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Success Stories

Dr. James "Booker" Preston had been practicing podiatry in Orange County for many years when he decided he needed a venue for artistic expression.  After buying a hand-held carving tool at a local Home Show in Anaheim, he was introduced to gourd carving at the International Gourd Festival at Welburn Gourd Farm in Fallbrook, CA. 
Gourd carving necessitated a different set of skills than he was familiar with, and the Santiago Canyon College Adult Continuing Education Program offered at the Orange Education Center, came to the rescue.  In order to jury into fine arts show, quality photos of his work had to be provided.  The Photography and Photoshop classes at SCC Orange Education Center, and the invaluable guidance and tutelage of John C. Haverstick, his instructor, were a terrific resource and have enabled Booker to successfully promote his work in the renowned Kimball Arts Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Sun Valley Arts Festival in Ketchum, Idaho.
Booker is now an award-winning gourd artist and photographer.  His work has shown for the last two years at the Laguna Beach Art-A-Fair, held each summer from June through August.  His fine art automotive photography was also juried into the Art-A-Fair this year and will be on display along side his award-winning gourd carving this summer (
Samples of his work can be seen at
Maryanin Sotelo immigrated to the United States with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Mexico. However, due to her inability to speak English, she was unable to work in the United States in her field. Instead, she worked in jobs such as house cleaner, babysitter, farm worker, and even sold boxes of strawberries on the streets. Whatever job opportunities were presented to her, she took; no job was too hard. 
Maryanin was determined to grow personally and professionally in her new homeland – USA. She soon realized that without the ability to communicate in English, she would not be able to reach the goals she had set for herself. Instead of going home to rest after work, she would take several buses and walk to school to attend her English as a Second Language classes at the Orange Education Center (OEC), the Adult Continuing Education division of Santiago Canyon College. She was determined to learn how to communicate fluently in English.
Gradually, she progressed from English as a Second Language (ESL) Transition classes (basic English) to her current level of ESL Intermediate 2.  Maryanin states that she has had several outstanding ESL instructors throughout her enrollment at OEC, however, Grazyna Kopydlowska continuously motivated her to keep learning and not to give up. She considers her one of the instructors that really made a positive impact in her life as a student. 
According to Maryanin, OEC and her instructors provided her with many opportunities to learn English, gain confidence, an in turn, fuelled her ambition until she attained her goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur.  Maryanin Sotelo currently owns 14 stores which offer services such as check cashing, money wiring, travel arrangements, several beauty salons, and a laundromat, to name a few. She now also utilizes the OEC Career Center to recruit students for employment opportunities available through her businesses. She is a true believer of the term “Paying it forward.”