#CYProfessional: Deann Burch, Career Center Coordinator

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessionals like Career Planning Center Coordinator Deann.

What was your path to Cypress?

In many ways, Cypress has always been part of my path. I was born in the early ‘60s and lived in Anaheim, while many of my relatives lived in Paramount, Artesia, and Lakewood. Every Sunday we traveled to various family homes, and drove past the multitude of dairy farms, cows, pastures, and layers of fog that hugged the streets. One day, my mom pointed at the sign that said, “Future Home of…” and she was so happy to know there would be a junior college nearby. Dad looked at me and my siblings and said, “Hey, you might want to go here when you finish high school.”

Then in the early ‘70s my dad’s karate dojo rented the gym to host tournaments. I was the scorekeeper and back-up timer so, technically, I worked at Cypress College when I was 10 years old. In the late ‘70s my mom, in an effort to help a recently widowed friend get involved with the community, took a job as an adult hourly during registration. Mom’s friend eventually found work elsewhere, but mom loved the college environment. She worked as an hourly in Admissions and Records until a permanent position became available in the Athletics Division. Mom worked with the athletes and coaches until she retired from Cypress College in the late ‘90s. She maintained close friendships with many of her Charger friends until she passed in 2011.

I began my educational journey at Cypress College in the fall of 1979, and then met my future husband in a class during the spring of 1980. That June, a position became available in the Admissions and Records Office, and my mom suggested I apply for the job and get some interview practice. Lo and behold, two hours after the interview, I received the call that I was hired. Yes, this was a life-altering moment for me and set me on the path of a truly fulfilling career. It also established lifelong friendships that I cannot imagine my life without.

I met my husband at Cypress College in the Psych 120 course in February 1980. We were married exactly two years later in February 1982. We are happily married to this day. Perry retired in August, and I will be retiring in November [2019] so the two of us are starting a new journey together.

What inspires you as an education facilitator?

I always wanted to be a teacher. I played “school” as a kid and assigned homework to my sister and friends. When I was in sixth grade, my teacher had each student stand up in class and share what we want to be when we grew up. I stood with pride and said, “I want to be a teacher.” The look on his face was unforgettable, and in retrospect, unforgiveable. He said with a disapproving sneer, “Oh, there won’t be any teaching jobs available when you graduate college.” My career dreams stopped at the very moment. I continued to excel in school, but I didn’t have a dream or a hope for what I wanted to “be.” I didn’t have a direction in mind, so when the position became available in the Admissions and Records Office, I saw it as a job, not a career. And then, something shifted. I liked the work I was doing. I enjoyed knowing the work I did, and assistance I provided, was helping other students along their path. I enjoyed the sensation of happiness, and fulfillment when students thanked me for being kind to them, for answering their questions, and for encouraging them to keep going.

After five years in A&R, I was then hired to work in the Career Planning Center. Chalk this up as the absolute best career-move I could have made. I cannot begin to adequately share the joy I had when connecting with and contributing to the field of career development. I learned about myself and how my interests, strengths, values, personality, and skills aligned with this career. Many of the tasks I enjoyed when I “played school” were now part of my daily adult life. I love research, making connections, pulling together data, and most of all, seeing students attain their goals, experience success, and learn about themselves without ever feeling the disapproving sneer that had discouraged me at a young age. What inspires me? Happy, content, fulfilled, supported students inspired me each and every day.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?

Although I could be considered a workaholic, I actually have a very full and rewarding life that has worked in conjunction with my career. My family and friends keep me balanced. My studies of meditation practices have helped me to keep my mind, body, and spirit in harmony. My eclectic interests and desire to learn about these in depth have kept me involved with exploring, expanding, and evolving my thoughts and beliefs. I do volunteer work that keeps me informed and reminds me of the strong, loving foundation of my family that I never take for granted. I am happy and am able to infuse this happiness into all my pursuits.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

After 39+ years at Cypress College, I have decided to retire. I adore my work, the people I work with, and still get excited by the upcoming innovations. I originally thought I would be at my desk another 10 years, but then a little switch in my brain suddenly turned on and told me, “It is time.” I have no regrets, but am a little disappointed that I won’t be in the thick of the Title V Grant, rebranding our Center to the Majors and Careers Program, or seeing Guided Pathways fully embedded into the experience of our students. But I do know that I have contributed to these things. I served on committees, I gave a voice to and for classified employees, I demonstrated leadership, and I made a difference. I am now looking forward to exploring my meditation and spiritual studies, and perhaps will teach others as I had dreamed of when I was a child.

Is there any other information you’d like to share?

I am proud of my achievements, awards, and accomplishments. I am grateful for the friends I met on my first day in A&R and am still embracing these friends in my life today. I value the difference career professionals have made to bettering the field of career development. But most of all, I am inspired and in awe of the strength, fortitude, and motivation our students display on a daily basis. As Dr. Don Bedard told me on my first day of work, “Never forget. We are here for the students.” I have honored that throughout my career.

#CYProfessional: Marcia Jeffredo, Locksmith, Maintenance and Operations

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessionals like Maintenance & Operations’ Marcia.

What was your path to Cypress?
I was a licensed contractor, running a lock-and-safe service I’d started 15 years earlier when an acquaintance — who had the Cypress College food-service contract at the time — told me about the job opening. At first I was afraid it might be boring to be “stuck” at one site. What I found instead was a family-like work environment and seemingly unlimited opportunities for mutual enrichment between myself, students, and colleagues.

What inspires you as an education facilitator?
I can relate to and empathize with students who aren’t sure of themselves, especially ones who feel marginalized for whatever reason(s). I loved school, but when it came to higher education, my parents were not on board, because it was unfamiliar territory. Plus, even though I was nurtured by wonderful teachers and staff, I spent my school years fearful of being perceived as gay. That journey goes into a whole other long story, but I have on many occasions been a speaker on campus in classrooms and in forums, enlightening some people and affirming others about how damaging it is to try to be someone you’re aren’t because you’re fearful of what consequences you might suffer if you come out.

In addition, I have five decades of experience studying foreign languages. About five years ago I had a teacher who kept telling our class it’s difficult to learn a language after the age of 8. I didn’t agree and that motivated me to start some study groups and do some tutoring to prove that with the right approach and mindset, learning a new language can be fun and doable at any age.
I’ve had some memorable times working with the NOCE Independent Living Skills students too. They used to have a job-shadowing program and it was very rewarding bringing them to my shop and taking them around campus, teaching them how to be good employees. I also was a guest speaker on the topic and we had a lot of fun because I know how to reach them.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?
In my time at Cypress College I’ve been trusted by managers and administrators to prioritize my work, creation of new projects, and shared-governance activities on my own. I like to be busy, and allowing me to have such autonomy has been the ultimate way to get the most out of my energy, experience, ideas, organizational skills, and time management skills. Outside of Cypress College I’ve volunteered for numerous organizations since my teens. I feel a responsibility to be actively involved wherever I am.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?
I had been working on designing and managing ADA and mechanical and electronic access control projects campus-wide and a smaller project at NOCE Anaheim. It took years of building relationships in order to get the support, especially the funding, to make these things happen. All of those people left last year and the momentum got stalled. We have a lot of new colleagues bringing their own ideas to Cypress College and I’m preparing for retirement, so it’s time to pass the torch. Meanwhile I have plenty to keep me busy. With the new construction, I’m starting to make all of the new keys and pretty soon I will be pinning up all of the lock cylinders for the contractors to install.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.
I am forever grateful that I landed here almost 19 years ago. Life is good. I will miss being surrounded by students all the time, but there are some I’ve stayed in touch with and I’m so proud of them. We all have grown so much.

#CYProfessional: Philip Dykstra, Institutional Research and Planning Director & Accreditation Liaison Officer

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessionals like Institutional Research Director Phil.

What was your path to Cypress?

I graduated from Cal State Fullerton back in 1995 with a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in urban planning. During my final year there, I started an internship as a researcher with Santa Ana College. That led to a job as a part-time researcher there and then a full-time position through 2000. I then worked as a research analyst at El Camino College and Cerritos College from 2000-2004. In February 2004, I came to Cypress as a classified professional serving as the college’s research analyst. In 2012, I was promoted to the Director of Institutional Research and Planning and the rest is history.

What inspires you as an education facilitator?

I am an inquisitive person by nature so being a researcher really appeals to me. I like trying to get to the bottom of things and determining whether things are working and more importantly why or why not. My work in the field for the last 25 years has allowed me to do just that.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?

It can be challenging especially during certain times of the year. Having a team with two amazing classified researchers really helps. I am only able to take on additional tasks here at the college like accreditation and helping our District Management Association because our team is so wonderful and dedicated. It also allows me the opportunity to take on other opportunities that are important to me personally, like serving as a Puente mentor, because I know our team has a good handle on things.

Institutional Research Director Philip Dykstra Stands in Front of Campanile

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

My last big project prior to my retirement in October is the review of the college mission, vision, and core values. This is a semester-long project that is an important part of the college’s accreditation. This process happens every two or three years where we come together as a college and see if we want to make any changes. With all of the changes at the state level, it will be interesting to see how we end up changing our mission statement to reflect those changes.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.

Over the course of the last 15 years here at Cypress, it has been a wonderful experience. I have gotten the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people, and many times those interactions have turned into friendships away from the office. When I look back on my time here at Cypress I feel a sense of joy and accomplishment in all the things that the Research Office has undertaken with the goal of helping our students be successful. And for that, I am eternally grateful to all of my colleagues for allowing me to be a part of our students’ educational journey along with them.

#CYProud: David Su, Psychology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

David Su

The pressure to perform and live up to parental expectations set by successful older siblings can be a difficult burden. For David Su, meeting those expectations was a simple task throughout primary and middle school, but became too much to bear in high school. In junior year, he fell so far behind in his classwork that he dropped out and instead attended an alternative high school that nulled his eligibility for a UC or Cal State.

“Cypress College has given me the opportunity and time to explore my options in life,” David said. “Essentially, for a person whose family places such a high importance on higher education, Cypress College has given me a second chance.”

David became heavily involved in a number of clubs on campus and was inducted into the college’s Psi Beta psychology honor society. He graduated with an associate degree in psychology and transferred to UC Irvine. He aspires to earn a master’s degree in educational counseling and become a counselor in higher education.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Cypress, California, born to two loving parents who always doted on me and praised me for the high passing marks that I would receive in elementary and middle school. Back then, I passed all of my classes with flying colors — and, I had to. After all, I had to succeed like my wonderful older brother who had set impossibly high standards for me as he was seen as a genius in school. My parents assumed that I would do equally as well, so I worked hard just to please them — except, I didn’t.

Elementary and middle school were easy. I flew by with flying colors without really having to study at all because back then, everything came to me naturally. I failed to realize that the reason for this was because of the low difficulty; nevertheless, I settled into my bad habits of not studying and not working hard because why would I need to study or try hard when everything was so easy?

And then high school hit. And it was a disaster.

As I settled into high school, I found each passing year becoming more and more difficult for me, and in my junior year, I found the classes to be too difficult. No longer could I just sit back, relax, and let the information soak into my brain; I had to actually try this time around as my classes were no longer a cake walk. For the first time in my life, I had to actually study to succeed, and I couldn’t. I let my homework and assignments pile up as I slowly slipped behind, and I failed to study when I needed to. Eventually, my grades began to drop. It was at this point that I began to frequently miss school to attempt to make up my homework, but I failed to realize that this would only result in me having to catch up on more missing assignments for those missed days. Eventually, it was too much. There were too many late assignments to catch up on, my grades had fallen far too low, and some of my teachers even doubted if I would ever come back.

They were right. I never did come back. Instead, I graduated from an alternative high school that offered independent study. Because of that horrible disaster that was my first high school, I found myself afraid of learning and afraid of disappointing my parents, friends, and teachers.

That lasted for two years, and now I’m at Cypress College. Since then, I’ve tried my best to get over my fears, and in the process, I’ve rediscovered my love for education and passion for learning, most notably for my major of psychology. I love learning about the human mind and discovering the intricacies of human potential. Since my lowest point in high school, I’ve now been accepted to both the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Irvine.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

When I dropped out of high school and went to an alternative high school, I was automatically locked out of applying to any Cal States or UCs because the coursework at my alternative high school did not meet those colleges’ standards. I had no choice but to look at other alternatives for higher education, such as private school or community college.

I chose Cypress College because, as a child, I used to take summer and winter classes at the School of Continuing Education. Most of these classes were held at Cypress College, and I remember immediately falling in love with the campus at a young age when I first explored the campus grounds. Even when I wasn’t taking classes at Cypress College as a child, my family would often take my brother and me to exercise at the track.

After graduating from high school, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with my future, but I knew immediately that I wanted to go to the college that I had fallen in love with as a child. Since then, Cypress College has given me the opportunity and time to explore my options in life. Essentially, for a person whose family places such a high importance on higher education, Cypress College has given me a second chance.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Ever since my enrollment at Cypress College, I’ve found myself becoming heavily involved with Circle K International (CKI), Psychology Club, Psi Beta, and Inter-Club Council (ICC). Joining CKI was an easy choice for me; I had fallen in love with volunteering and giving back to my community ever since high school (I volunteered more than I did homework back then), and I was thrilled with the idea of being able to continually engage in community service. Since joining, I have served as the vice president and president in CKI.

As for Psychology Club, I decided to join because it directly related to my major, but I stayed because I met two wonderful professors who were able to share their special love for psychology with their students. These two professors, Dr. Angela deDios and Dr. Brandy Young, would go on to expand the Psychology Club and establish Psi Beta, an honor society for psychology at the community college level, which I naturally became a member of because I wanted to follow the two professors that I look up to.

Finally, I became involved with ICC due to my involvement with the three aforementioned clubs because I was appointed as the ICC-representative for each of them. I would later go on to become the ICC secretary.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I’m most passionate about my major, psychology. Ever since I began to take my major classes, I’ve really enjoyed learning about human behavior and development. I enjoyed learning about how someone could have a certain tendency or behavior because of their previous experiences in life or genetic susceptibility. Through this, I’ve also learned about my own tendencies and behaviors, and the reason why I failed in high school. I want to help others understand themselves and unlock the potential within them.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

There are a lot of faculty and staff who have helped me get where I am today.

Dr. Angela deDios – Dr. deDios was one of the first Cypress College faculty members that I met. I took her for Intro to Psychology and Developmental Psychology. Not only did I learn a lot about psychology, I was able to apply many of her teachings to my own life. Dr. deDios is also the advisor of Circle K International, Psychology Club, and Psi Beta.

Dr. Brandy Young – Despite never having the chance to take Dr. Young’s classes, I was able to meet her through Psychology Club and Psi Beta. She gave me advice on life after Cypress College. Dr. Young gave us many opportunities to explore psychology on a professional scale with student speakers in graduate school, field trips to the UCLA Psychology Department, and networking experiences at the Western Psychological Association’s convention.

Transfer Counselor Yolanda Duenas – I’ve spoken with Yolanda Duenas on multiple occasions to discuss my education plan at Cypress College in order to transfer. However, on one occasion, I asked her about how she became involved with being a transfer counselor. I already had an affinity for advising students on how to transfer, yet Yolanda helped me see that this is something that I wanted to pursue.

Dave Okawa – As the director of Student Activities, Dave Okawa was someone I spoke to on multiple occasions as I was the president of CKI and an ICC representative for three different clubs. When the position of ICC secretary was vacant for the 2018-19 academic year, he motivated me to apply for this position.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I plan on finishing my bachelor’s degree at UCI and going on to pursue my master’s degree in educational counseling.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals in the future are to, hopefully, pursue my master’s degree in educational counseling. I’ve said before that I really enjoy realizing and unlocking the potential within others; I want to become an educational counselor because I want to help others realize that they can go on to achieve incredible things in life. After my master’s degree, I plan on becoming an educational counselor at the college level, most notably the community college level. I aspire to assist students who may need guidance on how they can transfer to four-year institutions.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my brother, who’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in pharmaceutical biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My older brother has always been my pillar of strength when I’ve needed him most; he’s always been there for me, right behind me to support me when I needed it the most. He gives me helpful advice when I need it, and, occasionally, the truth when I don’t want it. Sometimes, he even annoyingly calls me at weird times of the night to bother me, but I know he does it because he just wants to talk to me since we’re far apart from each other, living our own lives and pursuing our own futures — and that’s why I’m proud of him. Even though he’s extremely busy, he’ll always find time to help me out, to give me advice, or to annoy me at odd times of the night. He’s my older brother, but he’ll always find time for his little brother.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

I would say that it is important to use the resources that are provided to you at Cypress College. If I didn’t use the resources that were provided to me, I don’t think I would have been as successful as I am now. To give an example, if I didn’t consult with my guidance counselors, I believe that I would have been incredibly lost when it came to the direction that I wanted to take my future in. I highly recommend consulting with the school’s guidance counselors as not only are they friendly, but they’ll help point you in the right direction.

There are a lot of other resources at Cypress College, but I think the most important thing to remember is this: the resources provided aren’t going to come to you, asking if you need help; you have to go out on your own accord and utilize these resources.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Cypress College has truly been a place of comfort for me to pursue my education. While I entered Cypress College without many friends, I am exiting with a full network of friendships and opportunities for my future.

#CYProud: Tasmia Alam, Business Administration

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Tasmia Alam

Tasmia Alam is passionate about making a difference and effecting change for the better. Of Bengali descent but born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tasmia moved to the United States with her family after completing high school. In need of a path into higher education that wouldn’t put more of a financial strain on her family, she found Cypress College and knew it was where she wanted to start her higher education journey. With a desire to mix her creative side and passion for making a difference, Tasmia plans to build a career in marketing. She transferred to Cal State Fullerton to complete her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and minor in communication studies. She later plans to earn a master of business administration (MBA).

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I am a Bengali girl born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Since there is no birthright citizenship given in Saudi Arabia, my nationality has always been from Bangladesh. I graduated high school in 2014 and immigrated to the United States in 2015 with my family. Immediately after, I embarked on my higher education journey at Cypress College. My hobbies include dancing, traveling, and occasionally reading.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Once I moved to the United States, I came across the community college system. Restarting life in the States was a financial strain on my family as it is; however, through community college, I could pursue higher education without being financially indebted. After researching a couple of colleges within my area, Cypress College attracted me the most. Visiting the campus and getting a glance at the beautiful architecture and the friendly ambiance, I knew instantly this is where I wanted to start my higher education journey. In addition, Cypress College was also ranked top three in their transfer rates at that time.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

During the fall 2015 New Student Welcome Night, I was very intrigued by the Associated Students council and their presence on campus. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Cypress College Associated Students Council. The group’s commitment to representing and being the voice for the Cypress College student body drew me toward them the most. As an active member of the student government, I was able to work my way up from an activities coordinator my first semester, to senator, to finally being elected as the executive vice president for the academic year 2016-17. Within my two-year journey with the Associated Students, I was fortunate enough to be part of several planning committees, such as the Cypress College Food Bank, which was initiated to fight food and hunger insecurities on campus. In addition, I was also able to help a fellow associated student member with what was known as the first Cypress College resolution submitted. The resolution was about enriching student success through a more-detailed registration process. This resolution was passed in the spring 2017 SSCCC General Assembly.

In fall 2016, I was hired as a student ambassador on campus. As an ambassador, my main job is to help students and make their first steps in college easier. I have successfully helped several families and students join Cypress College and ensure their continuing success. Being located at the entrance of the Student Center, I help students during the registration process, as well as guide them around their way on campus. As an ambassador, I have also helped with other programs on campus such as the Pledge events and Charger Fridays. Active involvement in both the student government and Student Ambassador programs gave me the opportunity to participate in and help with several events hosted by Cypress College, including Kindercaminata, the Americana Awards, Pledge Night, and Cypress College’s annual commencement.

After completing my term as an executive vice president for Associated Students and gaining experience in helping students and working events through the Student Ambassador program, I decided I wanted to do more for the students of Cypress College, specifically, more for students in the Business Department. During fall 2017, I took the initiative to restart the Business Club on campus. My goal as the business club president was to educate students on how to be successful in the world of business including finance, management, marketing, and more. This club serves as a platform for students to network and explore the different sectors of a business. It also served as an opportunity where I could spread along the knowledge and experience that I gained through the Associated Students and the Student Ambassador program. Currently, I am still an active member of the club and manage the social media sites for them.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

My passion derives from making a difference. I believe in change and change for the better. Bringing innovative ideas and making a difference for the betterment of others is what drives me the most. As I dealt with culture shock and finding my place at Cypress during my initial weeks in the United States, I found my creative space in just learning about this new world that I stepped into. Creativity to me was creating my own place at Cypress and using the resources that helped me to help others. Facing challenges and overcoming them creatively gave me the platform to express myself. Being actively involved in various student leadership platforms gives me the opportunity to make a difference and create a similar space for students that may struggle with similar issues.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Throughout these four years that I have been part of this campus, I have been very lucky to have the guidance of several people who helped me become who I am today. Some people that I believe deserve special recognition and gratitude are:

  • Alan Reza, my EOPS counselor: He has always helped me reach my goals and has constantly provided me with resources and opportunities to succeed as a student at Cypress College.
  • Penny Gabourie, my Honors Program counselor: She always made sure I was on the right track with my education and transfer process.
  • Dave Okawa: He was my advisor for Associated Students and has always encouraged and motivated me to be the best student leader I could be.
  • Lark Crumpler, former supervisor of the Student Ambassador program: I am very grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to be a student ambassador and represent Cypress College.
  • Kassandra Abreu: She is my current supervisor who has constantly believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my goals and aspirations.

Last but not least, some faculty that I am thankful to are Kendyl Covey, whose English classes taught me the value of time management; Nicole Ledesma and Jane Gross, whose math classes taught me that math is not as hard as most people make it seem; and Parwinder Sidhu for her endless support for student success and making economics a fun subject to learn.
In addition, I am also grateful for everyone involved with the EOPS and Honors programs for constantly providing resources and opportunities that have made my educational journey easier.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will be transferring to CSUF in fall 2019 where I will be completing my bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and minor in communication studies. I look forward to also being an active student leader at CSUF. After completing my bachelor’s degree in business, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to build a career in the marketing field of business. Among the broad spectrum of business sectors, marketing intrigues me the most because of its constantly evolving and innovating techniques. With my passion for making a difference and creativity, a career in business marketing is what I am aspiring to right now.

What are you most proud of?

In addition to being proud of the difference I was able to make as an executive vice president of Associated Students and creating a platform for business students through the Business Club, I am most proud of the two scholarships that I received from Associated Students, for being an outstanding student leader in spring 2017 and spring 2019.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

One piece of advice that I would like to give to the current and future Cypress College students is to always be curious and ask questions. One thing that I have learned through my journey at Cypress is that there are plenty of resources available for students to succeed and the only thing we need to do is seek them. One question that always pushes me to take that next step is to ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Curiosity and asking questions have led me to where I am today, and I hope that I continue to be curious and ask questions in my future educational endeavors.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Cypress College has made me who I am today. It was the first place that I was introduced to when I moved here, and today, it is a place that I call home. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities this place has provided me with. Without the experiences that I have endured at Cypress, I would not be the Tasmia that I am today.

#CYProud: Musab Awad, Registered Nursing

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Musab Awad

Many times, education is a family affair. Musab Awad followed in his mother’s footsteps when he chose to attend Cypress College. Interested in science and the human body from a young age, Musab, one of four sons to a single mother, graduated from the college’s Registered Nursing program. He currently works at Hoag and and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at California State University, Fullerton.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up here in Orange County, but we traveled out of the country many times during my childhood. My interests were mainly toward science and the human body. My mom is a single parent and when we moved back to the States in 2008, my mother was stuck with four kids, an apartment with no steady income to pay rent, and no college education. She found out about Cypress College and attended full time while working to support us. She was in EOPS, which provided her with much-needed support and relief. She motivated us to always move forward with our education and never settle for simple things in life. She taught us to aim high and work hard for everything we do in life. She introduced me to nursing and helped me to become the nurse I am today.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Nursing was a competitive major and most programs were impacted and some were expensive. I applied to many nursing programs, but Cypress College had a great nursing program. It was also near my place of residence.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I wasn’t involved very much since most of my time was spent toward earning A’s on my prerequisite nursing classes and supporting my mom while she was out working. I helped manage the house, cook dinner, laundry, any kind of chores that would bring relief to my mom when she got back from work.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about helping others in their worst times.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

All the Registered Nursing and EOPS faculty and staff!

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am currently working at Hoag and pursuing my bachelor’s degree in nursing at California State University, Fullerton.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I plan to continue to work and experience the different areas in nursing. I plan to go for my master’s degree afterward. I aspire to be the best nurse I can be and continue to serve people in need.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my class for becoming registered nurses.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Make good connections and make new friends. It’s hard tackling things alone.

#CYProud: Leah Nakahara, Elementary Education

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Leah Nakahara

Leah Nakahara was born and raised a Southern California girl who is passionate about helping and teaching people, particularly children. She successfully completed the Puente Program at the college, and served as a Student Ambassador representing the college at outreach and other on-campus and community events. Leah is transferring to California State University, Long Beach to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and earn her teaching credential.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Cypress, but moved to Lake Elsinore in the third grade. After high school, I decided to move back and go to Cypress College. In my free time, I like to hang out with my friends and family.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College for the calm and peaceful environment, the small class sizes, and the connections with local Cal States.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

At Cypress College, I was involved in the Puente Program and am currently involved in the Teacher Prep and Student Ambassador programs.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I love helping people whether that be children at the elementary schools I volunteer at or the adults I help while being an ambassador.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Every professor or faculty I have had an encounter with at Cypress has had an impact on my life; however, Kassandra Abreu has had a big part in getting me to where I am today. She has become a mentor, friend, and someone I know I can always go to for advice anytime.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

After Cypress, I am going to transfer to California State University, Long Beach where I hope to receive my bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and my teaching credential. Hopefully my master’s degree, too.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals are to get my master’s degree and have my own classroom.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of graduating from Cypress College in two years with high honors. These past two years have been some of the toughest, and I could not have accomplished this without the support of my family and friends.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Advice that I would give to current and future Cypress College students is to not give up. Also not to skip class.

#CYProud: Vy Vu, Business Administration

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Vy Vu

Vy Vu grew up and worked as a travel agent in Vietnam before coming to the United States. Intent on finding success in the States, she chose to pursue an education at Cypress College, not imagining that she would be in a position to transfer to a four-year university after ust two years. She aspires to open her own travel agency to promote cultural tourism between Vietnam and the United States. She is transferring to University of California, Irvine to earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a combined master’s degree in finance.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States from Vietnam four years ago. When I came here, I realized that the best way for me to be successful in the United States was to attend college. Like other foreign students, I started taking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which helped me improve my academic writing and communication skills. From there, my experience at Cypress College has exposed me to and offered me opportunities beyond anything that I imagined. Cypress College has been my personal ‘movable feast’.

When I first started at Cypress College, I had not imaged that two years later I would be applying to transfer to a University of California. I did not think I was good enough. And I never imagined that I would be offered the opportunities and the resources to adapt to life in a new country all while building an educational foundation that would allow me to matriculate to the country’s premier public university system. However, my family and Cypress’ professors encouraged me to try my best, and this encouragement was a large component of my motivation to set my sights high. It took a little finagling. Due to scheduling conflicts I had to take a couple of math classes at another college in order to meet the UC transfer requirements before the application deadline. This included taking one of the classes as an intersession course and the other at the same college because the intersession course did not finish until after my last semester at Cypress had already started. Through it all, the professors and counselors at Cypress completely supported and encouraged me. I was so proud of myself and of the education that I received at Cypress when I got my acceptance letter to University of California, Irvine. From here, it’s up and away as I focus on my interest in business and lay the foundations of building my own business, a business that I envision also as a cultural catalyst.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I still remember the first time I visited Cypress College. When I entered into the Student Center, I just looked around because I did not know who I could ask for help. One of the Cypress staff members instantly recognized that I was a new student and came to help me fill out the application form. I really appreciated her assistance. It made me feel that Cypress’ commitment to students was exceptional and that the staff was there for each and every student with a helpful and friendly outlook. My choice to attend Cypress College was an easy choice to make!

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have been involved in Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) for three years. I attended transfer workshops and went on field trips to visit Cal State Fullerton and UCI, organized by EOPS. In addition, I joined the Business Club at Cypress College, which has given me opportunities to see the inside workings of local businesses such as Boardriders. It was exciting to see how the company worked and to have a chance to speak directly with the company representatives in order to look for an internship. Furthermore, I also participated in the 2019 Digital Innovation & Ideathon Competition at Cypress College where I had the opportunity to learn to create an app to help students cope with mental health problems that may challenge them or their friends and colleagues. Participation in these events very much enriched my experiences and education as a student at Cypress College, and I really enjoyed the social and intellectual aspects of the competitions, career fairs, and extracurricular activities that Cypress College organized, supported, and made available to me as a Cypress student.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about helping other people. I used to work as a receptionist at an assisted senior living facility. When I worked there, I had a chance to help a number of residents who did not have family or relatives. They were lonely and needed help. Sometimes, they just came to the front desk because they needed someone to chat with them and listen to their stories. Day by day, I felt that I started to think of them and love them as I do my family. I enjoyed helping them in whatever ways they needed help, and I realized that I was filling a role that was especially valued by the Vietnamese residents who could not speak English. By the time that I had to give up the job to focus on my studies, I realized that I actually wanted them to come to the front desk to bother me so that I could see them and make sure that they were fine. For me, the residents at assisted senior living were my second family.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The faculty and staff at Cypress College are wonderful. First, I appreciate my EOPS counselor, Leena Acosta. She assisted me to make a good educational plan to achieve my goals and encouraged me to apply for Cypress Foundation scholarships. Second, professors Samantha Simmons and Alison Robertson in the ESL Department, and Professor Kendyl Covey in the English Department helped me improve my academic writing and also gave me good advice whenever I needed help. Last but not least, I cannot forget Professor Ann Solis in the Accounting Department and Professor Sidhu Parwinder in the Economics Department. They shared success stories to inspire me and also encouraged me to transfer to UCI. Without the strong support of the Cypress faculty and staff, I could not have done so well in school. They have contributed a lot to my success today, and I was extremely lucky to be their student.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

The first thing I will do after I have graduated from Cypress College is go on vacation to reward myself. Then, I will apply for a summer internship to earn experience in management before my fall term starts at UCI. I will work with UCI counselors to make an educational plan at the four-year university. I will also participate in activities, clubs, and social events at UCI in order to make new friends and create networking in school.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Because I worked as a travel agent before leaving Vietnam, my dream job is to open a travel agency here. My goal is to create a connection between Vietnam and the United States. I envision using my contacts with travel agencies in Vietnam to bring Vietnamese tourists to the United States. I want to organize special tours for elderly Vietnamese living here who want to go back to their homeland to visit their families and friends. I also want to link the newer generations of Vietnamese Americans, who have never traveled to Vietnam, to Vietnam by creating opportunities for them to discover the beauty of their patrimony. Vietnam is not just a series of locations — Halong Bay, Son Doong Cave, or Hoi An; it is a culture — traditional, current, diverse and evolving. It touches one through all of one’s senses: eyes, ears, tongue, heart, mind, and memory. The business that I imagine creating is my dream of creating a future. It is my goal of entrepreneurship. It is my desire to create the cultural, family, heritage, and generational bridges that would be lost in time if not for the vision that I dream.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my family. I was raised in a Catholic family. We trust in God. My great grandfather passed away one year ago at 107 years old. He always smiled and said “Good! Good! Thank you,” when his children, nieces, and nephews did something for him. He taught us how to love people, how to share with people, and how to forgive people, as God teaches us. My family always gathers and comes together whenever anyone needs help. They always support me in school and in my efforts to achieve my dreams. Therefore, I want to share my success with my family, make them happy, and make them proud of me.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Be an active student both in class and in school. There are a lot of good opportunities for students to expand knowledge and improve life skills. Do not be shy to ask for help. The faculty and staff at Cypress are willing to help students achieve their goals. It does not hurt if you try. Never give up on your dream. If you fail, just do it again, again, and again. Your success is Cypress’ success. “WE TAKE THIS JOURNEY TOGETHER.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“You don’t have a life, because you have a future” – Jennie Beltran.

Don’t be stressed. Do your best. Forget the rest.

