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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Touch a Life is Enrollment Services Director’s greatest ambition

October 7, 2014

SJVC Temecula enrollment services director Marcus BarnetteAlmost ten years ago something happened to irrevocably shape Marcus Barnette’s very existence: An emergency appendectomy very nearly ruptured and took his life.

It began with a sharp pain that intensified beyond bearable. “I screamed like a baby when Jo-Ann touched my side,” says Marcus. After emergency surgery, the doctor told his wife that it was one of the worst appendixes he had ever seen that did not rupture.

Marcus left the hospital two days later with a new realization. “That experience helped me to appreciate life more,” he says. “I think God blessed me with another chance and feel I have an obligation and an opportunity to touch someone’s life in a positive way.”

As Enrollment Services Director for the Temecula campus, Marcus has found lots of opportunity to act on his new sense of responsibility. He heads up an Admissions Team that makes sure that prospective students who come to the Temecula campus are provided with excellent support as they tour the campus, participate in a career planning session, and decide on an education and training program that will meet their career goals.

“I enjoy helping people find their right path,” says Marcus, who knows a little something about choosing the wrong path. “I was steered in the wrong direction in high school and got into an engineering program at USC. I wasted my first two years before I changed direction and got my business degree.”

Marcus comes to work every day looking for ways to make a positive connection with others – that touch that lifts them a little higher.

“We never know what’s going on in other parts of people’s lives, what they’re struggling with,” says Marcus. “We have an opportunity to be either a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer just takes the temperature of whatever surrounds it in the atmosphere; but a thermostat has the ability to change the temperature around it. I try to create a positive atmosphere or temperature around me.”

“Marcus is a bright spot in every day, and he fills the halls with enthusiasm and positiveness,” says Robyn Whiles, Campus Director. “Often you find him sitting at the picnic tables, talking with students who seek him out and feel comfortable sharing personal concerns with him.”

Marcus feels it is important to give students more than an education, more than the keys to a new career. “The most important thing we do is help people regain their confidence,” he says. “Give them confidence that they can get into a professional field, that they do have a value that is important to them, as well as to their family.”

For Marcus, touching lives is both personal and professional. “I really enjoy what we do, how we care about the success of our students,” he says. “I’ve got five colleges within 15 minutes of where I live, but I drive 35 miles to Temecula because I really believe in what we do here at SJVC.”

Giving to others is as natural as breathing to Marcus. Maybe that is why he is one of the most recognized employees on campus. Among his many awards are: Circle of Excellence Award for Retention, twice, 3-time Circle of Excellence Award recipient, Top High School Rep (college-wide) and Temecula’s TOP (Temecula Outstanding Performer) Award. Most cherished are the nominations he received from staff and faculty for weekly Fred Factor recognition that acknowledges those who “make the ordinary extraordinary.” The Fred Factor’s mission is to “continually create new value for those you love and work with through dedication, passion and creativity.”

Marcus credits his mom, Anita, with instilling in him at an early age the importance of working hard and treating others with respect. “She grew up in the projects in Boston and is a product of career education,” he says. “She wanted to be a doctor and couldn’t afford it, so she became an ultrasound technician, and 40 years later, at 73, is still working. I like to tell prospective students about her.”

Marcus has been strongly influenced by loving people and life-altering experiences. His take-away is a little something he came up with that says it all: “Every day is a gift; open it with excitement.”

“Some days I might wish it was wrapped differently…some days I might want to give it back,” he laughs. But, whatever the day brings he will find something positive in it and make sure to pass it along to someone else.