A community college experience so rewarding that it becomes your profession.
That’s the reality for Amman Seehra, an assistant professor at Mercer Community College who took his first class there at just 10 years old. Now, Amman spends his time specializing in outreach across backgrounds through his work in various nonprofits including the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund as well as the nonprofit he started himself, ONE Project.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your community college journey?
A: I took my first class at my local community college, Mercer Community College, when I was just 10 years old. It was a programming class in GW-BASIC and that was my very first exposure. I loved it. It was a growing up experience for me too. I was an elementary schooler going into middle school and it helped me see how classes were set up at such a young age. After that, I took classes over the summer and during the school year for the next number of years - trigonometry, a couple of math classes, and programming.
My senior year I convinced my high school to let me leave campus grounds and I took an ethics and psychology class. My experience at community college has always been fondly related to my childhood. I went to undergrad at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and law school at Rutgers-Camden and when I graduated I knew that I wanted to teach, and I wanted to teach the community college crowd. I had no idea how to start teaching but I created my own constitutional law class, set up a meeting with the dean, and came in saying “Hey, I want to teach this class.” Then, I started teaching, and this is the day after I took my BAR exam. I taught Law and Society for about 10 years and took on another class, American Political Systems.
When I first started teaching, I was 24 years old and one of the things I loved was the wide variety in the classroom. I had a 17 year old, a couple of students discharged from the military, people retired in their 60s, and some from my high school class. I wasn’t just teaching them, I learned a lot from my classes as well.
Q: What does life look like for you now?
A: Now I do a lot of volunteer work for a number of nonprofits, including the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and we do law enforcement training. There is a police academy located near the community college so I still go there a couple times a year to train new recruits, and I just love being on campus.
Most of my work has been related to preventing hate crimes and discrimination and a lot of the race issues that we’re seeing manifets nowadays. I’ve done a lot of events focused on unity and bringing people together. I started a nonprofit called ONE Project that brings people from different backgrounds together to do community service. I’ve grown a little bit more political as I find that issues near and dear to my heart can’t all be solved through nonpolitical means. Now, I’m volunteering for the Biden-Harris campaign as I feel it is working on the issues I care about. I just want to use my skill sets constructively.
Q: Why community college?
A: When people take classes, get involved in community events, and just see all the people, you get that sense of community, purpose, that feeling of helping people find their direction. I had options of teaching other places, but the community college experience of bringing people together is what drove me to teach there.
Regardless if you have passed the age of 10, community college can most definitely be an invaluable resource for finding your purpose, or even your future employer.