#CYProud: Jolene Gazmen, Communication Studies and English

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Jolene Gazmen

In high school, Jolene Gazmen didn’t apply to any colleges because she didn’t think she would ever be good enough. After becoming a mother, she was determined to be someone her daughter would be proud of, so she took the step to return to school and pursue a degree. Though she initially intended to focus solely on her studies and raising her young daughter, she ended up joining the college’s Forensics Team and even took over as captain. Jolene is transferring to University of California, Berkeley to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in creative writing. She dreams of one day writing and starring in her own show.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

My name is Jolene Gazmen. I’m a Leo and love long walks on the beach… No, but in all seriousness, I am a California native, born and bred. Honestly, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I am so happy that I’m finally here. I am a returning student, having graduated high school a decade prior. I sometimes feel out of place, but then I remind myself that everyone lives by their own timeline, and I continue to push through. About 15 years prior, I shut down because of situations in life I wasn’t equipped to deal with at the time. They left me with confidence that could be measured in teaspoons and a head full of self-doubt. I drifted through life, not really trying, hardly even living. But when my daughter was born, I decided to make a change. I had been out of school for so long at that point, but I was determined to become someone that my daughter would be proud to call her mother. So I returned to school, enrolling in Cypress in order to pursue some of my passions.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College because I needed a fresh start, and I’m so glad I did! Cypress is not only a beautiful campus, but such a welcoming environment! The staff, counselors, and especially professors helped to empower me, encouraging a girl with crippling self-doubt like me to go for what she wants. When I was in high school, I didn’t even bother to apply to colleges because my lack of confidence convinced me that I would never be good enough. But this time around, I had so much support, so many people in my corner rooting me on, and I had the courage to apply to my dream UC! I’m pleased to say that I’ll be attending Cal beginning fall 2019! It’s something I’d only dreamed of, but Cypress helped to make that dream a reality.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have been involved in the Cypress College Forensics (Speech and Debate) team. It’s not something that I was planning on becoming a part of. As an older, returning student, my primary objective going into school this time around was to minimize my social life, to just get through school while raising a toddler and working. I thought my plate was full and that anything else would be too much. Plus, like many students out there, the idea of speaking as solely myself in front of a room full of people seemed like a terrifying thought. Thankfully, I had a truly spectacular COMM 100 professor who convinced me that it was something I could excel in. She empathized with everything I had going on and worked with my schedule, but still pushed me to find strengths in myself that I didn’t even know that I had. I’m proudly the captain of our growing Forensics Team and have even gone on to win awards, which is something I would have never thought I could do when this first began.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

My passions are two-fold: writing and acting. When I was at my lowest in life, it was those things that gave me a sense of purpose and saved my life. They provided me with an outlet, a way to sort through things that I couldn’t make sense of. These things are some of my loves in life, and I don’t know where I would be if I ever had to give them up.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The counselors at this school are some of the best I’ve ever encountered. They don’t feel dismissive nor are they judgmental when you tell them where you’ve been or what you want to do, even if your previous track record wasn’t that great (such as it was for myself). They encouraged and reassured me that nothing was out of reach, and that I wasn’t “behind” in life because there is no right or wrong time to go for what I want, just so long as I go for it.

I’ve also been fortunate to have some of the best professors. They are knowledgeable, empathetic, helpful and, most importantly, passionate. None are just going through the motions of teaching, but rather, really taking pride in what they do. Their passion helps me to feel excited for what’s to come! (A special shout out to Jen Page and Josh House, who went above and beyond in all they do for their students and the Forensics team.)

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

Like I mentioned prior, I will be entering as a junior at University of California, Berkeley this fall 2019. I am planning on majoring in English and minoring in creative writing, but I’ve also been flirting with the idea of double majoring in ethnic studies, which I just recently found a passion for thanks to another one of my ever-inspiring professors.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals include the pursuit of my passions and the enhancement of my craft, which would be writing and acting. I’m striving to incorporate both into whatever future endeavors I choose to pursue, in one aspect or another. My dream would be to write and star in my own show.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my daughter. She is the reason I do all of this, the reason I work so hard both academically and to become an overall better person. I can truly say that I’ve pushed myself to grow beyond the girl who was just resigned to her depression into someone who seeks help, who pushes past her comfort zone to find parts of herself she didn’t know she had. I have become an overall better person with her around, and I hope that by working so hard and following my dreams, it teaches her to do the same. My biggest hope is that I make her proud.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

My advice to any current or future Cypress College students would be to utilize all the resources available to you. Cypress College offers some of the most wonderfully supportive staff and programs, all of which are designed to help you throughout your journey through Cypress. I hadn’t had the best experiences prior to coming here and I was hesitant about asking for help, but this second time around, I took the leap and I’m so glad that I did!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Not at the moment, but thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you have the best day, whoever you are!

#CYPossible: Pedro Romero-Nieva Santos, ESL

Pedro travelled far to begin his Cypress College journey. The strength he possessed from his supportive family upbringing in Madrid, Spain, not to mention his dedication to sports, helped him gain a foothold in his new life abroad. The Cypress ESL faculty and staff also assisted Pedro in his new life, and he credits the program with boosting his ability to seize his dreams. Combined with the network he was able to build within the college’s athletic program, Pedro reflects warmly on his time at Cypress as the gateway to his coaching career.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

My coaching career and academic formation started in my home city of Madrid, Spain, back in 2006. I earned my bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, exercise science, from the Universidad Politecnica in Madrid where I graduated in 2011. During the last three years of my degree, I had the opportunity to study high performance conditioning soccer coaching under the current Real Madrid Fitness Coach, Dr. Javier Mallo, who has had a huge impact on my professional and personal development within the field of coaching. Between 2008 and 2011, I also combined my education with practical experience on the field coaching at both youth and professional soccer academies in Madrid.

In 2012 I had the opportunity to move overseas to play soccer and study at Cypress College, California, where I played for the soccer team and earned a certificate in athletic coaching in 2013. After this, and thanks to the relationship I built within the coaching staff at Cypress College, I began my coaching career in the United States at the community college, high school, and club levels.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I was playing in Spain back in 2011 when I was contacted by a company that promoted soccer players from Europe, all around universities and colleges in the United States. They came to my games and filmed me playing to then send the videos to the United States. I received several offers to play soccer from colleges in Utah, Chicago, and finally Cypress College reached out. I always wanted to move to California, so that was an excellent opportunity for me to live there and learn English while experiencing college and soccer life abroad. My year as a student athlete at Cypress College was incredibly positive and rewarding for my personal and professional development. The coaching staff was extremely nice with me, which helped a lot in order to build a very close relationship that still to this day I keep with every one of them. My teammates welcomed me with open arms from the beginning, and I also developed some great friendships that I still keep. Academically, Cypress College helped me a lot to improve in my English, and to further my knowledge within the field of kinesiology. I also developed great relationships and friendships with some of the professors that I still keep to these days. Overall Cypress College helped me to build a very strong bond with the American culture, motivating me to stay here and make a living in the States. I have to say that if it wasn’t for the amazing experience I had at Cypress College, and the relationships I developed, I would have probably moved back to Spain after one year.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I got accepted into Cypress College for the 2012/13 academic course. I was enrolled in the Athletic Coach Certificate, English as Second Language, and I was also a part of the Men’s Soccer Program. I was there for only one season, but it was an extremely rewarding and productive experience. There were so many people at Cypress College who helped me in my first year living and studying in the United Sates, and I couldn’t ask for a better experience than the one I had at Cypress.

To begin with, I would like to make a special mention to the International Student staff, Yongmi Han and Gina Marrocco, who helped me with my visa paperwork, helped me to adapt to the cultural and lifestyle differences, and made my life much easier overall.

Within the field of kinesiology and athletic coaching, I was able to establish and develop very good relationships with professionals from the field of athletic training, coaching, and teaching such as Coach [Margaret] Mohr, or Scott Tucker, among others, who made a very positive impact in my personal and professional growth. On the soccer field, I developed very strong friendships among the teammates, some of them still last to this day.

Among the coaching staff I have to say I developed very strong bonds with them from day one. Head Coach Ed Kephart welcomed me to the team with open arms and allowed me to be part of the team in what I consider it was a great season. I also developed very good friendships with assistant coaches Tony Barber and Martin Wallwork, who helped me on and off the field especially in my first and second year in the States. Finally, assistant coach Mike Stauber made the biggest impact in my journey by helping me to pursue my coaching career in Southern California, and becoming not only a mentor but also one of my best friends to this day. Lastly, I would like to give a special mention to Professor Kathryn Wada who not only taught me English as my ESL professor, but most importantly became my “American mom” who always has looked after me, and continues doing so. I am extremely grateful for her help, her advice, and her belief in me from day one. She is definitely one of the reasons I am where I am today.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After completing my studies at Cypress College, and thanks to the relationship I built within the coaching staff at Cypress College, I began my coaching career in the United States at the community college, high school, and club levels. I helped Cypress College during the 2014 and 2016 seasons as Assistant Coach and Strength and Conditioning Coach. At the high school level, I worked at Kennedy High School in La Palma from 2013 to 2015 as the Girls Varsity Head Coach. In 2015, I was offered as position at Canyon High School, located in Anaheim Hills, California, as the Program Director and Girls Varsity Head Coach. In my last season with the Comanches (2017/2018), I was offered to take over both the boys and girls programs as Program Director and Varsity Head Coach. During my time at Canyon High School, the Girls Program won two league titles in three seasons. While at Canyon I created, developed, and implemented the curriculum for all levels (Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Frosh/Soph); moreover, I developed several players to transition to youth national teams all over the country as well as to D1 schools such as the University of Southern California, University of Arizona, University of South Carolina, Kansas University, and Texas Tech University among others. At the club level, I coached at Chelsea Soccer Club and Pateadores Soccer Club, in Orange County, before I moved up to be part of the Pateadores Academy coaching staff from 2016-2018, which provided me with the opportunity to implement their curriculum as well as to develop players to the highest levels of the collegiate, national, and professional levels.

In 2016 I decided to further my education at Azusa Pacific University, combining my graduate level coursework with practical experience on the field. In 2018, thanks to my thesis titled, “The Influence of Small Sided Games in Soccer Tactical Periodization,” I got an internship with the Los Angeles Galaxy. I have spent the last year working as the Sports Science and Performance Associate at the LA Galaxy First and Second teams. After that, I was offered to be the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the LA Galaxy Academy, as well as the U15s Head coach where I continue working to help the players achieve their maximum potential within the highest level of youth soccer in the country.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

As a coach I aim to coach at the highest level. Currently I am involved in a professional club, working for an MLS academy, which allows me to have a direct contact with the highest level of youth soccer in the country, and access to the professional level as well. This unique environment is helping me within my personal and professional growth in the field of coaching. As an aspiration, and future goals, I would like to see myself coaching at the professional level or involved in it at any coaching role possible, but I am aware of the difficulties that this goal entails. Therefore I continue enjoying the journey, and living the current experience of coaching at the LA Galaxy Academy to its full potential. Whatever happens next will depend on what I do now. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be coaching at the LA Galaxy Academy, I would probably call you crazy. Life can take you places you have never imagined and this is why I am focused on my current journey here at the LA Galaxy, and the amazing learning experience this has been so far.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Coaching is my true passion. I want to make a positive impact to the players I coach, not only as soccer players but most importantly as good people, and good individuals. I truly believe in sports as one of the most powerful tools in our society in order to influence and impact people by promoting positive values. Therefore my ultimate goal as a coach, is not only develop players to their best and full potential soccer-wise, but also and ultimately, to develop good people and good individuals preparing them for their future life within positive values, morals, and principles that can help and guide them to become the best version of themselves they can possibly be in their future careers and life.

There is nothing more rewarding as a coach than seeing a player growing and developing as a mature individual who is able to deal and cope with his life in the best way possible through the practice of soccer. I have always felt attracted by sports, and have participated in multiple sports since a very early age, although soccer has always been my main passion and I would even say an obsession. My passion for sports in general and soccer in particular kept growing as I grew up. The older I became the more interested I was in everything regarding sports, the benefits of sport in the human body, and how to improve people’s life through sports. I knew from my early high school years that I wanted to study kinesiology and later on I decided to specialize in sport science and high-performance conditioning soccer coaching. In my last years of playing, I started discovering a new passion in me within the field of coaching and how to impact players on and off the field within a particular philosophy of coaching and style of playing. There was not such a special or critical moment in my life that drew me to this field, but the fact that I have always involved in sports from an early age, and the support I have always felt from my family at pursuing what made me happy, were indicators that lead me toward the field of sports and everything related to it.

What are you most proud of?

I have to say that moving by myself to California from my hometown of Madrid, Spain, and leaving my family there, has been the toughest but most rewarding experience of my life, and I am definitely most proud of everything that has happened to me since. Moving to California changed my life from day one due to the different challenges I had to face. From speaking English (which I struggled with a lot during my first few months), to adapting to a complete different culture, developing new friendships, and adjusting to the challenges that any college student has to but in a completely different environment than what I was used to. I was the first member of my family to move abroad, and the fact that I have been able to live here for the past seven years, earned a master’s degree, and currently been coaching at one of the most prestigious soccer clubs in the nation is something that makes me very proud. Another thing I am very proud of is that I have been able to do all this by carrying the morals, principles, and work ethic that my family always taught me from day one. And not only that, but I have also tried to impact the student-athletes that I have coached within the same morals and principles that my family raised me with, through the practice of soccer, communicating it all in a different language, and in a completely different culture.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I don’t think I would change anything I did in the past. I truly believe that everything in life happens for a reason and that the way I am today is the result of my previous experiences. Therefore I wouldn’t change anything from the past, because these experiences (good and bad) have shaped me the way I am today, and has taken me to where I am right now.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Probably the best advice I can possibly give current students is to get out there and master their craft with practical experience. In the field of physical education, sports science, coaching, and strength and conditioning, the hours on the field/class/gym are incredibly important in order to improve and grow. Besides the information from research articles, books, and other sources, the day-to-day job and being hands-on is what truly helps in terms of becoming a better professional who better understands the dynamics of athletes, teams, and groups of training.

Another piece of advice I would give to the students is to always connect with people from the same field. Networking is key, and in my particular experience, it has played a very important role since I moved to the United States. Making real and lasting connections with other coaches, players, and staff is important as you pursue your career goals. Given a certain level of academic education and preparation and theoretical foundations that can back up your work, how you connect with colleagues is key in order to achieve your goals. If it weren’t for the connections I have made through my practical experiences in the field of coaching, I would have never gotten to where I am now.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, I would like to motivate all the students at Cypress College to always dream big, have big goals in mind, and work toward them. Do not let bad experiences or others’ opinions get in the way of your goals, and keep working toward them. Always remember to enjoy and focus on the journey, not the destination, as life and experiences can take you places that you can never imagine.

#CYProud: Timothy O’Connor, Mathematics

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Timothy O’Connor

The loss of a close family member is a difficult situation for anyone, but for Timothy O’Connor, it was an event that led him on a downward spiral into poverty, homelessness, and addiction. After receiving help to get himself back on his feet, Timothy chose to pursue his passion in electronics. He is transferring to University of California, San Diego to continue his studies in electrical engineering. He hopes to work in control systems or power generation, and is interested in clean energy.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Orange, California. My father worked in the defense industry and my mother was a computer programmer. Growing up, I played a lot of sports and musical instruments. I played golf, football, and baseball, as well as the saxophone and snare drum. After high school, my father passed away, and I was deeply affected by it. I took a long absence from school, and worked in the restaurant industry, until I finally decided to commit to getting my associate degree and transferring.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress because when I decided to come back to school, I didn’t have a car, and Cypress was close enough to ride the bus to and cheaply commute using Uber if need be.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have been involved in the (STEM)2 program here at Cypress, I was an SI leader for Physics 201/210, and am now currently a tutor for math and physics in the Learning Resource Center and Math Learning Center.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about figuring out how things work, especially cars and electronics. I love taking things apart and building little gadgets. I have a few Raspberry Pis that I’ve made to emulate retro games and practice ethical hacking. I also love anything to do with space exploration. I have a replica of the Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon, built from Lego, in my bedroom.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

My calculus and physics professors had the most profound impact on my time here at Cypress. Professor Morvan taught me how to conceptualize calculus and clearly articulate what I was doing in my work. Professor Nusbaum showed me how interesting series and integrals could be, and always made class interesting by showing interesting proofs and giving challenging problems for extra credit. Professor Plett always brought such a pleasant energy to her classes and made some extremely difficult topics palatable and digestible. Professor Mercado put me on the right track toward being able to understand physics on a conceptual level. Dr. Armale made mechanics fun with his in-class demonstrations and pop culture references. Dr. Subramaniam pushed me to always perform my best and to not give up. She would show me where my weaknesses were, and it forced me to confront and conquer them. Dr. Hall made things very interesting in the topics of waves, optics, and thermodynamics. He would show us tools such as Taylor series approximations and helped me link together what I learned in calculus with what I was learning in physics. All these professors made a truly profound impact on my time here at Cypress, and I am so grateful to have been one of their many pupils.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I plan on transferring to University of California, San Diego to continue my studies in electrical engineering. I support myself by working in restaurants, but I want to continue tutoring part time in calculus and physics. The opportunity to do that has kept my mind sharp, reminds me of what I have forgotten, and forces me to relearn things, keeping my skills sharp for more difficult courses.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to work in either control systems or power generation. I would love to be able to design better controls for cars, airplanes, or satellites. I also feel as though efficient and clean energy generation is crucial for our success as a society. I feel as though the topic of clean energy gets too politicized for there to be ample progress. One day, I hope to assist in creating something that will help our planet, society, and future generations to come.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of beating addiction. After my father died, I developed a severe issue with substance abuse. I was homeless at times, broke, jobless, and at the true nadir of my life. I was finally able to get some help and pull myself out of it. I am now able to pursue my dreams and have taken care of myself the whole time since.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

One is that the world does not owe you a thing. You can only control how you react to situations, and when you can understand that, you will have strength to persevere through tough times with your family, classes, jobs. Things won’t always go the way you want them to go, but you don’t ever have to give up. I’ve always tried to reassess my part in how things might not have gone my way and improve my future attempts at pursuing my goals as best I can.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would just like to tell people to dream big. Even if you fall a little short, you’re destined to do something good.

#CYProud: Holly Herrera, Mortuary Science

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Holly Herrera

Holly Herrera worked as an EMT until she decided she wanted a career focusing on the surviving family members of a trauma. Committed to working in the funeral industry, she returned to school to pursue an education in mortuary science while working full time and raising a family. Holly is now a licensed funeral director and registered apprentice embalmer at a funeral home in Corona. She also hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensics or criminalistics to one day work as an investigator for a coroner or in a similar medicolegal career.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. Like most people, my childhood wasn’t ideal, but I am forever grateful for the experiences that have shaped me into the adult I am today. I currently live in the Inland Empire with my husband, our three children, and the most beautiful and talented fur-baby you have ever seen! I am also a licensed funeral director and a registered apprentice embalmer for a funeral home in Corona, California.

Professionally speaking, I come from a background of emergency medicine. During my time as an EMT, I encountered every aspect of humanity. I have seen the ugly, the terrifying, the promising, and the innocence of life. After some time, I felt compelled to move on to a new chapter of my career, this time focusing on the surviving family. It is a privilege to help families celebrate the life of their loved one.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Once I had committed myself to working in the funeral industry, I began to research schools. When I found that Cypress was not only within a commutable distance, but also regarded as having one of the leading Mortuary Science programs, I knew it was meant to be. Returning to school after a hiatus of raising children and working in a different career path was daunting. I felt intimidated and unsure if I could do it. My first meeting with a counselor reassured me that I was making the right choice and just how lucky I was to attend Cypress.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

It wasn’t until the third semester of my program that students and faculty were able to establish the Sigma Phi Sigma chapter here on campus. The purpose of our fraternity is to educate the public about the funeral industry and shed light on a field that is often misunderstood. I encourage all students to enhance their educational experience by participating in clubs and fraternities. You really owe it to yourself to give it a try.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Not to sound cliché, but I am passionate about life. Since working in the funeral industry, I have come to appreciate just how little time we have on this earth. Witnessing firsthand how unpredictable death can be has put my own life into perspective. Time flies by. It is a precious gift that many of us take for granted. Spend the time you have with careful words and a forgiving heart.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Each faculty member of the mortuary program has positively contributed to my time here.

Professor Grande has become a mother figure to me, whom I hold in high regard. In an industry that is historically made up of men, she has worked her way to the top and is single-handedly the most knowledgeable person of funeral law. Jolena Grande is a force to reckon with, and I admire her tenacity and appreciate her nearly impossible homework load. Professor Grande, I thank you.

Dr. de la Cruz is an aristocrat of mortuary science. He is truly a student’s advocate and holds our best interests at heart. Not surprisingly, he is also one of the most generous people I have ever met. There is never a dull moment in a DLC class. He has created a drive in all of us to become the best we can possibly be, and to do so with unfailing integrity. Dr. de la Cruz, I thank you.

Professor Collins, the fashionista of mortuary science, has the best attitude and sense of humor, both of which are desperately needed in this industry! Her door is always open to students and she takes time to hear us out and find solutions to our problems. She relates to her students and her desire to help us succeed is genuine. Professor Collins, I thank you.

Professor McCament. There are not enough sweet words to describe this man. He is the most selfless soul, commuting unthinkable miles, all in the name of teaching. When my cohort first heard that he was retiring, we legitimately felt sad. There is no end to this man’s patience. I could not have asked for a better instructor and I feel confident in my own skillset thanks to his guidance. Professor McCament, I thank you.

Lastly, but certaintly not least, Professor Nichols. Even though we had a short time with you face-to-face, you managed to get us all excited for restorative art. Even though your days are spent outside of the classroom, you are always reachable and ready to help us with any concerns. More importantly you taught us not to take ourselves seriously and to enjoy our work. Professor Nichols, I thank you.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am currently in a two-year apprenticeship for my embalmer’s license. I will continue to work both as a registered apprentice and a licensed funeral director. I look forward to applying what I have learned here at Cypress.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My plan is to begin my undergrad in forensics or criminalistics while I am completing my apprenticeship. My aspirations are to work in the capacity of an investigator for a coroner, or in another medicolegal position.

What are you most proud of?

I will be completely honest, when I received notification that I was selected to be recognized, initially I did not feel as if I deserved it. There have been many times during the duration of my program that I wanted to give up. Through the challenges of having a family, working full-time, and attending school full-time, I questioned my choice daily. However, I stuck with it, and I refused to back down. I am proud that I am just a few weeks of completing this chapter of my life and look forward to the next challenge.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

I’d like to speak directly to those who find themselves wanting a change in careers, or who have spent their lives being a caretaker and now want to do something for themselves: You can do this. No matter what field calls your name, once you make that commitment, see it through. Life will throw all sorts of obstacles your way. There will be times that you will find yourself in tears questioning your decision. Those are the times that define us and show us just how fierce we are. Take the time to shed your tears, gather your thoughts, and move one foot in front of the other.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like to personally thank all the members of my cohort. We have been through some difficult times together, and I am honored to have stood alongside every one of you. I hope you all have learned something from me as I have learned from you. I wish you well and I hope to see you once again.

#CYProud: Minh Nguyen, Chemistry

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Minh Nguyen

Minh Nguyen graduated high school in Vietnam, then moved to the United States to pursue higher education, with sights on becoming an emergency doctor and medical researcher. “I will be able to contribute my work to improve the quality of life for people who, unfortunately, do not have the basic rights and benefits as others,” he said. After encountering some health setbacks of his own, Minh became heavily involved on campus in the (STEM)2 program, Chemistry Club, and as a supplemental instruction leader. In 2019, he was named the college’s American Chemical Society, Orange County Section’s Outstanding Chemistry Student of the Year. He is transferring to University of California, Irvine in fall 2019 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

After graduating high school in Vietnam, I started my new academic journey in the United States. Everything was on the right track after I got accepted to Cypress College until I was brought to the emergency room at Orange Coast Memorial Hospital for a surgery; my life was crumbling down again. It was a hard time for me when I had to keep doing great in my first semester at school while suffering from my hurting wound every single day. The hospital bills were stacking up in the mailbox and my homework due dates were coming one by one. I could not sit or walk normally, so I lay on my bed with my vocabulary and science books. Countless hours were spent in my room trying to understand the English words and science concepts that I missed. After a massive amount of effort, I finally got a constant 4.0 GPA at Cypress College. I got over that extremely difficult time of my life and nothing could hold me back now.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I visited many community colleges in Orange County: Golden West College, Cerritos College, Coastline College, and Cypress College. I was impressed by the clean and beautiful campus with a lot of trees at Cypress, especially the ducks by the pond in the middle of the campus, which gave me a feeling of comfort. It motivated me even more when I contacted the international office for more details. They are very friendly and very open to welcome students. I felt like this would be my second home in my college life; therefore, I decided to take this journey together with Cypress.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
When everything went back to normal, I started to get involved in our campus. Based on my good performance at Cypress College, I was chosen as be a one-on-one tutor for math, chemistry, and physics in the Learning Resource Center in spring 2017 and was accepted as a supplemental instruction (SI) leader for Calculus II in fall 2017. After two semesters of my great efforts, I got promoted to be a mentor for SI in fall 2018.

I have been a (STEM)2 scholar since fall 2016. Based on the (STEM)2 program, I had a chance to conduct hands-on research at University of California, Irvine in summer 2018. This was when I got a step closer to my dream. The research was about biomedical engineering techniques. Along with my research group, we contributed to engineering a mechanical device that tested effects in collagen density from fibroblast production due to applying mechanical stress. The research has given me even more motivation to study and work harder for this major.

Also during that summer, I got elected to be the Chemistry Club president for the next two semesters. As a campus club, we provide the environment for students who are interested in STEM fields to work with professionals, conduct outreach activities, promote chemistry, and inspire young generations about science. It is also my best and most memorable moment when I was nominated by Professor Robin De Roo for the American Chemical Society, Orange County Section’s Outstanding Chemistry Student of the Year 2019.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I came from Vietnam where people must work as hard as possible just to barely earn their daily bread. Like other developing countries, we have a low education system, corruption, and one of the worst medical systems. Health is the priority. Without health, nothing can be done. My final goal, which has been the ambition and inspiration of my life, is to be an emergency doctor and a medical researcher. I will be able to contribute my work to improve the quality of life for people who, unfortunately, do not have the basic rights and benefits as others. I will be able to use my abilities to explore new things or invent useful things for the future of mankind.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Words cannot fully describe how thankful I am to all of the amazing faculty and staff at Cypress College. They are all sharing a big, warm heart with the students. Especially, I would like to give a huge thanks to:

  • Professor De Roo, who is my favorite organic chemistry professor. Her enthusiasm and kindness have inspired me in chemistry. I always want to be in her class every single day no matter what. Thank you so much for being an awesome professor!
  • My coordinator, Janelle Salinas and my mentor, Francisco Perez. They are the most wonderful staff I have worked with. They are always there when we need it the most. They are always there to make us better. Without their help, I could not become a strong and skillful leader as I am now.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

For now, I will spend my summer reviewing the past materials before I transfer to UCI. I will also take some summer classes there through the Transfer Edge program. And definitely, I will reward myself by traveling and exploring new places in the summer.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I will first start with a biomedical engineering major. I am transferring to UC Irvine in fall 2019. After graduating from UCI, I will apply for medical schools to earn the M.D.-Ph.D. degree in eight more years.

What are you most proud of?

From the bottom of my heart, my biggest pride is my mother. She is the one and only person who I will always work my best for. In the past, she had lived in misery from an unhappy marriage. Domestic violence had been killing her every day for more than 14 years. Even though she suffered a lot in her life, she is always fighting for the best for her kids, me and my sister. My mom has spent her whole life for us. Now, it is my time to do the best for her.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

You have nothing to lose, so do not hesitate. Dr. Rajab, my biology professor, said, “When in doubt, ask about.” Yes, be ready to let your curiosity glow. I am definitely sure it will take you somewhere good. You may not even imagine how you got there so easily.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“Be awesome and join Chemistry Club!”

#CYProud: Felicia Cleaver, Psychology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Felicia Cleaver

Felicia Cleaver grew up a Los Angeles native who graduated high school with honors, but did not immediately pursue higher education. At the age of 25 and as a single mother of two, Felicia found herself drawn to pursuing a degree for her children and out of curiosity. Felicia received her associate degree in psychology and liberal arts with an emphasis in social and behavioral sciences in May 2019. She started an outreach program for young women in Hawaiian Gardens, along with a recreation program for special-needs youth. She is transferring to California State University, Fullerton in fall 2019 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in communications.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and raised in the ghettos of Los Angeles, California. While growing up, I showed leadership skills in all school activities, but was caught in the whirlpool of dysfunctional family life. My focal point became a goal to get grades that would allow me to enter college and be able to choose a career. I pulled myself up, pushed through the family deterrences, graduated high school with honors, and am now a first-generation college student. I have and will achieve any goal I set my mind too. Currently, I’m striving to enhance my communication and motivation skills while keeping a GPA above a 3.5 as a full-time student, which can attest to my drive and ambition in completing my educational goals, along with raising two beautiful children. If you’re reading this, just know, anything is possible if you believe in yourself!

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose to come back to college for one main reason: curiosity. My greatest motivation for returning to college is my two children. In the beginning, I was a little hesitant and only took one course because it had been almost eight years since I last stepped foot in a classroom. In all honesty, I never thought or was certain if I was ever going to go back to school. Then I stumbled across Cypress College simply by driving by it. Something sparked inside of me (curiosity), and I enrolled. It was the best decision I ever made, and Cypress College, in turn, has been the best community college I could have asked for! I enrolled in Cypress College in the spring of 2017, and at the time I was a 25-year-old single mother of two, but desperately decided that I needed to take action to get an education I deserve.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Curiosity got me in the door, but my motivation has pushed me through my past two years at Cypress College. Only having a part-time job working eight hours a week, it is hard financially, but going to school and understanding financial aid and being part of the EOPS and CalWORKs programs has made all the difference. Similarly, I am a participant in the CARE program and have found the networking events, grants, seminars, and scholarship opportunities all beneficial. I have utilized my time well at Cypress College and the programs set in place to help students succeed is what makes this college great.

I will also recognize the Learning Resource Center and endless tutors in the math and English centers for all their help! Spring of 2019, this is my last semester and the first semester that had child care open up at Cypress College. Those two days and eight hours every week are really beneficial for a single parent, and I could not be happier about the direction that this college is going. If it was not for these programs, it would be very difficult to get to school when having two children. My curiosity turned into motivation, then determination. In my last semesters, I have been able to broaden my net and be involved in clubs such as the Psychology Club and obtain the title of president of Psi Beta on campus, which is a national honor society for students attending two-year colleges.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I have a profound interest in the studies of the mind, so my career goal is in studying psychology. The purpose and passion of my life is to discover a greater understanding of the universe and its people. Specifically, I plan to better grasp the beauty and miracles of this world and share them with each person I come in contact with. I know my doctoral degree is further in the future, but I’m doing everything now to obtain practice in this field. I am also starting an outreach program to young women in the city of Hawaiian Gardens as well as a special needs recreation program for the youth.

Everything I do in my time now is free of charge. I am gaining experience in this field on top of my book work. I am a bright and intelligent student whose potential is endless. I want to help people who need help, who need support, or who need resources, are neglected, or otherwise at a disadvantage in life. If I can help 1 out of 10 people then I know I made a difference in the world and a difference in the life of that individual. You don’t have to be a superhero to have a mission!

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

A student’s accomplishments are directly related to the daily efforts of faculty and staff at any college. I am pleased to say there is an abundance of great faculty and staff at Cypress College and I couldn’t have done this without them! There are so many that have made my journey a successful one, I want to shout out to:

  • EOPS/CalWORKs/CARE – Connie Boehler, Lili Perez, Leena Acosta
  • English Department – Nicholas Gil, Stephanie Tran
  • Psychology Department – Brandy Young, Randy Martinez, and Carlos Sandoval

Thank you all for being there for me, being guides, mentors, and writing references for me. You are all wonderful! You groomed me to be a sound professional and made working with you an interesting and memorable experience. I will always be grateful to you for your support and kindness.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

Right now I need to put my full focus on receiving my two associate degrees from Cypress College and pursuing my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Cal State University, Fullerton. Then I hope to get into a doctoral program. I will increase my communication and writing skills, while enhancing my understanding of human behavior. I’m just at the beginning, but I am a perfectionist and always strive for success.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to obtain an applied doctorate and eventually become a professor at a college. I aspire to give back to students during their educational journey and encourage them the same way multiple individuals have done for me.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my time spent on pursuing scholarships. I have currently won two scholarships just through Cypress College. I will obtain two associate degrees and my bachelor’s degree from CSUF all on scholarships, not including my financial aid award. Saving money is a must, and everyone should be applying for scholarships. They are out there; you just have to do the work!

