Friday, May 16, 2014

Student Success profile: Cuyamaca College student Sarah Conway

Sarah Conway

This is part of an occasional series of profiles of Cuyamaca and Grossmont college students who exemplify success.
Call her a computer prodigy.

Sarah Conway helps develop training manuals for the database management system PostgreSQL, is a consultant on open-source software and has a side job as a freelance web designer.

The academic standout at Cuyamaca College is all of 17.

“I just grew up with computers,” Sarah said. “My father was in the computer industry and I’ve been designing and experimenting with programs all my life.”

Sarah came to Cuyamaca College because her parents felt she was too young to enroll in a four-year university. A product of home-schooling and a graduate of Dehesa Charter School, the El Cajon resident earned her high school diploma when she was just 14.

Although she has racked up more than enough units to earn an associate of arts degree at Cuyamaca College, she is taking additional classes to bolster her resume before transferring either to UC San Diego or the University of Aachen in Germany to pursue a major in computer science and information technology. An additional educational objective is to obtain several certifications – including the CCNA, CEH, Network+, Security+, A+, and Linux+ – to acquire further knowledge in her field.

Sarah’s career goals are to assist the technical side of security in companies by becoming an ethical hacker. Ethical hackers are professionals paid to break into computer systems to find weaknesses that companies can then address.

But computers aren’t Sarah’s only interest. She also hopes to play violin and viola professionally, as well as continue teaching both instruments.

Her more immediate goal is to obtain an associate degree in computer science and information next year at Cuyamaca College with a specialty in network administration.

She is getting plenty of support from her father, who owns the U.S. branch of Credativ LLC, an industry leader in providing services for free software. A family friend runs a branch in Germany, which is one reason she has her eyes on transferring to the University of Aachen.

“I enjoy the creative and technical aspects involved with computer programs and web design,” said Sarah, a straight-A student who was named to the Phi Theta Kappa All-California Academic 3rd Team.

Sarah says coming to Cuyamaca College was one of the best decisions she has made.

“The people in the computer department are absolutely wonderful,” Sarah said. “They really go out of their way to make sure you know your material, and they help connect you with people who can get you a job after you leave. I really love the environment. It’s very supportive and very relaxed and that enables you to focus on your learning.”

She had especially high praise for instructors Curtis Sharon, Dale Hull and Nancy Jennings.

“All of the professors here have a passion about their subjects.”