Student Spotlight: Matt Blake


When did you first start attending GWC and what is your major?

For most of my life I have been determined to overcome the obstacles and medical challenges of having Cerebral Palsy and learning difficulties. Despite these unique challenges and barriers, I have persisted in achieving my goals and aspirations both academically and personally. From an early age, my family and I were always told that I would not be able to undertake nor be successful in academics. Not only that, but I did not learn how to read until the age of 10, and this was after receiving many interventions and tutoring assistance from my teachers, parents and grandparents. Despite this, my family always believed in my potential and pushed me to excel in anything I set my mind to accomplish.  This has always been the driving force behind my determination and perseverance to overcome any impediments placed in my way.  I started attending Golden West College just after I graduated from Edison High School in Huntington Beach where I was the commencement speaker. For nearly a decade I have been completing my coursework for my degree in Communications, earning a 3.95 GPA.


What are your educational goals?

My educational goals include completing my associate’s degree in Communications, and then transfer to California State University, Long Beach in the Fall of 2024 to continue working toward earning my bachelor’s degree. It is my desire and ultimate goal to someday become either a Disability Advocate or an attorney who practices law in the field of education. It is my passion to assist others like me who have experienced difficulties and challenges in their educational endeavors.


What has your experience been like at GWC? Are there any departments or staff members in particular who have made a positive impact?

My overall experience at Golden West College has been one of the most positive encounters that I have had in my life and educational career. I can think of many faculty and staff at GWC who have contributed to my success.  For example, the incredible staff of the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) office provided me with unwavering support throughout my academic journey. Not only that, but some incredible professors such as Dr. MaryLynne LaMantia from the biology department and Professor Katie Bruns from the communications department who were not only amazing instructors but encouraged me to pursue academic excellence and were instrumental in my overall success.  Moreover, Student Leadership Coordinator Mary Avalos encouraged me to become involved in student government in order for me to positively contribute to and impact the overall student population on campus.  Finally, as an individual with a disability, I have witnessed the tireless effort and drive of all staff and faculty members striving to make an inclusive environment for all individuals who choose to attend Golden West College.


What is a piece of advice you would give someone who is planning to attend GWC?

Some advice I would give individuals who are planning to attend Golden West College, particularly for students with disabilities, is the importance of self-advocacy and to communicate regularly with your professors and staff to ensure your academic success. Remember to enjoy the learning process and that reaching your academic goals and aspirations are often more about the journey than reaching your final destination of obtaining a college degree or transferring to a four-year academic institution. Furthermore, it is imperative to become involved in the many aspects of college life including the wonderful clubs and programs GWC has to offer.


Additional information about Matt Blake

Matt Blake is a member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma (Honor Society) Sigma Pi Chapter as well as a vital member of the Associated Students of Golden West College, serving as a Student-At-Large representing the disabled student population on the campus. Matt has participated in numerous college and district committees, including GWC’s Safety and Sustainability Committee and the Coast Community College District’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Taskforce. During the Spring 2020 semester, when the Covid pandemic was at its height, Matt successfully petitioned the Coast District Board of Trustees and Chancellor to implement an EXCUSED WITHDRAWAL option, so that students’ academic records would not be negatively impacted by challenges brought about by the global pandemic. In Spring 2021, Matt participated in a student’s panel for Explore Golden West College, a virtual new student orientation event, where he shared his experiences and perspective of what college is like for a student with or without a disability. Matt also participated on the student panel for Golden West College’s Professional Flex Day in Spring 2023 where he gave recommendations to GWC faculty and administrators, as well as District Board Members and the Chancellor regarding improvements to academic programs leading to associate’s degrees and matriculation to four-year universities for students with disabilities. Finally, Matt received the award for Student of the Year from the California Association for Post-Secondary Education and Disability, and an award from ASGWC for his efforts and leadership.