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Here are my final words of wisdom for students who want to get better grades in college: College will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Be sure to get the best of both worlds and find the healthy balance between the studying, and contributing to your school, all while utilizing resources on campus. Finally, the best piece of advice I could ever give, and have ever received, comes from my statistics teacher in Psychology: “Take everything one… step… at… a… time.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

For anyone to really open a challenge within themselves they have to believe they can really do it, and, above all else, really want it (self-fulfilling prophecy)! Believe in yourself. You are your own rainbow!

#CYProud: Abby Omolafe, Political Science and Dance

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2019.

Abby Omolafe

Abby Omolafe was born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. She grew up in La Palma and graduated from Kennedy High School prior to starting her studies at Cypress College. Initially, she pursued an education to become a registered nurse, but later reevaluated and realized she was most passionate about working for the government and enjoyed dance. She advocates for orphans and foster youth as the current Miss High Desert Hills, and earned her associate degree in political science and dance. She transferred to California State University, Long Beach in fall 2019.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Nigeria, Africa. I came to America when I was 12 years old. I am now graduating with my associate degree in political science and dance, which is a dream come true. This feels like the first step in achieving my goal of serving my community. I lived in La Palma, which is about 10 minutes away from Cypress. I graduated from John F. Kennedy High School. I am currently a Disney cast member, as well as the current Miss High Desert Hills.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College because it was close to home, as well as cheaper than four-year universities. I am transferring to California State University, Long Beach debt free because of financial aid. Cypress also has intimate class settings, as well as great professors who are always open and willing to help students however they can.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I started as a registered nursing major at Cypress; however, the more I took classes the more I realized it wasn’t for me. After that, I talked to a counselor to explore other options. Through all this, I took dance classes and I was a part of the dance concert every semester. I found that I was most passionate about working in the U.S. government, so I started the process to get my associate degree in political science, as well as dance.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I have the honor of being part of the Miss America Organization. I have been working as a local title holder on my platform which is “Until They All Have Homes: Advocating for Orphans/Foster Youths.” With this platform, I work with organizations like Olive Crest, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and Together We Rise to help foster children find loving homes and safe environments. I also do suitcase drives all over California to provide foster children with suitcases filled with toiletries, stuffed toys, books, and blankets. I am most passionate about my platform because I am also an orphan. I was adopted by my maternal grandmother and brought to America after I lost my parents at the age of 10. Unfortunately, the environment I was put in after I was adopted was highly toxic and abusive, so I know what it’s like to not have anyone to stand up for you. I am determined to make a difference in the lives of foster children.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Professor Maha Afra has been an amazing role model to me. She is one of the most caring and dedicated professors at Cypress College. Knowing my story and background, she always makes sure to ask about my health. She is always encouraging and gives me hope whenever I feel like giving up. Maha always asks after the well-being of her students and even has pillows in her office to make sure we have a safe space we can escape to. She goes above and beyond to make sure we are successful in our educations while we have healthy bodies and minds.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am transferring to the California State University, Long Beach for a bachelor’s degree in political science. After getting my bachelor’s degree, I would like to take the LSAT and go to law school.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My career ambition is to become a prosecutor at a district attorney’s office and eventually work in the U.S. Congress.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that I now live on my own, but I am still able to take care of myself and go to school to achieve my dreams. As an orphan, I have found my own family in my pageant sisters, my fellow cast members, my fellow dancers, and the amazing men and women who have helped me in one way or another. I pulled myself out of a toxic and abusive environment with the help of my aunt and all my supporters.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world. For current and future Cypress College students, my one advice is to never give up just because the road is hard. The path to success is not a short one. Learn from your mistakes, celebrate the little achievements and always remember you can achieve anything with discipline, optimism, resilience, and hard work.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If I can do it, you can too!

#CYProfessional: Gary Gopar, Music Department Chair

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessionals like Conn-Selmer Endorsed Artist and Music Department Chair Gary.

What was your path to Cypress?

I never had plans to make a career in teaching. I always wanted to be a great trumpet performer. While I was completing my master’s degree at California State University, Long Beach, however, I did work as a long-term substitute teacher at a middle school. That job helped me realize I never wanted to teach middle school again for the rest of my life. Soon afterward, I got my first college adjunct teaching job at Long Beach City College.

The euphoric rush of adrenaline, passion, and excitement that I feel when I perform was happening to me while I lectured to 45 students in a jazz history course. I was hooked. I immediately realized this was something I was supposed to be doing. I wanted to share my experiences, trials, and tribulations with students in regard to whatever subject matter I was teaching. I wanted college students to get real world knowledge from their instructor, just as I received from my favorite college instructors.

After two years at LBCC, I interviewed for an adjunct position at Cypress College. I taught many courses as an adjunct at Cypress, including directing the jazz big band, handling duties of a department chair (there were no full-time music faculty), plus organizing, directing, and performing in dozens of gigs for the college. This led me to be fortunate enough to interview and be hired as a full-time, tenured-track professor. Thankfully, I officially became tenured during this spring 2019 semester.

What inspires you as a teacher?

First are the professors I looked up to in my college career: Dr. Ray Briggs, Dr. Roger Hickman, and Dr. Michael Carney.

Second are the students who work hard in search of knowledge, better lives, and careers in something they are passionate about.

Third are the good deeds of others in my profession.

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/ creative work?

This is a never-ending battle. I try to find time each day to practice trumpet. This usually happens sometime between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. I have to keep the performance and creative side of my life going in order to stay balanced and happy. This gives me clout in the music business and with students. The problem with this is that it leaves almost no time for family and a personal life. Some may say that this is an exaggeration. My response to this is that my personal level of success has had a direct relationship to the amount of sacrifice I have been willing to accept to “make it” and continue to move forward.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

I am working on putting together a new course we are offering, MUS 114 – History of Hip-Hop/Rap. I am very excited about teaching this new class and I am certain many students will want to take it because of the popularity of this genre of music. I have a few other exciting things happening that combine education and performance, but it is too early to unveil them at this moment.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.

I feel like I am part of a family at Cypress College. I have made many meaningful relationships here and I look forward to driving to the campus each day. The students are why I strive to be the very best at my craft and continue to get better each semester. I chose to be a professor to help students become more successful than I have. Thank you for giving me this platform to share my love and passion for music and higher education.

#CYPossible: Fernando Rodriguez, Math

Fernando left Cypress College many years ago but credits the faculty here with making him who he is today. He has had a 14-year, award-winning teaching career. Fernando currently teaches math at Buena Park High School, where he was awarded the Buena Park High School Teacher of the Year award in 2014. He now inspires students to love mathematics, just as his Cypress instructors did for him.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I came from a low socioeconomic, farm-working family that immigrated to the United States from the state of Michoacan, Mexico. Both of my parents worked in the strawberry fields located in Orange County and Irvine. When the strawberry season was over, we would move to Northern California (Delano), and my parents would pick grapes and tomatoes. My parents would bring us to the fields to help them when we were young. Thus, at a very young age I knew what I did not want to do for the rest of my life. I am the second oldest out of five siblings and a “first generation” college graduate. I grew up in the city of Cypress and attended Mackey/King Elementary, Walker Junior High, and Kennedy High School. I was an English learner and school was difficult for me.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I decided to attend Cypress College because it was close to my home and I could walk there. Reading and writing were my weaknesses so I took more English classes than I needed to better my skills. My strength was in mathematics, so I took many math classes at Cypress College all the way up to Calculus 250A. I then transferred to California State University, Fullerton.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I was not involved in any sports or clubs while attending Cypress College. I had to work to pay for tuition. I paid my way through college, including my master’s degree. Among the staff members who helped mold who I am today were: my English teachers, Sandra Schaefer and John Weber; and my Math teachers David Petrie, Cindy Shrout, Minnie Allison, Larry Smith, and Christina Plett.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After pursuing my studies at Cypress College, I transferred to CSUF and majored in mathematics. Afterward, I enrolled into CSUF’s credential program and received my Single Subject Teaching Credential in Mathematics. I then came into the teaching profession and returned to CSUF and received a master’s in science. I am currently teaching Algebra I, Algebra II Honors, and AP-Calculus at Buena Park High School.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My wife, Rosa Monica, and I have two boys. Fernando is 15 years old and a ninth grader at Oxford Academy in Cypress; Daniel is finishing sixth grade, and will be attending Lexington Jr. High in Cypress. My long-term goals are to make both of my son’s education paths smoother than mine. I have always instilled the importance of education to my children from a very young age. Fernando is currently taking Calculus 150AC at Cypress College through the special admit program. When the time comes and is appropriate, Daniel will take classes at Cypress College, too.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about my job. I really enjoy teaching and working with the next generation. I’m a member and been a presenter of many mathematics committees including: California Mathematics Council (CMC), California Mathematics Council – South (CMC-S), and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my family and my accomplishments. I really enjoy my job and I go out of my way to reach all my students. In the 2014-2015 school year, I was named Buena Park High School Teacher of The Year; one week later, I was named Fullerton Joint Union High School District Teacher of The Year as well. My parents taught me and my siblings when we were young that “hard work would get you far.” I’m glad I listened to my parents and my college professors’ advice.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Neither my parents nor I understood the rules of the game. If I could do it all over again, I would take as many honors and AP classes through high school [as I could]. This would help me receive college credit and would allow me to accelerate.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

The advice I would give to current and future students at Cypress College is not to give up. Cypress College is an excellent place to mold your future. The staff is well prepared and very friendly and helpful.

#CYPossible: Young Lee, ESL

ESL student Young Lee had to change her life when her husband passed away. Faced with raising her daughter by herself, Young searched for a career path that could support the two of them. She also sought, after experiencing the tragedy of her husband’s pain and illness, work that would help her change the lives of others by strengthening their health. She ultimately chose Occupational Therapy — but to get there she had to fine tune her English skills. She turned to Cypress College’s ESL Program, and says it gave her a solid foundation for the next steps of her career. Here’s to taking many more steps to helping others, Young!

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and educated in Korea and moved to the United States in 2009 because my husband was assigned to the U.S. branch of his company in Korea. At that time, I was a wife and mother who supported my husband and took care of my daughter. That all changed in 2013 when my husband, who suffered through hepatic carcinoma, passed away six months after diagnosis. I had to work for regular income, but it was difficult to find a decent job in the United States as an adult immigrant; therefore, I enrolled in Cypress College to prepare for a better future career.

Once I became interested in the field of occupational therapy, I took prerequisites at Cypress College to apply for occupational therapy schools and got in Loma Linda University OT school this year.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

As a single mom who needed to take care of a young daughter, the main key to choose a college was the distance to commute between school and home. I, therefore, chose Cypress College because it was so close to my home. However, at that time, I wasn’t aware that attending Cypress College would give me an amazing chance to change my life for the better. Since I was a non-native English speaker who graduated high school and university in Korea a long time ago, taking ESL and math courses at Cypress College provided me with a solid foundation to prepare for the next steps of my academic career.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I want to especially thank Professor Kathryn Wada in ESL 185 who led me to the first step for the academic pathway in the United States. I started attending classes at Cypress College in 2015; meanwhile, there was a huge barrier that I had to face because I was a non-native English speaker. In ESL 185, however, I could learn the fundamental and essential elements and principals of reading, writing, and speaking in English. Also, the lessons through ESL class were a powerful and vital resource to take prerequisites for OT school. In addition, it helped my name be placed in the President’s Honor List of Cypress College in the Spring of 2016 and complete the 14 classes with a strong GPA of 3.95. With the continuous support and encouragements by Professor Wada, I have now achieved my current position, a graduate school student, which I couldn’t have ever imagined at that time.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

I have been able to successfully get into Loma Linda University’s OT school this year after I completed the OT program prerequisites at Cypress College.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

After the death of my husband, my view toward ailing and disabled people and their families changed dramatically. I previously lived to pursue only my own happiness and personal advantages but, now, my ultimate dream is to encourage people in need and help them to promote health and the quality of their lives.

Through the experience as a single mother and a volunteer who worked at a pediatric therapy clinic for nine months, I became interested in the early intervention of occupational therapy. I want to be an occupational therapist who has a professional knowledge base in the early intervention and work for the children who need improvement with therapeutic treatment.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

It has and always will be God and my daughter. Considering my painful experience, I might have given up on my life if I hadn’t had my faith in God. Faith encouraged me to endure the desperate situation and restore myself to have a willingness to live as a single mother. My daughter is the prime strong motivation that encourages me to pursue my academic path and professional career. Because I love my daughter and live with a great sense of responsibility for her, I can overcome immense obstacles of everyday life by myself. With her by my side, she continuously encourages and supports my dream whenever I become exhausted due to studies or work.

What are you most proud of?

As a first-generation immigrant who is not familiar with American culture and language, neither any experience with the academic programs in the United States before, I am proud of myself that I completed the whole academic process to get in a graduate school and got into an OT school eventually.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Honestly, I don’t want to do it all over again! However, if I do it again, I want to participate in classes actively. Because I was shy in front of classmates and concerned about my English pronunciation during team discussions in the classes, I couldn’t ask questions and share my opinion voluntarily. Even with my lack of abilities in English, I regret not taking many chances to talk to my classmates in the discussions.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

My main piece of advice would be for them to keep in mind that hardships that ordinary people often face will lead them to extraordinary opportunities if they work hard with perseverance. As I mentioned before, I was an ordinary wife and mother before; however, I had to endure the desperate situation that I faced to live a better life. If I did not have perseverance throughout my life and willingness for the better life, I would not have started to study at Cypress College, or I would have given up easily due to the academic and linguistic difficulties while I took classes. I believe my perseverance and willingness led me to the academic opportunity at Cypress College. Which in the end, provided me with an extraordinary chance to be an occupational therapist.

 

#CYPossible: Karina Vanessa Lopez, Business Administration

Karina recently attended Cypress College and majored in Business Administration, which she continues to study at Cal State Fullerton in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree. She wants to work as a Certified Public Accountant and eventually become a partner in an accounting firm. Although she’s finished her classes at Cypress, she is on campus weekly to help other students through her job in the Business and CIS Division. She knows that support can go a long way for students, and she’s glad to now be in the role to offer help, as others have helped her on her academic journey.



Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and raised in the small town of Mammoth Lakes in Northern California. While growing up, I participated in all kinds of sports and assumed leadership roles in soccer and basketball as team captain. I am a first-generation college student, and I’ve always aspired to achieve all my goals that I set my mind to. I enjoy outdoor recreation activities, especially hiking and taking my dog on my favorite trails.  I love spending time with family, especially because my time with them has been so limited ever since I moved away to pursue higher education.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

Cypress College was recommended to me by one of my cousins who had taken classes here in the past. After doing my research and finding out that it was one of the best community colleges in California, I decided to attend Cypress without even visiting the campus. I knew I wanted to continue my education after high school; however, I was not even sure what I wanted to major in. Economically, attending Cypress was an excellent choice.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I was involved in a few organizations on campus such as the Honors Program, EOPS, and Puente. These programs assisted me in the process of narrowing down my interest into choosing a major. The Puente Program in particular truly led me into meeting incredible individuals. Dr. Therese Mosqueda Ponce, with her well-established program, allowed me to take full advantage of the resources available to me. Stephanie Teer became my Puente Mentor, which changed my life in a way I could never have imagined.

Throughout the entire year in Puente, she and I worked on determining where I saw myself 10 years. We focused on building that picture and envisioned a plan on achieving my goals. I soon began working with her on campus in the development of the Dual Enrollment Program, which eventually led to working within the Business and CIS Division.

Having the opportunity to be a student and staff member allowed me to view both academic and professional perspectives. As a student I always felt supported by professors and staff members; however, being a staff member allowed me to see the drive and determination my co-workers had in the interest of the students we serve. They genuinely care about the success of the students; to them students are not just another number.

Henry Hua, Dean of Business and CIS, also made a huge impact in my life during my time at Cypress College. He has always challenged me to grow within the workplace and inspired me to be a better individual every day. He genuinely made me realize how much of a social impact one can truly make. I am extremely thankful to have met these individuals throughout my journey at Cypress College.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After Cypress College, I transferred to California State University, Fullerton. I am currently in my second semester there pursing a B.A. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. Because of the great experience I received at Cypress College from being involved, I joined the Latino Business and Student Association and Accounting Society. The opportunities that I was given at Cypress College allowed me to implement my leadership skills as the Vice President of the Institute of Internal Auditors for the Accounting Society this semester. This summer I was accepted for an internship at Deloitte.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to be?

My long-term goal is to become a Certified Public Accountant and eventually become a partner for an accounting firm.  I aspire to give back to students during their educational journey and encourage them the same way multiple individuals have done for me.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

My family. They have always been very important to me and I truly value every single one of them. There are always going to be setbacks, but being passionate about the value and pride I have for them is immeasurable. Whenever there are challenges that I face, they always help me remind myself of the motives behind all my efforts.

What are you most proud of?

Overcoming adversity. I could have easily stayed in my hometown and gone to community college there, but leaving and allowing myself to grow as an individual definitely contributed to who I am. I have taken risks and made sacrifices to pursue my dreams to become a Certified Public Accountant. Along the way I have learned lessons that will continue to help me further my education. I am proud of taking that first step in leaving my hometown.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would not change a thing. I have always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. As my mom always said to me growing up, “Ni antes ni despues, todo llega cuando tiene que llegar,” meaning not sooner nor later, everything comes when it is supposed to. Patience is key.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Get involved and utilize all your resources. This will open so many doors for you. Always remember to have a growth mindset because it will truly go a long way. There really is no rush in finishing up school or having to compete a task in a certain time frame. Take everything at your own pace and cherish the moment. Remember to take risks because if you don’t, you never know what could have been. Go for it because no matter how it ends, it was a valuable experience.

 

 

#CYProfessional: Robert Grantham, Business and CIS Division Counselor

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessionals like Counselor Robert.

What was your path to Cypress?

Born and raised in the UK, I came to the United States right after high school. I attended Fullerton College (FC), where I received my AA degree while working as a student hourly in the Admissions & Records and Bursar’s offices. I was hired as a classified member of staff in the Counseling Center at FC, and attended UC Irvine to complete a BA degree in English before working on my MSW at Cal State Long Beach. I became an adjunct counselor at FC, and was fortunate enough to be hired a year later at Cypress College as a full-time Outreach Counselor in the Admissions & Records office.

During the “5% MORE” years, I presented to high school seniors about the benefits and opportunities of attending CC after graduation, as well as planning the annual Senior Days (back when we still had duck pond races!) and Parent Nights. I served a three-year term as the Department Coordinator for the Counseling division early in my tenure here during the construction of the Student Center, and that afforded me the opportunity to participate in the planning and coordination, which I would not otherwise have been a part of.

I also inherited the handful of veteran students that we had on campus when a seasoned counselor retired, and moved over to Business/CIS as the counselor for that division. I was also able to assist Christy Davis (our certifying official) as we established a corner office in A&R as the first Veterans Resource Center on campus before securing space on the second floor of the Complex where it is currently located, and our veterans program then exploded.

As the other full-time Business/CIS counselor retired, I juggled the student loads of both the division and the VRC during the recession years which was certainly quite a challenge at times, to say the least. However, we were able to hire Juan Garcia as the full-time VRC counselor/coordinator two years ago, which has allowed me to concentrate my time in the Business/CIS division, although I still help out in the VRC once a week, and attend several of our veteran events on campus.

What inspires you as a counselor?

Seeing the professional growth of one of my counseling mentees has been one of my proudest moments here at CC. Juan Garcia was one of my veteran students and student hourly workers as he completed his AA degree at CC prior to transferring to complete both his BA and MSW degrees. He returned to us as an adjunct counselor, and we were able to steal him back from his full-time tenure track position at El Camino to take over the VRC for us. I often joke that I was fortunate to have been able to have “raised” Juan here at CC.

How do you balance your work as a counselor with your other professional/creative work?

I continue to teach COUN 140C each semester to our incoming freshman students, which allows me to balance office time with classroom time. And it is that “a-ha” moment when I see the students in my class understand how important career planning is when making a choice about their major, something I never did at their age, and something I tell them not to do themselves — “do as I say, not as I’ve done!”

I consider myself to be a true student advocate, and have “gone to bat” for students on many occasions when I feel that they have been caught up in the system and need our assistance navigating their way through the sometimes complicated maze of the higher education system.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.

I derive the most satisfaction from my job when disillusioned and confused students come in to my office for an appointment with a less than stellar academic history from a handful of other colleges, and I am able to show them how they can still achieve their transfer goal, getting them back on track, academically. Seeing their faces light up once we have created a clear education plan for them, class by class, is what continues to inspire me as a counselor. I have also practiced what I have been preaching to high school students over the years, as my own two children are now attending FC prior to transfer, and this has helped reaffirm what I do every day here at CC.

Although it doesn’t really seem possible, next year I will be celebrating my 30th year with the NOCCCD!

 

#CYProfessional: David Booze, Registrar, Office of Admissions and Records

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessionals like Registrar David.

What was your path to Cypress?

Well, I began my career in higher ed administration in the State University of New York system at Buffalo. After working there for several years, I came to a conference in Southern California, in April. In my hometown, it was snowing in April. I had family in San Diego who were trying to convince me for some time to move down there. On the last day of the conference, I was lying on the beach, where it was 80 degrees — at the beach, so you know it was a really, really warm day — and I thought about what I was going back to, in the snow… and I decided, “Yeah, I could get used to this.” And six months later, I was here.

Initially, when I was living here, I was finishing up my master’s thesis but also looking for employment at the same time. It just so happened that a couple of weeks after I submitted my thesis and was accepted for graduation, I found a job in the CSU system, with Cal State Dominguez Hills.

I was there for several years, then decided to take a position with Emory University, in Atlanta, from there I went to Savannah state, which is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Then, from there, I went to Spelman college, which is another HBCU — the premier HBCU. After that, I decided to make my way back to California because I missed all this sunshine and I love California — I love the vibe, the atmosphere. The thing that attracted me to California, other than the sunshine, was the diversity that can be found in this state. That was really, really attractive to me.

I worked for a professional school here for a few years but all the while I had my eye on the community college system here, because I believe in the mission of the CCC system, which is open access. I believe solidly that knowledge is power, and that education is a pathway — for my money, the best pathway — for building wealth and stability in communities, particularly those that have been marginalized. This opportunity came along and I threw my hat in the ring and, as they say, the rest is history.

What inspires you as a registrar?

Again, I believe that knowledge is power and that as we educate ourselves on whatever topics we have, that it changes us. It helps us become something different. It helps us see the world a different way, and to perhaps behave differently and to pursue or act out on things in a more productive manner.

Education quite literally saved my life — but that’s a story for another day. I lost my parents at a very young age. In my more formative years, I didn’t have the guidance and the wisdom of a parent. I did have a legal guardian but, you know, it’s not the same. As a younger man, I could have gone either way. Fortunately, I loved school. In high school, I couldn’t fathom missing a day; when I did, I felt that I really, really missed out on something. That’s been my attitude about education to this day.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?

Well I’m a doctoral student too, so my entire life is a balancing act. I have children — a 14-month-old — so it’s been difficult to balance those three personas. But we make it work, somehow or another. For the past three years, I’ve balanced it by cutting out sleep <laughs> but I hope to remedy that soon.

I’m in the doctoral program at Cal State Long Beach, getting my doctorate in educational leadership with an emphasis on California community colleges. The topic of my study is: “Improve or Perish: Making the Case for Enrollment Management.”

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

NO. Not at all.

Is There Any Other Information You’d Like to Share?

In terms of the profession and my role here, I really enjoy helping other people to be successful. I know that much of the work I do and am responsible for here goes unnoticed. People in the know know full well the relevance of the role of a registrar and the office of admissions and records and facilitating students’ education. Commencement season is my absolute favorite time of the year. I just love to walk around campus and see all the smiles on our graduates’ faces and the sense of accomplishment they have and the absolute joy that you observe in their family members and loved ones that come to see them walk across the stage. That just takes my breath away.

#CYProfessional: Deidre M. Porter, Counselor, Science Engineering and Mathematics Division

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Science, Engineering, and Math counselor Deidre.

What was your path to Cypress?

My path to Cypress College:  After graduating from UCI with my BA degree in Psychology, I began working at Golden West College (GWC) in 1989 as a Counselor Assistant/Transfer Center Coordinator. While working there full-time, I was able to complete my MA degree in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. In January of 1993, I accepted a part-time job in EOPS Counseling at Cypress College (CC). I was hired for the permanent EOPS Counselor position that same year.

What inspires you as a counselor?

What inspires me as an education facilitator is seeing the joy on students’ faces when they’ve achieved something they consider meaningful. Witnessing this still gives me goose bumps!  In addition, knowing that I am able to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives and their future generations keeps me energized and motivated.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?

I balance my work at Cypress College with other professional/creative work by surrounding myself with family, friends, and other like-minded people who share in my altruistic endeavors.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

Since completing my doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California, I have refocused my attention toward my next undertaking. I am currently finalizing my portfolio and project framework to begin my work as a consultant.

In my spare time, I love traveling to New York to visit my daughter who is completing her MFA in Cinematography at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.

#CYProfessional: Jane Jepson, Career & Technical Education Counselor

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Career & Technical Education counselor Jane.

What was your path to Cypress?

I always wanted to be in a helping profession, and after completing a BA in Sociology — and enjoying the educational experience — I discovered there was a career in helping students on college campuses! So I completed the MS Counseling in Student Development in Higher Education at CSULB while working there as an academic advisor in the College of Business. As part of the graduate degree requirements, I was fortunate to do a practicum (similar to an internship) at Cypress College, whereby I got to know Cypress, and the faculty and staff got to know me. Soon thereafter I was hired part time and eventually full time.

So my own experience is proof that internships, practicums, and the like are super important in a career pathway!

I’m like a kid in a candy store at our college; the variety of courses we offer is so enticing!  But while I don’t actually take too many courses here at this college, it’s a vicarious thrill to be journeying through the learning process alongside our students. I’d like to think I’m a bit of a role model for lifelong learning with well over 275 credits and four degrees in my educational vitae. The most recent — just in 2018 —  is a PhD in Social & Environmental Justice pedagogies. Thus, lifelong learning is one of my strongest values and I try to impart this value to my students.

What inspires you as a counselor?

Working with different students every day is challenging and rewarding because every student is unique — unique cultural and familial backgrounds and unique aspirations — and being entrusted with each student’s special goals and dreams is an honor and a privilege. Indeed, my inspiration to be an educator comes from the students themselves who are looking to me/us for support in their own journeys to gainful employment, wider horizons, and deeper understanding of the world and themselves through our courses, certificates, and degrees.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?

Balancing work, school, family, and other/community obligations is a challenge, and even with all my experience as a student and working professional, I have had to relearn the lesson of “finding balance.” “Time” really is a scarce commodity that we must budget as wisely as any important resource; we must make a conscious effort to use it for what is most important in our lives, whether it’s for study, for family, or even downtime for reflection.

One of the most effective means for finding balance is through “time management,” which is taught in the COUN 140 Educational Planning course. There are apps for time management/budgeting, but in the COUN 140 class we usually use pencil, paper, and a weekly calendar broken down by hours. We ask students to first block out all their obligations (e.g., class time, making dinner, work, etc.) and then fill in the remaining spaces with study time so that STUDY TIME is ON the calendar. Students quickly realize how essential budgeting, planning, and managing time is to their success.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

One of my current joys is teaching a course called “Cultural Tourism” which is ATC (Aviation & Travel Careers) 182. As a lover of travel and former employee in the travel industry, it is my great fortune to also impart the value (and privilege) of traveling to learn more about other ways of being and knowing in our shared world. Travel, i.e., experiencing different cultures and places, is an interactive dialogue. It is an opportunity to share our commonalities as humans and to learn to be respectful and embracing of our differences. So, more than learning about the most hip beaches or vacation hot spots, this course is about being a discerning traveler in appreciating authenticity and supporting sustainability measures, and valuing the beauty and wonder of both built and natural environments.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.

I love this college, and am grateful to be working here. We are all so fortunate to be living and working in such a great community of learners and journeyers. Ciao, !Salud! and “Buen Cypress!”

#CYProfessional: Jolena Grande, Professor, Mortuary Science

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Mortuary Science’s Jolena.

What was your path to Cypress?

When I left high school without graduating in 1987, I thought I was destined to spend my adult life in a series of dead-end jobs and no satisfying career options. During my freshman year in high school, however, I was able to enroll at a local community college and take evening courses with my mom, who was working on her associate degree while struggling as a single parent with limited employment advancement aspects. She repeatedly told my brother and me that she would get a raise if only she could finish her degree. It took her almost 25 years to accumulate enough units and pass “that math class” to finally walk across the stage during the Rancho Santiago College commencement decades later. One would think that witnessing how she struggled should have confirmed my commitment to doing as well as I could in high school, graduating with honors, getting a scholarship, and heading off to a university. Unfortunately, that’s not even close to my reality.

I was a dual-enrolled student during 9th and 10th grade, but began struggling to make sense of the high school experience. If it was meant to prepare us for post-secondary education like college, and I was already enrolled at Golden West and Coastline, why did I need high school? I often found that the best part of my school day was spent on the farm at Westminster High School. I had been exposed to vocational education in junior high shop classes, but it wasn’t until my older brother, Daniel, introduced me to the agriculture teacher, Norm Nakanishi, and the local Future Farmers of America chapter, that I began to understand how education and employment were intricately connected. I memorized the FFA motto, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve,” and began following this mantra in earnest. On my 16th birthday, I made the life-changing decision to leave high school behind to earn a living, attempting to ease my mom’s burden of supporting our five-person household and raising my younger brother.

I dreamed of one day attending law school, but was not on a clear educational path that would lead me there. In fact, I dabbled with coursework that appeared interesting in the schedule of classes, but was not at all focused.  That was until I started working at Westminster Memorial Park in 1988. At first, I worked in the flower shop, using the skills I learned in the Coastline Regional Occupational Program (CROP) floriculture classes held on the farm in the afternoons at Westminster High School. Eventually, I migrated over to the mortuary and learned about funeral service practice. There was an apprentice who took me under her wing and directed my interests in mortuary science to Cypress College. This is where my continuing journey at 9200 Valley View Street begins.

What inspires you as a teacher?

During my enrollment as a student at Cypress College, I was privileged to learn from amazing faculty and receive incredible mentoring from phenomenal staff. Without their support and understanding, there is no way that I would have ever finished my vocational certificate and associate degree, nor transferred to the University of Central Oklahoma for a baccalaureate degree. I had never considered teaching as a career option up to this point, but in 1994, on a return trip to Cypress College to visit former professors in the Mortuary Science Program, I was presented with “an offer I couldn’t refuse.” Robert Boettger, Doug Metz, and Byron Stout were three of the most influential faculty in my life up to this point and all three encouraged me to give back and help shape the future of funeral service practice. They coached and mentored me as I began teaching as an adjunct faculty member while working at local funeral homes in the evening, and eventually served on the hiring committee that selected me for a full-time position in 1999. From the first time I walked on campus almost thirty years ago, I felt like I was at home at 9200 Valley View Street. This is precisely the feeling that I try to share with new students coming to college immediately after high school graduation, or with the adult learners attempting coursework after spending time away from education, and with returning adults as they transition from one career to another or are in need of retraining.

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/creative work?

I am beyond fortunate to be able to find so much creativity and professional satisfaction in the work I accomplish at Cypress College. I continually strive to balance work on campus with other endeavors. Using the benefit of semester breaks, summer intersessions, and long holiday weekends, there are ample opportunities to pursue other passions, outside of the classroom. It is through my service on our campus Academic Senate, with District committees, and regional and state workgroups that I have found a way to enlarge my impact on career education and increase my commitment to the issues confronting California Community College faculty, staff, and students.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

The most defining moment of my career to date has been the ability to champion the inaugural community college baccalaureate degrees in California. Understanding the sacrifices that students must make when deciding to pursue higher education, including possible relocation to attend college, employment instability, and living on their own for the first time, in addition to the costs associated with enrollment, I was especially drawn to the promise of a “$10,000 bachelor degree” that was being championed by Senator Marty Block in 2014. When the Mortuary Science Program was selected to participate in the bachelor degree pilot program signed into statute by Governor Jerry Brown, I immediately realized how fortunate it is to be a part of this historical undertaking. In addition, Governor Brown recently appointed several new members, in which my name was included, to the California Community College Board of Governors, the overseers for the largest system of higher education in the country, serving over two million students annually. It is my hope that experience as a high school dual-enrolled, vocational student, community college transfer student, and career education faculty advocate, allows me to represent all the voices of those whom I am privileged to serve.

