Charlie Briones, young grandfather of three and future math teacher, has overcome innumerable obstacles when his life has taken wrong turn or even almost ended. However, he has proven again and again he can surmount misfortune and reinvent himself. Charlie never knew his father and his mother was institutionalized when he was 14 years old, leaving him literally on the street, in a rough part of San Francisco’s Mission District. He was able to survive and eventually, with only nine years of formal education, art skills and enormous determination, he went into interior painting. He became one of the leading industrial artists in Northern California and superintendent for a well-respected company. Then, after over 20 years of professional accomplishments, a work accident left him disabled, without any hope of ever working in his field again.
Battling depression and post-traumatic stress, Charlie returned to school to get his high-school diploma. As he studied, he fell in love with mathematics and continued taking classes. He credits SRJC with saving his life: “Here I go, from a way to fight depression, to—I got a whole new life and I got goals. I am building the second part of my life and it is more than a dream now, it is within my grasp.” During the last three years of studying at the JC, Charlie won many scholarships for his academic performance; among them were the Teaching Fellow, the Carol Cochran Schaffner Education, and Dream Big. His hard work motivated his wife to also study here for a career and technical certificate in child development, and his daughter to take classes in nutrition.
Tutoring in math and mentoring other students became important parts of Charlie’s college life. After taking his first two algebra classes, he started helping other students with their homework and volunteered in the Tutoring Center. He had to stop recently, in order to concentrate on his increased college workload, yet he still helps a few friends, explaining that “it gives me a purpose in life, it makes me feel so good.” Helping others to understand a relatively difficult topic shaped his dream for a future as an educator. Charlie hopes to transfer to Sonoma State University to get a bachelor’s in mathematics with a teaching credential, so that he might teach high school—or even become an instructor at the JC.
Charlie achieved his GED at SRJC, and worked toward three associate's degrees in natural sciences, social behavior, and transfer mathematics. Looking back, happy to have accomplished so much in only three and a half years, Charlie said: “If I could do it, at my age, it definitely can be done!”