Dakota McMahand was always taught that she should go to college. The first in her family to do so, it was an important milestone. What she lacked, however, was the how.
It's easy to tell someone to go to college, but for Dakota, the path to get there turned out to be cumbersome and confusing.
Unfortunately, the main focus at her high school was just on getting students out into the world, with little focus on preparing for college or a specific career. "High school prepared me to leave and that's about it," said Dakota. But her parents had taught her that the goal should be to get an education in order to help build up her community.
Dakota wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life, but as a classically trained pianist, she had received a scholarship from the California Institute of the Arts, through their Community Arts Partnership. The scholarship was for $500 to be used ay any institution of her choice. Most private universities cost $30,000 or more a year. Clearly, Dakota needed another option.
Then, a team from Compton College came to talk to the seniors at her high school. The college was only a few minutes away, making it a great option for locals like Dakota. More importantly, though, the people at Compton College seemed to share the view instilled in her by her parents: that pursuing education is about more than just a degree. It's about building up your community.
Shortly after, Dakota decided to go to Compton College. However, once she got there, she faced other challenges. Though she did great in most classes, math was always a challenge, requiring her to take remedial courses once she got to Compton College.
Fortunately, the school went out of its way to help her. First, they made her point of entry to college easy. Then, they provided her with tutoring and one-on-one help to get her through the remedial math courses, and ultimately into college algebra. Through that special attention she received, math has now become something Dakota actually enjoys!
Compton College helped her find a path in her other studies as well. "I had no idea what I wanted to major in, or what I wanted to do, career-wise," said Dakota. Due to her love of music, she ended up in the Arts and Humanities program, while teaching piano lessons to pay her tuition.
Studying at Compton College and seeing the diversity of the faculty was inspiring. It was one of the first times that Dakota had seen BIPOC educators who were experts in their fields, talking to her about the world and the possibilities that lay in her future.
She was particularly inspired by one of her English professors. Dakota found it eye-opening to be taught by someone who looked like her, and the class's curriculum included BIPOC authors and a lot of information on history and culture that Dakota wished she's had in high school.
After three years at Compton College, not only did Dakota transfer to a four-year university with a 4.0 GPA, she was also selected as a Presidential Scholar, one of the nation's highest honors for students. She got accepted to every school she applied to, and Compton made the transition seamless. She ultimately transferred to California Baptist University to continue her study of philosophy and theology, where she graduated Suma Cum Laude, and went on to pursue her graduate degree from the University of South Dakota.
Dakota is now the founder of Budding Artists, a non-profit organization that provides free process-based art programming for young childre in South and Southeast Los Angeles. They support these children by nurturing their critical thinking and problem-soliving skills through the arts -- skills Dakota herself was able to foster at Compton College.
About Compton College's Fine Arts, Communication, and Humanities Program
Compton College's Fine Arts, Communication and Humanities Guided Pathway Division provides coursework designed to prepare students for rewarding careers in fields that employ professional writers, artists, and communication specialists. Students within these fields of study develop mastery in creative and analytical modes of expression and research, leading to a variety of different career paths in creative industries, education, government, and business.
To find out which FACH program might be right for you, visit our Program Mapper.