Meet Southwestern Graduate Manny Taban-Taeoali

manny grads 060917 0050 sm

Emmanuel Taban-Taeoali (Manny)

 2017 Associate of Arts/Oregon Transfer Degree

2017 Associate of Science


Manny loves Oregon rain. That’s perhaps unusual for someone who was born in south Sudan and has lived the majority of his life in the semi-arid climate of Salt Lake City. “I like to sit by an open window and listen to the rain when I’m studying. Oregon is so green and I love it.”

It’s been a convoluted path for Manny Taban-Taeoali to get to the green, rain-soaked coast of Oregon. As a refugee from Sudan at the age of two, he relocated with his Mom and two sisters to California, finally settling in Utah where he had an uncle living already. After high school Manny served a two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Georgia, USA. He loved Georgia for the fabulous BBQ and the welcoming and kind people. Arabic is the first language spoken in his home, which he laughingly attributes to the fact that he struggled in writing classes. Being proactive, he took advantage of Southwestern’s Tutoring Center and got the help he needed, eventually resulting in A’s in Writing 122 and 123. “I made the Dean’s list for the first time ever,” he said.

manny BB 022217 0178 sm

Manny learned about Southwestern through a childhood friend, Riley Grandinetti, who came to Coos Bay to play basketball at Southwestern in 2011, and is now Assistant Coach. Manny was originally enrolled in Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, but he admits it was mostly just to play sports. When the opportunity came his way to play basketball for Southwestern, and get serious about academics, he knew it would be a good move. But basketball was not the only thing he got involved in!

Manny served as a Student Ambassador giving campus tours and advising potential students, he worked as a Community Assistant in Housing responsible for creating programs for housing students that focus on social, educational, and health and wellness, and his final year was elected as Associated Student Government (ASG) President.

manny walk 052417 0003 sm

Serving as Southwestern’s ASG President was great experience for Manny. He attended board meetings of the school board and got an insider’s view of how a college is run. During his year as president he was instrumental in coordinating various student activities including dances, carnivals, and brining diverse speakers to campus.

Manny’s long-term goals start with transferring to the University of Utah and achieving a degree in political science and ultimately a law degree. The excitement and intensity of the law profession appeals to him.

Manny feels confident to take on this next challenge. “Southwestern made me a better student. I feel totally prepared to go to a big university now.”

Crystal Gray's educational journey

PR crystal 031417 0030

          Crystal Gray tutors student Ella Mathias in geometry


Crystal Gray’s journey to education and recovery began with a 21-mile walk — a walk home to Coos Bay after having been released from a police station in a neighboring town.  It had been her second arrest and, on that walk, she decided it would be her last. During the seven hour walk, starving and with bloodied feet, Crystal vowed to herself and the world that if she could break through her addiction, she would do something meaningful with her life. And she did just that.

Crystal entered the Transitional Education program at Southwestern in 2014 and a few months later she had earned her GED. “The staff members within the Transitional Education program helped me to see the potential that I had all along.  The program inspired me by giving me the confidence to not only obtain my GED, but to further my education.”

The Transitional Education program houses the college’s GED, adult education, and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and is designed for students who need assistance transitioning into or back into education or into the workforce. Meredith Stone, director of the program says, “Our students come to us from a wide range of backgrounds. Many of our students come to us with barriers in their life that prevented them from earning a high school diploma. We help our students overcome these barriers and obtain their GED, but our services do not end there. We then help the students transition either into college or the workplace. The goal of our department is to help our students achieve their life goals and support themselves.”

The program, previously housed in the Newmark Center, is now part of the Laker Learning Commons in Tioga Hall.  The LLC also houses the Tutoring and Writing Centers, study rooms, and a computer lab and Transitional Education students have access to it all. “When I came to Southwestern,” Stone says, “I remember telling the Dean that moving the program back onto the campus was a wise choice.  These students should be and are part of the campus community.  Sure, it can be slightly intimidating at first, but after students set foot here on the third floor, they know they have found a supportive environment where they can learn.” And often times, students find a home — just as Crystal did by later becoming a degree-seeking student, a student worker, and peer tutor.

Crystal has thrived at Southwestern since completing her GED. “My time at Southwestern has been the best time of my life.  I have been surrounded by many supportive people who all wish to see me succeed. I am excited to see what the future holds,” she says. Crystal will graduate this spring with a 4.0 GPA getting her Associate of Arts/Oregon Transfer Degree, Associate of General Studies degree, and an Associate of Science degree. Crystal is also currently president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Crystal has been accepted to Portland State University’s Honor’s Program for fall 2017 where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.  She credits her recovery to the social workers who helped her through her addiction with constant support and fair treatment. Those actions struck a chord with Crystal and have inspired her to help others in the same way with a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

“It will be a sad day when we say goodbye to Crystal, but she is destined for great things,” says Stone.  “We are all very proud of her and she is a great example of what never giving up on yourself or your education looks like.”


For more information about Southwestern's Transitional Education programs contact 541-888-1593 or visit:


Jazz Ensembles Perform at the Apollo Theater in NYC!

 best NYC 040917 0009


The Southwestern Instrumental Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Ensemble were invited to participate in the New York City Jazz Festival at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem last month (April 7 – 10). We traveled to New York on Friday April 7 and arrived at the Manhattan Midtown Hilton Hotel at 5:00 pm. We then had dinner at the B.B. King Restaurant in Times Square that evening.

On Saturday afternoon, each ensemble participated in a clinic whereby a professional musician/educator worked with them on their performance techniques and overall musicianship. We also had an opportunity to attend a Broadway show (Miss Saigon) at the Broadway Theatre on Saturday night.

On Sunday April 9, the Jazz Band started the festival at 9:30 am by performing on the Apollo stage to a large enthusiastic audience! That evening the Vocal Jazz Ensemble had the privilege to open for the headline act of the festival Stefon Harris and Blackout.

The entire weekend was a resounding success for the music program at Southwestern and left everyone with a lasting impression of New York City and the jazz music scene at the Apollo Theater!


For more information about our music programs, or to make a donation to help students with the cost of the trip, please contact Professor Mike Turner, Director of Music at Southwestern;; 541-888-7242.



Southwestern's Junior Chamber Field Trip

Nike trip pr

Southwestern Oregon Community College's Junior Chamber business students recently travel to Salem, Portland and Beaverton to visit Oregon's state capitol as Senator Arnie Roblan and House Representative Caddy McKeown's guests. The students also visited several corporations and non-profits including Nike and The Make a Wish Foundation.