Loved counselor Suzanne Huey retires


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Former Contra Costa College counselor Suzanne Huey walks back to her seat after receiving an award during the college’s 2018 retirement ceremony in Fireside Hall on Friday.

By Ryan Geller, News Editor

Counselors keep peeking out their door looking at the empty snack table, wondering why it’s so quiet, waiting for a chance to break up their daily tasks and assist with one of counselor Suzanne Huey’s easily solved IT crises. But the familiar call never comes.   

Huey is home in bed, sleeping in. After over 35 years of counseling students, she has crafted an education plan for herself.

“I plan to take it easy. I plan to learn some new things like how to play the piano, and I want to do more gardening,” she said.

Huey retired in December from Contra Costa College’s counseling department, where she had worked for over 18 years. She also has experience counseling students at the San Mateo and Peralta community college districts.

Although her ed plan for retirement is simple, some folks at the counseling department are hoping she won’t follow it.

“You can return to work (part time) six months after you retire, so I think we will see her again. But for now it’s a big loss to the department,” said counselor Robert Webster, who worked in the office next door to Huey and was hired into the counseling department around the same time.

Huey came to the United States from Hong Kong when she was 13 years old, so working with immigrant students became her natural specialty.

“English is my second language, so I understood the problems of international students, the cultural adjustment and their academic concerns,” Huey said.

She always encourages international students to make friends outside of the social networks that they are comfortable with. Today’s workforce is diverse, she said. People can miss out on opportunities if they don’t learn to interact with the multicultural society in the United States.

Huey’s family emigrated to Modesto where there were not many other Chinese immigrants for her to connect with.

“I’m sure I would not have learned English as fast if I had had more Chinese friends,” Huey said.

Even though Huey knows how scary it can be as an ESL student, she said that you have to push your comfort zone to really make progress with English and adapt to life in the U.S.

“When I was learning there were no ESL programs. They put me in class with other (English speaking) students. If I did not know the word I would write it down on a list and I would go home and look them all up in the dictionary.”

In addition to counseling, Huey has also taught the Personal Development course (Psychology 103A) at CCC.

She recommends that course, as well as Counseling 120 (Managing College Success and Life Transitions) for students who are just starting out at community college.

“These classes help you understand your own values. Sometimes students are trying to be what their parents want them to be,” Huey said.

If students take the time to learn about themselves it can really help them focus on their educational and career goals, she said.

“Patience and persistence are important. The real world is discouraging, but if you have endurance and a goal, the other parts will follow. If students stick around at community college and talk to one of us (counselors) they will find a class they like and that can lead to an enjoyable career,” Huey said.

She said she wants students to take stock of their own interests rather than choosing a career based on financial compensation.

“If you listen to your heart and do something that you love, society has a place for you. It’s important to trust that,” she said.

“If you have the desire to be successful, generally speaking, it can be done, even if you come from a lower-income community or don’t have family support,” she said. “This country has a class system — if you are from a poor class the way to break through that is to get an education.”

Instructional assistant Jena Hornbuckle said, “We miss Suzanne because she is so funny and unique. Well, it’s hard to describe. She was always available to talk and listen and the snacks she brought to share were always really, really good.”

Webster had a sneaking suspicion that Huey might have had a vicarious snacking habit.

“She is diabetic, so some of the snacks that she brought she could not eat herself,” he said. Maybe it was just her way of keeping up the energy up around the office.