Sophia Shamban “Advice? Pick out the courses you can master and then go on to something more difficult. Always set the hurdle a little higher.”

When she was born, Russia was perhaps an even more volatile place than it is today. “Things got very tough there,” recalls Sophia Shamban of her earliest years. “My father was in the Russian army during WWI, and when the czar was kicked out, it became a very terrible place. The Communists took over, opened up the nut-houses and prisons, and you never knew if you were going to make it through the day.” But Sophia’s mother had a sister living in St. Louis, and the five-year-old girl and her family escaped to a far better life.

“We sailed to Ellis Island, right past the Statue of Liberty,” says Sophia. “I don’t remember all that much of it, but life in America has certainly embraced me since then.” Married to an international businessman, Sophia has traveled the world, including stopovers at both the North and South Poles. But one of her fondest memories in all of her travels is the time she spent learning at SMC. “I graduated from the college in Humanities, and I want to tell you I had a wonderful education at SMC,” says Sophia. And she still puts the knowledge she gained to use every day.

“I have a beautiful orchard where I grow oranges, apples, persimmons, and grapes,” she says. “And it’s because of all that I learned in my Horticulture classes at SMC that I’m still successful in doing this. Over the years, my education has given me enormous satisfaction.” And Sophia adds that the SMC ‘product’ she received during the early days of the college is still available to anyone who wants it.

“All the people from the Santa Monica area should go to SMC, even if it’s just for a class or two,” she says. “You can actually get prepared there for Harvard, if that’s what you want. But there’s no doubt you’ll be given the foundation to enter any university you might choose.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.