Sitting outside of the Cal State Fullerton Titan Student Union with a Starbucks coffee in hand, 31-year-old English literature major Paul Yi reflected back on his story. A new chapter of his life is just beginning.
In addition to being a full-time CSUF student, Yi is also a part-time building engineer assistant at the TSU, which he said is just a fancy title for a handyman. He does everything from painting walls to maintaining overall cleanliness.
Yi is continuing his fourth attempt at completing college, most recently coming off of a six-year hiatus.
“Every time I would drop out, it would be different things, from DUIs and a lot of trouble with the law. I would be forced to drop out,” Yi said.
Now, after making the decision to return to school, he is only two semesters away from graduation.
Through all the difficult situations he’s been through, Yi has turned to his parents for the motivation he’s needed for success.
“They’ve been through so much of my s—,” Yi said. “I want to redeem their actions of giving me that grace and extra chance, or however many chances they’ve constantly given to me.”
He also attributes himself as his own driving force to becoming a better person.
“Before, I didn’t care. I just didn’t know myself,” Yi said. “Now that I’m older, I’m more invested in my future.”
One thing that bridged Yi’s adolescence into who he is today is his love for skateboarding.
Yi said he has been skating since he was 20 years old and through the sport, discovered the organic and raw energy that comes with stepping on a board. It has made him feel accepted and accomplished.
“It’s not that I was good. I never got sponsored. It was more about this self-discovery and exploration because I was never athletic. I wasn’t smart,” Yi said.
He’s not exactly sure where school will take him, but it’s another chapter to his life.
“I don’t necessarily have a purpose or intent with my English degree,” Yi said. “I just know that this is something I want to do for myself.”
Jaime Potter took a chance when she applied for the assistant athletic training job at Cal State Fullerton.
She was working at the University of Dayton in Ohio when the job listing opened up. After realizing she would have the opportunity to work under the prestigious Julie Max, assistant athletics director at CSUF, Potter applied.
Potter got the job and has been with the program since 2013.
“I kind of threw my name into a hat hoping that it would get picked, and I got pretty lucky,” Potter said.
Potter received a Bachelor of Science degree in education with an emphasis in athletic training from the University of Akron in 2003. Two years later, she went on to earn a master’s degree in sports science and coaching at the same university.
She originally entered college as an engineering major, but realized it was not the field for her.
“My freshman year, I really hated chemistry and really was bad at (computer-aided design). I just didn’t get it,” Potter said.
Potter said she didn’t even know what athletic training was when someone suggested the career to her, but she tried it out. Soon after, she spent an entire summer taking two prerequisite anatomy classes just to become elligble for the program that would change her life.
Athletic trainers are essential to any athletic program. Whether it’s the pregame tape, doling out postgame compression boots or treating more intense game-time injuries, athletic trainers work hard to ensure the health and safety of athletes.
Working with the women’s basketball teams, Potter said she likes to focus on injury prevention. With the risks of torn anterior cruciate ligaments, she wants to make sure the team stays safe and healthy before, during and after the season.
When she’s not on campus or on the court, Potter said she likes to stay busy with activities such as hiking, weight lifting and cycling, which she only recently started doing.
Potter said she signed up for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, a seven-day cycling tour starting off in Santa Cruz and ending in Los Angeles.
The 545-mile cycling trip is going to be a challenging adventure for Potter, but it’s something she’s prepared for. Between treating injuries and teaching students, her busy life seems to always have something new in store.
“It’s fun. It’s exciting. It keeps me on my toes,” Potter said.
Most Cal State Fullerton students only come to the campus bookstore twice a semester: once at the beginning of the semester to grab all their books, and then again at the end of the semester to return their rentals.
CSUF alumna Stephanie Ruvalcaba is an exception.
Ruvalcaba has worked in the Titan Shops’ text department for about four years. She helps students find and return their books, while also solving any dilemmas that may happen in between those processes.
“It’s easy to find your book, but it’s a little bit harder when you’re seeing multiple titles of the same book and multiple editions,” Ruvalcaba said.
Customers sometimes become frustrated if they can’t find what they need, Ruvalcaba said. When that happens, Ruvalcaba takes a deep breath and tries to think of a solution.
“They’re angry for a reason. I want to help them,” Ruvalcaba said. “If there’s nothing we can offer the students, I use practical knowledge that I have from when I was a student.”
Like any job, Titan Shops has its ups and downs, but the importance of Ruvalcaba’s role plays a huge factor in student success on campus.
“Textbooks are the backbone of school. I mean, you have your notes, but without the textbooks where would the teachers get the information? They read the textbooks too,” Ruvalcaba said.
When Ruvalcaba isn’t working at Titan Shops she’s usually reading, writing or spending time with loved ones. When her family goes out, they like to watch movies or go to the bookstore.