James Cameron went to the same community college as Gwen Stefani

community college
James Cameron, director of "Avatar: The Way of Water" went to Fullerton College, the oldest community college in California. Source: Anthony Wallace/AFP

Before the world knew James Cameron as the director of films like “Titanic,” “The Terminator,” and “Avatar,” he was a student at Fullerton College

It’s a community college at the northern edge of Orange County and within commuting distance of downtown LA, Irvine and Riverside.

It’s not the first institution that comes to mind when you think about the best US colleges, but it’s just as noteworthy.

Not only is Fullerton College the oldest community college in California, it has a sizable list of famous graduates and former students.

Some of Fullerton College’s famous graduates include the lead vocalist of No Doubt (Gwen Stefani), a member of the California State Assembly (Sharon Quirk-Silva), and former First Lady of the US (Pat Nixon). 

It’s proof that you don’t need to spend much to pursue higher education. While community colleges are normally associated with local students, they are also open to international students. 

In fact, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) estimates that one-fifth of the student body in community colleges around the US come from abroad.

Let’s take a look at some of the brightest minds that have called Fullerton College home and why you should consider joining a community college: 

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Fullerton College former student and Canadian filmmaker James Cameron speaks during a press conference to promote his new film “Avatar: The Way of Water” in Seoul. Source: Anthony Wallace/AFP

Famous graduates of Fullerton College

James Cameron 

If you watched “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Cameron’s name will ring a bell. After all, he’s the man behind films like “Titanic,” “The Terminator,” and “Avatar”.

The innovative filmmaker joined Fullerton College to study physics but dropped out a year later. He would later work as a janitor and truck driver while studying special effects and film technology at local libraries.

After seeing the innovative “Star Wars” movie in 1977, Cameron decided to pursue a career in the film industry — and the rest is history. 

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Gwen Stefani is a singer, songwriter, fashion designer and actress. Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

Gwen Stefani 

Stefani was born in Fullerton, California, to Dennis Stefani and Patti Stefani. Her father was a Yamaha marketing executive and her mother worked as an accountant for a firm. 

Thanks to her parents, the multi-talented singer and actress grew up listening to folk music and artists like Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris. She also developed a love for musicals such as the Sound of Music and Evita.

Stefani attended Fullerton College after high school before moving to California State University, Fullerton.

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Before Sharon Quirk-Silva became a member of the Californian State Assembly and a passionate educator, she was a community college student. Source: Sharon Quirk-Silva/Facebook

Sharon Quirk-Silva

The member of the California State Assembly has deep ties to Southern California. Quirk-Silva came to Fullerton when she was two and earned an Associate of Arts degree from Fullerton College. 

Soon, she found her passion and served as a classroom teacher for over thirty years. Before serving in the Assembly, she was the Mayor of Fullerton. 

Why apply to a community college

At community colleges, you’ll spend two years working towards an associate degree or professional certificate. 

Most of these colleges have a wide range of programmes.

Debra Bragg, Director of Community College Research Initiatives at the University of Washington, previously told US News that over 120 public community colleges in 25 states offer more than 400 baccalaureate degree programmes.

They are also a good stepping stone for students to transfer into a four-year programme at a uni. Some community colleges don’t require applicants to submit any high school GPA or English proficiency test results too.

Jill A. Izumikawa, Co-ordinator of International Student Services at Harper College, said, “Since community colleges are open-access admission, it can be easier to gain admission than if first applying to a university.”

Many community colleges also offer English language classes and tutoring services to help international students prepare for college-level English.

Studying in a community college before joining a four-year university is also a great excellent way for students to adapt to the American lifestyle as they are usually smaller in size.