Lives In Transition offers education and comfort

By Sue Cody


Lives In Transition 1Clatsop Community College (CCC) offers tools for transformation through its Lives In Transition classes. And, it is free. The classes are a training ground, mixing practical and interpersonal skills, said instructor Shelly Alford. “We try to instill practices and skills that will lead to college or careers,” she said.


Students range in age from 16 to 70, working on such things as career choices, GEDs, college preparation, relationship skills and more.


There are two classes: Coping with Stress and Depression that meets from 9 to 11 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays; and Life Transitions, 11:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the Astoria campus. Students have the choice of taking the courses over two semesters or back-to-back in the same semester.


The course is worth six college credits and offers help with childcare and transportation. Classes have been offered in Astoria and Seaside, but registration has been so low in Seaside, classes were canceled. If enough students register, classes will resume.


“In some ways, the classes resemble a psychology class by working on communication, relationships, leadership, how to cope with stress and active listening,” Alford said.


Students practice public speaking, journaling and job interviews. “We create a safe environment, where people are comfortable sharing. Over time, the students become more open and honest, and they can share opinions without being judged,” Alford said.


“I’ve learned a lot about myself since I started teaching this class,” she said.


Some students are dealing with homelessness, family deaths, work displacement or other transitions. “Here they can look at themselves and open up. It’s OK to cry and be vulnerable. People learn assertiveness and boundary setting,” Alford said. 


Student stories


Scott Rogers, a veteran going back to school, said it was hard being a civilian. He graduated from Astoria High School in 2003 and served to tours in Afghanistan. He said he was shot three times and blown up six. He suffers from lower back pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He returned to Astoria with his wife and daughter.


“I thought this class might be too touchy-feely,” he said. “Instead, they are telling you what you already have.” He is grateful his veteran status pays for his education.


Vickie Dusick signed up for Lives In Transition after three family members died within three months of each other. Two more close friends recently died. “I needed to go back to school to get out of that realm,” she said. “This class is a great stepping stone to college,” she said.


Dusick works as a teacher’s aide and especially likes working with autistic children. “They open up to me,” she said. “I love watching how their brains work. They are so creative. They can describe the clouds in a way that I’ve never heard before.” She plans to further her education and earn teaching credentials.


Working toward a writing or art degree, Michael Gregg said he has found his way back to college and is enjoying the class. “I love this class,” he said. He writes poetry and has kept a journal on and off since the 1960s, and got more serious about it in the ’80s. He would like to continue at CCC to pursue creative writing classes. “This class is awesome,” he said.


Moving on


Lives In Transition Director Margaret Frimoth offers counseling, advising and financial advice. The college offers wraparound services, such as computer labs and cooking facilities.


Graduation is held at the end of the courses and many students continue at CCC or another college to acquire an associate’s or advanced degree.


Winter term begins Jan. 4.


A fundraising fashion show for The Harbor will be held in January or February, featuring 15 designers who will use clothing from The Harbor’s Deja Vu Thrift Shop.




The education program was created by the federal government for people with no college or work experience. The program is no longer supported with federal funds.


The CCC Lives In Transition is partially funded by United Way. There are classes at 11 Oregon community colleges, four are in Spanish.


Alford taught elementary and special education classes at Jewell and Warrenton for eight years. She earned a master’s degree in Leadership in Education.


After working at the Victory Over Childhood Abuse (VOCA) camp, Frimoth asked her to teach the Lives In Transition classes.


Now she enjoys working with adults. “I fell in love with it,” Alford said.