Sharon Plump is a Groundskeeper with the Facilities Department at Cerritos College.  When she is mowing, edging, and trimming, Plump is smiling – even when no one is looking.  This woman’s mantra is, “I love my job!”

Johnny Paycheck’s Country music hit “Take This Job and Shove It!” chronicles an employee who hates his job, has had enough of the boss, and tells him so in no uncertain terms.  This song became the battle cry of the American blue collar, white collar, no collar worker in the 1980s.  Plump’s  uniquely positive, upbeat attitude toward her work makes her the antithesis of Paycheck’s antagonistic employee.

Passion for gardening and the outdoor life began when Plump was eight.  She learned her gardening and landscape skills from her grandmother.  When she graduated high school, Plump took a job as a bank teller.  It took one day for her to realize she was in the wrong business.  Even though she is a people person who is eager to serve, she found it very difficult to deal with difficult people and their money.

Plump left the world of high finance and took a job with a landscape company.   She likes to challenge her body so being a groundskeeper allowed her to be outside, gardening, and interacting with people.  “Gardening is a free stress reliever,” says Plump.

Plump was serious about her new career, taking classes and obtaining certificates in landscape maintenance.  Even when she was employed at other southern California colleges, she always had her eye on Cerritos.  She knew about the college because her mother was a Cerritos College graduate.  When an opportunity to work with the Cerritos Facilities Department was posted, Plump did not hesitate to apply.

Sharon Plump was the first woman groundskeeper hired by the Cerritos College Facilities Department.  Facilities Manager Tom Richey is very proud to have been the one to hire her.  “Sharon is one of my best hires,” says Richey.  The boss is also proud to let you know that Plump was awarded Employee of the Month after only six weeks – faster than anyone else in the department.

Richey recognized a special spirit in Plump.  He assigned her to the college Quad so that she could interact with students who hang around the Student Center, especially the athletes.  Plump may be maintaining grass and flowers, but garden fairy is also scattering the spiritual pixie dust of her positive attitude and timeless wisdom.



Plump and fellow teammate Donnie Hawkins believe it is important for employees to make the effort to reach out and show students and teachers respect by developing relationships.  Students often thank them for their hard work, letting them know how much they appreciate what it takes to make the campus clean and attractive.  “One little girl brought me a box of my favorite chocolates,” Plump revealed, “just because she thought so much of what I did for her campus.”

The Facilities Department company jackets are emblazoned with the words Facilities Team.  Richey says it takes a lot of work to communicate the vision of the department to employees these days, “Everyone has a different idea of what the work is.”  Older people have a different view of the job than younger people.  Communication is the key to getting the job done.  Not only does Richey have to communicate his vision to his team, but he also has to get the college instructors and Trustees to realize the vital role of his department.



Plump and Richey share a core vision – that their facilities department is the foundation of the education process at Cerritos.  Without the work of custodial, plumbers, groundskeepers, painters, and tradesmen, the campus would not be well-maintained, would not be a comfortable work and study environment, and no one would want to be there.  Plump points out the people judge the inside of a college campus or restaurant by the way it looks on the outside.  She believes that people make snap judgments based on appearance.  “Sometimes, they don’t even make it inside because of the way it looks on the outside.”

Sharon Plump and the Facilities Department Team work very hard to make sure everyone who steps on the Cerritos College campus will like what they see, want to come inside…and decide to stay.



ACTIVE MINDS – Survive Suicide, Take Back Your Life

Suicide – the number one killer among Baby Boomers and young men age 17-25.  As a Boomer, I grew up being told that we had everything to live for – economic prosperity, advanced technology, medicine that treated illness and prolonged life.  As the parent of a Millennial, I believe my child has even more reason to live.   If everything is so great, why are people choosing to end their lives?

Among Boomer men, the reasons for suicide range from economic devastation to catastrophic illness to loss of a beloved spouse.  Among younger men and women, suicide is prompted by depression, self-esteem issues, and loneliness.  Men and women are both susceptible to suicide, with men four times as likely to attempt suicide and succeed.  The method of choice for men is hanging or firearm.  Women tend to consume pills or use less traumatic methods of demise.  Women attempting suicide are generally crying out for help rather than being intent on taking their lives.

