By Kristina Bostley
Community college is often viewed as a stepping-stone for prospective students, whether their intention is to attend a full-time university or pursue a career after graduation. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, over 7.7 million students were enrolled at the 1,132 community colleges across the nation in fall 2012. Community college allows for an affordable education and flexibility of class schedules, and often students work full-time in addition to classes. Several celebrities chose to walk the community college path before galloping into Hollywood and achieving worldwide fame.
Here are our top 6, in reverse order:
6. Eddie Murphy
Brooklyn-born Eddie Murphy has been making people laugh since he was just a kid, developing comedy routines as early as his high school days. While he knew even then that his mission in life was to bring smiles to people’s faces through his comedy, he brought a smile to his mother’s face when he enrolled at Nassau Community College at her insistence. He went on to become a pivotal member of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” From there, it was just a matter of time before his live standup album was nominated for a Grammy. Murphy started appearing on the big screen with his role in “48 hours,” “Beverly Hills Cop I” and “II,” and a number of other films throughout the years.
5. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah, born Dana Elaine Owens, was the first female rapper to be nominated for an Academy Award. She was born in Newark, New Jersey, and was dubbed “Latifah” by a family friend; the nickname means “delicate and sensitive” in Arabic. The musically inclined child began singing with her church, then in school, and eventually formed the all-female group Ladies Fresh with two of her friends. Her singing drew the attention of the music industry, and it wasn’t long before she was signed to a label and released her first single. Her career took off after that, but not before she enrolled at the Borough of Manhattan Community College for broadcasting. Once she had established herself in the music industry, Queen Latifah began producing other artists before moving on to star in movies such as “Jungle Fever” and “Juice,” as well as on television, starring in the sitcom “Living Single.” She’s also managed to release both an autobiography and a children’s book about promoting self-respect.
4. George Lucas
Known best for his film series “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones,” George Lucas has become a name synonymous with success. As a child, the California native had intended on pursuing his dream of racecar driving; the dream was sidelined after horrific car accident that occurred just days shy of his high school graduation, and woke him up to filmmaking instead. He attended Modesto Junior College to study anthropology before moving on to the University of Southern California’s filmmaking school. The release of his film “American Graffiti” in 1973 earned five Academy Award nominations, including one for Lucas as Best Director. His films after that became blockbuster hits, despite time-consuming projects which often overlapped. In the early 1990s, Lucas began the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which promotes education reform, and still serves as chairman of the foundation today.
3. Halle Berry
As a child, Halle Berry knew she wanted to be in the entertainment industry. She competed in several beauty pageants in the 1980s, winning titles of Miss Teen Ohio and Miss Teen America before placing second in the 1985 Miss USA pageant. After this, she enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio to study journalism. Berry then moved to New York, where she got into modeling before launching into an acting career. She became the first African-American to win the Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Monster’s Ball,” and went on to star in several big-screen blockbusters. At nearly $14 million per movie, Berry has become one of the highest-paid actresses in the industry.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise to fame in the bodybuilding world, movie industry, or politics, the Austria-born actor enrolled in Santa Monica College in California to take classes in the early 1970s. Although it was bodybuilding that facilitated Schwarzenegger’s move from Austria to the United States, he understood the value of an education. After earning his associate’s degree from Santa Monica College, he eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in business and international economics from The University of Wisconsin – Superior. He launched into Hollywood fame soon after that, staring in “The Terminator” and several other box office hits before becoming Governor of California in 2003.
1. Tom Hanks
It was at Chabot College in Hayward, California that Tom Hanks initially studied theater. He began his acting career playing George in a school production of “Our Town.” After spending two years at Chabot, Hanks went on to attend California State University in Sacramento, California. He put his studies on pause when an internship for the Midwest theater festival was presented to him, which then launched his career in the film industry. Hanks went on to star in several blockbuster movies, including “Big,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Philadelphia,” the latter two movies winning him Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role in back-to-back years.