Family learns together the value of college

Yanli Zhang

Nolan Burkholder, 12, takes biology, computer science and oceanography classes at Pierce College.

Additionally, two other members of his family attend Pierce. His 14-year-old sister, Valerie Burkholder takes English, C++ programming and calculus classes.

His mother, Mary Hubbard, takes computer science and biology classes.

“Sometimes people are totally surprised, ‘You take classes here?'” said Valerie.

Before Nolan and Valerie came to Pierce, they were at Calabasas’ Lupin Hill Elementary School.

Because they were far ahead of other students, Hubbard taught her children some classes at home at the same time Nolan and Valerie went to a charter school, Gorman Learning Center.

“The classes were not challenging enough and I sometimes disagreed with them,” said Hubbard, “For more real world experience, lab equipment and other study material I need to send them to a college.”

“I have to drive my children to school everyday and I’d like to learn something that I don’t know,” said Hubbard, “It’s fun to have classes with your kids. We argue about our homework and usually she [Valerie] is right. She teaches me punctuality. I’m always late.”

After Hubbard saying that, all of them smiled.

Lab classes are Valerie’s favorite. Nolan likes his biology class. Both Nolan and Valerie have no problems with their classes.

“I have found Valerie to be a delightful and bright student,” said Valerie’s biology teacher, Dr. Raymond Wells.

“She has done as well in my field marine biology courses as any of her older classmates.”

“He is a delightful young man,” said Nolan’s computer science teacher, Sue Krimm.

They like Pierce because of enough opportunities and hands-on experiences. However, some courses are too textbook-based.

“Because I was a teacher, I know what good teaching is,” said Hubbard.

Valerie has been at Pierce for a year and Nolan has been at Pierce since this summer.

“It’s not challenging enough. Not many people are serious to you,” said Nolan.

When they go to computer or writing lab, people say they can’t use computers because those are for students. They have to explain and show their student ID cards.

“I hope there are four-year universities for kids as an opportunity,” said Hubbard, “There’s no sense to let kids do twice if they have the gift of science and such skill like that.”

Until now Hubbard hasn’t found a four-year university that will accept her children.

She is busy researching universities. Before each semester, she has to spend about two weeks for the paper work to get her children enrolled in schools.

Nolan wants to be a lawyer. He would like to major in English at University of Michigan before he goes to Cornell University law school. He is confident for his future.

“He is a college guy,” said Valerie, smiling at her brother.

Valerie wants to go to Stanford University. However, first, she has to go to UCLA to collect enough credits. She would like to major in oceanography.

Hubbard said that unless a child is ready, college is not a good idea for children.

“Some people thought they are ready for college, actually they are not,” said Nolan.

“People probably didn’t pay enough attention to their studies. You have to be smart enough. Don’t mess your GPA, that’s a big deal.”

“People should be aware of their time and work hard,” said Valerie.

“Teachers won’t give you special treatment just because you are younger.”

“About 8% [1464] of Pierce students are younger than 18 and about 33% [5978] are younger than 20,” according to Carol Kozeracki, Ph.D, associate dean of institutional research, planning, and assessment.

“These figures include students enrolled in our outreach classes at the high schools.”

“I’d rather make friends at my age,” said Valerie.

“It doesn’t matter how many friends you have. Only good friends count.”

Nolan and Valerie opened an online kid’s club in September to unite kids at Pierce to ease their loneliness.

They haven’t changed to another college because some teachers are fair and haven’t treated them differently.

“We are common people,” said Valerie.

“I don’t like anyone treating me differently.”

Mary Hubbard and her children, Nolan,12, and Valerie, 14, who are concurrently enrolled, review during their computer science class. ()