A photo of LaToya Pleasant in a graduation gown with her degree.LaToya Pleasant, 39, knows the impact a positive role model can have on a college student’s life. After a chance encounter with San Bernardino Valley College Adjunct Professor Mary Lawler who convinced Pleasant to go back to college, the Fontana resident had a whole new perspective on education and mentorship.

Pleasant wanted to do for others what Lawler had done for her. As a single mother who had struggled financially and worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, Pleasant suddenly saw her future fully materialized, aiming to do what Lawler had done for her. She would inspire, motivate, and provide for students’ mental health, and would study psychology with the ultimate goal of becoming a school psychologist.

Pleasant enrolled at SBVC and dove into her studies and her experience further reinforced her desire to push forward toward her goal. Lawler continued to mentor her, helping her “every step of the way.”

“College can be overwhelming, and you can feel like a small fish in a big pond,” Pleasant said. “I believe educators should be fully invested in their students. The impression they leave on pupils, good or bad, is life-changing and stays with them forever.”

Pleasant graduated from SBVC this fall in December 2021 with her Associate in Arts in Psychology. She plans to transfer to a university to complete her bachelors’ and eventually earn her master’s degree, and she is already inspiring and motivating others. Her daughter, Alexis Winters-Dixon, started at SBVC in August and will also study psychology with the goal to become a child psychologist. Pleasant said through her hard work and good example, she is “determined to break the impoverished, substandard generational curses” in her life.

“I believe I am unique because my attitude is positive despite all that I have been through,” Pleasant said. “My experience in life has made me into a stronger person. I have worked two jobs as a single mother while maintaining a 3.9 GPA during my time at SBVC. My outlook on life is great regardless of my circumstances.”