Hers is not the traditional success story. It is not one where a student completes a sequence of courses and then lands a job or a promotion soon after. Susan Stasi’s success story is one that inspires and shows what a person can do with new skills and a strong commitment.
When Stasi enrolled in Extension’s Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Teaching Credential (DSCTE), she didn’t envision her next career path would lead to Africa. She did know, however, that her new career would deeply involve educating children. And now, years after completing the credential in 2012, hundreds of impoverished girls and deaf children in the Republic of Congo and in Cameroon could not be happier that Stasi has made them part of her successful career.
Teaching cooking to kids at a YMCA summer camp was the catalyst for Stasi’s decision to return to school and pursue the DSCTE teaching credential. The credential added yet another element to a work and education history that includes a degree in foreign languages from San Jose State University and stints working in international sales and marketing for prosthetics, owning a graphic design firm and managing a catering business. The teaching credential also opened up Stasi’s career options, broadened her network, and eventually, set her new career in motion.
"While I was enrolled in the DSCTE teaching credential, I met several deaf teachers from the California School for the Deaf (CSD)," Stasi remembers. And, coming from a languages background, she was frustrated that she was not able to communicate with them. One of those deaf classmates inspired her to learn American Sign Language (ASL). Stasi studied ASL, volunteered at CSD and was able to thank her Extension classmate in person (using ASL) for the inspiration to learn a new language.
As a way to practice her sign-language skills, Stasi attended a church in Santa Clara, Calif., where a deaf priest gave Mass in ASL. Originally from Congo, the priest wanted to build a school in Congo for girls and deaf children. He asked for help in creating an environment that would inspire the youth to stick with their education, and Stasi immediately raised her hand. Her goal of using her new DSCTE skills and teaching children inched closer.
Having earned the teaching credential, Stasi knew she was prepared to be a truly effective teacher— wherever the children may be located. "I had learned how to put together a lesson plan and how to teach," she says. "I planned to bring in the Career Technical Education Model Curriculum—similar to the one I learned in class and used when I was volunteering—to introduce the girls and deaf children to technology and to teach them vocational skills that would lead to employment."
In July 2014, Stasi began her new career: She founded the nonprofit, St. Mary di Rosa Academies, located in Santa Clara, and whose mission is to educate impoverished girls and deaf children in sub-Saharan Africa. She soon discovered that bringing a good education to the children of the region would entail more than just building a school to inspire the community. Stasi connected with a young Cameroonian high school teacher who works in rural Africa and partnered with two schools for deaf children in Cameroon. The nonprofit plans to work with the rural communities to improve their living conditions and to provide workshops and resources so that the village girls could return to school. Stasi also has begun negotiations with two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria to start work in that country. It required a lot of hard work, but little by little, Stasi’s original goal to make a difference in the lives of children by teaching them new skills became a reality.
Stasi credits her educational experience at UC Berkeley Extension for sparking her teaching career. "If I hadn’t gone back to school when I did, I know my journey would have been entirely different," she says. "I am full of gratitude for the guidance, wisdom and knowledge I was given, and hope to share that knowledge in Africa. One of my favorite slogans today is, 'Education is the means to eradicate poverty.' I know for a fact that education is the only way to change the world."
Going Back to 2012:
Not many people make school a priority after raising three children and bringing grandchildren and great-grandchildren into their family. However, Susan Stasi—married to her high-school sweetheart for 43 years—is back to school, working toward her fourth career. With the Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Teaching Credential, Stasi adds yet another layer to a work and education history that includes a degree in foreign languages from San Jose State University and stints working in international sales and marketing for prosthetics, owning a graphic design firm and managing a catering business.
Stasi cites her turn teaching cooking to kids at a YMCA summer camp in 2010 as the catalyst for her latest career move. With her teaching credential, she can be a truly effective teacher. "I've learned about how to put together a lesson plan and how to teach," she says. "I taught the summer camp again this past summer—what a difference!"
Earning a credential through Extension is the best way to get out of a rut and back into the workforce, Stasi believes. "I have recommended this program to quite a number of people, especially those who are going through this recession and are suddenly out on the street," she says. "You're never too old to learn. Just keep on!"