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Shari GarretsonShari Garretson and her husband came to a realization a few years ago: they couldn't ever retire."That's okay if you're doing something you like," she said. Shari had worked as an actress and in journalism: while she enjoyed both, neither was a secure career. With the financial crash of 2008 and with the number of journalism jobs contracting, she knew she needed a new focus."I had to regroup and think about what I was going to do with the latter part of my life," she said. "Something I like that will pay the bills."She did some research and discovered that speech pathology was both a rewarding and interesting career, plus it paid well and was secure.She already has a bachelor's degree, and is taking classes at MCC that she needs for graduate school admission."There were some missing parts of my first degree - particularly in math and science. They told me I'd need to make them up. But they said, 'Don't even think about coming here to do it - it's too expensive. By all means, go to a community college.' And Middlesex was a natural."Shari has immersed herself in campus life, joining four clubs and starting one."I thought, 'I'm going back to school for the first time in 35 years, I'm going to have some fun,'" she said. So she joined the Radio Club; Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges; Democracy House, the service-learning organization active in community service; and the Better Than Ever Club, an organization for adult students. She always wanted to learn to meditate, so she founded the Meditation Club.Paul Lazaro '11The road to his degree was a bit longer for Paul Lazaro than for most students, but that's because it involved a detour of 6,000 miles. Twice. A member of the Army National Guard, Paul served two tours in Iraq while completing his degree."At first, I chose MCC because it was convenient," he said. "The reason I chose it when I came back from my deployment is because I found it to be a great environment to learn in. I was challenged and I was also helped along the way. The professors were absolutely great - very knowledgeable in their field and willing to work with me inside and outside the classroom."He became editor-in-chief of "Quo Vadis," the student newspaper, and also president of the Veterans and Servicemembers Association, which organized service projects such as visiting older veterans at the Menlo Park Veterans Home and the Lyons VA Medical Center."MCC has always been very welcoming to student veterans," Paul says. "I also found all the services very easy to access and very friendly to students." Profiles

Jovanna CallandIt was at the Student Activities Fair, an event in which student organizations recruit new members, that Jovanna Calland discovered the fashion club. She knew this was the organization for her."I come from a family of fashion designers, and I've always loved fashion," she said. "I love to help people get the look they want, whether it is formal or casual. I love to draw and design dresses. Fashion is art and I love how clothes can make a person feel good."But the club is more than just about clothes."Fashion club also helps develop self-confidence and self-esteem," she said. "You see a change in the members. They come in shy and withdrawn, and after a few weeks of working with the club, they are more outspoken, confident, and want a lead role in the show. I came here timid and shy and now I'm the president of the club. It's great. We're like one big family, and we make sure everyone is treated with respect and consideration."She enjoys her classes as well."My favorite class is fashion merchandizing, where we got to do window displays," she said. "I have a job doing displays and I got to use what I learned in class at my job. My district manager is really pleased because the displays look great and the items are really selling."Donna-Marie Gardner '00Donna-Marie Gardner's new life began when she turned 31 years old."My husband said to me, 'If you could do anything with your life,what would it be?' I said I wanted to do something involving biology." She came to MCC."I really loved it here," she said. "My professors were extraordinary and I did very well. When it was time for me to transfer, one of my professors said I should apply to Columbia University. I did and was accepted. They took all of my credits and provided me with extensive scholarships. I went to Columbia as a junior with a lot of scholarship money."She got her bachelor's and master's at Columbia and set her sights on a new goal: teaching at MCC."I was offered a job at Middlesex County College and I jumped at the chance," Donna-Marie said. "I love it here. Because we have small class sizes, I know all my students. I know their stories. I know what they're doing well on and I know what they need help on.Middlesex by the Numbers48,650MCC AlumniProfiles