MCC’s Adult Learning Center Helps Young Woman Find Her Way
With the help of the Adult Learning Center at Middlesex Community College, Apitchaya Thiapphet got started on her successful educational journey one step at a time.
Thiapphet came to the United States in 2014 from Thailand to work as an au pair for a family in Lexington. Overwhelmed at first by her unfamiliarity with American culture, the 19-year-old found herself doing a lot of listening and not much talking.
Today, the Malden resident has graduated from MCC and is enrolled in the Peace and Conflict Studies program at UMass Lowell. Fluent in Thai, Lao and English -- and studying Spanish -- Thiapphet eventually hopes to work for the U.S. Department of State or the United Nations.
The Adult Learning Center offers free, noncredit, college-preparation courses for adult learners (ages 16 and up) who live and work in Massachusetts. Students are admitted throughout the school year on a space-available basis.
The next registration period begins Wednesday, Jan. 2. Call 781-280-3662 for information.
Thiapphet enrolled at the ALC to meet the educational requirement of her au-pair program. A free program for adult learners living in Massachusetts, the ALC offers small, supportive instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. It serves students interested in basic adult education, those who want to prepare for the high-school equivalency test, and/or adults seeking to improve their English skills.
Each semester, explained ALC Director Kathy Innis, the program typically enrolls a few au pairs like Thiapphet who have high-school degrees from their home countries, but need to improve their English skills.
“Apitchaya was an outstanding student right from the start,” Innis said. “She had excellent attendance, was highly motivated, very engaged in her classwork, and always appreciative of our programs.
Thiapphet jumped at the chance to take an optional student leadership course supported by MCC’s Office of Student Engagement.
“I feel lucky that I started my Middlesex experience with the Adult Learning Center,” Thiapphet said.
She especially appreciates learning the intricacies of the English language -- such as how to use articles like “a,” “an” and “the” -- plus how to write an essay, as well as math skills, ranging from basic statistics to how credit cards work.
“The instructors really paid attention to students like me, whose first language was not English,” she said. “They listened to our questions carefully and made sure we understood the concepts or problems.”
Within three months, her English skills improved significantly, and she made friends with other ALC students who had similar experiences and were acclimating to American culture.
Thiapphet left the ALC when her au-pair program ended in April 2015, but returned to Middlesex the following fall to enroll in the History, Politics and Global Studies Program. She graduated in May with an Associate degree, earning a 3.91 grade-point average.
“It is incredible to look back and see how much my life has changed because of MCC,” said Thiapphet, who was also a member of the Commonwealth Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges.
Quiet and shy when she first enrolled, Thiapphet said her confidence was boosted when she joined the International Club.
“By getting to know more people during the club meetings and other fun activities, I became more outgoing and was not afraid to talk to other people,” she said. “I had such a great connection with my peers and professors since I participated in outside classroom activities.”
Thiapphet also became an orientation leader at Middlesex, participated in an off-campus Diversity Summit, and was selected for an international fellowship to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“I’ve learned how to be more open-minded when facing something new, and how to live and work with people in a group in different environments,” she said.
Being so passionate about history, international relations and diversity, pursuing a UML Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies seemed natural to her.
“Peace and Conflict Studies is a new major, which many people may not have heard of,” Thiapphet said. “I think it is exciting to go for something new that will be useful for the world community in the future.”