Mayor of Montclair returns to school: Carolyn Raft enrolls in Spanish courses to better serve her community

Carolyn Raft on her way to Spanish class. Libby Freeman / MOUNTAINEER

She is a mother, a former business owner, a wife, mayor pro-tem of the City of Montclair, and a Mt. SAC student. After serving on the Montclair council for 15 years, she returned to Mt. SAC to further her education. Carolyn Raft, 65, first attended Mt. SAC in 1969 to take her core classes before going to Citrus College to complete her classes. For Raft, some things have changed since she was in school the first time. “The school is a lot bigger, and there are a lot more students on campus. But the teaching methods are the same as before,” said Raft. After she completed her education, Raft and her husband of 42 years, Ray, ran their own automotive service business called Raft Automotive from 1983- 2000. Before the family business, Ray taught economics at Mt. SAC. “He was always helpful with his students and he would give extra work to those who needed it to bring their grades up,” Raft said. Raft said that Ray is now retired and enjoying life with their children, Jonathon, 28, and Christina, 25. While working with her husband in his automotive business, Raft found herself dissatisfied with things going on in her community and decided to get into politics to make a difference. She became a member of the Montclair City Council in 1992, and has been a part of it for the past 19 years. During this time, she found that she needed to learn to speak Spanish so she could better communicate with members of her community. She enrolled in classes at Mt. SAC and is taking Spanish, but plans to continue with public speaking courses. “I wanted to learn the language to better communicate with everyone in my community,” said Raft. Raft’s instructors are impressed with her attitude. “She is a positive example for the students. They become more serious and focused when she’s in class, and they hold a lot of respect for her,” said Natalie Lyon, 46, a part time professor of Spanish. To fellow students, her age is insignificant. “She is an inspiration for the younger students, and they treat her as a normal student,” said Lyon. Veronica Jimenez, 18, nursing major, said that Raft is always willing to offer and accept help. “She is a funny person,” Jimenez said.  “She likes to interact with everyone, and she asks for help when she needs it.” Jimenez said she is not afraid to ask her instructor when she has either a question with the homework or is unsure about how to do an assignment. “Whenever she needs help she asks for it to make sure that she won’t make any mistakes,” said Lyon. Spanish 1 is a class for students who have had no previous Spanish language experience, and Raft has come a long way since her first day of class with professor Lyon. “She has dedication,” said Lyon. “She has been making progress since the first day, and she is learning a lot because of her desire to learn and to focus.” Away from her schooling and her job, Raft enjoys spending time with her family as much as she can. “I love to spend time with my family.  We like to go shopping together or to sit around together discussing politics,” said Raft.