Ohlone’s Stories: Garrett Yee

Garrett Yee

Ohlone College Board of Trustee Member

Garrett Yee

1. Why did you decide to run for public office for community colleges?

I’ve always believed in giving back to our community and in public service. My father was a teacher and growing up I was strongly influenced by him, I thought someday I was going to be a teacher. I ended up not being a teacher, but as I got involved in the community, I felt connection to education. As I got involved locally, folks were encouraging me to consider running for public office. Of those offices that were available, the community college seemed the most in alignment with what and where I was interested in giving back.

2. What is the most challenging and rewarding experience of this job?
The most challenging part is to work as a team, and as a board in sync with the college president and the college community. As a board member we get folks in the community that tell us they want the college to do certain things and to be a certain way. And of course there are people telling you how you should do your job. Trying to get 7 board members and the student trustee all on the same page on controversial issues is sometimes difficult, let alone be in sync with the college. That’s always going to be a challenge.

The most rewarding part of being a board member is getting to see all the good things that are happening. When you see student graduations, all the great things they are doing is very  satisfying. When we have student athletes that excel, that’s also very exciting. Our sports program here at Ohlone is very dynamic and has great teams.

Another rewarding experience is to see physical improvements of the college. I was on the measure A committee many years ago that helped to bring the Newark campus here. It was very satisfying to work on the campaign to pass measure A and be on the board several years later when we cut the ribbon to open that great campus. Now we are doing it again. Many of us helped to pass the Measure G bond and now to start seeing improvements to the Ohlone College, Fremont campus, as a result of Measure G is also very gratifying.

3. When veterans return what kind of support systems are provided from VA/system
If you were a veteran and you return to a military installation, like in Fort Worth, Texas or Port Drum in New York, you would have all of those support services on the military installation, but when you come back to a community like Fremont in the Tri-city area there aren’t a lot of support services. There are some veteran services and there is the Veterans Administration healthcare facilities that do have some support but it’s not necessarily the kind of support they need, or that you would find on a military installation.

4. Aside from the VA here at Ohlone, what do you think Ohlone can do to help veteran students transition back to civilian life and student life?
Transitioning is different for everybody, but imagine driving 65 miles an hour on the freeway and you have to get off the freeway and drive 25 miles per hour up to campus, it’s hard to do. You might be going 30 to 35, because you’re so use to going real fast and to make that transition it’s very difficult. That’s how it’s like in many cases are when you come back from deployment, where everything is fast pace and everything is important, there’s an element of danger, risk and it’s super fast pace, and then you come back to civilization here. It’s hard to figure out what’s important and not important and that transition can take awhile, in some cases several months or many years to get back to normal because it can be so intense based upon your deployment experience.

The things I see that Ohlone trying to do are in the right direction; forming a veterans group here where veterans can have a support network and share experiences and understand they can relate to each other.

5. Do you have any suggestion on how we can better support veteran students?
Small things make a big difference, I will tell you that. A lot of military friendly places offer a militantly discount for services. For example, if local vendors offered a veteran discount, that would be well received. There might be a display on Veteran Day so that students could learn a little bit about the military. This would help to acknowledge that we have veterans here at Ohlone and that we’re grateful for their service.

6. Have you have any chance to meet veterans on campus?
I talked with James, he works here at Ohlone in public safety. James Served in Afghanistan. And  I met one student just before I left 2011. I sat down with him and chatted with him a bit. That was the early stages of trying to start a Veterans group here at Ohlone.

7. What do you do when you come back from deployment?
I usually clean the garage, clean the shed, unpack all your stuff, you wash and clean it out. You just try to chill out, everyone’s different. You try and take it easy and try to figure out what normal is supposed to be. For me, spending time with my family was really important. We took a vacation to Hawaii, which was fun.  We went to Las Vegas. We took our daughter to San Diego–, just spending time together. Family is super important.  As difficult as it is on the service member when they are deployed, it’s even more difficult at times on the family. They don’t know what you’re doing, or what is going on, they just hear bad stuff on the news so it’s tough.