Helping others get a higher education

Ellyn Semler attended a community college herself, and today the retiree helps other students get a chance at higher education.

Now president of the Glendale College Foundation Board, she began serving on the board six years ago and said she works to bring education to the community.

"I can say that I'm sort of an early student of a community college, so I know that they can really change a person's life," she said. "I think joining the Foundation Board was a great way to get involved in the community, and I hope I can be helpful."

Semler, a La Cañada Flintridge resident, served as the organization's treasurer and vice president before her new role as president. The board raises funds for the college and scholarship programs. Her role as president allows her to accomplish a tough goal within a recession — raising funds for programs that would generally not be funded.

"[Glendale Community College] is a place to be proud of and to support," Semler said. "Not only is the economy tough and people aren't donating, but the state has cut funding, so it's kind of a tough period all around for us."

Some of these programs include the nursing program, a fire academy, culinary arts school, theater arts school, in addition to the business and English department.

"The nursing program is top-notch," Semler said. "It's a very well-respected program. Hospitals that have openings always want our nurses."

The foundation has introduced ways to raise money. Through the President's Circle, members of the community can make an annual donation and receive special invitations to private events on campus and other benefits.

Funds raised through this project enable the foundation to provide small grants to the English department's Writer's Series, where published writers come and lecture to the students. In addition, the money benefits the debate department and literary journal "The Eclipse."

Funds for the foundation are also raised through the alumni association. It organizes an Athletic Hall of Fame dinner, where athletes from the past are honored, and the Oakmont Golf Tournament each year. Each of the academic departments also stays in touch with alumni and does its own programs.

Semler is inspired by the dedication of the faculty and staff, and this keeps her motivated, she said.

"The college has distinguished itself through its programs," Semler said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for people who don't really know what they want to do or don't have the funds to go to a four-year college."

Her husband Richard Semler supports and admires his wife's work.

"What makes her work important is that it's the work that the college itself does," Richard Semler said. "[The college] serves an absolutely necessary role in the community; otherwise kids wouldn't be able to go to college."

Ellyn Semler's other volunteer work is with Las Candelas, an organization of women that supports the mental health of children, and the Glendale YWCA's minority scholarship and internship program, In Roads.

Bobbi Gangi has worked with Ellyn Semler for more than five years with Las Candelas. Semler is co-chairwoman of the Las Candelas fashion show on Feb. 28.

"She's very efficient, a very bright lady and just volunteers in so many groups," Gangi said.

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