 

#CYPossible: Rick Richardson, Operations Manager at Marriott International

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Rick made a complete career about-face, after an accident left him unable to continue coaching tennis. He was encouraged to go into Hotel Management, and discovered he had a knack for the industry. A transfer to Cal Poly, enrollment in the Marriott International’s Voyage Development Program, and several steps up in his career, Rick now oversees housekeeping and engineering at Courtyard Anaheim Buena Park and has dreams for the future as well as appreciation for his past at Cypress College.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was raised in the Midwest. As a junior I played competitive tennis and as a young adult I taught professional tennis. I had my own tennis academy at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and was the head coach for the United States’ Tennis Association boys’ and girls’ 12’s National team, and won the National Clay Court Championship.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

In 2003, I suffered a freak and rare accident from a mere slip and fall. I had complete tears of both quadriceps, ruptured the right patella and complete rupture of the bottom three vertebrae (3, 4, and 5). After five surgeries and 7 years of extensive physical therapy, I was taught to walk again.

As part of the rehabilitation process, they try to find a way to integrate the patient back into society. Because I would never be able to play tennis again, it was suggested by a counselor that perhaps I try working in a hotel. Cypress [was one of only several junior colleges that] offered a hotel management program. On the day I enrolled, Lisa Clark happened to be visiting my counselor. The counselor introduced me to Lisa; she was so kind and welcoming and even though the classes were closed, she told me to apply and she would ensure I got in.

So that is where it began. Lisa taught me the essentials of becoming a hospitality professional. I remember her saying, “Rick, it is not what we do; it is who we are.”


What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I was Hospitality and Culinary Club Secretary and graduated from Cypress with a 4.0 in my discipline; having made the Dean’s list every semester except two, for which I made the President’s Honor Roll. In 2012 I received the Cypress College Scholarship Award from the Anaheim Orange County Hotel & Lodging Association.

As far as faculty, Lisa Clark, Chef Jeremy, Jeanette Jones, Chef Stephanie, Chef Tracy, and Jane Jepson—each of these played intricate roles in my professional development and helped shape who I would become as a hotel manager. All of whom I still keep in contact with and continue to seek mentorship and guidance.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

From Cypress I went to the Collins College at Cal Poly. Graduating within four years, I was at the top of my class and was admitted into Marriott International’s Voyage Development Program. I was placed as an Operations Voyager at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert. I was a third-generation Voyager and the program allots 12-18 months to complete. I became the first Voyager to ever complete the program in less than one year. This accomplishment, along with a few other highlights enabled me to be promoted after a year to Assistant Front Desk Manager. After two and a half years, I moved back to LA/Anaheim and took a position as Manager on Duty at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort. After one and a half years there, I came to the Courtyard Anaheim Buena Park where I currently am the Operations Manager over housekeeping and engineering.


What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to become a General Manager. It has always been my dream from the beginning to own and operate my own bed and breakfast hotel.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Creating unforgettable guest experiences. The feeling I get when I believe I have formulated an intimate connection with a guest and moved them in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

What are you most proud of?

In our industry, everything moves so quickly and you come across so many people; some nice, some not as nice. All these people ultimately have an effect on you, and many will be factors in your success and movement upwards. I am most proud that through it all, I believe I have never changed who I am or how people see me: a man of high character, principle, and integrity.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I have been very fortunate and truly blessed, accomplishing a good amount in a short span. I would not do anything different, but if I was much younger, I would take more chances.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Following my response to question eight—be more courageous and take chances. When you are younger, you do not have the ties that bind you, so to speak. Travel; take positions in other cities, states, even countries. Your path upward can move more swiftly if you are willing to move around. Be realistic, pragmatic because with anything you have to work and put in the time.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

In addition, widen your discipline. In the new world, the expectations are that the managers will be able to lead more than one department at a time.

#CYProfessional: Peter Maharaj, Manager, Academic Computing Technologies and Media Services

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional staff like Academic Computing manager Peter.

What was your path to Cypress?

There were three reasons that contributed to my Cypress College pathway:
1. Traffic
2. A bet
3. The opportunity to work with a leadership team seeking technology change

Traffic: Before my tenure here at Cypress College I worked as an IT Project Manager at Riverside College District overseeing their ERP and analytics applications and the commute was a miserable one. I’m not a fan of driving, nor sitting in traffic, so the opportunity to work at a college closer to home helps.

A Bet
: A colleague of mine challenged me during the application process for the job here at Cypress and being a tad competitive, I accepted the challenge and applied. One of the best decisions I’ve made and bets I’ve won. I’m able to leverage my technical, finance, and accounting knowledge, and operational experience to serve the campus community and our students.

The Opportunity: The fit was right, and my analysis and review of the college environment were attractive to me. Cypress College provided an opportunity for change which met the criteria of what I was seeking in a team, and administrators willing to embrace institutional change through technology. This change would improve services for faculty, staff and provide resources to the student body for successful completion of degrees, graduation, and transfer — a very attractive proposition and one I wanted to be part of to lend my knowledge and experience. Cypress Leadership team demonstrated factual, conceptual, procedural and metacognitive knowledge which were part of my scoring matrix on the institution. The opportunity aligned perfectly with what I am passionate about, and that is improving operations, having an astute eye to fiscal controls, and teaching and learning experience through technology.

What inspires you as an education facilitator?

People inspire me and seeing the ‘ah-ha’ moment is very rewarding when new information is conveyed, and I could address a problem and provide a successful working solution. The contributions we make as education facilitators have a profound impact on those we serve and nurtures the growth and development of the individual to accomplish their goals.

I am also very passionate about connecting different aspects of operations, cost controls, improving efficiencies, process development, and integrating technology within the fabric of the organization. Makes coming to work fun.

How do you balance your work at Cypress with your other professional/creative work?

A difficult question to answer because I don’t think I have the perfect plan for the work/life balance. I try my best to take Saturdays off to ride my bike and connect with my friends for a mental reset. Conversations and being out on the bike help clear the ‘cobwebs’ and align my thought patterns for current projects or improvements to operations. Additionally, I travel quite a bit to Asia to lecture on economics, trade (ASEAN), supply chain operations, artificial intelligence, and finance which adds a unique perspective to what I can use and apply at my current job. It’s like grinding new lenses and seeing how other industries are using technology for process improvement, connecting the workforce, fiscal controls, and improving the user experience — valuable for innovation and improvement.

Creativity comprises of observations within the environment, art, communication and the value of the human disposition. An example is the launch of the Cypress Connect mobile application in August ’18 and collaboration between the Fine Arts Department and our basketball team. The beauty in the movement of the dancers, to the rhythm of the basketballs, created the metaphor of synchronicity and provided the platform the technology is seeking to achieve, and that is to help create the connection to college resources and moving the user through the process, favorably, to be successful here at the college and their academic journey.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

I am quite busy with several projects for the college, including the new college website, mobile application improvements, and other operational projects for the college. Also, we are introducing an innovation competition in the spring semester and are about to embark on a marketing campaign together with the Office of Campus Communications.

Other personal projects include the completion of my doctoral degree at USC, which consumes the balance of my free time.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.

A common question I get asked is, “Where are you from?” and followed by a second part, “Are you from India? Your accent is different.” I politely share that I’m from Trinidad and Tobago, the most southernly isle in the Caribbean and yes, the accent is a ‘sing-song’ one with broken English.

In a previous role, I served the U.S. Military with the expansion of education services for all branches and had the opportunity to support active duty, spouses, and senior commanders on bases throughout the U.S. and Hawaii. A fun job and sparked my interest in business development, fiscal management trend analysis, and digital marketing to reach the customer and operation decisions.

My answers above are focused on work, but I do have a life outside the office. I enjoy coaching and managing athletes in the sport of track cycling. I represented my native Trinidad and Tobago at the London 2012 Olympic Games and continue to support aspiring athletes in the sport. My last major role was overseeing the Colorado Cyclones. Truly a fun event and opportunity. I am also actively involved in raising funding for cancer research at the University of California, Irvine, and ride to raise awareness.

Being part of something bigger than yourself feels pretty awesome. Be part of something good. Taking a small step forward to help others… Loyalty. Dedication. Positive Mindset. Always fight on.

#CYPossible: Katy Straughn, Aviation and Travel Careers

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Katy is a familiar face on campus. She not only studied for her A.S. in Travel and Tourism with an Advanced Flight Attendant Certificate at Cypress, but she is also an adjunct professor here at the college. Away from Cypress, she works full time as a flight attendant with United Airlines since 2012.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I was born in Long Beach, but I grew up In Cypress. I went to Cypress High School and Cypress College. I have a lot of interests and am always open to try new things. Sports are a big part of my life. Soccer has always been my passion; I have played my entire life. You can also find me watching Sunday football; I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. I love the outdoors, going on hikes, and being active. I am really into fitness and working out. I love going to Lake Havasu—that’s home away from home for me. When I am not working either of the two jobs I currently have, you can find me doing one of those activities.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?
I chose to come to Cypress College because of their Aviation program; being close to my house was also a bonus. I knew before I graduated high school that being a flight attendant was what I wanted to do. I owe everything I have accomplished to this day, to Cypress College Aviation & Travel Careers Program. I am so thankful to have Kathleen Reiland and Kathy March on my team. They have supported me through every decision I have made since I started the program at 17 years old. I participated in all the networking activities that they set up for us students and took advantage of all the volunteer activities as well. My love for travel has grown tremendously through the program and allowed me to confirm that being a flight attendant was what I wanted to do. Now that I am an adjunct professor at Cypress College, I am proud to say that I work alongside some pretty amazing people who share the same passion for travel as I do.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?
After I graduated at Cypress, I interviewed with multiple different airlines, landing a job with Continental in 2012. They were going through the start of their merger with United Airlines, which is not finalized. A couple of years later, I decided to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree and chose to attend Cal State Los Angeles because of their Aviation program as well. I finished in exactly two years, graduating May of 2017.

My degree in aviation administration, with a minor in operations and supply chain management, has opened the door to many opportunities within the industry that I can achieve. I took a position as an adjunct professor at Cypress College, teaching courses within the Flight Attendant Certificate. I believe in this program, what it stands for, and what the staff does for their students to help them achieve their goals and be successful in the industry.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
I don’t see myself ever leaving the aviation industry. If I were to change directions I would move into something involving accident investigations with the National Travel Safety Board.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
Travel. I am someone who has been around the world, and I can’t express how important it is to learn new cultures and embrace all the beauty we have in this world. The world is such a small place and it will make you richer within. Knowledge is power and I believe traveling and experiencing new things and places is a great way to learn and appreciate what we ourselves have.

What are you most proud of?
I am proud of myself for making the decision to go back to finish school. I know a lot of people are not fortunate enough to make that happen, but I have a great support system of family and friends and they helped me to make that possible. I am proud that I set a goal and I accomplished it.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Absolutely nothing. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I needed all the highs and lows that I went through to bring me right where I am today in life. I couldn’t be happier and prouder of how my life plan fell and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. This is just the beginning.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
Patience. Hard work always pays off. Keep going. Everyone’s journey is going to be different and you should never compare yourself to someone else or how their journey is panning out or even how we as society think young adults should live their lives these days. Focus on you; keep true to yourself.

#CYProfessional: Juan Garcia, Counselor, Veterans Resource Center

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Veterans Resource Center counselor Juan.

What was your path to Cypress?
When I was discharged from the Marine Corps in 2008, I came back home and Cypress was the closest college and decided to begin in the spring of 2009. During my time as a student at Cypress I was a work-study for the VRC and found my passion working with the veteran population. My vocational goal at the time was to end up working at the VA in Long Beach as a social worker and I somehow ended up getting an adjunct position in the VRC and decided to pursue an academic counseling position instead of working at Long Beach.

What inspires you as a counselor?
I enjoy being the veterans counselor because I understand the challenges many returning veterans encounter when they return to college and I use my experience to help them overcome the obstacles along the way.

How do you balance your work as a counselor with your other professional/creative work?
The support that I receive from Dr. Rams allows me to juggle my counselor/coordinator/instructor position to provide holistic support services for our student veteran population within the VRC, counseling setting, and in the classroom. I enjoy what I do and I am very fortunate to be a part of the Cypress College family.

#CYProfessional: Michael Coronado, Instructor, Journalism

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Journalism instructor Michael.

What was your path to Cypress?
For two decades I worked as a professional journalist at The Orange County Register and The Press-Enterprise, first as a staff writer, then later as an editor. As a reporter I covered military affairs, the prison system, city and county government, and various beats. In 2003, I reported from Iraq as a war correspondent for nearly two months. In 2013, I was appointed editor of The Press-Enterprise, overseeing nearly 80 journalists at the Inland Empire’s largest news-gathering organization. I had the opportunity to teach part time in 2013 at OCC, and in 2016 discovered an opportunity to teach full time at Cypress.

Courtesy of The Press-Enterprise/David Bauman

What inspires you as a teacher?
I get inspired by students who learn about journalism and media in-depth for the first time and a light goes off. They realize that asking the right questions in today’s connected world is vital to understanding facts. I get inspired by students who understand why a free press is so important to our democracy. I get to talk about these things every day—and they pay me! How cool is that?

Courtesy of The Press-Enterprise/David Bauman

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/creative work?
My family keeps me busy. Along with my wife, Amanda, my family consists of our two girls, Gabriella, 6, and Alessandra, 3. Much of my career has revolved around journalism, learning, and teaching, so I’ve had to get used to figuring out a good balance, but it’s worked out pretty well.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

Our student newsroom in November put out its first edition of the Cypress Chronicle newspaper in many years. It’s great that we have the student voice back on campus. Now, we’re working on rebuilding our existing digital news platforms while creating new ways of telling stories and expanding our class offerings. In Spring, I recruited Michael Goulding, one of the finest photojournalists in California, to teach visual journalism and photography alongside our newsroom staff. I want to build the finest journalism program in the community college system and that will take time but it’s a lot of fun. Our student newsroom is a blast to be around. If you want to join us, sign up for JOUR 225.

#CYProfessional: Maha Afra, Department Chair, Instructor, Dance

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Maha.

What was your path to Cypress?

I found out there is something called a dance major by pure coincidence. I was taking a ballet class and one of the students said, “I’m getting my MFA in dance.” And I said, “What?” I asked the teacher, and she said, “Oh, yeah; she’s a dance major.” I looked it up – and it exists!

I graduated from UC Irvine in 2001. That was my second schooling. I changed majors; I went from science to dance because I didn’t know there was a dance major. Once I found out there was a dance major I went back and got my BA, then my MFA, in dance.

In February 2002, I got a part-time gig at Fullerton College where I was teaching one course. It was “Stretch and Relaxation.” I’ll never forget, I taught in the faculty dining room, where we had to move all the tables and chairs and there was a carpet on the floor where we had to remove all the crumbs.

That was my first gig with the North Orange County Community College District. My colleague who used to work there moved here, and she brought me as a part-timer. I don’t remember what year, but I think in 2004 and I became an adjunct here, and at Fullerton… and at seven places. I used to teach in one semester in seven colleges.

In 2009 I became interim, and then I got the full-time job in 2010. After I got my tenure four years later, I became the chair of this department.

What inspires you as a teacher?

A lot of things. The human beings you work with in the classroom. These are people whom we as teachers have the ability to make a difference in their life – in a good way and in a bad way, so, hopefully in a good way.

Also, our current students are my heroes. I get inspired by them. They work, many of them, full time; many of them more than one job. So many of them have children, so many of them are single parents. So many of them support their families and they come to school, too. Many of them don’t have a car; they have to take the bus. So this is what inspires me. I look in awe at them – how could you not? How could you be bored in this job, looking at these human beings every day, struggling and still trying to make it?

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/creative work?

<laughs>Well, it’s a big challenge. Basically, I’m grateful for one thing that’s within me, which I got from my parents: discipline. I am a very disciplined person. I try to use my time very efficiently without wasting time on things that don’t add value to life – not only my life but other people’s lives.

So far, I’ve been lucky to balance a big responsibility here, and the responsibilities I choose to be in. Plus I have my own dance company outside of here which is a non-profit. Plus, I have my family; I have three grown kids, and I have to see them every week.

The price I’ve had to pay is in my social life. I used to have an amazing social life – having time to go out dancing. Just to dance! I haven’t had that privilege anymore. I used to see my friends more often, now I don’t have time; I don’t have time to have a luxurious lunch somewhere or visit somebody. This is where I’ve had to sacrifice.

But it’s OK. Nothing is perfect. Everything has a price. We all have to choose what price to pay. I believe in not only being involved in the department or the division, we all are a community and if we don’t get involved, how do we call it our college? We need to get unified; we need to work together to make it one. If there’s no sense of community what’s the point?

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

At the moment, this is crunch time for the concert Celebration of Dance. We’ve been working really, really hard since the beginning of the semester. People don’t know how much time and energy and effort and pain of not only the students but the choreographers. This semester, we have faculty choreographers and we have student choreographers and designers… It’s really tons of work, and you can’t count time. You can’t say “Oh, it’s time to leave!” No, when you need to stay, you have to stay.

We put in so many hours on nights and weekends. Tech day is Saturday – 8 in the morning to 8 at night. After that it’s Hell Week, where we’re here at night, and we have to be here and make it happen. Then the gods of theater and dance bring it together and hopefully give people good energy, give them hope, give them diversity, which is very important, I’m big on diversity, and give them beauty. But that doesn’t happen automatically.

The slots for guest artists are being filled by the dance ensemble. This is the company that represents Cypress College on and off campus. That’s what I’m busy with, and also getting ready for a American College Dance Association conference and getting ready to go there. It’s only once a year, where universities and colleges get together for master classes and to look at each other’s work.

Always busy – and grateful.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.

Please come see our concert! This concert is you – this is Cypress College. Please come celebrate what we have at Cypress College. We’re offering a special price for groups of eight or more: $5 a ticket. This is, like, less than a burger and fries. We are happy to put their names at the box office and they will get that deal. Hopefully the whole community will come here and be proud of what we have. We have a strong visual arts and performing arts program.

Part of the Celebration of Dance is collaborative work between the students of Media Arts Design and the Music students. The students don’t know each other and they didn’t even talk to each other while they were making their projects. So, it’s like a collaboration that’s blind. Artistic freedom coming together in one space.

We have two main performances: November 29, 30, and December 1 at 7 pm, then another one at December 2 at 4 pm. December 3 we have a choreographers’ showcase, where we will have the dance classes showcasing what they did during the semester.

Oh, and on December 4, the dance ensemble will be doing a special performance for the Mortuary Science program. This is, like, oh my gosh, my heart… The department gets bodies donated to them and these bodies – these humans – have nobody to bury them and honor them, so they’re doing a special ceremony to honor them. The dance ensemble is doing a performance to honor these angels who have helped our education.

Ed. – For Celebration of Dance information, including tickets, click here.

 

#CYProfessional: Kathleen Troy, Department Coordinator, Instructor, Management & Marketing

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Kathleen.

What was your path to Cypress?

I started as an adjunct in 1988, and was hired full time in 2014. I’m possibly the longest running adjunct. I knew Cypress was a really good school, I loved teaching here, and I wanted to be full time.

Prior to working at Cypress, I taught for the University of Redlands’ accelerated graduate and undergraduate program as a dissertation advisor. And more – I was Director of Education for the Archdiocese in Los Angeles, I worked as a criminal defense attorney, and I worked on Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. It’s a lot.

What inspires you as a teacher?

You know, it’s really fun. I‘ve had lots of corporate jobs, and I hated all of them. My students are all really smart. I’m with smart people every day. How many people can say that about their work environment?

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/creative work?

It’s really tough. I own two other businesses.

I’ve owned a design business, since 1991, that designs anything in the home – libraries, kitchens, etc. It’s a small company; I have 11 employees.

And I own a winery with three other people in Paso Robles. I do all the legal work – marketing, sales, and legal. It’s a beautiful area.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

Yes! I write children’s books. Young adults, for boys 13-15, and am working on a series. It’s about a down-and-out con artist who’s 15 and his life isn’t going too well.

I also train service dogs. Right now I have a Cocker Spaniel, Dylan, who goes to hospice. He’s so darn cute, he gets a lot of mileage out of it.

#CYProfessional: Ed Valdez, Aviation and Travel Careers Professor

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Ed, department coordinator for Aviation and Travel Careers.

What was your path to Cypress?
It was a furlough from United Airlines, where I was a pilot. It was a not so good situation that became very good. I began teaching at OCC, and was an associate professor with them. I came to Cypress for more work, and was hired full time.

My path was losing my job and therefore utilizing my preparation and background and experience. I was referred to by another professor. That’s how I came here.

What inspires you as a teacher?
I really love to help people out. When I was a boy, no one knew how to direct me. I had to find my own way to get here and that kind of drives me to helping people reach their goals. I found that I enjoyed teaching, although I never had planned on it.

By becoming a pilot, you become a mentor to other pilots to help them gain experience. Being a flight instructor is one way to get experience. I found I enjoyed teaching. I look at it as painting a picture in people’s mind. I tried to bring the flying into the classroom.

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/creative work?
Planning, looking ahead, and trying to stay ahead. I am constantly looking for a better tool for planning all the projects I have, and so I’m very carefully looking ahead to scheduling what I do into their prospective categories, primarily with aviation.

I still introduce people to flying, taking students up and showing them. I’m creating video and audio material for students to get my teachings in addition to classroom time.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?
To further enhance training material, we got the new simulator room up and running recently. Students can learn on the ground in our simulators and be much more proficient when they get in the air. Also, I’m coordinating a flight training provider. They provide aircraft and instructors to help students learn.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.
I love sharing the love of flying and how it can be an excellent career for anyone who has a similar passion. One good thing is that I bring a lot of experience with major airlines, commuter airlines, supplemental airlines, and corporate aviation, charter aviation – many facets of aviation. I’ve worked on a ramp loading bags, familiar with those operations, I work with flight attendants, and cargo and prop planes. That has helped me bring the leading operating procedures and so forth to the classroom, so our students can be well prepared for the industry.

When life brings you a crash situation, make your crash site a launch pad. If it seems like it’s done and over with, you can use that experience to become better. I wouldn’t be at the college if I hadn’t been furloughed.

#CYProfessional: Katalin Angelov, Media Arts Design Professor

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Katalin.

What was your path to Cypress?
I graduated with an MFA in digital arts from USC. After graduation I taught at different colleges, starting in 2003. My courses focus on digital technology, and my classes range from 2D animation, storyboarding and motion graphics. I came to Cypress College in 2015 as a part-time instructor teaching twice a week at the Media Arts and Design department. I was very fortunate that a full-time, tenure-track position opened up the next year and I was hired.

What inspires you as a teacher?
Mainly, my students inspire me. Their success and growth gives me enthusiasm for what I do every day. Making a difference and impacting someone on a daily basis is amazing.

How do you balance your work as an instructor with your other professional/creative work?
It’s very difficult not to bring work home and focus on different things in life. I am involved in a professional volunteer-based organization and spend time with my fellow animation professors by organizing forums and symposiums. I also carve out some time to do my personal art during my free time. I usually involve my daughter in this because she is also interested in drawing and design. This way we can spend time together in a meaningful way and still get work accomplished.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?
I am not working on anything personal, however, that is because I am currently developing a new area of study at Cypress College, and learning how to use the tools and programs related to it is my main focus. This new area of study is called projection mapping. While the name sounds quite strange, projection mapping is a cutting edge technology which is the future of entertainment. It’s the art of projecting visuals onto architectural spaces and surfaces.

To explain it better: if you have ever seen the castle at Disneyland at night – the way they bring it to life is by using projection mapping. It’s used in theater production, live entertainment and in many more fields. I would like to add that Cypress College is the first community college that will offer classes in this area of study in the United States. We really are No.1! The first class is scheduled in Spring 2019 and I am very excited for what experiences and opportunities it will bring to our learning community.

#CYPossible: Kourosh Shirazi, Automotive Technology

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Kourosh Shirazi

Kourosh (who also goes by Cyrus) made a 180-degree turn in his career path when he decided to pursue his love of working on cars and study automotive technology. Cypress offered a state-of-the-art facility where he could gain hands-on experience; the T-TEN program here enabled him to access a career. Now he’s working at Lexus Santa Monica, happy that he changed gears after almost a decade of going off course.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Orange County; however my family immigrated to the United States. We came from the third world as a family of famers. My father was a large advocate of doing things yourself. He was constantly purchasing DIY books and we would work together doing various projects around the house and work. From a young age, my parents instilled the lesson that to attain any means of success equates to hard work. It has been an arduous journey ever since. I have always held a passion for the automotive industry, but due to personal circumstances, I’ve had to put my ambitions on hold in means of duty to the family. After 10 years, I have changed gears and started pursuing a career that always held my interests.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I came across Cypress College through a referral from a close friend back in 2008. I recall Luis showing me around and being impressed at how well equipped the shop was. When I decided to go back to school, Cypress College was one of the first places in mind. I feel lucky to have returned at a time T-TEN is available. Being a part of this program helped me find employment.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

The biggest influences lie upon Mike Klyde and Paul Kelley. The support and dedication that these two invest into T-TEN and the students is amazing. They helped guide me at every step of the way.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

My goal was to find a dealership where the environment was best suited to the type of person I am. Going through the T-TEN program, Mike Klyde and Paul Kelley were able to ascertain my skill set and work ethic and match that to a dealership of their recommendation. I placed my faith upon their assessment and now find myself at Lexus Santa Monica, working with one of the best dealerships in the area.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to establish myself within the industry. It would be nice to one day leave the dealership, but become a part of Lexus corporate.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I find myself very passionate towards the automotive industry as a whole. Working in this industry has been rewarding and satisfying.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud to be a part of T-TEN. There are others in my cohort that are exceptional technicians and show strengths in areas where I know I am weak. The camaraderie shared as we journeyed through while supporting one another is a memory I hold dear.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have to say nothing. The program and support provided by Mike Klyde and Paul Kelley is exceptional. They are veterans in preparing individuals with the determination to succeed.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Work hard and maintain a positive attitude. These past two years have been a constant six days of work with 4-hour nights. If you wish to achieve any means of success in life, you must work hard. There are no easy shortcuts or lucky breaks.

#CYPossible: Mary Eng, Kinesiology & Radiologic Technology

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Mary Eng


Mary comes from a large family that holds education in high regard. She passed the California High School Proficiency exam at age 14 and was ready to start on her college journey and join her two older sisters who were enrolled at Cypress College. Mary gravitated toward radiologic technology; she’d visited X-ray technicians as a child when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, and wanted to help others. The diagnosis also led her to try out swimming, which opened up a lifelong love of the sport and brought her to a spot on the Cypress College swim team.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I am the fourth of 10 children, all born and raised here in Orange County. I was homeschooled until age 14 when I took the California High School Proficiency Exam and enrolled at Cypress College. Studying hard and doing well in school has always been very important in my family. My parents wanted my siblings and me to be able to graduate from the homeschool with enough skills to meet the real world and be successful. The skills I gained from being homeschooled, such as learning on your own and self-motivating, have helped me to be successful at Cypress College.

When I was 11 years old I learned that I had scoliosis. Because of that, I had my first introduction to radiology through regular visits to get X-rays. Having scoliosis also got me into swimming. Soon after learning I had scoliosis, I joined a club swim team. All of these experiences helped lead me to Cypress College.

If I’m not busy working or studying, I enjoy playing the flute, ringing handbells in our family musical group, going thrift-store shopping, or doing one of my many artistic hobbies such as calligraphy, card-making, or painting.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I chose to attend Cypress College for several reasons. One reason was that my two older sisters were also attending Cypress College at the time and I enjoy doing things with my sisters. Another motivation for me was the opportunity to join the Cypress College swim team. I had enjoyed swimming on a club team for a few years and when I saw how welcoming the Cypress college swim team was I knew I wanted to be part of the team. In addition, Cypress College was an excellent economical choice for my family and me. I knew that by attending Cypress College I would be getting a good education without a large student debt. Furthermore, the radiologic technology program at Cypress College is one of the highest regarded in the area as well as having the most straightforward admission process into the program. At the time I applied for the program, it was necessary to have A’s in the prerequisite courses, but there was no waiting list. I knew that if I wanted to be radiologic technologist I needed to be at Cypress College.

The reputation of Cypress College and the quality of the training I received in the Radiologic Technology program has enabled me to be in my current job. Even though I have less than one year of experience in the field, I now work as the only X-ray tech of a fairly busy out-patient center. Without the strong foundations in positioning and patient care I received at Cypress College, I do not think I would have been qualified for or given this job.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

Having started College so young, I had plenty of time to do other things at Cypress College besides pursuing my goal of becoming a radiologic technologist. I was a part of the Cypress College swim team for three years. This was very good for me in several ways. Although it was a lot of work to attend daily practices and gym sessions while being a full-time student and keeping up my 4.0 GPA, I believe this helped prepare me for the rigors of the radiologic technology program. Also, because the radiologic technology program is so highly regarded, the prerequisite classes were often impacted, making it difficult for students to take them. I avoided this problem because I received priority registration as a student athlete.

The first degree I earned from Cypress College was in Physical Education. Many of the classes I took for the degree overlapped with those I needed for general education and I enjoyed taking the classes. Physical education was not something I considered a career in but I liked learning about it since I had not encountered it in the homeschool. Also, since I was on the swim team, much of the information was very applicable to me. Because of my interest in physical education, I helped start a kinesiology club with a small group of other students, which included one of my younger sisters.

After completing my years of eligibility with the Cypress College swim team and graduating with high honors in Physical Education, I was 17 — old enough to apply for the Radiologic Technology program. I learned so much about life and myself through my classmates, my teachers, and my experiences in the program.

There are so many faculty and staff who have been instrumental in helping me be a successful graduate of Cypress College

• Coaches Larry, Denise, Pavielle, and Rick who motivated me to push myself and made the Cypress College swim team such a great team to be a part of. I had so much fun being part of the team and have so many wonderful memories. I wasn’t the best swimmer but they were always encouraging me and I learned a lot from my experiences on the team.

• My instructors in the Radiologic Technology program who prepared me so well to be in the workforce and continue to be there for me to ask questions:

o Laura Grieco, the former clinical coordinator for the Radiologic Technology program. I took my first prerequisite class, medical terminology, with her and learned so much. She encouraged me to study hard because I would need good study skills to survive in the Radiologic Technology program. She got to know my whole family and was very helpful when I was preparing for my journey toward radiologic technology.

o Lynn Mitts, the program director. She is such a sweet person and works so hard to make sure all students of the program have the chance to be the most successful version of themselves. She made an effort to listen to students and to accommodate their needs so they could achieve.

o Dr. Michael Frianeza, who teaches many of the classes. He made the effort to communicate well with his students and was very understanding. He was always willing to say a good word about someone or write letters of recommendation.

o Barry Siegel, the clinical coordinator. He made himself readily available if I needed help or advice. His tireless efforts to make sure I thoroughly understood all the necessary clinical knowledge and radiographic positioning have served me well now that I am working on my own.

• Katherine Fehr, my anatomy professor,encouraged me to reach higher and helped me create my first resume. I truly enjoyed her anatomy class and the excellence she demanded in her class greatly benefited me once I started the Radiologic Technology program.

• Becky Rojas from Associated Students and Coach Margaret Mohr offered wisdom and guidance when I was helping to get the kinesiology club started. Although my time with the club was very short, I learned a lot about how to organize and administrate something.

Last but not least, I am so grateful to everyone who donates to and administrates the Cypress College Scholarship Foundation. I received several scholarships which assisted me to become what I am today. The annual scholarship ceremonies were one of the highlights of my time at Cypress College for both me and my family.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

Soon after graduating from Cypress College, I started my first job working for RadNet as a per-diem radiologic technologist. I was also given the opportunity to begin working on an additional certification in bone densitometry. Five months later, I began working full-time and training in computed tomography. Now, I am continuing to work full-time and am studying to pass the registries for computed tomography and bone densitometry.

It’s been a bit of an adjustment from being a student for so long to having a regular job and money to spend. I’ve also realized how much more responsibility I have in my work and how much it matters that I am a good radiologic technologist. Nevertheless, I am enjoying this new phase of life and am excited to see what happens next.