Family and friends left behind are devastated by the loss of their loved one.  Once the initial shock of the loss passes, they are consumed with guilt.  Many spend the rest of their lives trying to make sense of what they believe to be a senseless and selfish act.  They live with guilt for not having “been there” for the victim.  They forever wonder if there was something they could have done or said that would have prevented the suicide.

Active Minds is a national organization with chapters on college campuses.  The organization is run by students for students.   Johnny Estrada, president of Active Minds – Cerritos College, says that many students like him have attempted suicide and failed.  They have come to terms with their past mental state and sought help.  They have decided that speaking about the unspoken, the stigma of suicide, is the best way to dispel the shame associated with mental illness.  These are the survivors.  They want to help others take back their lives!

SUICIDE – You Cannot Come Back

Ask anyone, either they have been personally affected by suicide or know someone who has been affected by suicide. Since 2010, suicide has been the number one cause of death among middle-aged Americans. Over half of the suicides are completed with a firearm. It is estimated for every suicide completed, there are almost  25 attempts – an average of one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes. There are also three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. It is suspected that the emotional state of women often leads them to attempt suicide as a cry for attention rather than a true desire to end their life.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly.  However, the surge in suicide rates among Baby Boomers is surprising.  From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans age 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people.  That was up from 13.7 percent. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, men are far more likely take their lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000. (The New York Times)

Family members of suicide victims are left behind feeling hurt, confused, angry, betrayed, and guilty. Most blame themselves for not being able to stop the suicide from taking place. “I just wish I could’ve talk to him one last time,” said Rosanna G. in response to her brother’s suicide by hanging. The families of suicide victims feel they were robbed of their loved one.  Many blame the loved one for being selfish for taking their life and not thinking about how that single, final act will ultimately affect those left behind. “It’s been four years and I still haven’t recovered,” Osiris B. admitted about losing her best friend to suicide.

The signs are usually there, if we really look for them. If any of the behaviors listed below occur, reach out and do all you can to help prevent the person affected from taking their life. Not every who is depressed will take their life, but they do need a helping hand to overcome the stresses of their are under.

Listed below are a few signs to look for according to suicide.org.
• Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
• Talking or writing about death or suicide.
• Withdrawing from family and friends.
• Feeling hopeless.
• Feeling helpless.
• Feeling strong anger or rage.
• Feeling trapped — like there is no way out of a situation.
• Experiencing dramatic mood changes.
• Abusing drugs or alcohol.
• Exhibiting a change in personality.
• Acting impulsively.
• Losing interest in most activities.
• Experiencing a change in sleeping habits.
• Experiencing a change in eating habits.
• Losing interest in most activities.
• Performing poorly at work or in school.
• Giving away prized possessions.
• Writing a will.
• Feeling excessive guilt or shame.

BEHIND THE WHEEL Are You Distracted?

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  Students from Cerritos College admitted to driving while texting, eating and searching for the perfect iPod beat.  Not everyone had an accident, but they knew someone who did.  Even Det. Carl Anna from Norwalk Sheriff Department has reached for that pesky cell phone or turned to correct his kids.  Distractions that affect drivers range from riding with Fluffy on their lap to reaching into the back seat to check a pizza receipt.   Angela Hoppe-Nagao provided stats on the emotional aspects of the worst driving distraction – road rage.  Her advice is to not take the mistakes of other drivers so personally.  “You never know what the other person is going through.”

Morgan Brittany: The Politics of Life

Morgan Brittany first walked onto a sound stage at CBS when she was five years old.  The moment she saw the red light on the camera, the lights on the grid overhead, and heard, “Action!,” she knew that was it – before she even knew what “it” was.  In the 50 years she has been in the biz,  Brittany has seen Hollywood go through a lot of changes.  The actress and Conservative columnist/commentator has also seen backlash against those posing a less than liberal POV .  Here, Brittany shares her view from the trenches on a political life.