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Grossmont and Cuyamaca College grads prove education is ageless

Posted on: May 16, 2016 1:00:00 AM
In: District, Cuyamaca, Grossmont
Contact: Della Elliott (619) 644-7690

When Barbara Sue Adkins was born, FDR was president. When Hinsseenee Regassa entered the world, Bill Clinton occupied the White House.

Generations may separate the two, but what the octogenarian and 17-year-old have in common is they are both part of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s Class of 2016.

Adkins, 80, who has earned a certificate of achievement in Child Development from Cuyamaca College, and Regassa, who is about to receive her Associate of Arts in Communications from Grossmont College, are the oldest  and youngest graduates at the two East County colleges.

“All my life, I had dreamed of going to college, but I was raised in a time and place where women weren’t encouraged to get an education,” said Adkins, a former Navy wife from Kentucky who moved to the West Coast when her first husband was transferred to San Diego. “I did what was the norm, which was to get married and have children.”

Decades later, Adkins finally was able to pursue the college education she had always dreamed of since her high school graduation in 1953. Having raised six children, and being the grandparent of 12 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren, Adkins had a natural affinity for caring for toddlers. She started her coursework in Cuyamaca’s Child Development program in 2010, with an emphasis in preschool education.

“I loved every minute of going to Cuyamaca,” Adkins said. “There was never a morning I woke up and dreaded going to school. Kids are my passion, especially the ones with special needs.”

Spurred by the help and encouragement of instructors and students, Adkins completed the classes for her certificate of achievement with a GPA “somewhere above a 3.0.”

Only a couple classes shy of a full associate degree, Adkins has every intention to return to the college. Then it’s onward to a bachelor’s degree, she said.

Ditto for Adkins’ counterpart, who heads to the University of California, Davis in the fall on a soccer scholarship. But unlike Adkins’ decades-long educational pursuit, Regassa was on the fast track.

Most days, the soon-to-be Grossmont College alum is a blur of motion, always in a hurry to get things done.

That drive for speed serves her well on the soccer field as an elite player with Olympic and professional aspirations. And the same goes with her academic pursuits.

After taking the California High School Proficiency Exam, which she passed to earn the legal equivalent of a high school diploma at 16, she began classes at Grossmont College in spring 2015.

She blossomed academically, earning mostly A’s in the seven classes she took her first semester.

 “Grossmont has so many resources for students like me, looking to learn more and do great things with their lives,” she said.

She gives special credit to counselor Olivia Flores, who helped map out her education plan and never tried to dissuade her from her ambitious goal to quickly finish her degree to maximize her eligibility period as a Division 1 college athlete.

“She wasn’t skeptical at all – she saw that I was determined and she helped me reach my goals,” Regassa said. “I feel very fortunate and grateful to Grossmont College for making it possible for me to work toward achieving my dreams.”

She majored in communications and plans to do so again at UC Davis, with dreams of a future in professional soccer, music production, photography, and filmmaking. She already has one film to her credit, a short documentary, “Skin,” in which young black girls share stories as victims of racism. The work was shown in the 2014 San Diego Asian Film Festival.

“I like to be challenged,” she said about her busy life.


About 640 Cuyamaca students will receive more than 1,000 degrees and certificates at the college’s June 1 commencement, followed the next day by almost 1,500 Grossmont College graduates who will receive more than 3,200 degrees and certificates

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Hinsseenee RegassaHinssenee RegassaBarbara Sue AdkinsBarbara Sue Adkins

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