“Every step of the way I was treated like a valuable and important person. I was encouraged greatly and inspired by my instructors and counselors.”
- Janine Hardman
Determination. Faith. Perseverance. All underscore Janine Hardman’s journey at Grossmont College, a journey that culminated June 3 when the scholar graduated with an Associate of Science Degree through the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program – more than a quarter century after she first enrolled at the campus.
Hardman, 44, started taking classes at Grossmont College after graduating from Mount Miguel High School in 1989. She’s had to overcome more than her share of challenges along the way, not the least of which was a long battle with mental illness.
Her achievements were recognized at a recent awards ceremony as a Student of Note, an honor reserved for those who have successfully battled a plethora of obstacles to reach their educational goals.
“It’s a miracle,” said Hardman, who graduated with a 3.86 grade point average and already has landed a job as an occupational therapy assistant. “It’s just a miracle that I’m here today. I feel that if God wasn’t with me, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
She credits the many resources at Grossmont College for helping her on her path. She received assistance from the college’s Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) and Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) offices.
“I am grateful for each of my instructors, and EOPS and DSPS counselors,” Hardman said. “Every step of the way I was treated like a valuable and important person. I was encouraged greatly and inspired by my instructors and counselors as well. I felt I could tell them when I was having difficulty. The DSPS testing services helped tremendously through giving me added time and a quiet place to take a test.”
Hardman was born in New Jersey, but moved with her family to Spring Valley as an infant. Soon after graduating from high school, she went to work driving a bus for the Grossmont Union High School District and enrolled at Grossmont College to study psychology.
Five years later, she moved to Texas, where she continued driving a school bus while also serving as a substitute teacher. After returning to the area in 1997 and settling in La Mesa, Hardman re-enrolled at Grossmont College. Her struggles with mental illness, however, kept her from succeeding.
Ultimately, Hardman was able to get back on track. She has been a straight-A student for the past several years. And she is hoping her story can inspire others.
Good friend Rowena Ortiz, a fellow Occupational Therapy Assistant Program graduate, said she had no idea about Hardman’s past until she asked one day why Hardman was in the program for disabled students.
“She is so smart and intelligent and focused,” Ortiz said. “She never gets discouraged, no matter what comes her way. But she’s proven that no matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, you can succeed.”
Hardman has already lined up a job as an occupational therapy assistant, which she will continue doing while studying at San Diego State University.
“The OTAs (occupational therapy assistants) that I experienced help from were upbeat, sincere, caring nonjudgmental, and compassionate towards me when my world felt like darkness, as I was chronically suicidal,” Hardman said. “I want to be that positive light in someone’s darkened world and help him or her see that they can recover from their illness too.”
Hardman isn’t done yet, though. She plans on returning to Grossmont College for a few more classes needed for one more degree before transferring to San Diego State University in 2016 en route to earning a Ph.D. in psychology.
Her ultimate goal is to become a psychologist specializing in art therapy.
“Her message to others who are struggling?
“Don’t give up. It’s never too late to change and for good things to happen.”