May 23, 2013Vol. 43, Issue 3

Saved by Education

Tim Sain at work in the campus's Educational Opportunity Program.

Tim Sain at work in the campus's Educational Opportunity Program.

Until he was 25, Tim Sain did exactly what he says was expected of men in his family: He got into drugs, he dropped out of high school, he became an absentee father, he went to jail. He lost his house, his car, his job, his wife, and nearly, his three children.

And then Sain did the unexpected. He decided to change everything.  

“I sought out all the community resources I could—and I was surrounded with them,” he said. “I had to seek them out, but they were there, and they really embraced me.” He went to 12-step programs, parenting classes, family and marriage counseling, anger management classes, drug counseling—anything he could find in order to “completely revamp” his life.

“Eventually I had to join the real world, and more important, I had to develop a plan for how I was going to keep the momentum,” he wrote in his statement of purpose for the Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award. (See his video submission for the award here.) That plan was education. “I had a deep connection with education from a young age,” he says. “It always felt like home.”

He pursued a child development certificate at Shasta College, hoping to work with Head Start. “During the second semester, I realized that I could do more, that I probably should do more,” Sain said. “This college thing was starting to fill that huge hole in my life. So I grabbed onto it and started getting involved in the campus community. I completely dove in.” He became Shasta College Student Senate president and student representative on the Shasta College Board of Trustees; he was public relations officer for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

After getting his associate degree, Sain decided to keep going. He received scholarship offers to a number of universities, including UC Berkeley. But CSU, Chico’s commitment to teaching resonated with him, and he was sold by the fact the University started as a teachers college.

“My kids aren’t just seeing how much better life is with an education—they’re living how much better it is."

While at CSU, Chico, Sain has maintained a 3.95 GPA. He works as an intern advisor for the Educational Opportunity Program, helping continuing and transfer students make a successful transition into university life. He received the Graduate Equity Fellowship and a number of other awards and scholarships.

A commitment to helping families through education infuses his time outside of school. He is a teacher’s aide at a local elementary school, a facilitator and presenter for the North State Fatherhood Task Force, and a founder of Men in Action, a fatherhood support group. He also presents for Tehama County Head Start and has coached Little League.

Sain attributes much of his own success to his family, especially his wife, Christina, who is pursuing a dental hygiene degree at Shasta College. “She has been instrumental in my recovery,” he said. “I have such a remarkable partner in life.”

Graduating with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, Sain is gearing up to get his MA in education. He will be teaching second grade in Anderson next year through CSU, Chico’s Rural Teacher Residency graduate program. He is hoping time in elementary school classrooms will give him some hands-on experience before he goes on to a PhD program focusing on curriculum development and assessment.

Sain loves seeing how the changes he has made are affecting his family. “My daughter is talking about college, and she wants to be a lawyer,” he said, smiling and shaking his head slightly at how his life has changed. “My kids aren’t just seeing how much better life is with an education—they’re living how much better it is."

– Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications

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