What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Once I complete my additional certifications in CT and DEXA, I hope to use my skills to help others by going on medical missions. By going on medical missions, I would experience the fun of traveling while using my skills to show love to those less fortunate than I. No matter where I end up working or traveling to, I hope to be the best technologist I can and to constantly be learning.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I want to use the knowledge, wisdom, and love that I have been given to bless the lives of others. I have been blessed with so much for a reason — to bring the good news of love to those around the world.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Don’t think you have to do everything alone. Ask questions and let people help you. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you are reaching too high. No one is too young or old to achieve great things.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

My family has been an unwavering source of support and encouragement. I could not have made it to where I am now without them.

I want to thank all my classmates from the Radiologic Technology program class of 2017. I made some great friends, and making it through the program was so much easier with all of them alongside me.

#CYPROUD: Sarah Brazer, Culinary Arts

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Sarah Brazer

Sarah is a culinary arts major who is looking forward to entering the hospitality industry following her graduation from Cypress College. Interested in the arts from a young age, Sarah initially pursued music education after finishing high school, but later realized that it wasn’t the direction she wanted to go. After taking a semester to consider her options, she decided to pursue the culinary arts because “giving someone a meal that is uniquely theirs is extremely rewarding.”

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

All throughout my life, I’ve always been interested in the arts. I grew up singing in choir, performing in theater, reading anything I could find, and cooking whenever my parents weren’t home. I began my educational journey at Orange Coast College as a music education major. That seemed to be the natural path for me, as singing had formed so much of the tapestry of my life thus far. Several years into the program, however, I was faced with the realization that this wasn’t the direction I wanted my life to take. After much consideration, I decided I wanted to use my creativity to provide a service to other people. I remembered that I’d always loved cooking, but it was kind of a long-buried interest. I took a semester off to do some experimenting, and decided this was really where I needed to be.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

At first, I chose Cypress College for geographical reasons. I’d recently moved, and it was closer to my new home than Orange Coast. I soon discovered that there was so much more to it than that. I immediately noticed the welcoming atmosphere. I quickly found out that the Hotel, Restaurant, Culinary Arts program would give me all of the skills and practical knowledge I needed to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. I was also impressed with how accommodating the Disability Support Services were. They always ensured that I had everything I needed to be successful in all of my studies.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I’ve mostly gotten involved through opportunities given by the Hotel, Restaurant, Culinary Arts program. Every Thursday, the students operate the Cypress Bistro. First, I had the opportunity to participate in the American Regional Cuisines class. This class cooks for the bistro, and as a final project, the students have the opportunity to make a dish of their own to be served at the bistro. The dish I made was chicken avocado egg rolls. My next opportunity to be involved in Cypress Bistro was the Restaurant Management class. This is the class that serves and manages the restaurant. Here, I was able to gain experience serving as well as filling some management roles, such as special event captain and general manager. I also got the opportunity to work with a team to design tables, menus, and a specialty beverage for a showcase project. Most recently, I’ve gotten to participate in hosting a career fair as a project for the Special Event Management class. I was also given the opportunity to work as a volunteer in the kitchen alongside one of the chefs.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I discovered my passion through a volunteer opportunity provided by my church. They have a ministry where volunteers can provide meals for people going through a difficult period. I found it greatly fulfilling to use their list of dietary restrictions and preferences to create a meal specifically for them. Giving someone a meal that is uniquely theirs is extremely rewarding, and I’ve been grateful for each opportunity I’ve gotten to participate in this ministry.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I’ve been grateful to be able to work with each member of the Hotel, Restaurant, Culinary Arts staff. Professor Lisa Clark has been particularly influential. She gave me the tools I need to move forward with finding work in the industry. Another influential member of staff has been Chef Tracy Heine. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work individually with her and have gained so many valuable skills through that experience. Both of these individuals have been instrumental in shaping my education. They’ve also helped me to build my skills and confidence in myself. I’ve also been grateful for the help of the staff at Disability Support Services.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plans are to find work in the hospitality industry as well as staying on at Cypress College to complete the requirements for a final certificate in Special Event Management.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to market myself as a personal chef where I can use the experience I’ve gained to create meals based on specific needs and desires. I’d also like to further explore catering and special events.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the growth I’ve been able to experience at Cypress College. I’ve been able to grow both personally and professionally through my education here.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

My advice to current and future students is to embrace every opportunity to grow that you get. You want to look back on your experiences and know you did what you could to develop yourself, both personally and in your field.

#CYPossible: Juan Santos, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Juan Antonio Santos Ocampo

Despite working full-time while studying, Juan completed his certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration in two years. Before he was even finished, he was fielding job offers. The former secretary for ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers) on campus has been working in the field for a year.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, until I was 10 years old. My parents immigrated to the United States, and I have resided in Orange ever since. I enjoy spending time with my family and staying physically active.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

A friend of mine who was involved with Cypress College mentioned how great their HVAC program was. I decided to give it a try. The teachers were so helpful that I was able to find a job right before finishing the course.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

During my time in Cypress, I was the secretary for ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers) Club. Thanks to Mr. Hock and Mr. Urquidi, who were the most helpful during the completion of the program. They pushed me hard and took the time to explain the material when it was difficult.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After completing the HVAC program, I was able to land a job in refrigeration; I have been working for Accutherm Refrigeration for a year now.


What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

As of now, I would like to keep learning new skills in refrigeration filling; in the future, I would like to open my own business.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

My biggest passion is my family. They push me to be the best that I can be. They always support me, no matter how rough our situation is.

What are you most proud of?

I am the most proud of finishing the HVAC program in two years. I was working full time and going to school full time. I pushed myself to finish the program. Now, I am working in the field, and seeing the rewards of hard work feels satisfying.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I feel that I would not do things differently. The situations that I have been through have shaped the way I am, and I am satisfied with the outcome.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

The best advice I can give other students is to not give up and keep working toward your dream.

#CYPROUD: Brandy Manfredonia, Commercial Pilot

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Brandy Manfredonia

Brandy is a commercial pilot major transferring to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English education following her graduation from Cypress College. From a small, rural town in Ohio where few pursue a higher education after high school, Brandy grew up knowing she would go to college; however, it wasn’t until a high school physics class that she found her passion for aviation. After completing her undergraduate studies, Brandy aims to teach high school English and pilot for commercial airlines during the summers.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Born and raised in a small town in rural Ohio, I was always destined for something larger than my town could offer. Many people from my rural area go to high school and then enter the workforce immediately, so going to college is far less common and less discussed in Small Town, USA. This, however, was not the case in my household. From elementary school on, I was raised with the idea that I had to aim high, and that going to college was something I was going to do. Neither of my parents attended university, but they wanted something different for me.

Surrounded by a lack of everything, I had much time to focus on school. By my junior year of high school, I had a list of prestigious schools picked out to apply to the next year to pursue a degree in Education. With high ACT scores, AP classes under my belt, and a 4.0 GPA since elementary, I was ready for the big universities. My senior year of high school I took an AP Physics course and learned about airplanes; that is when everything I had planned on changed. I was fascinated by how airplanes worked, and was quick to decide that I was meant to be a pilot. I spent time researching affordable colleges where I could obtain a degree in aviation, and Cypress College was at the top of my list. I flew out to visit and was hooked. I have now been living here for five years and have been a full-time student and full-time worker my entire time here. I graduated with four aviation certificates and an associate of science degree, all with a 3.93 GPA!

Why did you choose Cypress College?

After becoming interested in aviation, I spent a year researching affordable flight schools. I stumbled upon Cypress College’s Aviation and Travel Careers program and found it to be a top contender. I read about the program and was so intrigued that I flew out to California in the spring to tour the campus. From the moment I stepped onto the beautiful campus, to meeting the staff, I was sold. I would be attending Cypress College the next year. I uprooted myself the fall after graduating high school, made a solo move across the country, and enrolled in spring classes in the Aviation and Travel Careers program. Finding Cypress College online from my searching in Ohio was unlikely, but it has made all the difference.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Since enrollment, I have been fortunate to find nothing but success. I brought a 4.0 GPA and AP course credit with me and have continued to achieve educational and professional successes. Throughout my nearly four years at Cypress, I have taken 83.5 units and maintained a 3.93 cumulative GPA, earning high As in 32 out of 33 classes I have taken. I have been on the President’s or Dean’s Honor list throughout my entire time as a full-time student. I was also nominated for the Outstanding Graduate of the Year Award!

I took many challenging courses, satisfying all Cal State gen-ed transfer requirements, and all of my program requirements, plus many electives. I earned four Aviation certificates — Private, Instrument, Commercial, and Advanced Pilot certificates — and an associate degree in commercial pilot. I accomplished this large courseload, all while working as a full-time manager for a retail clothing store. In my last year, I have also worked full time for the National College Resources Foundation as the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Aviation, Mathematics) communications coordinator. Through NCRF, I work doing college promotion, instruction of STEM to elementary students, and outreach events including LA’s Black College Expo. In my time working while being a student I received four promotions and continued to stay on top of my education.

Although extremely busy being a full time employee and student, I did have many extracurricular successes in my time at Cypress College. I have trained in the simulator labs for flight, as well as assisted other students with flight in the simulators. I have also spent many hours tutoring students in my aviation classes, as well as tutoring several students in English. Correspondingly with my program of study, I have also been a flight student under the instruction of Captain Ed Valdez out of the Orange County Airport. Within the last year, I have worked closely with the ATC department chair, volunteering time to design and manage a Facebook page and a website promoting Cypress College and its ATC program.

I have succeeded in getting students to tour campus through outreach I have done. I volunteer at Senior Day, and have been a leader in resurrecting the Aviation and Travel Club, including organizing the startup of the club, scheduling and promoting the first meeting, as well as organizing monthly events, and being in charge of member communication. I helped to organize and set up for, and sat in, on the ATC Advisory Meeting, giving and getting insight on program improvements that can be made. In addition I have represented Cypress College at the OC Pathways event along with several other outreach events. When not working, studying or volunteering for Cypress College, I have also volunteered at my local church.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about education, independence, and success. I believe they go hand in hand. I believe that continuously educating yourself is the most important thing you can do for your mind and your life. Learn something every day, even if it seems small and insignificant. If you do that, in five years you will have learned 1,825 new things! That little effort every day grows over time and helps you become a well-rounded intellectual!

Taking control of your education helps you to become independent. Being able to do for and support yourself is so important in today’s world. Too often we rely on parents, others, even the government to support us, but it is so much more satisfying and beneficial to be independent and be able to do for yourself! Finally, I feel like if you accomplish those two things, it will bring you great success in life; and everyone should want to feel and be successful. It gives you a good sense of self-worth and pride in yourself. I am passionate about that and feel as though it is the key to happiness. Be passionate about investing in YOU!

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I give ship loads of credit to the incomparable, incredible Ed Valdez (ATC). I have never seen someone do so much and go so above and beyond. Kathleen Reiland has also been an influential faculty member throughout my career.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I was accepted to both CSULB and CSUF with a full ride! Whoo hoo! I have chosen to attend CSUF to complete my bachelor’s degree in English education, while still working full time.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I aspire to be a pilot and a teacher. My plan is to spend the school year teaching English to high school students and to fly with a major airline, or fly charter, over the summers. I also plan to move back to Ohio in a few years and carry out my plans there. Traveling is also high on my goals list.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of two things: being the first in my whole family to graduate college with a degree, and working full time throughout my whole full-time student career and completely supporting myself. That is not something most college students can say they did. Many get great grades, not as many do that all while working full-time hours. Balancing school and work is such a challenge, but I succeeded and did so with high honors all around.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Take as many classes as you can at Cypress College before transfer. It will save you time, and thousands of dollars when transferring to a university. Also, see how you can help your department succeed. It really is a great feeling to be a part of something important.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

As my career as a Cypress College student comes to a close, looking back on all of my accomplishments and successes throughout my time here gives me a great deal of joy and pride. Now that I have graduated and all is said and done, being chosen for the CYProud campaign is such an honor and a recompense of all of my effort put in. While at times it seemed as though graduation was so far out of reach, I know all the struggles I faced, in addition to all of the positive times, were just milestones shaping me into the person I am today. My time here is something I will reflect on for a lifetime, and I thank the faculty and my peers for the experience I have had.

#CYPossible: Shamaniece Gray, Culinary Arts

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Shamaniece Gray

Cypress College was close to Shamaniece’s home, which is why she chose it, but then it became close to her heart. The culinary arts major calls the college her second home, and says it changed her life. In addition to taking a full courseload, she got involved with the work-study program; now, she volunteers for the school, helping other Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary students. She’s currently working as an intern at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Beach.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

My name is Shamaniece but I prefer Niecey. I’ve lived in California for the majority of my life. I love to eat and cook different types of cuisines. If I could choose, it would be Mexican and Italian fusion.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

Honestly, I chose Cypress College because it was close to my house but I had no idea how the HRC program would change my life. Starting off in the program, I was very quiet and timid. This program forced me to have a voice and to develop a tough skin. In a kitchen, whispering will not get you anywhere. Your teammates need to be able to hear you over all of the chaos and the craziness in the kitchen. Volunteering and being a kitchen assistant helped me as well. Doing this, I learned how to work with different machines, work catering events, mise en place for different recipes, etc. All of this helped me get my first job right out of culinary school.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I was involved in the work-study program here at Cypress College. I got the opportunity to be Chef Tracey’s Kitchen Assistant. Although I was a Kitchen Assistant, I also got to assist all the Chefs, such as Chef Jeremy, Chef Amanda, and Chef Stephanie. All of these teachers played a significant role in my life. They taught me how to speak up, to have a voice in the kitchen, and to never give up on myself. They were also upfront with me even when I didn’t want to hear it. The teachers actually care about where you end up in the future and are willing to help you network and to build connections to get there. Even the counselors like Renee Ssensalo and Iris Zelaya are there no matter what, whether it’s for school or just to talk.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After finishing the HRC program I still volunteered at the Anaheim Campus. It is a second home for me, filled with people who actually have my best interest in mind. It’s great not to be just another student in a classroom. Now I am actually interning at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel for the summer.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I am going to get my master’s in Hospitality Management. I am going to be a Chef and later transition my career into a Personal Chef.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about cooking and helping people. I love being able to brighten up someone’s life even if it is only for a moment. It’s an even better opportunity to be able to give guest a great experience through food and customer service.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of my poster in front of the bookstore at Cypress and the person that God is helping me become.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would be less shy and be willing to ask for more help.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

If you know that a subject is hard for you go to tutoring in the beginning. The last thing I would like to say is major in something that you are passionate about even if it takes time to figure out what it is. Even if there is no one supporting you, you can be your own self motivator.

#CYPROUD: Daniel Taylor, Business Administration

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Daniel Taylor

Daniel is a business administration major transferring to Cal State Fullerton following his graduation from Cypress College. A Southern California native, Daniel grew up in a large family and is a first-generation college student. Throughout his time at Cypress, he received a lot of help and support from the EOPS and Guardian Scholars programs. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Daniel hopes to start his own business.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up half of my life in a small town called Apple Valley, and the other half of my life I spent in a small city called Temecula; both are located in California. I am the first of my family of eight to complete any type of college.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

It is a beautiful college that is composed of students who work to achieve more academically and are focused on transferring to universities. Cypress College is a place where you can learn and study.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have been involved in EOPS, Guardian Scholars, and even the Honors Program. The programs gave me the guidance and focus to take the classes I needed and pass them.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about setting an example for my family to follow in my footsteps and achieve greater success.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Many staff members have helped me achieve my academic goals, but two I wish to highlight are Eva Palomares from EOPS and Ashley Berry from Guardian Scholars.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

To attend Cal State University Fullerton and get a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to own my own business.

What are you most proud of?

Earning my associate degree in business administration.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Be tough, determined, and resilient, but most of all, have faith and hope in yourself that you can accomplish anything if you have a willing mind to take the first step on your path to success.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I love the ducks!

#CYPossible: Zachary Lynch, Automotive Collision Repair

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Zachary Lynch

Zach grew up loving anything with an engine, and says Cypress College’s well-known Auto Collision Repair program drew him in because having a certificate from the school might lead to employment opportunities. Sure enough, he received several job offers from local body shops throughout Orange County, even before finishing his courses. He’s currently at Service King as a full technician, where he enjoys working on cars.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Lake Arrowhead where I always had a strong interest in cars, trains, boats, and pretty much anything with an engine. After taking welding classes in high school, I became a Los Angeles certified welder. This facilitated my interest in car repair and design, as my welding skills played a significant role in my confidence in my ability to work on cars. My first job in high school was assisting at a mechanic shop, and a couple of years later I attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for car design classes.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I chose to attend Cypress College because of its well-known automobile repair program, which I knew would be most useful in attaining my future goals with car design and repair. This turned out to be true, as I have since had many job opportunities in body shops throughout Orange County, though I have only worked at three different companies over the last four years.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I was enrolled in the Automotive Collision Repair program for three years, where I was primarily supported and taught by Larry Ramos and Dan Snook, who have been instrumental in my development as a successful car repairman.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

While attaining my certificate, I started working at Mercedes-Benz, Newport Beach, as a technician’s assistant in the body shop. I am currently working at Service King as a full technician, where I greatly enjoy working on cars.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

To have my own automotive company, which builds both complete vehicles and products for existing vehicles.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I enjoy designing and working on cars in an innovative way, as well as developing all-new automobile packages and modifications that will enhance overall car performance and design.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of how far I have come in my path to car design in spite of a few obstacles and detours I took along the way, which helped me gain experience and learn what I truly wanted to do in life.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Nothing!

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

To stay with the program and complete it. Dream big and chase your dreams.

#CYPROUD: Anthony Pansoy, Psychiatric Technology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Anthony Pansoy

Anthony is a graduate of the Cypress College Psychiatric Technology program and works at a Southern California hospital. He chose to attend Cypress College for its strong psych tech program, which came highly recommended from colleagues, many of whom are also graduates. Anthony wants to continue positively impacting the lives of the mentally ill, and eventually hopes to become a registered nurse.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 18 years old on March 29, 2008. I went back to school in spring 2016 to take the prerequisites for the Psychiatric Technology program because I was working in a community psychiatric mental health setting and learned about the program from my coworkers. I had a few interests outside of work or school, but I’ve always set simple goals in life such as having a house, a stable job, and a happy family, so I believe that finishing the Psych Tech program will enable me to achieve those goals in the future.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I choose to go to school at Cypress College because I heard they had the best Psych Tech program in L.A. I currently work at a hospital where most of the PT staff are alumni from the program, and I was encouraged by them to go into the program. Cypress College was also the closest program to my home and place of work, and the program’s schedule coincided with my work schedule.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been involved in any Cypress College activities since I started studying at Cypress College. I was busy juggling both work and school schedules, and most of my time was spent studying for quizzes and exams during the course of the Psych Tech program.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about helping mentally ill individuals. When I started my job in the psych field, it opened my eyes to the needs of the mentally ill. I used to be less aware of the impact that mental illness has on a person; working at my job made me realize that a lot of individuals go through mental illness without the proper support and end up relapsing or losing themselves, and their potential to have a good future. I want to help these individuals as a licensed staff member, and use the skills that I learned from the program to make a bigger impact on the lives of the mentally ill.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I believe that all the faculty and staff at the Psychiatric Technology program help me achieve my goals. Without each and every one of the faculty, I would not be able to be successful in the program, and I am greatly thankful for their passion and dedication to the Psych Tech program and its students.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I plan to apply at a state facility or work in the community as a licensed psychiatric technician after I pass my state licensure examination.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

One of my long-term goals is to proceed to the Registered Nursing program and to have the chance to further my career. I want to help the mentally ill at a higher capacity and a higher license so that I can have a much bigger impact on the lives of the people that I take care of.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of recently finishing the PT program while working a full-time job at the same time. I believe that goal-setting and good time management have enabled me to achieve my goals and that I will continue to use these tools to become a good mental health practitioner in the psychiatric field.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Good advice to future Cypress College students would be to focus on goals and make sure that one’s chosen degree can provide a living wage in the future. As a teacher once said to me and my fellow students in the program, “Love what you do and do what you love.” I believe that if one follows that principle, then an individual can be successful on the job or in meeting their goals in life.

#CYPossible: Roshni Chahwala, Radiologic Technology

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Roshni Chahwala

Roshni recently earned her certification in Radiologic Technology from Cypress College, and almost immediately got a job offer from Placentia-Linda Hospital’s Radiology Department; soon after, Kaiser Permanente gave her an additional job as an X-ray technologist. Roshni wants to continue growing in the radiology world, learn all she can, and further her education by achieving a bachelor’s degree that could move her into a management-level position. Roshni hopes to one day teach and train bright minds in the department of radiology.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born in New Jersey but grew up in California. I enjoy watching and playing sports, especially basketball. The beach, park, and anything outdoors is usually where you can find me the happiest.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I chose Cypress College because of its outstanding reputation as well as its credibility for the Radioglogic Technician program. I commuted over an hour to get to Cypress College and it was more than every good thing I heard. Because of the college’s reputation, I was able to find multiple employments as soon as I received my licenses for X-ray.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

From Kelly Carter to Michael Frianeza to Lynn Mitts, everyone took their time to guide me to success.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After my studies, I received a job offer at Placentia-Linda Hospital in the Radiology Department. Shortly after that I received a job offer as an X-ray technologist at Kaiser Permanente. I am currently working at those two locations and went further to obtain my credentials in mammography.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I hope to continue growing in the radiology world, learn a lot and further my education in achieving my bachelor’s. One day, I hope to teach and train bright minds in the department of radiology. I also want to get my bachelor’s, to move into the management level of radiology.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I’m the most passionate at being helpful and useful to others. Nothing is more gratifying than finishing a workday knowing you could have saved a life or turned someone’s day around for the better.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud in where I stand today: the daughter of hard-working immigrants who achieved more than most from a community college, which guided me to an amazing job that allowed me to check off “buying a home” at age 25.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Nothing. All the hardships were meant to happen to get me where I am now: extremely happy.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Seek guidance when needed. Counselors are there, utilize them. Ask as many questions as you need.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Community college has always had a stigma to it compared to universities. But what I gained in such a short amount of time, no one can take that away from me. I am a huge advocate for community college, especially Cypress College. Thank you.

#CYPROUD: Lisa Benjamin, Computer Information Systems

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Lisa Benjamin

Lisa graduated from Cypress College with an associate degree in computer information systems, along with an additional three CIS-related certificates. Born and raised in Central California, Lisa was involved in a tragic car accident that left her paralyzed for about half a year and in physical therapy learning to walk again for another three years. She later moved to Southern California to pursue a degree in athletic training; although she completed her degree, her spinal cord injuries put an end to pursuing that line of work. She now plans to enter the workforce with hopes of pursuing a career in college administration.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in a small town in Central California where, for me, sports and art were life. I always struggled with academics—things didn’t click very easily for me as they did for other students, especially in math. Not knowing at all what I wanted to do for a career after my high school graduation, I entered the workforce where I worked a few different types of jobs before realizing I wanted to become a manicurist. I always loved doing nails, so it seemed perfect for me and a way that I could get paid for my artwork.

Off to beauty college I went, but after graduation and before I could take the State Board Exam, I was in a tragic car accident, where I suffered a spinal cord injury. After the accident, I was left quadriplegic for two weeks and paralyzed for roughly six months. I will continue to suffer from lifelong nerve pain and some lingering paralysis in different areas of my body. Keeping a positive attitude, I thought, “What is the worst that could happen now,” considering the doctors had no idea what my outcome would be. So, I pushed forward with one goal in mind: walking. Learning how to walk again was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever had to do. Having to endure this was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. I don’t take life for granted and every day I remain upright is the best day I could ask for. I am not guaranteed to walk forever, so I enjoy every step I am able to take.

After three years of therapy, I thought, “I am ready to take my State Board Exam.” I did, and passed. I was now a licensed manicurist and ready to feel normal again. I landed a sweet job at a very prestigious day spa and thought I had finally made it. However, after a couple years, I realized that I needed to grow beyond what my small town had to offer.

Not sure where to go or how to get there, I went online and found a roommate finder. I found a few people in the area where I wanted to live in Southern California and set up some appointments. After meeting with everyone, I picked the best out of what I had. I quit my job, gave notice at my apartment, registered for college at another institution in Orange County, and moved.

My major was athletic training. I felt a passion to go in that direction due to the hours I spent in therapy. I was hoping to help others and motivate them to accomplish what seems almost impossible while keeping a positive attitude. Eager to learn and help, I landed an internship in the training room at my school. However, my hopes were cut short when my own injuries caught up with me and I was no longer able to continue my studies at a higher educational institution with that being my major. Even while still struggling with mathematics, I overcame those setbacks and graduated with my associate degree.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Not being from Southern California, I actually chose Cypress College based on the campus when I went to the swap meet they hold on the weekends. As we were walking through I was looking around and thought, “I could go here. It’s really nice.” I was trying to return to the workforce and applying for job after job, only to realize my computer skills were, let’s just say, not up to par for even the minimum requirements. Knowing I needed to return to college, I remembered that campus I saw at the swap meet. I then went to the Cypress College website and noticed all the CIS (Computer Information Systems) classes the college offers at many different levels, and I was sold. I registered right then and started to look at which classes I wanted to start with, hoping that come registration time they were available. They were and I was ecstatic. I do wish that I had found Cypress when I first moved down here.

I am able to achieve my goals because of the time I put into my studies and all of the resources that are available to me that I take advantage of. Without the extra help outside of the classroom, I wouldn’t have the grades I have. I put in the extra work and ask for help when I need it.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I originally was going to take just a few different classes in computer programs to brush up on my skills. After taking a couple classes, I realized I needed more than to just “brush up.” A lot has changed in 20-plus years, so I grabbed that catalog and planned my path. Now I’m about to enter my fourth semester and coming up on completion of three certificates and another associate degree. I am beyond thrilled about what I have accomplished and the fact that I was able to maintain straight A’s for the first time in my educational career.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about my family and the bond we share. Coming close to losing my life made me realize at a young age who was really there and who will always be there for me. My family supports me in anything I choose to pursue, and having them to back me up is the best motivation I could ask for. Whether I succeed or fail, the love they give is always the same, and I could not be more thankful for them. This gives me the motivation to always try and give it my all.

Also, I love to oil paint. Both my grandmothers helped me to discover art in all its forms and the way you can just get lost in your own imagination. Standing in front of my easel in my studio is one of the best ways to escape the stresses in my life and gives me a lot of joy. I have painted my whole life, and I always will as long as I am able.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I think that most of the teachers I have had at Cypress had a hand in where I am today. However, Mrs. P. (Pelachik), is always available to answer questions and guide me along the way. She encourages me when I begin to doubt myself or brings me back to reality when I am completely overthinking something. She has known the answer to every question I have ever asked, from “how do I do this” to “who should I talk to about that.” You can tell she loves teaching and enjoys watching her students succeed. It has been a complete joy to have had her as a teacher and mentor.

Also, I’d like to give a shout out to Theresa, Ayman, and the many teachers who help in the lab. Without the lab, I don’t know where I would be, hours after hours, days upon days, a million questions later, they are always there to help me through what I don’t understand, even though the answer is sometimes (most of the time) right in front of me.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plan after graduation is to enter the workforce, hopefully at the college level in administration. I do plan on returning to college while working, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business and eventually obtain a master’s degree. I would love to be able to interact with students on some level to encourage them and watch them succeed as I have.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Once I find a position, my long-term goal is to stay there; I am loyal and have roughly (hopefully) 15 years left in the workforce. So, to find a position that I love would just be perfect to me. To retire from a fantastic, satisfying job is the plan. Also, since art is my passion, I will be returning to Cypress to take more art classes when my schedule allows.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of myself, my determination, and everything I have been able to accomplish simply by not giving up. I may not have taken the easy route, but that’s OK because I found myself along the way. Also, staying positive even when there were not many reasons to has helped me complete everything I have ever put my mind to. Despite the fear, injuries, age, I put all that aside and pushed forward to achieve any goal I set for myself.

I am proud of my family, as well, for always encouraging me along the way.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Success is at your fingertips. Don’t let the fear of failing stop you from becoming a better you. Cypress offers an educational path for everyone at every level. Enjoy your time here. There is so much Cypress has to offer. Set goals for yourself and stay on top of your educational plan. Sometimes we don’t know what we want to do until we have taken a class in that area or vice versa. We go in with one path set in our minds and we find another path of interest instead that leads us to a better life than we could have ever imagined. Enjoy the ride and the amazing experiences that await.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

One of the best decisions I have made was to attend Cypress College. The time and effort the professors, administrators, and staff put into our success is priceless. I am genuinely going to miss my days at Cypress. I have excelled as a student, grown as a person, and have proven to myself that I can accomplish anything. Thank you, Cypress College, for everything you provide to your students to ensure our success.

#CYPROUD: Dante Jaramillo, Biochemistry

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Dante Jaramillo

Dante graduated from Cypress College a biochemistry major and is transferring to Cal State Long Beach. The loss of a close childhood friend motivated him to get serious about education, and he originally pursued a degree in photography. After deciding he wouldn’t enjoy photography as a career, he switched gears and decided to follow his passion into medicine. He plans to pursue studies in osteopathic medicine and aspires to become a physician.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Hello, my name is Dante Jaramillo. I grew up in California in the city of Brea, and graduated from Brea Olinda High School in 2012. Throughout my younger years, most of my time was spent surfing at local beaches with family and friends. The ocean has always been a major influence in my life, and for a long time, being in the ocean water was all I wanted to do. I even spent a couple of years repairing surfboards for others as it was my way to stay involved with surfing while living inland.

Eventually, I found myself wanting to learn to play the drums and started a band with close friends. We spent a couple of years playing at parties and venues, just having the best time traveling around and performing our own songs. College initially was not of major interest to me, but with the passing of a lifelong friend, I started taking education seriously. At first thinking I could never succeed in higher education, it was only through determination and with help from others that I am at this point in my life. I am truly thankful.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Prior to Cypress College, I was working on a photography major at Fullerton College. When I began to understand that I would not enjoy photography as a career, I discovered the radiologic technology program at Cypress College. My thought process was that if I could take my interest in photography and add some health science in then that would be a better track for myself.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

When I did not secure a spot in the Radiologic Technology Program, I realized it was actually the extra push I needed to encourage myself to shift my studies in the direction of medicine, where my passion has always been. While starting the early coursework for a biochemistry degree, I soon learned about the (STEM)2 Program and applied. Not realizing initially what I was getting myself into, I soon became involved with the campus science community, and I am thankful that I did. The program has encouraged me to keep moving out of my comfort zone to network with peers and professionals on campus and in the workforce, attend workshops built on strengthening the campus community, and take advantage of opportunities to participate in research.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

As of now, I am most passionate about continuing to develop my understanding of the sciences and the world. I hope to learn all that I can and use that knowledge to help others now and in the future.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Throughout my years at Cypress College, all of the counselors and staff have always been supportive and encouraging. Without the campus support, I probably could not have maintained my determination to stay in school consistently for all the years.

In my path toward biochemistry, a few faculty come to mind that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with. Professors Sheila Nguyen and Fumio Ogoshi were the first to introduce me to the rigors of studying heavily while also always staying positive and supportive. They were the foundation for what I was to expect moving forward in school, and I am thankful to have met both. In (STEM)2, Yanet Garcia is the biggest fan of everyone in the program. Her constant encouragement and helpful advice to keep pursuing and keep moving up have helped me come a long way, and she has been a part of many academic and work opportunities that have helped shape me into who I am today. Finally, the biggest influential figure for me was Dr. Adel Rajab. Through brutal coursework and pressure to stay sharp and focused, I became much more confident in my decision to major in biochemistry and now look forward to taking more tough courses. He is the “Uncle Adel” looking out for all of his students, and I know he has a strong influence on the lives of many.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am transferring to Cal State University Long Beach to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. The summer before starting, I will be a part of research on campus through the Summer Bridge to the Beach Program.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I plan to continue working to pursue an education in osteopathic medicine, and aspire to become a physician. I have an interest in utilizing an education in medicine to be in the healthcare community and work toward finding lasting solutions to help those who are suffering and unable to receive adequate health care here and abroad.

What are you most proud of?

For a few years, I struggled greatly with anxiety. It eventually reached a point where I had extreme hardship getting out of bed and performing other daily activities. I am proud that with time and the support of family and friends, I have worked my way through this personal hardship by making many lifestyle changes and learning to seek help when it is needed. Now, the anxiety has much less of an effect on my daily life, but I know it will continue to be a work in progress. I hope to encourage others struggling with anxiety to seek support and keep pushing forward.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Be sure to utilize the resources that are available on campus to help find and guide you in pursuing your interests. Take the necessary time to find what you are passionate about, and when the time arrives that you figure out what that is, work as hard as you can for it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with staff and fellow students at Cypress College. I wish the best to those who are continuing, and those who are starting, their college education. Be mindful, grateful, positive, true, and kind.

