By Christina Rocha
For more than half his lifetime, Jon-Jon Stirrat has dedicated his life to helping high school students go to college.
“I am happy that I am retiring from ELAC and most of all I will miss the students,” said Stirrat, who retired this winter.
His duties were coordinating outreach for East Los Angeles College to reach out to the high school students and to the community, along with co-worker Lynn Wood.
Stirrat built the outreach program. When Stirrat first started the program, most high schools did not know about ELAC.
“I have not done this alone and I had wonderful student workers, and I have Lynn Wood,” said Stirrat.
When Stirrat started doing recruitment for the college, many of the schools did not want ELAC at their high schools.
“I think much of that was due to old misconception of ELAC being a ghetto school or as some people referred to it, “high school with ashtrays.”
Stirrat was determined to help ELAC succeed, but he realized that he could not do it alone.
“With the help of my wonderful student workers we learned about every program and department we possibly could at the college,” said Stirrat.
They received much cooperation from faculty and staff, allowing them to bring prospective students by talking to them or visit their classrooms.
According to Stirrat, word was also an integral part of the department’s success.
ELAC is now usually the first college the high schools call on when they need classroom presentations, financial aid, workshops, and general college information.
“I have been told numerous times that our student’s ambassadors are far better trained and know more than most of the ambassadors from other colleges,” said Stirrat.
When the E7 Technology Center opened, Outreach and Recruitment along with Gina Chelstrom from Tech Prep and coach Rick Gamboa, decided to have the first Tech Prep Day. It was also known as Counselor Day and showcased the programs in that building.
High school counselors attended various class workshops and were later treated to a luncheon.
“The counselor was impressed with our wonderful programs and took this information back to their high school,” said Stirrat.
“We also started having Senior Day every year in collaboration with all departments on campus.
“Due to budget constraints, we have not had these events for the past few years.
“I would hope that the college realizes the importance of these events in maintaining our image to the community and will budget for them in the future.”
Before Stirrat worked at ELAC, he had a job at USC’s dental bookstore. He saw an opening for East Los Angeles College.
At that time he was interviewed by Nick Tan and John Gaclegar and he was hired. He did not know anyone when he first came here.
His professional background is mostly working at East Los Angeles College. “I love ELAC and I will always be home to me,”said Stirrat.
He loves to help students and it is the best part of his job.
However, he enjoys seeing the students succeed and go far on their carreer or their goals.
Stirrat was born and grew up in Los Angeles. He went to George Washington High School in Los Angeles. Now Stirrat lives in Downey.
Stirrat is an actor and make-up artist outside of school. He performs at local and community theatre.
Most of the time he did the make-up and work for the whole cast.
He was also a member of the first gay theatre group in Hollywood.
He remembered that he did the make-up for Meg Tilly.
After he retires he wants to rest and sleep.
He also wants to get back to his music and art and perhaps volunteer at the local high school.
Stirrat is widowed and has no kids of his own.
Stirrat considers every high school student and his student workers, past and present, like family.
“I guess I have 53 kids and I am so proud of them,” said Stirrat.
During his free time Stirrat likes to go to see live theatre and read.
Wood’s favorite memory was when she went with him to Lema High School and as soon as he walked into the school one of the students told Stirrat, “I know you. You came to my middle school and talked to us about college.”
The following day the same student yelled out in excitement at Stirrat from across ELAC.
Stirrat was here on a tour. Wood witnessed that a student who had just gotten out of the Youth Authority called Stirrat on the phone and said
“I remember you and I really want to start school now.”
“Stirrat is a person that genuinely cared for his students, and we will miss that,” said Wood.
“It makes me feel sad for him to go although I know logically it is the best thing for him,” said Wood
Student worker Mike Sanchez’s favorite memory of Stirrat was the first time Sanchez met him in the office.
He seemed very friendly and although he barely met Stirrat, Sanchez felt that he had known him as if we had known each other for a very long time.
Stirrat always helped students, and contributed his time and effort to help people.
“ELAC will miss Jon-Jon because he was a great role model for everyone, that includes students, staff, and faculty,” said Sanchez
“I wish he would have stayed longer, but I guess that it was time for him to move on.”