Sarina Tung: Staff

Sarina Tung - Staff Spotlight

What do you do at the college? How does your job help students meet their goals?

I’m a TRIO Student Support Specialist, so I am here to support students who are first-generation, low-income, or have a documented disability. We help them navigate the college system, whether the area is academic planning, career planning, personal counseling such as housing concerns or finding resources. One of my favorite parts of working with TRIO students is to help them with Financial Aid.

I help with everything. Usually students think we’re just here for academic advising and financial aid help, but I’ve had students come to me about their relationships, roommates, and even parking tickets. I let them sit and vent with no judgement. I offer support such as walking them through the parking ticket appeal process and refer them to Brian Shook or Melissa Barnes when it comes to personal concerns. This is a safe place, and I listen and help them find more help when needed.

What makes you passionate about what you do for students?

I was a first-generation student, and I struggled my first year of college. I actually was on academic probation and dismissal during my first year, and had my financial aid taken away due to not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress. I was not prepared to leave home and attend a big university right after high school. I switched to Whatcom Community College, and they helped me get back on track and eventually reinstated at Western Washington University.

Once I graduated college, I was able to get my foot in the door with AmeriCorps as a financial literacy member at Highline College and I found a passion with helping students. After that, I worked at Bellevue College as a Financial Aid Program Coordinator for Workforce Education. My husband relocated to the Harbor for work, and I was determined to have a career in higher education. I found a position with TRIO and immediately became invested, because this is a program that I needed in college and now I can help students transition to a university with the resources and skills to be successful.

What's your favorite part about working at GHC?

I love that we are very community-based. It’s not just "the college" – we are constantly reaching out to community members and organizations. In relation to that, we’re also providing education for high-wage, high-demand jobs that the community needs, and providing opportunities for students to explore themselves and what is out there waiting for them.

What advice do you have for students? What do you wish students knew about?

Don't be afraid to ask questions, or for help navigating the college system. You might think you'd be able to do it yourself, but if you’re the first one in your family to attend college it can be really hard. Also, make sure to apply for financial aid early!

If you’re not an alum, why do you think community colleges are awesome?

As I mentioned earlier, going to a community college was better for me, both because it was smaller, and also because there was more hands-on help. Whatcom helped me get back on track and reinstated at Western, and also gave me a better understand the advising process and how financial aid works.

Community colleges are great to start out in because 1. the tuition is a lot lower, and 2. They give you a more hands-on experience and there are more programs for students who are unfamiliar with the college process. For example, the Welcome Center and Student Support Center are easier to find and more intimate than when you’re at a bigger college.

Smaller schools like Grays Harbor College are able to do more outreach with the community too.

What do you do when you’re not working at GHC?

When I’m not working, I usually go to the beach with my dogs, even in the rain. I was really excited to move down here because of the connection to nature.

I also like to constantly find things to clean and organize in my house, whether it’s a shelf or a closet.

If a student needs help with something in your area, how can they get in touch with you and your colleagues?

You can go to the TRIO virtual lobby on the GHC website (https://www.ghc.edu/trio), or you can call or text us at the numbers provided there. You can also reach out to us on social media, which is what happens a lot of the time. We get a lot of messages on Facebook and Instagram asking questions, and love to help through there, too. We are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TRiOGHC/ and Instagram at @ghctrio.