#CYPROUD: Flora Li, Human Services

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Flora Li

Flora is a human services graduate from Cypress College who will continue her studies at Cal State Long Beach majoring in human development. A native of Hong Kong who moved to the U.S. in 2012, Flora finds great joy helping people live happy, fulfilling lives. She currently volunteers at two caring ministries and hopes to continue helping others by becoming an executive at a non-profit.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born, raised, and educated in Hong Kong. I lived there until I came to the U.S. in 2012. My interests include reading, hiking, painting, and almost everything related to art. I studied human services as my major at Cypress College and will pursue a bachelor’s degree in human development at Cal State University Long Beach starting fall 2018.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I felt comfortable and relaxed in the campus environment at Cypress College and was pleased with it in addition to its outstanding rating in California. The campus’ location is also pretty close to my home, so it kept me from having a hectic commute.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Since I have been volunteering in two separate caring ministries, unfortunately I am not involved in campus activities.

My path unfolded when I worked in Arizona back in 2013. I was at a Christian ministry that provided services, programs, and residence to adults with developmental disabilities. I found great joy in nurturing people to live a happy and fulfilling life.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about helping people to live a life of fullness. I believe that being happy and healthy is a right; however, it is not the case that people are always viewed fairly and justly. Marginalization and stereotyping still exist in this country. I want to make a difference and prove that every individual deserves to be respected.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I am fortunate to have met many wonderful instructors and staff. To name a few, I would especially like to thank ESL instructor Catherine Whitsett. Not only have I seen her passion and skill for teaching, but her humility. I would also like to thank my counselor, Mymy Lam. She has been extremely helpful and unlocks some program complexities for me to make ends meet. Last but not least, I applaud Ly Chang, an evaluator in Admissions and Records. With her professionalism, patience, and down-to-earth demeanor, she guided me to do the right things at the right time.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will transfer to CSU Long Beach in fall 2018 majoring in human development.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to become an executive in a not-for-profit organization. I wish to help people relate in an ever-evolving society and partner with them to explore their full potential.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being a student over 55 and overcoming the hurdles of studying, maintaining an excellent GPA, and being selected for #CYProud.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

To borrow Paulo Coelho’s quote, “Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am fortunate to have chosen Cypress College. It has provided me with an enjoyable and fulfilling campus experience. I also thank God that He guided very wonderful professors, staff members, and friends to me at Cypress College.

#CYPROUD: Rogelio Dominguez, Culinary Arts

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Rogelio Dominguez

Rogelio is a culinary arts graduate from Cypress College who will continue working and growing at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton L.A. Live. Born and raised by parents who immigrated to California for a better life, Rogelio found his passion in the kitchen while helping his mother cook. Though his family had other dreams for his future, Rogelio was determined to follow his passion and learn as much about the culinary arts as he could. In summer 2017, he was accepted for an internship at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, which led to his current employment in Los Angeles. Ultimately, he hopes to open his own restaurant to share his passion for food with others.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and raised in the Lynwood/Compton area in LA County, about 15 miles north of Cypress College. In 1991, my parents, along with my three siblings, immigrated to California from Guerrero, Mexico for a better life. I came along in 1995, becoming the only U.S. citizen in the family.

Growing up, my siblings and I were thankful for having hardworking parents. Both of them have always worked and went above and beyond to provide us with a middle-working-class lifestyle. The hardworking characteristic was always present at home. Chores were present in my life since the day I understood the meaning of cleaning and putting my toys away. I hated chores so much, but I ended up finding my passion through them.

One of those chores involved me stirring soups, meats, and sauces. My chore was to prevent them from burning and making sure that mom’s home-cooked meals were just how she wanted them. In high school, that chore became a passion when I began to understand that food was more than just breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That was my main interest and passion, and I wanted to move forward with my goal, but it also became difficult for my family to understand my interest in pursuing a career in culinary arts. They wanted a businessman, engineer, lawyer, doctor, etc. out of me, but I was not going to pursue something I did not enjoy. So here I am, following my passion, working hard, and learning everything there is to know in a kitchen so that I can conclude my story.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

After gathering information from institutions that offered a degree in culinary arts, I thought Cypress College exemplified a campus full of academic focus, diversity, and professionalism.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Through the Cypress College Hospitality, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts Program, I was part of the student-run Cypress Bistro for two semesters. Also, I had the privilege to represent Cypress College in a Marriott Culinary Internship this past summer 2017. I attended a three-month-long internship at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a hands-on experience that unfolded many opportunities for me. Once my internship concluded, I was able to network and accept a cook position here at home at the JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton LA LIVE.

Cypress College played a significant role unfolding my path in this industry. Our instructors in this program show commitment and dedication toward our education and careers. They prepare us by sharing their experiences and achievements in this complex, yet amazing, industry.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

For myself, knowledge is a very powerful tool. I am passionate about learning new things, cooking techniques, trends, and anything related to food and beverage. I try to learn something new every day. Whether I’m at work, eating out, or on my days off, I am always excited to observe and learn. At work, I find myself asking questions and observing my peers and leaders so that I can grow professionally as a chef.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Chef Jeremy, Chef Stephanie, Chef Brian, Chef Amanda, Chef Tracy and Professor Lisa Clark are all instructors who have motivated my peers and me to succeed in our fields. They are all full of passion for this industry. Their excitement and dedication motivate us to go above and beyond in our careers. They all make the Cypress College Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Program a familial learning environment.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I plan on building my culinary background at my current job, The JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton LA LIVE. I am surrounded by incredibly talented chefs at this property. I am committed to growing as much as possible with Marriott International and helping my property meet guest satisfaction through food and beverage in any way possible.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

There is nothing more satisfying than creating your dishes and seeing them printed on a menu. I aspire to open my own restaurant. I want to share the flavors that are dearest to me, and I would want for foodies (food lovers), guests, and just anyone to have a memorable experience with my food.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of the commitment I have to the culinary arts. I have been cooking professionally for about a year and a half. During this short period of time, I have been presented with many challenges that have helped me become a better leader. I am proud of the love I have for cooking and am proud of my commitment to not stopping until I have met my goals.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Follow your passion and do what you love most. Don’t be afraid of what others have to comment or say about your goals. There will be a lot of stressful moments and mistakes will be made, but those mistakes will only help you become a stronger individual.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“Pressure makes diamonds.” – George S. Patton Jr.

If you find yourself pursuing the things you love, never complain about being under pressure. The pressure in your workforce will bring out the best of you, and it will make you a competitive candidate in your career of interest because pressure makes diamonds.

#CYPROUD: Gabrielle Carbajal, Kinesiology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Gabrielle Carbajal

Gabrielle was a kinesiology major who will continue her studies at Humboldt State University while playing for their basketball team. Always an athlete, Gabrielle’s love for basketball brought her to Cypress College to play for Women’s Basketball Coach Margaret Mohr. Gabrielle aspires to become a physical education teacher and basketball coach herself.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Garden Grove, CA and attended Rancho Alamitos High School. During high school, I was a tri-sport athlete participating on the cross country, basketball, and track teams. I have a strong passion for basketball, and I invest most of my time in improving my skills and focusing on school. In my free time, I like to read, write, and spend time with family and friends.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College because of the women’s basketball program and its strong academic reputation.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
The women’s basketball program at Cypress College has had the greatest impact on my life. I not only grew as a basketball player, but as an individual as well.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about sports because my family members are sport fanatics. Also, I have a strong passion for reading, writing, and photography.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The women’s basketball coaching staff at Cypress College has positively influenced my life by helping me achieve in the classroom and on the court. The Kinesiology Department has guided me academically as well.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

After studying at Cypress College, I plan on transferring to Humboldt State University to further my basketball and academic career.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to be a physical education teacher and a basketball coach.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being the first in my family to graduate from college. I am also proud of my academic and basketball achievements at Cypress College.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Believe in yourself.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you, Cypress College, for the best two years of my life. I will forever cherish the memories made.

#CYPROUD: Myeongseob Kim, Political Science

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Myeongseob Kim

Myeongseob was a political science major at Cypress College who is continuing his studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, following his graduation from the college. In search of the right educational path for his future following a couple of years at a South Korean university and two years in the military, Myeongseob decided to study abroad in the U.S. At Cypress College, he took credit overloads nearly every semester while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He aspires to be a politician in his native South Korea and also a member of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in South Korea where the society enforces that students focus on education heavily. Earning academic successes was probably the easiest thing of my life until I graduated high school. It was normal for me to study for more than 12 hours a day and I was able to earn good grades from middle school to high school. Due to this, a lot of people who knew me during that time expected that I would get a high score on the Korean version of the SAT, the Korean University Admission Exam. On the day of the exam, the pressure on me to get a high score distressed me. As a result, I failed to get the grade expected. I studied one more year, dedicating as many hours as possible for the Korean SAT. After the second exam, I realized that I had disappointed everyone around me and myself. I had to proceed and enter a university that I was not satisfied with.

I went to a university that was ranked relatively lower than where I pursued. I studied at the university for two years and served in the military for another two years. Even after those years, I was still lost and worried about my future. As a result, I decided to study abroad and came to the United States last year as the spring semester of 2017 began and started my first semester at Cypress College. I was taking more units than many other students, so it was difficult to learn all the material in English in the beginning. However, as the semesters went by, I found myself finding joy in education again. For this reason, I was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA and was accepted into a great university.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

During my service period in the military in South Korea, I met my girlfriend who was a student at Cypress College. While she was visiting Korea, she encouraged me to study abroad at Cypress College because it is one of the top community colleges in California. While I was researching about the college, I realized that it would be a good school for me to acquire knowledge and to prepare to transfer to a University of California. Also, I found that Cypress College has one of the top ESL programs in California, which is helpful for international students. These were the reasons why I chose Cypress College.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in many programs that were provided at Cypress College. I took 18 units in the first semester, 11 units in the summer semester, 20 units in the fall semester, and 21 units in my final semester. When I started to study at Cypress College, I only focused on graduating and transferring to a UC as fast as I could, so I focused on taking general education classes and deciding on my major of study. I finally found what I want to study and what I want to be while studying at Cypress College.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am interested in knowing political theories and their implications to pursue a just world. An incident of South Korea and conflict in global society happened when the Korean president was impeached, causing the relationship amongst North Korea, South Korea, and the U.S. to deteriorate. Those political events inspired me to feel passionate about becoming a politician who has the ability to maintain the peace of the world. Moreover, I wanted to inform and suggest a well-developed political theory to South Korea from learning politics in the United States, which is the leader of democratic countries.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I really appreciate all professors who taught the classes I took. To professor Alison Robertson, Armando Mendoza, Daniela Gutierrez, Angela de Dios, Janet Nau, Lisa Little, and all other professors, I would like to say thank you so much.

  • ESL professor Alison Robertson helped me with adopting the Cypress College life in my first semester and acquiring the English language easily as a second language.
  • Professor Daniela Gutierrez furthered my knowledge of art and made me feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Dr. Angela de Dios gave me a lot of useful information for my life, and I learned lessons from her responsibility and the effort she put into her classes.
  • Professor Lisa Little taught me about biological anthropology, which changed the perspective I had about the world and human beings. She provided a wonderful experience through visiting the San Diego Zoo with students, and it helped me to appreciate life on Earth.
  • Professor Armando Mendoza and I had a common interest, which was Korean martial arts. Before or after class, we used to share our knowledge about this common interest. He was a really nice professor, nice father figure, and an expert in martial arts. He liked to give students advice for their future lives and suggested how we should live. Thank you to all professors for helping me at Cypress College.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am planning to go to University of California, Santa Barbara in the fall quarter and graduate in the winter quarter of next year. I also want to graduate from UCSB with many accomplishments, so I will focus on participating in many conferences and club activities, as well as taking classes with good grades because I realized through the transfer process that maintaining a high GPA is not the only important accomplishment. After graduating from UCSB, I will go to a graduate school to study further.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

As one of the Korean people, I want to try to solve the conflict among the United States, South Korea, and North Korea. Also, I want to resolve the corrupt state of Korean politics, so I have a goal to be a troubleshooter. Specifically, I have two dreams: one is to be a politician in South Korea as a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the diplomacy department; the other is to be a member of KMC, which is the Korea Mission Center in the CIA.

What are you most proud of?

When I first came to the U.S., I was planning to get a degree in a short amount of time. When I started to study at Cypress College, I met with some counselors to make my education plan. Most of the counselors told me that one year and a half would not be enough to graduate and transfer to a UC, so they said it would be impossible. I had to take 75 units including ESL courses in three semesters. I had many challenges during my time at Cypress College. I was able to skip ESL 185 by earning good grades and good test scores in ESL 184. I also took 11 units in the summer semester. I was required to see counselors each semester so I could take as many units in each semester as possible beyond the maximum. Finally, although there were many difficulties and challenges, I was able to finish my plan and graduate this spring.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

I would like to advise that lazy students will not receive good grades at Cypress College. The most useful way to succeed at Cypress College is to use many programs, meet with counselors, and take advice from professors. As you meet with counselors, you can set appropriate goals whether they are short term or long term ones. Also, you should try to meet with professors during their office hours or before or after the classes as much as you can because you can acquire varied knowledge beyond the textbook.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am regretting that I did not have enough time to experience everything at Cypress College, so I would like to say that students should enjoy their life at Cypress College. Thanks to all professors and staff. I had a gorgeous experience at Cypress College as a starting place in the U.S.

#CYPROUD: Janki Sukhadia, Chemistry

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Janki Sukhadia

Janki was a chemistry major who will continue her studies at University of California, Davis. A student at both Cypress College and Fullerton College, Cypress’ sister institution, Janki committed herself to being heavily involved in both campus communities, as well as the community at large. She was an active member of a number of programs and student groups at the colleges, including (STEM)2 and Associated Students at Cypress and the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society at Fullerton. She aspires to become a physician’s assistant with a specialty in substance abuse.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Fullerton, California, and am currently living in Anaheim. Most people think I immigrated here from India when I was young because of how native I sound when I speak Gujarati; however, it was my parents who struggled and worked hard to get here so that my sister and I could have a better life. It is thanks to them that I never lost touch with our roots. My interests include watching TV shows, reading, doing nail art, and hanging out with friends.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College because of the amazing things I heard about the science teachers. I actually started off at Fullerton College my first summer after high school. While taking my first anthropology and art history classes, I met some friends who told me about how amazing the science teachers are at Cypress College and that I could go there for classes because we’re sister colleges. I took my first class at Cypress College in fall 2015 and just fell in love with the classes and teachers and how much they care.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I didn’t really start getting involved until my second year at Cypress College. I heard about the (STEM)2 program and how amazing it is, so I applied and was accepted. I’ve been in the program for two years now and all I can say is that it has opened me up to a lot of opportunities. I was able to go to quite a few conferences and make connections I’ll never forget. The (STEM)2 program has really impacted my life in so many ways. The workshops I’ve attended have taught me a lot, and I can say that I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t been able to get involved in this program.

Another way I’ve been involved at Cypress College is that I joined Associated Students. Even though I was only able to be a committed member for one semester, I made some amazing friends and have great memories with all of them. I try to still go by and help out with events whenever I can.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I’m very passionate about chemistry. As a chemistry major, I will be constantly applying everything I learn in the classroom to my future job and throughout my career. I’m also passionate about giving back to the community and volunteering as much as I can. At Fullerton College, I have my own club dedicated to community service. Through that, we have an event almost every Saturday. I also volunteer outside of that at St. Jude Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and at CAST. I know that it took a village to help my family get on their feet when they first got here, so I want to give back as thanks for all the help we got.

Volunteering has become a major part of my life, and I know that whatever I do, I will never stop making time to give back to those who need it.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

During my three years, there were so many professors and faculty members that helped me and made a huge impact on my education and I can’t name them all. However, there are a few that I would like to thank for everything they have done for me:

  • Yanet Garcia and Rosa Mejia for all they do for the countless students in the (STEM)2 Program, for the workshops they work so hard to schedule and find speakers for; for setting up complete college tours where we are able to see the labs we will be working in within the STEM buildings; and for guiding us. Without this program, I would not know what I want to become because I was guided by a lot of the conferences and workshops I was provided access to through the (STEM)2 Program.
  • Professor Torri Dragonov, my general chemistry II professor, because she was one of the teachers who really encouraged me to continue pursuing chemistry. Professor Draganov is a professor who is invested in the future of her students. She cares a lot about the paths they will be taking and is always willing to give advice. She kept me interacting and interested in her class even though it was a late class with lectures ending at 10 p.m.
  • Professor Anthony Hollow, my organic chemistry a lab professor for always being willing to help students out with any questions we had about lab or lecture. He also cared about his students so much that he would stay long after class ended at 10 p.m. to answer any questions we had or assist with anything we were confused on. I still remember when my study group and I didn’t leave lab until 11:30 p.m. because he wanted to make sure we understood the material being covered in class. His passion for organic chemistry is inspirational and unrivaled by any other organic chemistry professor I have met.
  • Professor Eric Wong, my physics 221 professor because physics was one of the classes I was doubting myself in coming into college. I’d always been interested in physics and how the world works, but my high school physics professor pretty much killed my dreams of becoming an engineer. Professor Wong was one of the most encouraging teachers I have ever met. He could see when we were confused and would immediately go back through the material a different way with examples to make sure we understood. He went above and beyond by filming his lectures and making them accessible. He would also stay after class to help out any students who were struggling. He also had a very annoying habit of having us figure out the answer to our question by asking us more questions; however, looking back, that was the best way to get us to think about the material and learn to be self-sufficient. He was definitely one of the most approachable teachers I have ever had and I was sorry to see him go. He changed my view of physics and taught me to have a growth mindset.
  • Professor Adel Rajab, my biology 174 professor because biology was a class I’d written off as a chemistry major until I realized that UC Davis wanted it for my forensic chemistry major. I actually loved biology and wanted to be a biology major until I took organismal biology at Fullerton College and didn’t like it. I was actually quite scared going into Professor Rajab’s class for a couple of reasons, one being my last biology class and how it didn’t go so well, and the other being that he sent out a huge list of assignments and weekly tasks on his syllabus before the semester even started. I managed to brave my fears and push myself to take his class. He is actually one of the most amazing professors I have had the pleasure of taking. He does everything he can to help his students succeed, from creating his own modules for every chapter, to offering his office hours to go over how to use Excel to help us with our labs. He has proved time and time again how interesting and complex biology is, and surprisingly, he hasn’t scared me off yet. One of my favorite things about his class is that he tries to use props to create visual representations of concepts that are hard for his students to understand. He will also spend time that he doesn’t really have answering questions in class just to make sure we understand the material. I will say that Professor Rajab’s class has changed my view on biology; however, I am still a chemistry major.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will be transferring to UCI to complete my bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. I will also be involved in research and will continue volunteering at St. Mary Medical Center, Long Beach. After my undergrad, I plan on taking the MCAT and applying to medical schools.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My goal is to one day be a PA in the ER of a hospital, making a difference. I would also love to focus my specialty in substance abuse so I can draw in on the forensic chemistry side of my education, too. I want to make a difference in the lives of those who need help, but don’t realize it. I also, one day, want to go to third-world countries and help with their medical clinics. Some of this may seem far-fetched, but I know I’ll be able to make it.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of myself for coming as far as I have come. When I left high school, I was very quiet and shy with no idea what path I wanted to take and what I wanted to do with my life. Here I am now, three years later, involved in two big programs at Cypress College and countless more at Fullerton College, including being the president of Fullerton College’s Alpha Gamma Sigma, a community service-based honor society, and being honored as a Student of Distinction at Fullerton. I have found my path and I know what type of impact I want to make. With the support of my friends and family, I am transferring to an amazing UC and I can finally say, “I did it!”

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Be tough, determined, resilient, but most of all, have faith and hope in yourself that you can accomplish anything if you have a willing mind to take the first step on your path to success.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I love the ducks at Cypress College!

#CYPROUD: Bryan Igboke, Engineering

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Bryan Igboke

Bryan is an engineering major at Cypress College transferring to Cal Poly Pomona following his graduation from the college. He originally attended Cypress College to play basketball and stayed to lay the foundation for earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He credits the college’s (STEM)2 Program for helping him realize his passion for engineering, as well as helping him meet others with similar interests and providing opportunities for educational and professional growth. He aspires to own an engineering firm that operates in both the U.S. and Africa.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Long Beach, California, but attended school in Los Alamitos from kindergarten through high school. My interests include basketball, video games, and watching anime.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I originally came to Cypress College out of high school to play for the basketball team. After my time on the team was over, I stayed at Cypress to lay the groundwork for pursing an engineering degree.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Once I was done playing basketball for the college, I felt like I had lost my purpose and even felt alone at times. This changed when I joined the (STEM)2 Program because it helped me realize my passion for engineering and helped me meet other people in similar majors. Being in the program definitely improved my academic career by pushing me to get better grades and participate in extracurricular career-building opportunities, such as summer research.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about basketball. Basketball instilled qualities in me such as resilience, hard work, and team work that help me even outside of the lines of the court. There is no doubt that it has shaped my life in a positive way and given me the discipline and drive to be successful in life.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Yanet Garcia is the coordinator of the (STEM)2 program and has helped me in numerous ways, such as urging me to apply for summer research and writing me multiple letters of recommendation. The amount of work she puts into not only bettering the (STEM)2 program, but also students’ futures, is inspiring. Deidre Porter is one of the (STEM)2 counselors who has always guided me in taking the right classes for my major, believed in me, and was even kind enough to include me in her dissertation to earn her Ph.D. She reminds me of my mother because I believe she truly wants the best for me.

Brinda Subramaniam was my Physics 222 professor who lived up to her reputation for having the toughest class in the school. She is also the most caring professor I have ever had, and you can tell she genuinely wants to see all of her students make something of themselves. The study habits she instilled in me will continue to aid me throughout my life.

Massoud Saleh helped me get to where I am because taking all of his classes helped me confirm that I want to be an engineer. He is extremely knowledgeable about the engineering field and is happy to share his knowledge with all of his students. Learning in his classes was fun because I never had to be afraid to ask any question.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will transfer to Cal Poly Pomona where I will major in civil engineering. I then plan to get my master’s degree in an engineering field and then enter the workforce.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to use my degrees to improve infrastructure by minimizing waste and diminishing the negative impact we have on the environment. I would also like to create a blueprint for affordable, reliable homes that can be built in third world countries. I hope to one day own an engineering firm that operates both in the U.S. and Africa.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my parents. They both came to the U.S. from Nigeria with very little money and no friends or family to rely on. They worked extremely hard to provide for my two brothers and me. I owe any success I have attained to them because of their constant guidance, as well as them being models for what hard work and determination look like.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Community college students are often looked down upon because we didn’t go to four-year universities straight out of high school. People think that we are lazy or are just too stupid to make it at a “real” college. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you in community college to achieve your goal, so long as you never give up. You can be just as great and even greater than those who did not go to community college. “Even a ‘reject’ can surpass an ‘elite’ if he/she trains hard enough.”

#CYPROUD: Abhiruchi Chaulagain, Biology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Abhiruchi Chaulagain

Abhiruchi was a biology major at Cypress College who will continue her studies at University of California, Irvine following her graduation from the college. Named Cypress College’s 2018 Outstanding Graduate, Abhiruchi has made a lasting impression on many college faculty and staff with her hard work, passion for education and helping others, and dedication to excellence. She moved to the U.S. in 2015 to pursue a medical career in emergency and disaster medicine, motivated by that year’s devastating earthquake in her native Nepal.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and brought up in Nepal, a small Himalayan country in South Asia. I graduated from high school there and moved to the United States in 2015. After relocating here, I enrolled myself in Cypress College to continue my higher education. My main hobbies are dancing, watching TV shows and movies, traveling, and trying new foods. I love water sports and would like to be a certified scuba diver someday.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Community college was the best option for me as I was very new to this country and wanted to start my educational journey in a smaller community. I was unaware of the higher education system here; I had so much to learn. I was searching for a place that would help me grow academically, socially, and culturally. Cypress College was perfect! It was very close to my home and came highly recommended by my well-wishers. It also had amazing student resources and a high transfer rate, a beautiful campus, diverse demographics, numerous academic options, and friendly staff. I was sure this was the right place for me.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

My first semester, I was a part-time student, so I wasn’t very involved on campus. However, once I became a full-time student, I tried my best to be as involved as I could. I have been employed as a Cypress College student ambassador for two years now, and through this program I have participated in numerous events on and off campus. I have helped organize and execute events like Kindercaminata, New Student Welcome Night, Senior Day, Commencement Ceremony, Americana Awards, 50th Anniversary Festival and Reunion, and the Cypress Golf tournament. I have participated in outreach activities, representing Cypress College at local high school fairs and city events. Likewise, I have worked with special college enrollment programs like Dual Enrollment and Charger Fridays. I also gave campus tours to familiarize students with the campus.

I am an Honors Program student at Cypress and have been actively involved in events organized by the program like the Northern California trip, Honors Book Fair, and classroom renovation. As a biology major, I have been a part of the (STEM)2 program on campus for three semesters. Through this program, I have participated in various workshops and events, learning how to succeed as a science major. I was the Inter-Club Council representative for the Chemistry Club, and a member of the Math and STEM clubs.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about education and health care. Growing up, my family made sure I understood the importance of education for the success of an individual and community. I truly believe that higher education promotes growth and development of a society. Therefore, I loved working as a student ambassador for Cypress College. Sharing my experience as a college student and promoting higher education amongst high school students gave me pure joy. Likewise, proper health care, especially in underdeveloped communities, requires special attention right now. Good health care is essential for productivity, and overall progress.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by faculty who have gone above and beyond to help me succeed. I owe special thanks to my physics professor, Dr. Brinda Subramaniam, and my English professor, Kendyl Covey Palmer. Their guidance, motivation, and numerous recommendations have played a tremendous role in my success.

I am extremely grateful to Lark Crumpler, my former supervisor, for believing in me, and choosing me to be one of the student ambassadors for Cypress. I am also thankful to my current supervisor, Kassandra Abreu, who has always been considerate, pushing me to achieve higher. The Student Ambassador program helped me build professional and personal relationships I will cherish forever, and paved my pathway to numerous achievements.

Penny Gabourie, the Honors Program counselor, made sure I was on the right track, and was always there to assist me in every step. I am also grateful to the entire (STEM)2 team for providing me with wonderful resources, which contributed to my overall success here at Cypress.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will be transferring to UCI to complete my bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. I will also be involved in research and will continue volunteering at St. Mary Medical Center, Long Beach. After my undergrad, I plan on taking the MCAT and applying to medical schools.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to have a career in the medical field. I aspire to become a physician and contribute my efforts to the improvement of global health care. I would like to provide health care education and training to underrepresented communities in different parts of the world. My peak areas of interest are emergency and disaster medicine and women’s reproductive health.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being selected as the Outstanding Graduate of 2018 and being awarded the Associated Student’s Outstanding Community Service Scholarship.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

My one advice to fellow Chargers would be to utilize available resources and ask for help. There’s plenty of help available at Cypress College like counselling, tutoring, health services, scholarships, the Food Bank, and much more. Just ask away!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Cypress College has been my second home these last two years. There were days when I would spend about 14 hours on campus. It isn’t just my educational institution, it is my place of work, and my safe space. I built amazing relationships here, and made memories I’ll cherish forever. It provided me with a platform to grow academically, professionally, and socially. I will truly miss Cypress.

My Cypress Story: Lisa Benjamin

Every person has a story to tell, and Cypress College is excited to share the inspirational, motivational, and aspirational stories from our many students of all walks of life. No matter the path, we accompany each and every one of our students on their educational journeys. Take a walk down the west-side hall of the Humanities Building to explore some of the people who make us a unique community.

We call this project “My Cypress Story.”

Hello, my name is Lisa Benjamin.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in a small town in Central California where, for me, sports and art were life. I always struggled with academics—things didn’t click very easily for me as they did for other students, especially in math. Not knowing at all what I wanted to do for a career after my high school graduation, I entered the workforce where I worked a few different types of jobs before realizing I wanted to become a manicurist. I always loved doing nails, so it seemed perfect for me and a way that I could get paid for my artwork.

Off to beauty college I went, but after graduation and before I could take the State Board Exam, I was in a tragic car accident, where I suffered a spinal cord injury. After the accident, I was left quadriplegic for two weeks and paralyzed for roughly six months. I will continue to suffer from lifelong nerve pain and some lingering paralysis in different areas of my body. Keeping a positive attitude, I thought, “What is the worst that could happen now,” considering the doctors had no idea what my outcome would be. So, I pushed forward with one goal in mind: walking. Learning how to walk again was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever had to do. Having to endure this was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. I don’t take life for granted and every day I remain upright is the best day I could ask for. I am not guaranteed to walk forever, so I enjoy every step I am able to take.

After three years of therapy, I thought, “I am ready to take my State Board Exam.” I did, and passed. I was now a licensed manicurist and ready to feel normal again. I landed a sweet job at a very prestigious day spa and thought I had finally made it. However, after a couple years, I realized that I needed to grow beyond what my small town had to offer.

Not sure where to go or how to get there, I went online and found a roommate finder. I found a few people in the area where I wanted to live in Southern California and set up some appointments. After meeting with everyone, I picked the best out of what I had. I quit my job, gave notice at my apartment, registered for college at another institution in Orange County, and moved.

My major was athletic training. I felt a passion to go in that direction due to the hours I spent in therapy. I was hoping to help others and motivate them to accomplish what seems almost impossible while keeping a positive attitude. Eager to learn and help, I landed an internship in the training room at my school. However, my hopes were cut short when my own injuries caught up with me and I was no longer able to continue my studies at a higher educational institution with that being my major. Even while still struggling with mathematics, I overcame those setbacks and graduated with my associate degree.

Why did you choose Cypress College and how is being a student here helping you achieve your goals?

Not being from Southern California, I actually chose Cypress College based on the campus when I went to the swap meet they hold on the weekends. As we were walking through I was looking around and thought, “I could go here. It’s really nice.” I was trying to return to the workforce and applying for job after job, only to realize my computer skills were, let’s just say, not up to par for even the minimum requirements. Knowing I needed to return to college, I remembered that campus I saw at the swap meet. I then went to the Cypress College website and noticed all the CIS (Computer Information Systems) classes the college offers at many different levels, and I was sold. I registered right then and started to look at which classes I wanted to start with, hoping that come registration time they were available. They were and I was ecstatic. I do wish that I had found Cypress when I first moved down here.

I am able to achieve my goals because of the time I put into my studies and all of the resources that are available to me that I take advantage of. Without the extra help outside of the classroom, I wouldn’t have the grades I have. I put in the extra work and ask for help when I need it.

What do you like most about being a Cypress College student?

The feeling of success I feel after each day. This is the most rewarding time in all my years of school. I feel that everyone here at Cypress wants to be here. Having that positive energy makes me want to do more than I originally thought I could. Seeing everyone when I am walking around the campus helping each other and working together is amazing to be around.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded and who are the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

I originally was going to take just a few different classes in computer programs to brush up on my skills. After taking a couple classes, I realized I needed more than to just “brush up.” A lot has changed in 20-plus years, so I grabbed that catalog and planned my path. Now I’m about to enter my fourth semester and coming up on completion of three certificates and another associate degree. I am beyond thrilled about what I have accomplished and the fact that I was able to maintain straight A’s for the first time in my educational career.

I think that most of the teachers I have had at Cypress had a hand in where I am today. However, Mrs. P. (Pelachik), is always available to answer questions and guide me along the way. She encourages me when I begin to doubt myself or brings me back to reality when I am completely overthinking something. She has known the answer to every question I have ever asked, from “how do I do this” to “who should I talk to about that.” You can tell she loves teaching and enjoys watching her students succeed. It has been a complete joy to have had her as a teacher and mentor.

Also, I’d like to give a shout out to Theresa, Ayman, and the many teachers who help in the lab. Without the lab, I don’t know where I would be, hours after hours, days upon days, a million questions later, they are always there to help me through what I don’t understand, even though the answer is sometimes (most of the time) right in front of me.

What has been the most difficult part of being a college student? How have you dealt with that?

