Two alums describe life experience after college

Photo Credit Aniwat Pluemjit
Photo Credit Aniwat Pluemjit. Clockwise from left: Mikey Campbell, Damian Finn, Josh Ledlow, Jawan West, Chris Wilembrecht, Aniwat Pluemjit take a break for selfies on the set of a music video.


If you Google the phrase “Life After College” you will quickly come up with about a million articles with advice on how to handle joblessness, stress, feelings of loneliness and general uncertainty. There will be links to websites with numerous tips and encouragement about how to “deal with” and “cope” with finally achieving your scholarly dreams. These columns and blogs offer guidance with the assumption that no college student will be able to start on their path to success without seriously stumbling first.

At Glendale Community College, students spend their time working towards their associates, certificates and transfer degrees with the hopes of landing their dream jobs soon after graduating college, despite tons of anecdotal evidence stating otherwise.

While the media frets about the most certainly uncertain lives of recent college graduates, two GCC alums are proving this sad expectation completely wrong.

Damian Finn and Jawan West graduated last May with their associate’s degrees in Digital Cinema Arts. The two met on campus three years ago during the course of a three-semester short film class and became fast friends. Although they graduated with the same degree at the same time, their careers have taken two unexpectedly different paths.

“I’ve been busy at work. I created my company, Hi-DEF Visuals, I built the website myself, I’ve cut my reel together and also got to shoot some commercial ads for Ford, Doug Ducey and ASU,” said Finn. “This past summer, I went California with two good friends of mine and got to work with Shane Hurlbut who was the director of photography for ‘Terminator Salvation’, ‘Need for Speed’, ‘Drum Line’ and a bunch of others ”

West also took a job in their chosen field but soon found himself on a different direction career-wise.

“Right now, my current path is to become a high school history teacher,” said West. “When I was in the video program people kept telling me that I should teach in some form down the road and I just you know, shrugged it off. But then I got a photography job doing school portraits and I’d go into schools and like, actual teachers were telling me that I should teach so I decided to take them up on it and ended up loving it.”

Throughout their required coursework of pursuing the Digital Cinema Arts degree, key skills were built personally and with the help of other film students that would go on to shape their careers.

“Definitely the process of writing, directing and shooting your short film and the short films of everybody else in the classes over the course three semesters builds a bond that eventually builds a friendship and a film crew,” said Finn. “Jawan and a few others, we were making films that reflected our personalities so we were kind of throwing ourselves out there to help each other try to create these visions and it obviously created a personal and professional connection that’s still going strong now outside of school.”

The friends also saw huge changes in one another over the years that contributed to eventual life choices.

“I got to see Damian’s transformation into the hard working guy that he is today and its really inspiring because old Damian was like, a scary thug guy and new Damian is very awesome,” said West. “And just to see that that change exists in people, like you hear about it all the time but to actually see it happen was really important to me and I look back on that as part of why I’m getting into teaching, to see that positive change in a person as oppose to just hearing about it.”

Digital Cinema Arts Program Director and both graduates long-time teacher, Lovinder Gill, gears the program towards helping students realize their potential for growth and change.

“There’s this life skill set that we’ve tried to incorporate into the curriculum that open students up to new experiences like taking trips,” said Gill. “We went to Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters just last week and a lot of these kids have never been out of state. So a simple thing as taking them out of state to see that hey, there’s other cities and countries and things that go on and your range of possibility is beyond your current eyesight-a lot of kids just don’t know that.”

West reflects this sentiment in his motivation for starting his college career over after already having secured his video production degree.

“I am teaching people to not repeat the mistakes of the past, that’s one of the most important things I’ll bring into my class. By not giving up on people as I see a change in a lot of my students because this may be their last solid shot at tackling certain issues,” said West. “So, to be that person who could give them that extra push is really big and important to me.”

Both GCC alums also regularly come back to their alma mater to pass on their hard earned knowledge to new fledglings of the DCA program as a way of giving back to the program that gave them their professional starts in life.

“We had a shoot for a class this weekend where we went out on location to a western town on a ranch but a lot of our newer students haven’t had a lot of experience shooting sets outside the studio,” said Gill. “Damian and Jawan both came back and helped crew on this shoot and lent their expertise to help show the current batch of students how to do this and that. And its not the first time, so it’s amazing to have alums be willing to come back and support the program.”

For West and Finn graduating from GCC has been all about teaching and inspiring with the degrees that they worked so hard for.

“I want to affect people lives. I want my stories and my movies to make people feel emotionally charged the way that I’ve watched films and been emotionally charged,” said Finn “Whether that be happy or sad or just motivated, I want to create a movie that makes people feel like they can do whatever they want because people really can do whatever they want so yeah, I feel like I’m going to change the world.”

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