Sunday, March 3, 2019

Emily Kongsima: Finding a future at Grossmont College

Emily Kongsima
You can’t beat free. That’s the lesson from San Diego resident Emily Kongsima, who was working at various restaurant jobs when she discovered Grossmont College’s Office Professional Training program, a program providing the skills needed for work as an office assistant, administrative assistant or office manager.

Best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime.

“I didn’t have any money at all to go to school, but it was a free program,” said Kongsima. “You can’t get much better than that.”

After acing her classes, tutoring others, volunteering where she could and completing the program this past summer, Kongsima secured a Retiree Network Scholarship from the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, money that will come in handy when she pursues associate and bachelor’s degrees in business administration.

Kongsima, 29, was honored with other scholarship recipients during a January 12 awards ceremony at Cuyamaca College. Meanwhile, her newfound expertise in Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Access, financial accounting and business communication have made her infinitely more marketable as she begins a job search after taking a break from work to care for her ill mother.

“Before I enrolled at Grossmont, I felt as if I was confined to only entry level jobs,” Kongsima said. “I now not only have five years of experience with a property management company, but I also have a certificate from the Office Professional Training program and a wealth of new skills.” 

A native San Diegan, Kongsima began working as a receptionist with a property management firm, Collins Management Co., after high school. Her responsibilities grew over the years, along with her interest in accounting, while working with the accounts payable department. The past several years, however, Kongsima was working at local restaurants, and she began to feel as though her career would be confined to entry-level jobs.

Her life changed less than a year ago, when Kongsima came across a newspaper advertisement promoting Grossmont College’s Office Professional Training program.

“I called the college and looked into it and it sounded pretty awesome so I signed up. I’m glad I did,” she said. 

The Office Professional Training program began more than 30 years ago through the federal Job Training Partnership Act. Courses in the one-semester program range from banking and accounting to Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel to job-search strategies and resume writing. Students earn a certificate of completion and up to 20 community college credits, and most have found careers in office management, financial services and insurance, among other fields.

Kongsima enrolled in the spring of 2018. Office Professional Training Coordinator Donna Dixon said Kongsima embodies the best of what the program is about.

“Emily was a diligent communicator who spoke regularly with OPT instructors and staff about her needs and progress,” Dixon said. “She was friendly to her classmates and she worked hard to accomplish her goal of graduating from the Office Professional Training accounting track.”The program is intense. “It was only six months, but I was waking up at 4 a.m. to study, then I’d go to school, take classes all day, come home, study some more, go to sleep, and do it all over again,” Kongsima said. “But it was worth it. I highly recommend it to anyone.”