For me, I think the most difficult part is time. I feel, sometimes, that I plan how I am going to tackle all of my work instead of just doing it. There are so many steps in some of the lessons we are given that I often underestimate how long it is going to take to complete, or, at a glance, the lessons seem basic and easy enough, but once I am a few pages in, I hit a section that just makes me scratch my head in confusion. But I just keep going. I may have frustrating moments that feel like I will never be able to get the work done, but after reading and re-reading or asking for help, it just clicks. Also, sometimes I just need to step away for a few minutes to clear my mind, especially when I keep making the same mistake over and over.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Once I find a position, my long-term goal is to stay there; I am loyal and have roughly (hopefully) 15 years left in the workforce. So, to find a position that I love would just be perfect to me. To retire from a fantastic, satisfying job is the plan. Also, since art is my passion, I will be returning to Cypress to take more art classes when my schedule allows.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of myself, my determination, and everything I have been able to accomplish simply by not giving up. I may not have taken the easy route, but that’s OK because I found myself along the way. Also, staying positive even when there were not many reasons to has helped me complete everything I have ever put my mind to. Despite the fear, injuries, age, I put all that aside and pushed forward to achieve any goal I set for myself.

I am proud of my family, as well, for always encouraging me along the way.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Success is at your fingertips. Don’t let the fear of failing stop you from becoming a better you. Cypress offers an educational path for everyone at every level. Enjoy your time here. There is so much Cypress has to offer. Set goals for yourself and stay on top of your educational plan. Sometimes we don’t know what we want to do until we have taken a class in that area or vice versa. We go in with one path set in our minds and we find another path of interest instead that leads us to a better life than we could have ever imagined. Enjoy the ride and the amazing experiences that await.

My Cypress Story: Mickaylah Prewitt

Every person has a story to tell, and Cypress College is excited to share the inspirational, motivational, and aspirational stories from our many students of all walks of life. No matter the path, we accompany each and every one of our students on their educational journeys. Take a walk down the west-side hall of the Humanities Building to explore some of the people who make us a unique community.

We call this project “My Cypress Story.”

Hi, my name is Mickaylah Prewitt.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Long Beach with my grandmother, mother, and sister. Growing up, my mother made me try many sports and activities to find potential interests and outlets for after school. I ended up in ballet and was passionate about it from third grade all the way through tenth grade. In high school, I lacked discipline with my time and grades, so I quit spending so many hours at the ballet studio.

While at Millikan High School, I continued to dance on the school dance team, which was more fun and laid back than the more structured atmosphere of ballet. In high school, I lacked motivation and my only goal was to get out. I did the bare minimum, but pulled decent/average grades.

Why did you choose Cypress College and how is being a student here helping you achieve your goals?

I chose Cypress College because my sister and many of her friends told me stories of their struggles at a nearby community college and their difficulties seeking and receiving help with aspects of their education.

A friend who had graduated before me and stayed local told me about the success she had in finding help and guidance with her education, which helped me with making my decision regarding where I wanted to get my general education done. I did research on some of the city colleges around me and visited a few schools. Cypress was the most appealing to me.

Ultimately, Cypress College has been a great experience for me with starting my higher education path. I was successful at Cypress College because I was made aware of the resources, and I actually used them.

What do you like most about being a Cypress College student?

Every day I come to campus, I am reminded of how much it has served me. I am lucky enough to be a part of such a positive, inclusive community of intellects.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded and who are the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

Using resources is a simple concept, but sometimes getting started with getting directional help is difficult. While beginning at Cypress, I promised myself that I was not going to walk around campus and not know anyone, so I joined Associated Students and the Legacy Program in my first year. With these two communities as my support/social/school groups, using on-campus resources became routine and is what helped guide me to graduating in spring 2018.

The Legacy Program helped me build skills and led me to take on more leadership roles within the program once I completed it. I became a tutor and peer mentor for incoming students.

Faculty that have played key roles in my educational path include, but are not limited to: Regina Rhymes, Daniel Lind, Abraham Hardway, Dr. Deidre Porter, and Leilani Matanguihan.

What has been the most difficult part of being a college student? How have you dealt with that?

One of the hardest things I dealt with as a college student was getting started. This means starting an assignment, starting an application, starting to sign up for things, just starting the process to be productive. Getting started it still hard for me, but once I start, I am determined to finish.

I also struggled heavily with trying to do absolutely everything. By this, I mean I needed to do all of my schoolwork, work to pay for school, and be an active member in multiple groups on and off campus.

Having accountability for my actions when they were both bad and good was a very difficult part of transitioning into college and adulthood. I constantly had to remind myself that the things I do now are sacrifices for my future. One thing I constantly reminded myself was that being tired is temporary, but your GPA is forever! This mindset led me to overwork myself and neglect important aspects of my life, including my mental health.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

It sounds corny, but my long-term goals and aspirations only include being happy. I am not too concerned with my future so long as I finish school with my bachelor’s degree in communications.

Ultimately, I would like to slowly work toward my master’s degree after my bachelor’s degree.

My career path is unclear, but I am spending my minimum wage years trying out different jobs and positions so I can find things that spark an interest in me, just as I tried many activities and sports as a kid.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my ability to push through and remember my priorities even when I am having a hard time outside of the classroom.

I am proud that I have been able to do so well as a student at Cypress College. When I started college, I feared disappointing myself, so I set low expectations at first. I soon found out that I am capable of great things if I just get started on them.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Make sure you absolutely take advantage of resources that are provided to you. The faculty and staff genuinely care and want you to do well at Cypress and beyond. Having an education plan is very important, but don’t make it a race. Finishing school is the goal, but doing well and being mindful of your limits is even more important in the long run.

My Cypress Story: Mayra Paiz-Asencio

Every person has a story to tell, and Cypress College is excited to share the inspirational, motivational, and aspirational stories from our many students of all walks of life. No matter the path, we accompany each and every one of our students on their educational journeys. Take a walk down the west-side hall of the Humanities Building to explore some of the people who make us a unique community.

We call this project “My Cypress Story.”

Hola, me llamo Mayra Paiz-Asencio.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I first came to the U.S. when I was 16 years old, but I decided to go back home to continue my high school studies. I attended a Canadian school in Guatemala where I started learning English. After finishing high school, I went to a university for a few years, and I also got married and had my first son Marlon. Unfortunately, my husband died after three years of marriage and I decided to live permanently in the U.S. I have lived in Anaheim since then.

As a single mother I needed a job, so I took all my ESL classes at Fullerton College to improve my English skills. I worked for a temporary-job agency for more than half a year, but I was blessed to obtain a permanent job at an electronics company as an accounting clerk in 1999. In 2006, I remarried my current husband, Osmar, and we had our daughter, Melanie.

I learned a lot working in the Accounting Department, and I became a cost accountant in 2007. Working as a cost accountant for more than 10 years, I acquired a lot of experience and responsibilities, but I noticed that my salary did not increase as I wished. I decided to talk to my boss about the possibility of receiving a promotion as a senior cost accountant, but my petition was denied. My boss explained that my knowledge was not at a senior level and that I was not a candidate for a senior cost accountant position because I did not have a bachelor’s degree earned in the United States. My heart was broken because I knew how to do all the work; in fact, when the senior cost accountant was absent, I had done all of the job myself.

I spoke to my husband because I was not happy at my job anymore and started to feel a lot of stress. My husband and I decided to prepare ourselves financially to live on one income while I returned to school. In July 2017, I decided to quit my job, and I enrolled in Cypress College for the fall 2017 semester to achieve a higher education.

Why did you choose Cypress College and how is being a student here helping you achieve your goals?

I chose Cypress College because it offers a convenient location as it is close to my home and my daughter’s school. Also, I can carpool with my oldest son, who also attends Cypress College. I feel grateful that we both were able to find competitive education plans.

What do you like most about being a Cypress College student?

Cypress College was always my dream. It feels like a home to me. I knew this was my starting point, and I love how much support there is for all of us who have started a new journey.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded and who are the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

Due to the many extra hours my husband works during the week to support our family, all after-school activities and household activities fall on my shoulders. As a full-time student, I am extremely busy, so I do not have time for extra-curricular activities at Cypress College at the moment. However, I am active in my church, and I encourage my friends and family members to teach our kids to practice our beliefs.

Since this is my second semester at Cypress College, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet a lot of the professors here, but I would like to mention Maha Afra, my multicultural dance in the U.S. professor, and Jessica Puma, my Spanish professor for providing me with a lot of motivation and support.

What has been the most difficult part of being a college student? How have you dealt with that?

The most difficult part of being a college student is learning how to manage my time to be as productive as possible. I am a full-time student taking 16 units, but I also have two kids, a husband, and a house to keep moving forward.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I aspire to obtain my associate degree and transfer to California State University, Fullerton for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, as well as open a family business.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of having made the decision and taken the steps to return to school for a better future. I am proud to be a daughter of an immigrant. I am proud of being the first generation in my family that attends college. I am proud of who I am now, and I am I proud to prove to others it can be done.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Take advantage of everything Cypress College has to offer. Do not be afraid to ask for help in any matter because there are people out there who are willing to help others.

My Cypress Story: Brandon Davis

Every person has a story to tell, and Cypress College is excited to share the inspirational, motivational, and aspirational stories from our many students of all walks of life. No matter the path, we accompany each and every one of our students on their educational journeys. Take a walk down the west-side hall of the Humanities Building to explore some of the people who make us a unique community.

We call this project “My Cypress Story.”

Hello, I’m Brandon Davis!

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I have grown up my whole life in Southern California. I lived in Westminster for about half my life and Garden Grove for the other half. My interests include baseball, camping, and hiking. I played baseball for nine years, ever since I was 10 years old. Throughout the years playing, I’ve gained lifelong friends, created treasured memories, and learned many life lessons. Even though I no longer play baseball, it will always be a big part of my life and who I am. Since I’ve played sports, I’ve always loved being outside. That’s what led to my tremendous interest in camping and hiking. Every single hike I go on, I can’t get enough of the fresh air, amazing views, and wildlife. I recently went on my first camping trip this past summer to Utah and immediately fell in love. I couldn’t get enough of the campfires, cooking, hiking, and sleeping in the tent. Even though I’ve only gone camping a couple times now, it will always be my favorite thing to do.

My story has been normal up until recently. I went to school, work, and hung out with friends and family just as most 20-year-olds do. Then, I started to develop a pain in the left side of my neck. I went to the doctor and ER multiple times during last fall semester without many answers. The two conclusions they kept coming up with were that it was a pinched nerve or I had just herniated a disk in my neck. Then I had an MRI done on my neck and that’s when those conclusions were put to rest. The MRI showed a mass on the left side of my neck. As soon as the ER doctor saw the mass on the MRI images, I was admitted to the hospital so that they could do a biopsy on it. This was on a Sunday and I remember being less concerned about the mass in my neck and more about my child psychology test that next Wednesday. I even asked the ER doctor if I would be discharged the next day because I hate missing class. My wish did not come true, however, as that hospital stay lasted six days. They did the biopsy on my neck and found that the mass was, in fact, a tumor. When I heard the doctor tell me that, my whole world was turned upside down. I went from being a normal 20-year-old college student to having cancer.

Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the last three weeks of last fall semester. After further testing done on my biopsy, I was formally diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma on December 8, 2017. Since then, I have undergone three rounds of chemotherapy and can expect to have chemo and radiation until September or October of this year. Even with this life-changing diagnosis, my mindset has not strayed from my goals when it comes to school. During the course of my treatment, I plan to continue my education by completing the incompletes I received for my fall classes and possibly take some online classes.

Why did you choose Cypress College and how is being a student here helping you achieve your goals?

After high school, I was completely ready for college, but had no idea where I was going to go. I was still playing baseball at the time and was contemplating whether I was going to continue playing after senior year. I had some friends who played baseball for Cypress, and they invited me to take the summer baseball class before I made a decision. I took the summer baseball class and came out to Cypress that summer. The time I spent out on the field and on the campus was amazing, and I really enjoyed it. Even though I decided not to continue playing and focus on my studies, I had decided on where I was going to school. Being a student here has helped me tremendously to achieve my goals. Everyone I’ve encountered in my classes and just around campus has been more than helpful and courteous. Also, with professors as passionate as the ones I’ve had, it’s that much easier to be successful as a student at Cypress.

What do you like most about being a Cypress College student?

What I like most about being a Cypress College student is the overwhelming support and friendliness I’ve received from everyone on campus. Any time I have any questions, the faculty and services at Cypress are always more than helpful and kind. All of the professors I have had are so passionate about what they teach and are always there to help me if I need help. In addition, the classmates I have had are amazing. They’ve all been so helpful, and I’ve gained many friendships through classes I’ve taken at Cypress.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded and who are the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

Due to being so busy with schoolwork and work, I have not had the opportunity to be involved in much. I have attended several supplemental instruction sessions for the calculus classes I have taken, which were extremely helpful. I have also utilized the Learning Resource Center while I was taking English 100, which really propelled my writing.

  • Brandy Young, my professor for Psychology 101, made my introduction to psychology a lot of fun. From her passion for psychology, I learned more than I could have imagined and received my highest grade because of it. She has also been there and done more for my family and me through my diagnosis and fight than I could ever wish for.
  • James Lee, my English 100 professor, was my first English professor going into college my first fall semester. The subject I struggled with the most in high school was English, and I ended up with a B every single semester. I was very afraid of English 100 going into it because it was college writing and that was my worst part of English. However, by the end of the class, my thoughts on writing and my confidence levels as a writer were never higher, and I received my first A in an English class. Professor Lee has a gift for teaching writing that has helped me in all of my other classes.
  • Hoa Tran, my Math 150BC professor, is someone who pushed me in my study of math, especially in my first semester of college. Her deep understanding of the subject really helped others as well as me in a very difficult class.
  • Christina Plett, my Math 250AC professor, grew my love for math. Every day I sat in class, all I could see was the tremendous amount of love she had for the math she was teaching. That amount of passion and love for math is something that I hope to display for my future students.

What has been the most difficult part of being a college student? How have you dealt with that?

The most difficult part of being a college student for me has been spacing out my time equally between all of my classes. Naturally, because of my major, I tended to spend a lot of my study time on math without even realizing it. When I did this, it left little time to read and study for my other classes. To overcome this, I’ve made sure to set goals of what I want to accomplish each day for all of my classes. That way, instead of coming home every day and just starting math because it’s what I want to do, I’ll do math for a little, take a break, and then read for one of my other classes. Once I learned how to overcome going straight to math every day, the quality of what I was learning in my other classes increased tremendously.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goal is to become a high school math teacher. I have always loved math. I remember whenever I went over to my grandma’s house when I was really little, all I wanted to do was count this bag of money she had. I would count the same bag over and over again just because I thought it was fun. In third grade, I was so upset that I didn’t get placed in fourth grade math that I would do twice the homework. I didn’t receive any extra credit, I just wanted more practice. Then, in fifth grade, we took a test to determine if we would be in the advanced math group or regular instruction one and I tested into the regular one. I was devastated and pouted during math for the next week.

Throughout my education, my math teachers have had a lasting impression on me. So many have showed me how useful and interesting math can be. They are responsible for sparking the passion I have for math. That is where my passion for wanting to teach math comes from. My biggest goal is to spark students’ interest in math just as many of my teachers did. I look back and am thankful for what those teachers did for me and want to be able to do the same for my future students.

What are you most proud of?

My senior year of high school, I received an ABC award in AP Calculus for outstanding performance throughout the year. The reason this award means so much to me is that it made my confidence level soar and increased my passion for math. It really solidified my wanting to teach math and I was able to take all the confidence it gave me and apply it to my math courses in college. The award has been a huge catalyst to my success and passion in math.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

One bit of advice I would give to current and future students is to never take a day for a granted. See the beauty in each day and know that each day presents an opportunity to smile or laugh no matter how dark or cloudy it may seem.

#CYPROUD: Shay Prokopchuk, Culinary Arts

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Shay Prokopchuk

Shay is a culinary arts graduate at Cypress College who will continue working at the Main Street restaurants in Disneyland while finishing his second associate degree in business management at Fullerton College. Originally a biology major with aspirations of becoming a doctor, he decided to change majors when he realized that would mean about 12 more years of schooling. He found his passion in culinary when he stepped into a kitchen role at Disneyland, where he has now worked for seven years, and dreams of one day opening his own restaurant.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in the South Corona/Lake Elsinore area out in the Inland Empire region of Southern California. I skateboarded, played football in high school, etc.; nothing out of the ordinary. I started college at Mt. San Jacinto College at the Menifee campus. As a biology major, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, until I realized that it takes close to 12 years of schooling. I started working at the Disneyland resort and transferred to Fullerton College. I changed my major to business because I knew I wanted to open my own business but had no idea what type of business. Two years later, I stepped into a kitchen role at Disney and everything clicked and fell into place. That was when I knew that I wanted to be a chef and open a restaurant one day. A year after that, I began my time at Cypress College and haven’t looked back. I am still working on my associate degree in business management at Fullerton College.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

By suggestion from my sous chefs at work, I looked into Cypress’ programs and found experienced, knowledgeable chefs running the program.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have had several opportunities to help the chefs with special events and was part of the management team for the 2017 Career Expo.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about food and music. I’m a terrible musician, so luckily, I found a career for my other passion. Both are always changing, evolving in new directions. I have always been fascinated also by cross-cultural influences, looking back through history at how civilizations have influenced and changed each other. Cuisine and culture have been changed and influenced along the way, for better or worse.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Hospitality Management Professor Lisa Clark taught me that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Use them to your advantage to better yourself and your team

Chef Jeremy Peters taught me to always strive to be the best.

Chef Brian Hathenbruck taught me to take your best and make it better.

Chef Stephanie Rosati always held me to a higher standard because she knew I wanted to be on a higher level.

Chef Amanda Gargano taught me to take everything you have learned and turn it on its head. Always try new ingredients and methods, and experiment with combining cuisines.

Chef Tracey Heine taught me to take pride in my work: prepping, cooking, cleaning, etc.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plans are to work hard to advance at Disney. I am working toward a chef position currently, along with other advancements in the future.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to be a chef first and foremost, in title, certification, etc. Eventually, I want to open my own restaurant.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud that I can say I found my passion and get to live and breathe it every day. A lot of people can’t say and do that, which is sad.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Nobody gets in to the restaurant/food service business because it is easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. You are here for a reason, so don’t squander it. Channel your passion and drive, and put in the work. You get what you put into it, if not more so.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

There is a quote painted in the Cypress Bistro at the Anaheim Campus: “Life is too short for fake butter, fake sugar, and fake people.”

#CYPROUD: Brooke Blandino, Environmental Management

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Brooke Blandino

Brooke will be an environmental management major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo following her graduation from Cypress College. Born and raised in Southern California, she found a passion for the environment and hopes to educate society about ways to help preserve the world around us. She plans to pursue research opportunities in environmental science at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and aspires to teach at the collegiate level.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I come from a family of five and grew up in Chino Hills, California. We moved to Seal Beach right after I graduated high school so both of my parents could be closer to their jobs. I chose to go to community college because I did not get into my dream schools after high school, and I felt that going to community college would give me a second chance. My interests include beach volleyball, learning about the environment, and being outdoors. I will be the first person out of my family to graduate college and pursue a degree in science. My parents have been very supportive throughout my time at Cypress, and I am very thankful for the encouragement that I have received.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College because I had a family friend who attended Cypress and she mentioned how much she liked the professors and the school itself.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have been involved in the (STEM)2 Program for two years and it has pushed me to make connections with other students and faculty as well as opened many doors for me to participate in summer research. The staff of this program really encourage the students to apply to opportunities and provide workshops that help prepare students for life after community college. This has been a great asset to my time at Cypress College because I feel more prepared to transfer and attend a four-year university than I did before joining this program.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about making a difference in the environment and finding ways to educate our society in reducing single-use plastic, as well as being conscious about consumption. As a community, we have to make a change in the ways we operate in order to preserve species and combat climate change. I want to continue to be educated in environmental science so I can eventually educate others.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The (STEM)2 staff have helped me immensely as far as the ways I operate as a student and have contributed to my success. Biology Professor Adel Rajab also motivated me with his first day of class speech in BIO 174. He taught me how hard work and dedication can bring success and that you don’t have to be a natural genius to earn a degree in science. I would also like to thank Chemistry Professor Sheila Nguyen for encouraging me to persevere through a tough semester of chemistry while a decent amount of the class decided to drop. I pushed through and am very thankful that she encouraged me to finish the semester strong.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plans after transferring are to find research opportunities at Cal Poly SLO and get involved in the environmental clubs on campus. My goal is to network with professors and other students so I can be successful at this school. After earning my degree, I want to go to graduate school and do research so I am able to educate others. I want to do research in the field and eventually teach at the collegiate level.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals are to complete my undergraduate degree at Cal Poly SLO and continue my education with graduate school. I would like to do research in different environmental fields so I am able to see what I want to do as a career. Environmental science is a very broad field, so my upper-division courses will definitely assist in helping me decide which specialization I’d like to be involved in. Ideally, I want to contribute to an ecofriendly environment through educating others.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being self-motivated and pushing through the lower-division science and math courses. Attending a community college can be intimidating because you really don’t know how long it is going to take to get out and if you’ll be able to pursue a degree that requires difficult courses. Taking classes such as calculus II and chemistry seemed impossible when I felt like I wasn’t strong in math. Even though there were many difficult times when I thought I should change my major, I still believed in my ability to get through it.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Some advice that I would give to current and future Cypress students would be to never settle and always believe in yourself. Don’t ever feel that you aren’t smart enough to pursue a certain degree because in the end, it comes down to your willingness to try hard. Don’t settle on a major because it is an easier route. Always take the challenge and push yourself so you can end up working a job that you want to work for the rest of your life.

#CYPROUD: Imad Alhajj, Biology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Imad Alhajj

Imad is a biology major transferring to UCLA following his graduation from Cypress College. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of 10 for better educational opportunities. He is passionate about helping those suffering from the effects of war, fires, and other disasters, and so aspires to become a cosmetic surgeon. While at the college, he has been heavily involved in a number of programs and clubs, including EOPS, (STEM)2, and the Chemistry Club.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Born and raised in Lebanon, I grew up in the Middle East in a city called Beirut. Growing up in Beirut at the time did not promise a safe nor bright future for children of my age because there was war all around the region. Therefore, my father decided to move my siblings and I to California in hopes of fulfilling a much brighter future. I moved to the United States of America at the age of 10 with my family in hopes of pursuing a higher form of education and exploring better opportunities for my future. I had to begin a new life from scratch, and I did not speak any English. After a couple of long years of living in California, I had finally become fluent in speaking and writing the English language by working extremely hard in and out of the classroom. Since moving to California, I have lived in Orange County for nearly 11 years and every day I work to improve and fulfill my initial goal of attaining a great future.

Since I was a young age, I always had an interest in helping others in need. Growing up, I began to develop a strong interest in biology, and I have decided to pursue a career path in biology in order to fulfil my goals and aspirations of one day using my knowledge and skills to help those in need. Inspired by events and experiences as a child, I developed a strong passion toward becoming a cosmetic surgeon in order to help those whom have suffered from causes such as war and fires, along with other unexpected disasters. With this, I have also developed an interest in cancer and the treatment processes of it, as many of my family members have lived through different forms of it.

Another interest/hobby of mine is playing soccer. I have played and watched the sport of soccer since the age of five, and I have always had a passion toward the game like no other. Outside of school, I always find time to participate and play on soccer teams. Also in my free time, I volunteered at an emergency room in a hospital where I helped nurses, doctors, and patients complete whatever tasks were necessary.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Having little knowledge on universities in California after graduating high school, I decided to take the community college route to my educational path. After seeking out and exploring which community college campus would suit me best, I came upon the decision of attending Cypress College. Since then, there has not been one day when I have regretted that decision. From my first day at Cypress College, I have been given tremendous opportunities in and out of the classroom to expand my knowledge. Whether it was about a particular subject or about simply expanding my knowledge on the transfer process, I have always found tremendously helpful resources at Cypress College to answer my questions. Today, I believe I know everything that I need to have a successful transition to a four-year university and it is all thanks to the multiple resources at the college.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Since the start of my path at Cypress College, I have sought out as many opportunities and programs as I can in order to make my experience extremely memorable and successful. The first program I became involved in at Cypress College is the EOPS program. My participation and involvement in this program has made my experiences at Cypress College extremely easygoing and exciting. My involvement in the workshops, field trips, and resources that EOPS has offered allowed me to gain much more knowledge about my career path than I would have imagined.

Another program that I have been involved in at Cypress College is the (STEM)2 Program. Utilizing what had been offered by this program also made my experiences at Cypress College unforgettable. Whether it was attending the workshops they hosted or using their help and knowledge to build a personal resume, I always gained new and useful knowledge for my career path.

Throughout my time at Cypress College, I have also been involved in several clubs such as the Marine Biology Club, STEM Club, and Chemistry Club. In these clubs, I have helped organize and participated in many different activities such as science nights for elementary kids and field trips to visit university labs.

My participation in all of these programs and clubs at Cypress College has made my path here extremely informative and memorable. My path has unfolded itself as I have learned a tremendous amount that I believe I would not have been able to learn anywhere else.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

As I progress through my educational journey, I am most passionate about succeeding and finding resources to help best prepare me for whatever that next step is. I am also passionate about helping others with my knowledge and experiences in order to improve theirs. Last but not least, I am most passionate about completing my studies and achieving my long-term goals. By doing so, I believe I will be able to fulfill my goals and aspirations and help others along the way.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Throughout my attendance at Cypress College, I have encountered incredible faculty and programs that have helped shape where I stand today. These individuals and groups are:

  • Alan Reza: Alan has been my counselor through the EOPS program since my entry at Cypress College. Alan has gone above and beyond to help shape who and where I am today. He has assisted me in figuring out exactly what the steps are that I need to take in order to achieve my goals. Alan has helped me plan my path at Cypress College. Whether it was him referring me to a particular office at Cypress College to answer my questions or him encouraging me to apply to opportunities like scholarships and university visits, he always went out of his way to make sure my path at Cypress College was as smooth and successful as it could be. I cannot thank him enough for that.
  • Dr. Brinda Subramaniam: Dr. Brinda has been my physics professor my last year at Cypress College. Dr. Brinda has made my attendance at Cypress College extremely interesting as she has shared her precious knowledge on physics in the greatest way possible. She has an extremely strong passion toward physics and that passion is infectious. Whether it was her referring me to scholarships, helping me understand certain subjects, or her assisting me in understanding how my career path will unfold, she has made my attendance at Cypress College a memorable one, and I thank her for that.
  • All (STEM)2 and EOPS faculty and staff: The (STEM)2 and EOPS programs have allowed me to have opportunities at Cypress College that have helped unfold my path. They have also given me opportunities to be able to grow personally and professionally. The staff members of both these programs have set me up for success by helping me with the basics of preparing for my next steps.
  • Dr. Adel Rajab: Dr. Rajab was one of the early-on professors in my years at Cypress College who helped me develop a stronger interest in biology. He has made the classroom very engaging and enjoyable. Dr. Rajab has had a tremendous impact in shaping where I stand as he, too, has an infectious passion. Encountering professors like Dr. Rajab had been a tremendous honor, as he has been willing to help me with many questions in regards to classroom material and my career path.
  • Professor Garet Hill: Professor Hill was a math professor who I had the opportunity of taking at Cypress College, of which I am grateful. Professor Hill taught me how to maintain a fun, exciting environment in the classroom while at the same time taking things seriously when necessary, all while surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Carrying that notion throughout many of my other classrooms has really allowed me to be where I am today, excited and eager to learn what’s next.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

After completing my studies at Cypress College, I plan to transfer to UCLA in order to continue my studies in biology. There, I hope to do research in my field of study as well as grow even more personally and professionally. I hope to work in a lab while attending my transfer institution where I will truly get the opportunity to work hands on.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals in regards to my career are to attend a medical school and receive a doctor of medicine degree. I aspire to become a cosmetic surgeon in order to help those who are in need.

What are you most proud of?

Today, I am most proud of how far I have come since moving to the U.S. Starting as a 10-year-old boy who barely knew how to put a sentence together in English to now becoming an undergraduate student working to fulfill his goals of becoming a cosmetic surgeon, I have grown as a person tremendously. I am also proud of being a first-generation college student and for reaching my position today without much guidance at the beginning of my journey.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

One piece of advice I have been repeatedly given while attending Cypress College is to network and develop great relations with professionals in my field of study. This is one piece of advice I would also like to pass on to future students at Cypress College as it has helped me to get where I am today. Without having those relationships and connections with professionals and professors in your field, you are extremely limiting the opportunities you can have. In addition, having these relationships allows you to have people who can write you strong letters of recommendation whenever needed, and that is something that cannot be emphasized enough.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Lastly, I would like to take this moment to truly thank Cypress College as a whole for making my experience in the community college system extremely successful and effortless. My experience here at Cypress College has been an unforgettable one as I have been set up in the best ways possible in order to continue succeeding and growing at a four-year university. I have encountered some amazing individuals here at Cypress College and for that I am thankful and extremely excited for what my future holds. Attending Cypress College has truly shaped who I am today and who I will be tomorrow.

#CYPROUD: Surbhi Arora, Biology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Surbhi Arora

Surbhi is a biology major transferring to University of California, Irvine following her graduation from Cypress College. A native of India, Surbhi has wanted to study and practice medicine ever since she was a young girl. She found a home at Cypress College when she joined the (STEM)2 Program and helped grow the college’s STEM Club. She currently interns at St. Mary’s Medical Center as part of a UCLA-affiliated program which, after completion, awards a certificate in patient care.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born in India and came to the U.S. around the age of 4. I may have been born there, but I mostly remember my life here in California. Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to go into the medical field as some kind of physician. I’ve always been a creative child who loved painting on walls and expressing myself through art. I believe that’s why the human body really interests me.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

At the time, Cypress was the best choice for my family. Being in the middle class has its restrictions, and my dreams of going to medical school were already going to be expensive, so Cypress College was an affordable choice to be able to save up for transfer and future ventures. Little did I know that Cypress would grow so close to my heart.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

My first year at Cypress was me taking mostly general education courses, and it was extremely hard connecting with anyone because not many people that I knew were in the same major. However, in my second year, I decided to join the (STEM)2 Program. At that time, I didn’t know that I would be getting my very own STEM family, and I did. I made a lot of close friends in my major, along with other students who valued education and their future just as much as me.

Being in STEM definitely changed my whole outlook on Cypress; going to classes became a day full of fun because studying with a group of friends is much better than sitting alone at home.
My path definitely unfolded for the better through STEM. I have networked a lot through the program and learned valuable life lessons about how to go about succeeding in not only my studies, but life as well. Due to my fondness for the program, I became the STEM Club president, which taught me a great deal about teamwork and leadership, along with improving my communication skills. I absolutely love my club and how much we have grown together; each event is like adding another member to our close-knit family.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about helping my community and having a positive influence on society. I am an intern at St. Mary’s Medical Center, which allows me to gain firsthand experience in patient care. It is a UCLA-affiliated program, which, after completion, awards a certificate in patient care.

I am extremely passionate about my role as an intern there because I get to do more hands-on work than regular volunteers would. My duties entail feeding, bathing, ambulating patients and aiding nurses with anything requiring patient care. I have worked with surgeons and anesthesiologists during surgeries to gain knowledge in regards to surgical procedures and techniques. My passion derives from my thirst for knowledge and a hospital is the perfect setting for me to learn more about healthcare and decide which specialty I would be most interested in.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

There are several great staff and faculty members who have aided me, whether academically or personally; however, my two absolute favorite faculty members are Yanet Garcia and Adel Rajab. Both have impacted my journey at Cypress immensely.

Yanet Garcia is the (STEM)2 program director who has encouraged me to become a better leader and student as a whole. She is always extremely encouraging and, regardless of how busy she may be, she makes time for all her students and genuinely wants us to succeed. She has been drilling the idea of networking, and I honestly have noticed a major difference in the opportunities I gain through the connections I make. She has been my mentor throughout my last years at Cypress because her motivation is a wonderful catalyst for me to do better, not only academically, but socially as well. I can say one thing about her: she has definitely earned her high, respected position as the program director with her passionate personality.

Adel Rajab is a biology professor who, since the first day, has acted as a major role model and mentor to several of his students, including me. His motivating personality, along with his encouraging behavior, really influences students to do better in class and in their academics as a whole. He has a way of emphasizing the importance of education, which deeply connected with me.

