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Mom, kids attending CSUB together
June 7, 2005
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or

Mara Schramm promised herself that she “would go back to school when my kids went to college.” That wasn’t unusual; a lot of people do that.

But Schramm, 53, who earned her bachelor’s degree from California State University, Bakersfield last year and who is set to walk across the stage again Saturday morning (June 11) to receive her master’s degree, got a jump on restarting her education that most returning students don’t get. Both her children, Ben and Rebecca, went straight from eighth grade to college.

“My kids didn’t go to high school,” she said. “We lived in Frazier Park until last year when we moved to Bakersfield. My kids attended the little Gorman School. So when my son was in eighth grade he took the SAT, and scored at a level higher than most high school seniors. So he began college at 14 – an eighth grader who went straight to college. My daughter did the same thing.”
Both Ben and Rebecca attended Taft College, earning their associate of arts degrees, then transferred to CSUB. Ben graduated from CSUB when he was 18 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a management concentration, and a minor in communications.
Now Ben is working on his master’s degree – he and his mother are working on their culminating project together – while Rebecca, 18, is due to graduate from CSUB with her bachelor’s degree in communications in two or three more quarters.

By this time next year the family should have five degrees from CSUB between the three of them.
Mara’s husband is also an achiever. “He’s the chief operating officer of Hitco Carbon Composite Co. in Gardena,” she said. “His company makes carbon parts that go on space shuttles – high temperature applications, things that go on jet aircraft, that sort of stuff.”
The family has been so engrossed in their educational pursuits that Ben just recently got his driver’s license. Mara said that he was never interested in learning to drive because he was learning so many other things. She finally insisted that he learn to drive because she was tired of being his chauffeur.

Maybe that’s because Mara has been driving herself on her own circuitous route to education. She completed her bachelor’s degree in studio art with a minor in communications in 2004. Then she and Ben chose to pursue a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on art, marketing and communications.

Art was a natural pursuit for Mara. “I’ve been doing art since I was a child,” she said. “My mom was an art teacher, so it runs in the family. I’ve always been interested in art; same with my daughter. We got to working on a family history, and found that my family was all artists and painters who came from France via Canada. I had no idea.”

Though she was born and grew up in Pasadena – “I remember that you could see the fireworks from the Rose Bowl on the Fourth of July” – she lived a relatively sheltered life, attending a small, private high school, graduating in a class of 20. “Then I went to Pasadena City College – and that was a huge shock!” she said. “I felt like an ant. It had a huge population. People were everywhere. So I thought when my kids go to college we’ll chose a small school. But CSUB is bigger than Frazier Park!”

The family lived in Canyon Country from 1985 to 1990, “but the kids had problems with the smog, so we were looking for a better place.” Mara’s brother lived in Frazier Park, so in an effort to get out of the big-city rat-race, the family moved there in 1990.

No one will confuse Frazier Park with Greater Los Angeles, and the move was a huge adjustment. “For me it was a little rugged at first,” Mara said. “I had trouble getting used to the dirt streets. But it’s a close-knit community, and people help each other out. You don’t see that in a big city. It was a different feeling there; everyone knew everyone else. It was good.”

She worked at Gorman School, teaching art for gifted children, plus produced the school’s yearbook for five years, and published the monthly newsletter.

Last year the family moved to Bakersfield. “We’ve been here a year,” Mara said. “I like it here, it’s different. I do not miss the snow, and I don’t miss scraping the windshield.”

When her children decided to skip high school, it was only natural that they chose a small community college to begin their college career – Taft College – before transferring to CSUB.
Neither regrets their move. “I had heard nothing but bad things about high school, so I thought that was fine (to go straight to college),” Ben said. “I went to Taft College, then came right over here – no problems whatsoever.”

Both Ben and Rebecca love computers, and do a lot of work on them. Ben works in CSUB’s media services department and is “doing more technical things – image editing, video editing.” Rebecca wants to be a graphic designer or a web designer, “whichever job comes up.”
They don’t think they missed anything at high school. “College has been pretty normal,” Ben said. And like their mother had to adjust from a big city to a small town, they’ve had to adjust the reverse. “The biggest change for us was the size of Bakersfield,” Ben said. “Frazier Park and Taft are closely knit places. CSUB was the first big campus I was ever on.”

Rebecca also notices that “here the teachers don’t notice you as much.”

They’ve had a few amusing experiences in their classes. “In English classes where they want you to write about your high school experiences I have to make something up,” Ben said. “Usually the younger students hate you because you’re younger and shouldn’t be there. The older students don’t care.”



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