Alumnus of the Month – Christopher Solario

Chris, like many of his peers in his suburban hometown of El Monte, California, did not complete high school. Later in life he completed the California High School Proficiency Exam and entered college as a non-traditional, first-generation student and earned his BA in Sociology at the age of 40.

For the past seven years, Chris has worked with diverse, first-generation, low-income high school students, using his own experience to help them break through the many barriers that exist for marginalized students. It is his goal to continue to work with first-generation students and give them the tools necessary for success in college, and throughout life. He emphasizes the significant connection between education and empowerment and takes this lesson into his classrooms.

How did you break into the field?
The PACE curriculum provided me with many tools to be an effective instructor. I use a great deal of adult learning theory in my courses. I am able to create lessons/activities that address students’ different learning styles.

What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
Through various internships and coursework the GSE increased my confidence in teaching adult learners.

What is the accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of?
I worked as an academic counselor for the past seven years at Chemeketa Community College and I am most proud of helping first-generation, low-income high school students realize their dreams of going to college and completing a college degree.

The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni, what does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
Impact on the community, to me, means that our decisions and actions are going to affect more people than just one person. To me, it goes back to the Golden Rule, to treat others as you wish to be treated. This will strengthen us as individuals as well as a community as a whole.

How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
I am so lucky to spend my days teaching Sociology and Chicano Studies courses. Each of these courses provides a sense of individual power to the participants. In my Sociology courses, talking about poverty, education and hunger allows people who have not experienced those situations to gain a little insight and, hopefully, walk away with a little empathy and a new way of thinking. My objective is that even a slight shift in their thinking will allow them to extend grace to those around them. In Chicano Studies, imparting knowledge of Chicano history to those who really are not sure of their ancestry, allows them to walk away with a sense of pride in their history as well as themselves.  It is empowering to them. The pride that is gained allows them to walk with their heads held a little higher and pass that pride onto others in their community.

Did you have a favorite course/professor/project while at the GSE?
My favorite class was also my first PACE class, Teaching Adult Learners (ELP 520). This is where I met my favorite professor, Andy Job. He was the person who inspired me to complete my certificate and master’s degree.

What advice would you give students currently enrolled or recently graduated?
I would encourage students to go outside their comfort zone and seek out opportunities to pay it forward. This experience is invaluable.

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