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Southwestern Oregon Community College student body president Emmanuel “Manny” Taban-Taeoalii spoke at graduation on June 9, 2017. Taban-Taeoalii was able to stay on track to earn an associates degree in two years thanks to an improved program at SWOCC for students who need extra help in math and writing.  

Anne Farrell-Matthews

COOS BAY — Motivation. Support.

Talk with Emmanuel “Manny” Taban-Taeoalii and he’ll tell you those are the most important factors that helped him graduate from college with an associate’s of arts transfer degree.

“It was tough. I came from Utah. I didn’t know anybody. Taking advantage of the resources and the tutoring center really helped me graduate,” he said.

On June 8, Taban-Taeoalii not only shook the Southwestern Oregon Community College president’s hand and grabbed a diploma, he was a featured speaker at graduation. He was student body president of his class, all of this after starting two years ago at ground zero in math and writing.

“I was terrible at writing. I started out at Writing 90. Math was the same. I started lower,” he said.

That’s hard on a person emotionally. It’s hard to know where to go for help and what to ask for. In Oregon, nearly 75 percent of recent high school graduates take at least one developmental math, reading or writing course upon enrolling in a community college. Students who start in these classes at most colleges often quit, or they spend more than two years getting a “two-year” degree.

“I just worked my way up,” he said. “One time a tutor spent two hours with me on the phone.”

SWOCC’s revamped and streamlined developmental math, reading and writing classes helped tremendously, as did a focused emphasis on providing students like Taban-Taeoalii with intensive support and tutors.

“I pushed it to the end and I had to take statistics. Dr. K(ypriotakis) is an amazing teacher. Dr. K was in the tutoring center and that helped, too,” he said.

All the while, he worked, played on the college’s basketball team and participated in the Junior Chamber of Commerce program on campus, traveling to Portland and interacting with business professionals. This put more stress on studying, and meant more time in the tutoring lab.

Taban-Taeoalii said that because of the tutoring center and small classes, he able to pass Writing 121 with a “B”, then Writing 122 and 123 with “A”s.

“I made the dean’s list for the first time ever,” he said.

Come fall, Taban-Taeoalii will start at the University of Utah, pursuing a four-year degree and majoring in political science. He said he’ll miss SWOCC because of all of the experiences and opportunities.

“If I could have, I would have stayed here all four years.”