counselors to help you make a plan, whether you need to get your GED, earn a certification, or transfer to a four-year program—whatever your situation, we're here to help you succeed!

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