Alumni Spotlight: Bernitha Gales Earns Doctorate While Continuing Career

Long-time Compton resident Bernitha Gales is proof that it is never too late for working adults to attend college in pursuit of advanced degrees. The 2008 El Camino College Compton Center graduate went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education in 2010 from the University of Southern California (USC) and in 2012, she received a doctorate in linguistics, also from USC. She worked full-time throughout.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are; you can start or go back to college at any time,” said Gales. “When it’s all done, it pays off.”

The Compton High School graduate is celebrating her 25 years as an employee of the Compton Unified School District where she is the full-time librarian at Dickison Elementary School. An advocate for education, Gales regularly encourages students of all ages to pursue their dreams. At work, she uses the opportunity to emphasize to her young students the importance of advancing their education. Her participation in church and other community organizations provide another platform for spreading her message. “When I hear from members within my community over the age of 50 that want to go back to school, I use my own experiences as an example and lend advice to help them take their own initial step,” said Gales.

At the beginning of her journey into higher education, Gales wasn’t sure she could fit college into her busy schedule. She checked out the course offerings at El Camino College Compton Center and enrolled in child development and general education classes in fall 2005 after being in the workforce for many years.

She credits ECC Compton Center’s instructors and administrators for providing her with the confidence and foundation to achieve her personal education and career goals. “From the time I enrolled, through graduation, they all played an intricate part in where I am today,” said Gales. “When thinking of the significance of this campus, El Camino College Compton Center is a valuable resource for the community, providing generations of local residents a place for higher learning in preparation for the future. It played a major role in my academic success.”

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