Friday, September 23, 2016

Student success profile: Carolyn Fisher

Scholarships totaling more than $81,000 were awarded September 10 to 135 Grossmont and Cuyamaca College students at the fall scholarship banquet held by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges. Every student has a compelling story about the impact that community college has had on their life. Here's one student's story.

Carolyn Fisher
It’s not every day that a five-time world arm wrestling champion is told to get a life, but that’s what Carolyn Fisher’s son and daughter suggested to her after they grew up and moved out of the house, leaving Carolyn with a classic case of empty-nest syndrome. 

“They said it in a loving way,” laughed Carolyn, “but they were right.” 

Carolyn got a life at Grossmont College, where she started taking classes three years ago and found her passion in communications and public speaking. Now a full time student who spends most of her waking hours at the El Cajon campus, the 54-year-old Spring Valley resident works as a tutor in the Communication Department, has a 4.0 grade point average, is on track to graduate with three associate degrees in the spring, is set to transfer to San Diego State University to further her studies, and is eyeing a future as a communications professor – at Grossmont College – after earning her master’s degree. 

Her dedication led to Carolyn being honored with a $500 Betty D. Krueger Memorial Scholarship and a $500 Osher Scholarship, both of which were presented at a Sept. 10 awards banquet sponsored by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges. 

Instructors were not surprised. 

“Carolyn impresses me on so many levels, but the one I will focus on here is her contribution to the sense of community in the classroom,” said Professor Joel Castellaw, Communication Department Chair. “Carolyn makes her classmates feel valued by the positive support and reinforcement that she provides to them. She organizes study groups, creates social opportunities outside of class for students to create and strengthen bonds, and lends an empathetic ear to fellow students struggling with challenging personal situations. I have been blessed by having Carolyn as a student in a couple of different classes, and I believe that all students in each of those classes have been better students because Carolyn was there."

Born in Toronto and raised in Alberta, Carolyn was a talented gymnast in high school, though her interest took a turn when a friend suggested she enter an arm wrestling tournament in 1980. “First prize was a pair of cowboy boots, so I was in,” she said. “I won the tournament and I was hooked from then on.”

 Just two years later, Carolyn hooked and arm rolled her way to a Canadian national title before taking the world title in four different categories – lightweight, heavyweight, left arm and right arm – at the World Championships in Petaluma.

 That’s where she met her future husband, arm wrestling legend Allen Fisher, who holds 40 national titles and 26 world championships. They would later settle in San Diego, operate a couple of businesses, and home-school their two children, one of whom, Megan, graduated from Grossmont College with honors.

 It was Megan and her brother who convinced their mom to get out of the house after they moved away.

 “I was a classic re-entry student,” said Carolyn. “I wondered what people would think about me being older and all, but it was just not an issue. Everybody made clear that Grossmont College was my home and that I belonged here.”

Carolyn urged anyone interested in pursuing their education to seriously consider Grossmont College.

“Education is something that nobody can ever take away from you,” she said. “And this campus and the people who work at this campus go above and beyond to help their students succeed,” she said. “They pour out their heart and soul into their work. They are gifted, they are committed, and they are a true treasure to this community.”