One student’s journey to success


David Jenkins

Arthur Hanney at the Take Back the Night event speaking during the open mic portion of the event on behalf of his niece who faced assault in her past. Hanney is an ASCC senator and helped out set up the event. Photo credit: David Jenkins

Perla Lara

It was the desire to teach theater arts to kids that made a 54-year-old become a student at Cerritos College. Two years later Arthur “Art” Hanney is now an ASCC Senator, a member of Phi Beta Lambda and actively participates in campus events.

Making a difference in someone’s life is something he strives to accomplish every day; it is the reason he became a senator and the reason he volunteers as a tutor at Chavez Elementary.

“I want to teach theater arts to kids. That’s my goal and I don’t care if I’m 90 years old doing it; that’s really why I’m here.”

He walks around Cerritos College wearing what looks like a worn-out t-shirt with signatures and an Acrostic poem:



Sneaky, Silly, Special

Terrific Teacher


Really really really


The shirt is about eight years old and has the names of the first group of Chavez Elementary students Hanney tutored.

For him the shirt and the poem are meaningful; they are proof that he made a difference in the children’s lives.

He knows first had the importance that a tutor can make.

Hanney describes his education as “more or less being home-schooled;” that caused him to miss the school classmate interaction and more importantly caused him to not know how to read.

Throughout his life and especially in his career as an actor he paid people to read the scripts for him and help him memorize his lines.

It wasn’t until six years ago that he learned how to read.

It was through the help and determination of one tutor that he finally learned how to read.

“I hired a kid to help me on a script once; 17-year-old and he goes ‘you really can’t read?’ I go ‘no I really can’t that’s why I’m hiring you’.”

That 17-year-old kid refused to read the script for Hanney and instead took almost a year to teach him how to read the Dr. Seuss books without ever charging him for the lessons.

It was the tutor’s persistence that made him learn how to read and start on his path at Cerritos College.

While at Cerritos he has been cast in plays.

His favorite play he performed in was Balm in Gilead, in which he played Frank a fry cook.

He said “Frank for me was a perfect fit. That was my best role.”

Hanney has also joined the PBL Club and during the club’s state conference won first place in the Public Speaking category.

Confidence was part of what won Hanney first place; the other part was education.

The only difference between this year’s conference and the prior years he says is “education, if you don’t have the education to do something you’re not going to make it. That’s what I like people to take away from this; education is a must.”

He recommends taking the Public Speaking with Speech instructor Katie Barone.

He will be competing at the national PBL conference.

Hanney joined ASCC Senate to make a difference he feels he can represent and make a difference for the students he is representing.

Tania Martin, Elementary Education major and Hanneys’ friend said, “He is such an amazing person he does so much to help other people. If you need someone to talk to because you’re feeling down, you go to Art; if you need support you go to art.”

She continued saying that even if Hanney doesn’t know you, and he sees that you need him he will ask what he can do to help.

The notion that one man can make a difference came to him at an early age.

As he saw the discrimination that was going on in the country and the civil rights movement.

He recalls how at the age of five or six, while traveling with his musician father by bus through the south of the country he saw what is known as hanging tree.

“I have seen men swinging from trees in the south as we were going on the freeway.”

Before that he had already experienced segregation in his hometown of Storm Lake, Iowa.

He was not able to share a drinking fountain with his friend Roger because the fountain had a “whites only sign” and Roger was African-American.

However, being a clever child he filled a cup up with water from the drinking fountain and shared it with his friend and asked his mother to “fix it [remove drinking fountain sign].”

After that day, he remembers his mother working on getting the sign removed from the fountain and accomplishing her goal.

That was his first proof that one person can make a difference.

Hanney will continue to take classes and work toward his goal of becoming a theater teacher for elementary school children.