A counselor’s journey with education

Baskin goes back to the books


Haley Ahmed

“I have always wanted to help people in some way.” -Deborah Baskin

Haley Ahmed, Staff Writer

It was a normal day at the office. Deborah Baskin was focusing on the task at hand, serving as a manager to a company that provided physicals for potential life insurance customers. In the wake of the 2007 recession, when many people were lucky to have a job at all, Deborah knew it was a miracle to have this high-paying job without a college degree.

Her boss comes into the office for a visit. Still, a pretty normal day.

But the sense of normalcy quickly dissipates when Deborah’s boss takes her aside, alone, and utters the words that nobody ever wants to hear.

“You’re being laid off,” her boss says. “You can collect your things and go home. We’ll send your severance check in the mail.”

Baskin’s was turned upside down within seconds.

“I cried. A lot. And got pretty depressed,” Baskin admitted, retelling her story. “Clearly, I wasn’t as impressive as I thought I was if they could just let me go like that.”

It’s a difficult feat, imagining a depressed Deborah Baskin, as she smiles even through discussing her most personal hardships. Standing at an average height with medium-length brown hair and her nails perfectly painted, Baskin seems very well put together. Her eyes glow with passion, her ever-present smile radiates through the room and her voice neither timid nor untaught once she gets talking about her current position as Los Medanos College’s Financial Aid Assistant. On any given day, you will most likely find her wearing at least one item of LMC merchandise — a representation of her positive vehemence.

Born in Walnut Creek in 1979, Deborah Baskin had a pretty typical upbringing with the average nuclear family of mother, father and one sister. She grew up in Antioch, but after reaching adulthood, moved to Seattle, Washington.

However, it was only a few years before she moved back to California after she “got tired of the cloudy skies.” Baskin had been going to college on and off over the years, but when she arrived back in California and found a job where she was earning many promotions, eventually becoming a manager and reporting directly to the vice president of the company, college began to seem unnecessary. After all, she was making plenty of money without a degree and, in all aspects, it seemed like she’d gotten lucky. She had it figured out.

When she was laid off from her position, Baskin took it extremely hard.

“I realized that not having a college degree meant I would only be able to find minimum wage jobs for the most part,” said Basking.

After maintaining a higher-end job for so long without a degree, she admits that she thought she was “the best thing since sliced bread,” and that being laid off forced her to take stock of herself and bring her back down to earth.

“It felt like the end of the world, and my ego took a big hit,” Baskin said.

Soon after, Baskin found out about a job opening in the Financial Aid office at Los Medanos College, applied and was hired.

“I knew nothing about financial aid before I started working in the field,” said Baskin. “But I think I have always wanted to help people in some way, and that has always been a part of what I wanted to do as a career.”

Through her years working in Financial Aid, Baskin has also been working on her own college career, already earning her Psychology and Sociology degrees for transfer through LMC, and now attending CSU East Bay as a double major in Psychology and Sociology. This is all for her next step, a career that would allow her to help students on an even greater scale.

“I decided I would be a good fit as a counselor at LMC, since I love planning and picking out classes, and creating pathways to move forward educationally,” Baskin explained, her voice equal tones of giddiness and determination. “I figure, why not get paid for something I like and am pretty good at?”

However, maintaining both her very demanding full-time job and school hasn’t been a walk in the park for Baskin.

“I have to say, going back to school as a non-traditional student [a student who isn’t coming to college straight after high school] is a lot harder than doing it when you have financial support or can live with parents, because I now have to balance all the responsibilities of adulthood with all of the homework from college,” Baskin admitted. “It isn’t easy to balance everything, and I have to make choices every day to do homework instead of having a social life.”

Baskin shares that her husband is luckily very understanding and supportive, and her beloved dogs and cats are just happy to spend time with her when she is home.

“I definitely think my own circumstances make me have a lot more compassion for other students who are also working and going to school, regardless of their age,” said Baskin.

Baskin has made many friends through her job — people who appreciate her undying wit, humor, and enthusiasm for her work.

“Our office can get really stressful sometimes, especially when students’ payments are about to be sent out,” said Tamara Carreon, a fellow Financial Aid Assistant in the office. “Deb [Baskin] always has a joke ready to lighten up the intensity during those times.”

For now, Baskin can be found in the Financial Aid office, assisting students every day in chasing their educational dreams, whether it be through financial aid, scholarships, loans or just good advice.

“I’m not sure if I could label myself as ‘successful’ at this time,” admitted Baskin, “but I am happy with what I do and I love knowing that I help other people reach their educational goals while I strive for my own.”