By Ishmael Garcia
Susan Okawa has been working at East Los Angeles College since 1989 and she is soon retiring at the end of this year on December 29th.
Okawa has had a lot of responsibility for the past 20 years being in administrative services. Okawa’s primary job in the administration office has turned into handling the planning and coordinating of events on campus. Last year Okawa had issued 4,900 permits for various different types of events.
“I issue the permit and route the permits to get the canopies, the sound techs, and whatever is needed for all of the event,” said Okawa. She also handles other events whether they are relayed to on campus, community, or special events.
Having worked in the district for 37 year and 29 of them being at ELAC, Okawa says she has enjoyed working with students and staff and has always tried to be helpful in any way she can.
She first began in her career straight out of Montebello High School working as a clerk Stenographer at Los Angeles City College, after being referred by her high school teacher.
After working for eight years at Los Angeles City College from 1979 to 1987, Okawa left for two years to work Northrop Grumman from 1987 to 1989, but found it to be unrewarding and she did not feel like she had any meaningful interaction with students, faculty, and staff while working at Northrop Grumman.
When her previous employer from Los Angeles City College had moved to East Los Angeles College, Okawa decided to apply for a job and she has been here ever since.
“Since I was the President no one has wanted to do it.” Okawa has been the President of the Classified Employees Association for 18 years. Okawa first started as a member but as people began to leave she was the most senior so she became the president.
Okawa says the Classified Employees Association has operated the firework stand for many years and that is their sole fundraiser to make money to have some of the events they have on campus.
“With the money we make, we make donations to other charitable organizations,” they also give scholarships. Okawa has also been on the graduation committee for many years and has the role of being the liaisons for her department to help out with the logistical side of graduation.
So now in her retirement, Okawa plans on taking care of her new five month old grandson, “That’ll be my new job.”
Okawa also plans to do more leisurely travel with her husband now that she won’t have to rush back on Sunday night to get to work on Monday. “We don’t have anything planned right now, but I do have a long bucket list of places I’ve never been to that I do plan to tackle,” said Okawa.
Okawa has always been involved in the athletics, and she still plans to attend many of the athletics events in her retirement.
“It’s a fun job and I think it helps to be involved in the campus activities and events.” Okawa never thought she would be sitting at retirement when she first started, saying “It goes by so fast, so enjoy it.”
“We’re really going to miss her,” said April Aragon and Iris Ruiz, both co-workers of Okawa. Aragon has known Okawa since 1997 and worked with her since 2006, and Ruiz has known Okawa since 2002 and worked with her since 2015 in Administrative Services.
“I would say Susan is the go to person,” said Aragon. Okawa is a very friendly and professional person who has a wealth of knowledge on everything and is always glad to assist anyone who has a question.
“She’s an extraordinary employee” said Ruiz. Susan was always available to help anyone, even on the weekends and always went achieve above and beyond.
On Monday the campus will be having a lunch in for Okawa. It will begin at 11:30AM to 1PM at the G3 Auditorium, in the Foyer room.