I believe both of these staff members are great in their own way, and without them, my journey at Cypress would not have been as impactful as it has been.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plan after completing my studies at Cypress is transferring to University of California, Irvine and continuing my higher education in biology. I want to continue my internship at the hospital, but also be involved in research work to gain experience and knowledge in that aspect of the medical field as well. I also work right now at Starbucks, so depending on my study workload and how my transition goes at UCI, I want to continue working part-time since UCI is extremely expensive. I want to continue gaining knowledge and doing community service in the health field.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals include going to medical school and eventually becoming a surgeon. I am still deciding which type of surgeon I want to become, which is where my internship comes in handy because it allows me to gain valuable experience from different healthcare professionals, whether it be nurses, surgeons, surgical technicians, anesthesiologists, or other staff.

I aspire to become a surgeon because I love seeing how quick on their feet surgeons are during surgery and how they save lives daily by ridding patients of diseases or other health issues. I am the girl who doesn’t shy away from the sight of blood, and understanding the human body has fascinated me since I was a young girl. I would love to become a successful surgeon who is having a positive influence on society daily.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that I enjoyed and made the most of my journey at Cypress. Initially, I didn’t have a good support system of friends, and I missed high school. However, becoming active on campus allowed me to make several friends and become socially involved. I am proud of my achievements while I have been at Cypress, including being on the Dean’s Honor Roll for a semester, participating in my internship, holding my role as president and leader of a club, and building friendships.

My mentors have aided my evolution into a better version of myself, and it’s highly motivating. I am proud of being here, featured as a #CYProud student, when I always thought I would just quietly fly through my years here and transfer to a four-year university; I am proud that someone thought I was worthy of recognition. There is not one major thing I am proud of, but my daily accomplishments here are what make me who I am.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Don’t think that being at a community college is a disadvantage; rather, take it and make it the best experience you can. Be active on campus, meet people, and make friendships that will last you a lifetime. Be confident, be bold, be fearless to be the best version of yourself!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am extremely thankful for this opportunity to be recognized at Cypress, which I never thought would happen. My greatest wish is that every day I continue learning valuable life lessons and keep growing into a better human being. Thank you, Cypress College, for such a wonderful journey here. I will never forget you all!

#CYPROUD: Stephen Crawford, Funeral Service

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Stephen Crawford

Stephen was one of five students who graduated as part of Cypress College’s first cohort of baccalaureate-degree students receiving a Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service. It is thanks in large part to him that the mortuary science program was chosen for inclusion in the statewide pilot; only 14 other California community college programs were chosen. He is a manager at a cemetery and funeral home in Oakland, California, and looks forward to continue growing in the industry.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Prior to coming to Cypress, I was working as a manager in retail. It was by no means glamorous, but it paid the bills. One Saturday, I remember being at work and suddenly it was Monday afternoon and I was in the hospital. I was cut off by a car on my motorcycle on the way home. I mangled my leg and destroyed my spleen. It was weeks before I could even get out of bed and months of physical therapy before I could properly walk. The incident did, however, allow me an opportunity to go back to school to pursue something I was truly passionate about: that meant mortuary science and attending Cypress College.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Mortuary science is only offered at two schools in California, and Cypress was literally right down the street from me. Since the other was in Sacramento, my choice seemed clear. It was also nice that Cypress happens to have a highly rated Mortuary Science program.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

The biggest project in which I was involved at Cypress College was the push for a baccalaureate degree program. Once California passed the law allowing for a pilot program of community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees, I made it my mission to make sure mortuary science at Cypress was one of the programs selected. This included attending multiple meetings to persuade the Academic Senate that Mortuary Science was the program that Cypress should champion moving forward; attending meetings of the NOCCCD Board of Trustees to argue in favor of Cypress College and its Mortuary Science program over Fullerton College’s law enforcement program; as well as even attending the meeting in Sacramento that affirmed Cypress College as one of the 15 community colleges selected for the pilot program.

Since then, I have enrolled in said program and have now completed it. It is because of this program that I have been able to further my career within the funeral service industry.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Currently, I have been a huge advocate for mortuary science education and higher education in general, for obvious reasons. Last year, there was a bill being put forward to expand the pilot program that allowed Cypress to offer a baccalaureate degree. I had the opportunity to testify in front of the California State Senate and share the story of my journey, of how the opportunity to receive a bachelor’s degree in funeral service has affected my life for the better.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The entire faculty in the Mortuary Science Department helped me first through the associate program and then again with the bachelor’s program. But, by far, the person who has had the biggest impact on my schooling and career to this point has been Jolena Grande. She was the biggest proponent of the Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service program and it took her initiative to make it a reality. She has pushed me since I started at Cypress to further myself in almost everything I do.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am already in the workforce, but it was because this baccalaureate program was created that I was able to move into a management position overseeing a cemetery and funeral home. I plan on taking the knowledge that I have gained from the program and spread it throughout the industry as much as my influence will allow.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Right now, I couldn’t ask to be in a better position. It’s already because of Cypress that I have achieved about as much as I can. The only thing left is to try to be a leader and influencer within the industry through years of experience; it’s just that I need the years of experience first.

What are you most proud of?

The fact that I am here graduating with a degree that didn’t even exist a couple years ago. After not completing my studies at a four-year school, I started over and worked my way through a new program, helped get it extended and completed that too.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Get your ass to class.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

It has taken 14 years for me to get a bachelor’s degree. I couldn’t be happier to have had it take this long because it means being part of the first class to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Cypress.

#CYPROUD: Brianna Adams, Hotel Management

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Brianna Adams

Brianna is a hotel management major transferring to Cal Poly Pomona’s Collins College of Hospitality Management following her graduation from Cypress College. She grew up in Southern California and initially pursued Cypress College’s Radiologic Technology program, but decided to change her major just before completion. She soon found she had a passion for hospitality and entered the college’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary program where she thrived. She aspires to one day be a general manager at a full-service hotel and pursue her love of travel.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Bellflower, California, and graduated in 2012 from Downey High School. My interests include traveling, trying different types of cuisines, and going to Disneyland. I will be graduating this year from Cypress College with an associate degree in hospitality management. I am also the very first person to graduate from college in my family. While taking classes at Cypress College, I have also maintained a full-time position as a guest experience host at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I originally chose Cypress College for the Radiologic Technology program. I almost completed the entire program, until I had a change of heart and found my passion for hospitality. Now, I am so grateful that I chose to complete the Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary program at Cypress College.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

At Cypress College, I have mostly been involved on the Anaheim Campus for the Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary program. I participate in the Cypress Bistro, which includes planning, organizing, managing, seating, serving, and dishwashing. I also attend the annual Career Fair for HRC students to interact with hospitality industry employers.

My path seemed to unfold right after I took the personality assessment at the Cypress College Career Center. After switching majors, I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. The personality assessment informed me of the hospitality career options. As soon as I joined the HRC program, I quickly found a job in the field, with the help of Professor Lisa Clark. Now, I have been at the same workplace for two years and plan to continue to grow with the company.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about learning new things and saving money. I enjoy learning new things because I feel like it makes me a more knowledgeable and well-rounded person. I am a people person, so by being knowledgeable and familiar about different topics, it helps me relate to people and start conversations. I am also passionate about saving money because it allows me to travel and see the world. I work hard in school and at work, so it is a good mental break for me to travel, and it is something that I always look forward to.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Lisa Clark has helped me get to where I am today. I owe it to her for educating me about the hospitality industry and assisting me with getting hired at my current workplace. She is one of a kind and a huge asset to the Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary program. Cypress College is lucky to have her.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

After graduating from Cypress College, I immediately plan to start my education at Cal Poly Pomona in the fall of 2018. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management there, I plan to apply for the Corporate Management Training program for Hyatt Hotels Corporation and develop myself into a management/leadership role.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals are to become a general manager at a full-service hotel and travel the world. I aspire to be a leader and mentor that my employees and colleagues look up to. I want to succeed and grow in what I do, as well as help others succeed and grow in what they do.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being the first person to graduate in my family, as well as leading by example for my younger sisters. I am also very proud to have been selected and nominated by Lisa Clark for CYProud. It is an honor and very nice to know that my hard work does not go unnoticed.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

One bit of advice I would give to current and future Cypress College students is to truly never give up. It is completely OK to not know exactly what you want to do in life. I felt so lost after I changed majors, but I used the resources at school and continued to stay positive in order to truly find my passion. Surprisingly, everything just falls into place eventually, as long as you continue to go to school and never give up.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am so fortunate that I had the opportunity to attend Cypress College. I would recommend this school to anyone wanting an education.

#CYPROUD: Luis Ramirez, Engineering

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Luis Ramirez

Luis is an engineering major transferring to University of California, Irvine, following his graduation from Cypress College. With hard work, dedication, and passion, Luis evolved from an average student in high school to a college student graduating with honors. After an experience working with a young amputee learning to walk with his new prosthetic leg and research dealing with artificial muscles, he decided to pursue a mechanical engineering degree with aspirations of developing prosthetics, exoskeletons, and wearable robotics to help those with impaired muscular movement.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Hi, my name is Luis. I have spent my whole life growing up in Long Beach. My hobbies during the semester include studying, living in coffee shops, crying over exams, and the typical STEM student activities. When I’m not focused on school, I like shooting photography, exploring unfamiliar cities, volunteering, working with children, and growing my skill sets.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I fell in love with the environment. I noticed that students at Cypress take school very seriously. It was out of the way for me to attend compared to other community colleges, but the environment motivated me to stay focused, do my studies, and not let distractions get in the way of my academics.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Upon joining the (STEM)2 Program, I was exposed to a nurturing academic setting that offered endless opportunities to grow. It was through this program that I was accepted to participate in a paid summer research opportunity at University of California, San Diego to work with artificial muscles and underwater soft robotics. This experience was my exposure to the professional field where I learned the importance of being a well-rounded student with more skills and experience than merely a high GPA. Since then, I have put myself out there and have met large amounts of professionals, gained scholarships, founded our Cypress College Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Chapter, organized large workshops, and community outreach events.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am very passionate about community development. I see the Cypress College community as a very vital component of my success, fellow students, and faculty alike. Specifically, I have strived to organize as many opportunities to aid fellow peers struggling through difficulties similar to those I have faced as a community college student. I have applied my efforts outside of my classwork toward creating opportunities for our students to gain leadership experience, work with mentors in the professional field, have valuable teaching experiences through tutoring opportunities, earn scholarships, as well as valuable information on how to transfer to their dream four-year university.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Cypress College stands out to me because of the endless support from faculty. Every professor has always been eager to help through letters of recommendation, office hours, emotional support, professional advice, and encouragement throughout the moments I thought I couldn’t keep going. For all of that, I thank every single faculty member and hope they know that none of their dedication toward their students goes unappreciated.

Specifically, I would love to thank professors Amy Ward, Sheila Nguyen, and Torri Dragonov for their mentorship and letters of recommendation for my scholarships and internships; and Yanet Garcia and her staff for their endless efforts toward providing opportunities to our STEM scholars and Yanet’s joy of personally listening to and assisting us through our struggles. I’d also like to thank the physics professors for making me appreciate the true definition of applying myself to learn what I love.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My plan for when I transfer is to devote every ounce of my human will to studying for my classes to maintain a high GPA for graduate school. I also hope to gain more experience conducting research to make myself a more competitive applicant.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I’ve always wanted to devote myself to helping children. The semester I took my first physics class and human anatomy class, I was working with a child with a recent amputation who was learning how to walk with his new prosthetic leg. The way he was so enthusiastic about learning how to walk with his new “magic leg” made me consider applying myself to developing devices to help individuals dealing with physical abnormalities. From this and my summer research experience working with artificial muscles, I set the goal of applying my mechanical engineering degree toward developing prosthetics and exoskeletons, as well as soft, wearable robotics that will help with impaired muscular movement. As far as where I see myself, I honestly would be comfortable conducting research, working in industry, or even starting my own company to develop the best devices for those in need.

What are you most proud of?

What I am most proud of is the progress I have made in recent years. Graduating out of high school, I had a 2.6 GPA and was expected to not make anything out of myself. I never even imagined associating the career of engineering with my name or even taking any math class past college algebra. It amazes me that I’ve managed to push myself every night studying in order to surpass every challenge and exam that I have encountered. I’m extremely proud to be able to have found such a rewarding major that frustrates me as well as captivates me. I am happy to say that my parents are actually excited to see where my hard work will take me. Finally, I am also very happy to have met so many influential people in my recent years here. The friendships I have made here will never be forgotten.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Be proud of your academic struggle, lack of sleep, and determination to get the highest score possible. Identify with the hardest-working students in the class who pour out their souls every night in order to pass the class. Push yourself as well as your peers to do better and do not let them give up. Be genuinely happy for your classmates when they do great on an exam. People take notice of your hard work and character much more than what you say about yourself.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I have had a lot of mentors and peers congratulate me on organizing large events, collaborating with numerous professionals, and even surprising professors who doubted my abilities with my hard work. But I wake up every day feeling that all my accomplishments were merely a freak accident and I am not worthy of any of the opportunities I have been blessed with. The sad fact is that some of the most brilliant individuals I have met at Cypress feel this same way.

Please carry yourself with an attitude, don’t listen to those who doubt your abilities, and let your hard work speak for itself. Surround yourself with those who believe in you and push you to do better, and smile at everyone who has been a part of your academic journey.

#CYPROUD: Ngoc Ngo, Psychology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Ngoc Ngo

Ngoc is a psychology major transferring to UCLA following her graduation from Cypress College. A native of Vietnam, Ngoc wanted to pursue higher education in the U.S. because it would allow her to study her passion and provide her with more opportunities. She is a first-generation college student and participant in the CC2PhD Scholar Program, a research and Ph.D. preparation program offered through the UCLA-based CC2PhD Association. She enjoys working with children and aspires to be a child psychologist.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I came to the U.S. two years ago from Vietnam. It was not easy to leave the place where I grew up for almost 20 years; however, I knew deep in my heart that the U.S. would be a better place for my future and education. Just like other new immigrants, I struggled to adapt to the new culture. When it came to communication, I felt like I was falling in a big black hole of disappointment and depression because I could not express myself.

I love studying psychology, but there was not any opportunity for me to pursue it in Vietnam. Thus, despite the language barrier, I set a goal to double my efforts and get ready to face challenges in order to achieve a degree in psychology here in the U.S.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

One of my relatives suggested Golden West, OCC, and Santa Ana College when I had to decide which community college I would like to go. At that time, I’d only been in the U.S. for a few months, so I literally had no idea about the colleges here. One day, I went to the swap meet at Cypress College and fell in love with the campus. It was then that I decided Cypress College would be my new home for the next two years.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have been in EOPS for three semesters. It is such a wonderful program with amazing staff who not only provide me with valuable information, memorable field trips, and tons of advice, but also are like my little family. I was lucky to have a chance to work as a student advisor in EOPS, where I learned to express myself and help other students. Without EOPS and its wonderful staff, my success would have taken longer to come and with many more difficulties.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am in love working with children. I always think that every child should be given an equal opportunity to grow, especially those who have mental disabilities. That is why I choose to become a child psychologist.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

All of the faculty and staff I have been working with contributed to my success. However, if I had to list the top three, it would be Professor Wada and Professor Simmons in the ESL Department, and Eva Palomares, my EOPS counselor. Professor Wada and Professor Simmons helped me build my very first foundation for academic writing and reading in English. They are also now my mentors whenever I need help. Eva is a wonderful counselor who helped me on my educational and career pathway. Her encouragement motivates me, making me believe more in myself, and the quotes in her office inspire me very much.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will go to UCLA, finish my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and then apply for graduate school. During my time at UCLA, I will get involved in research to gain more experience, confirm my final interest, and get fully prepared for post-baccalaureate education.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

During my time at UCLA, I would like to get involved in an international non-profit organization working to help children in need. I will apply for a research assistant position in some of the labs at UCLA to increase my research experience. I will set a plan working to maintain a high GPA, expand my network, and prepare myself as best as I can for graduate school. I have not decided on a specific field I would like to go deeply into, but sure to say that earning a doctorate is one of the goals.

I will also have one gap year to give back to my parents, who sacrificed their whole lives for my education. My lifelong goal is always to make my parents proud.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of who I am today. Every obstacle I have overcome, every fear I have fought against, and every bit of nervousness that has been stuck in my head are now becoming points of pride. I am proud of not giving up in the middle. I am proud of being a Vietnamese immigrant, first-generation student to graduate with the excellent GPA, holding the first college degree in my family.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Set your goal and work for it with all your heart. Don’t ever allow yourself to think that you cannot. Be confident. Believe in your true self. If you are an immigrant, don’t let language barriers prevent you from what you love and what you want to do. You do not need to speak perfect English, but you need to have passion and knowledge.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to once again say thank you to all faculty and staff at Cypress College. Thank you for giving me such an incredible experience of my life here in the U.S.

#CYPROUD: Mihir Patel, Computer Science

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we want all of our students to know we are on this educational journey with them and are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2018.

Mihir Patel


Mihir is a computer science major transferring to Cal Poly Pomona following his graduation from Cypress College. He immigrated to the U.S. from India at the age of 11 and at first struggled to learn English. With advice and guidance from his older sister, Mihir decided to attend Cypress College after high school and found help from the EOPS program and many of his professors. He aspires to earn a master’s degree and become a programming teacher or work in the programming industry for a major corporation.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born in India and migrated to the U.S. when I was 11 years old. I look at my younger self now and would have never imagined the troubles I overcame in my life to be where I am now. I had to learn English on my own. I would try to converse with my classmates, whom I could not understand. I couldn’t have been here without the guidance of my older sister. She turned her bad experience into advice for me so that I can have a better future. I owe it to my sister for me being at Cypress College, and I am very grateful for her guidance.

My interest in technology and computers is what convinced me to major in computer science. Besides an interest in computers, I really enjoy learning about psychology, specifically brain behavioral studies. I would consider doing a minor in psychology at Cal Poly Pomona.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Cypress College was my first choice of community colleges because of the great programs they have on campus. I also learned that Cypress offers a multitude of on-campus social opportunities and clubs. Cypress College also had exceptional transfer rate percentages.

I also chose Cypress College because it was convenient; it was close to my house and my previous job. It also has small class sizes, which gives a great study environment for students to learn and communicate with professors. I fell in love with the Cypress College campus even before I enrolled. I had also heard many great things about the campus and faculty from my sister and a few of her friends who attended Cypress College.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I was involved in the EOPS program for about three years. The program gave me opportunities to socialize and improve my network with other students interested in the same major as me. The program hosted a field trip to northern UC schools and some of the southern UC schools as well. In addition to the field trips, I attended some of their workshops to better my studying skills. I was inspired to create my own club on campus after attending the field trip and workshops.

I also did work study at the EOPS office which allowed me to network with some of the staff members around the campus.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about helping others in any way possible. I also love to learn about new topics that are different from my major. In my free time I watch some TED Talk videos, read some articles regarding new technological advancement, and do some research on Game Theory. I am also passionate about games and I would really like to become a Game Developer somewhere down my career path. I am aiming to get my master’s in computer science and possibly even teach programming.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I want to acknowledge my EOPS counselor, Alan Reza, for helping me reach my dream. He helped me create my education planner as well as my transfer process. He also gave me several opportunities to be involved in social events.

I recently took Physics 222 with Professor Subramaniam and she helped me change my study habits. Her class was the hardest class I have ever taken, and she always made sure to give us the encouragement to study hard. It was thanks to her that I went from studying 10 to 12 hours a week to studying almost 20 to 23 hours a week. She has helped me prepare for the hard work I will face once I transfer to Cal Poly Pomona.

I also want to say thank you to all my previous professors for helping me become the person I am today. They have all been wonderful and helpful in every way.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My plans after transferring from Cypress College are to finish up my bachelor’s degree and follow up to get my master’s degree as well. I would like to be a programming teacher after I receive my master’s degree. If teaching doesn’t go my way, I would either consider working as a software engineer for Amazon or as a game client engineer for Valve Corporation.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My long-term goals are to work in a programming industry. After I acquire experience, I would like to design an application for augmented reality. I would also like to focus and learn more about artificial intelligence.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the success I have achieved here at Cypress College. I am also proud of myself for being accepted to Cal Poly Pomona because of all the hard work I have done. I am proud and grateful for the experience I gained from creating a club on campus.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

I would advise the current and future students of Cypress College to never give up on their dreams, no matter how far it may seem. Even if there are financial issues, do not give up on your education and continue being at least a part-time student. I would also recommend making friends that are pursuing the same major as you will most likely take the same classes.

Put yourself out there and join a club on campus to increase your social network. My counselor always told me, “Your network is your net worth,” and I take those words very seriously. As you increase your network, more opportunities will open up for you. Try to get as much experience off campus by attending events as they are equally as important as your academic experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I want to say thank you to my family, friends, and professors for helping me. I just want to wish the best of luck to current and future Cypress College students in achieving their goals, and may their hard work pay off.

“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry and complaining.” – Stephen Hawking.

MLB Inducts Alum Trevor Hoffman into Hall of Fame

Cypress College baseball coach Scott Pickler once said of alumnus Trevor Hoffman, “He had it all in perspective. It wasn’t an accident that he got his 601 saves. It wasn’t an accident that he’s the best reliever to ever play the game. It’s not an accident that he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame.

Pickler, who coached Hoffman from 1985-1986, was right. Major League Baseball inducted the former Cypress Charger into the Hall of Fame today. Hoffman was one of four players selected for induction as part of the Class of 2018.

Hoffman was a relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres during his 18-year MLB career, earning 601 saves, an induction into the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame, and an award named in his honor — the Trevor Hoffman N.L. Reliever of the Year award.

Congratulations to alumnus Trevor Hoffman!

#CYProfessional: Ambika Talwar, English Professor

At Cypress College, we are proud of our employees and realize that recognizing personal and professional achievements, along with establishing a human connection between students, faculty, and staff, promotes a collegial atmosphere imbued with the Charger Spirit! Our employees always strive for excellence and make significant contributions to the campus and surrounding communities every day. We are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProfessional educators like Ambika.

Ambika Talwar is a Cypress College English professor and has been teaching at the college for nearly three decades. Born in India, she is also an author, wellness consultant, artist, and poet whose “vision is to to realize her sacred destiny and invite others to find their brilliance.” She has published a number of books, poems, and essays, including her latest, “My Greece: Mirrors & Metamorphoses,” for which she participated in a reading at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga last month.

When was My Greece published?
My book was published in December 2016 through CreateSpace. I have both paperback and e-book versions.

What inspired you to write My Greece? What does it mean to you?
I traveled to Greece in 2002 and took with me a big old Sony PD-150, thinking I would film my experience. And I did. But I also took a lot of notes and realized there was more than one story. And that all these experiences with people and places became part of an overarching narrative that tells us Greece is buried. But so are we. This realization pushed me to write my memoir of those 6 weeks spent in that hot hot summer.

My other inspirations… The Macedonian Prince Alexander had invaded India in 326 BC. As a child, I had visited the place in the north where his horse had turned back, indicating to the 33-year-old that he needed to return. And then of course, Greeks know their history and considered me their cousin. They’d say, “Oh you are Indian! We are cousins!” And then the mythology — the layers of stories we grow up with and study that inform our sense of who we are also remind us of our deep inter-connections. In fact, we would all be more in synch with ourselves if we but remembered our common roots. Sadly, we are all affected by the destructive limitations of colonial thinking. Look at the way the world is going. But good is arising from these ashes, too. There was no way I could not have written this book; I was concerned about our human purpose and destiny. It is not a tourist book but one in which I ask the question, “Is our evolution a shift from one technology to another?” We surely need to express our humanity in profound ways. Now.

Do you have other readings scheduled?
Yes. November 18 at 4 pm. It will be on their website soon. http://www.beyondbaroque.org I hope you are able to join me.

Beyond Baroque
681 N. Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Ph: 310-822-3006

How do you balance your work as a professor with your other professional/creative work?
I teach writing. If I did not participate in what I do, how could I make the experience authentic for my students? It becomes that much more special when I can share my weaknesses and rough moments in my own writing with our students who find writing difficult — something “I’m never going to learn,” or “I hate writing,” as they say. I have to remind them that while we have lessons to stir and guide them on, ultimately, they have to make it their own. In other words, I work with them to help them access their own knowing-ness and wisdom. Grammar is part of it all.

Truly how we do one thing is how we do everything. As a creative person, when I invite students to touch that special creative space in them, they may feel a bit intimidated; but when they connect, the world changes. This is what motivates me to do what I have been doing for these long years.

My professional and creative work are same and different. Teaching is a creative process. I truly understand that each person is imbued with creative spirit; we are all creative as we each create our lives moment by moment. So do you. There is no separation. Imagine if we were aware of this interplay of self-Self.

Oh, I have to share this recent experience. As a world traveler, I take special interest in the profound ways in which I am moved by various cultures. I learned in 2012 that our schools do not teach geography. Yes, I was stunned to silence, almost frozen. It was an Eng. 60 class. How then do we become global citizens enriched by exquisite diversities I wondered. So we had a fascinating discussion in class, which led to them writing what it means to be a global citizen. It was transformational; a student who had remained reticent through the semester opened up to more possibilities after this and for the first time shared what she wants to do.

And just a week ago Monday, I emailed my ENG 100 students their journal topic. They were to look at the map of the world and identify 10 rivers they had never heard about. Out of a list of 10, they were to pick two that interested them and study these in terms of environment, story, seasonal changes. I had not given a due date. I was stunned when I walked to class on the Wednesday and found they had all done this assignment in less than two days. They shared their new knowledge and were so eager and interested in their findings that I felt really very deeply touched. I simply said to them: “You know, you all told me you had never studied geography. I am just taking you around the world.”

This was exciting. We have to excite them with what is in them.  You see, we are not so separate from one another, even though politics on all levels of our existence and religious wars want to divide us all. If they cannot travel, here is a way to travel together. And they get to tell me about it — even better. And through my book, I get to share with you all.

Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?
Well, I write poetry, too. Last year, I was invited to join the West-side Women Writers; we meet usually once a month (except in holiday months). We are working on a collection of our poems due out in March 2018. It is a glorious group of women writers who are also a lawyer, music historian, light worker, interviewer on KPFK’s Poet’s Cafe, and more. We meet, share feedback, eat heartily. I am not involved in the book’s production.

Yes, there is a book stirring in me. You know it took me 15 years to get My Greece ready (with very long pauses); I wanted it to be for my father. Tragically, he passed before it was ready for him. I have dedicated this book to my father.

So for more such writing, I have not adequate time, only longing. Yes my time is shared and teaching grabs most of it, with other related commitments it demands.

If there is any other information you’d like to share, please feel free.
Not more information, but a wish. I wish for people to ultimately be inspired by themselves, to awaken to their true path. I firmly believe schooling ought to be found on such sound principles of wholeness. And thank you for hanging out with me. It has been a pleasure.

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#CYProud: Ashley Kipling, Diagnostic Medical Sonography

At Cypress College, we are proud of our students, many of whom have overcome difficult situations, seek to better their stations in life, and have brilliant dreams and visions for their futures. Our students make a difference in their communities and the lives of many others, and we are pleased to featured distinguished #CYProud students like Ashley.

Ashley Kipling
Cypress + DMS

Kipling is a diagnostic medical sonography major finishing her degree at Cypress College this fall semester. After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2007 with a degree in psychology and Spanish, she spent a decade in social work counseling those with mental illness, advocating for those with developmental disabilities, and aiding those in crisis. Life changes, particularly single motherhood, led her to return to school at Cypress College in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program, and she is preparing to graduate at the end of the current fall semester.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I am a Southern California girl, born and raised. I attended Irvine Valley College before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for my undergraduate degree. After graduating college in 2007 with a degree in psychology and Spanish, I entered the social work field. Over the past decade, I have counseled individuals with mental illness, helped advocate for those with developmental disabilities, and walked alongside those in crisis. My goal was always to go back for my master’s degree to become a marriage and family therapist, but my own family life picked up, so I’d put those goals on the back burner for the time being.

It was not long after becoming a mother to my beautiful daughter in 2013 that my marriage went through some difficult times. I was hopeful that it could be reconciled and that our family could be repaired. Unfortunately, it was within a year after my daughter’s birth that I became a single mother and the sole financial provider for us. In light of these life changes, I decided to make a new path for my daughter and I, and began attending night classes to enter the sonography field while still working full time in social work.

Currently, I am in Cypress College’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program, and am set to graduate this December. It is a lot of work being a full-time student and a mother, but I am so thankful for the opportunities God has given me. I enjoy spending my free time with my daughter, family, and friends. My daughter and I enjoy going to the park, feeding the ducks there, and gardening.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College due to its competitive Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. I am proud to be a part of a program that holds such a strong reputation within the community.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

Due to the many hats I wear as a mother, the provider for my daughter, and full-time student, I am busy, busy, busy. Unfortunately, I do not have time for extracurricular activities at Cypress College. However, I am actively involved in my church and support a local pregnancy clinic.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am an idealist at heart and always strive to do my best, no matter what the circumstance. This underlies all my efforts: in mothering my daughter, in pursuing my goals, and in helping others. I love encouraging others to see their worth and potential, and overcome the obstacles in their lives. That is what I loved most during my time in the counseling field and what I am eager to take into my future career as a sonographer.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

I am so grateful for the support and encouragement from each of the professors within my program. To my professor, Nancy Corrales, who has provided continued support, a listening ear, and encouragement. This has meant the world to me! To Emma Anton for her knowledge, patience, and continued support. And to both Julie Hollinghurst and Lynn Mytts for their encouraging and positive spirits.

To my clinical supervisor, Labi Sonuyi, for her countless hours of teaching, and for her investment in my training. And to all the techs at my site who have spent many hours teaching, guiding, and encouraging me. Thank you…I would not have come this far without each and every one of you!

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

After four years of maintaining life at a frenetic pace, I may sleep for an entire week straight after I graduate! After that, though, I hope to gain employment in the sonography field and continue honing my skills as an ultrasound tech.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I am eager to see where my sonography career takes me. I loved working in the helping field by counseling others and am excited to bring the skills I’ve refined over the past decade into the medical field. I hope that my patient, compassionate, and empathic nature will provide a peaceful, comfortable environment for my patients in times of anxiety and uncertainty.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of making a new path for my daughter and I, especially after all of the obstacles we have faced over the past few years. I am grateful that I will be able to provide for her financially and always have a career I can depend on and grow within.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Never give up on your goals. Keep your eye on the prize and get up each day and remind
yourself, “You can do this”!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Life can take you by surprise sometimes, but it’s with God’s grace and strength that I’ve not only been able to bounce back, but to thrive. I would not have been able to go through my school program and this season without the support of my family, especially my mom, my wonderful boyfriend, and my community of friends. I am forever grateful!

#CYProud: Monica Vargas, Psych Tech & Dance

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate’s degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2017.

Monica Vargas
Cypress + Psych Tech

Vargas received her associate degree in psychiatric technology and dance and will continue her studies at Cypress College in the Registered Nursing program to prepare for an eventual master’s degree in psychiatric nursing. She strives to spread awareness about mental illness and the human condition, and enjoys spending time volunteering.

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Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born in Los Alamitos, California and attended Los Alamitos High School. I was always active; I did taekwondo as a kid, then in high school I joined a club soccer team. I always took honors and AP courses while maintaining a good GPA. I was always interested in psychology and the human mind, and I also love to dance and often perform in different venues.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Cypress College offers a convenient location as it is close to both my home and work. Additionally, it offers a great education and value for my money, as well as many services and licensure programs that are not offered at other locations. It has helped open many pathways to brighten my future.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I began my studies at Cypress College believing that I would only be a psychology major; however, after taking a few dance classes, I discovered a second passion and chose to pursue it as a second major. Similarly, I happened upon the Psychiatric Technician Program, which opened many more paths in my future career goals.

I will receive associate degrees in both psychology and dance, as well as my psychiatric technology license, which will help me to attain future personal, academic, and career goals.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about spreading awareness about both mental health and diversity in each individual. Being able to be part of a psychiatric program, I was able to visit many mental hospitals and developmental institutions. This not only allowed me to learn more about mental illnesses, but also become aware of the stigma and labeling that exist for these people.

My passion is to spread awareness about not only the mentally ill, but all people. I hope to help educate people to remove stigmas and labels of others. I am also passionate about helping people as much as I can. I have volunteered my time at the Boys and Girls Club teaching dance to kids who were not expected to be able to dance. I also volunteered training individuals who had health impairments and could not afford a fitness coach. I am always looking for ways in my community to help out in any way I can.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The faculty at Cypress is usually very helpful; however, three professors went above and beyond to help me and everyone around them.

Professor Maha Afra pushed and motivated me to pursue my goals, and has been there every step of the way to help me achieve them. She is always very well-informed and became my mentor. Additionally, she kept her office doors open to all of us in a welcoming environment with lots of pillows where we would go when life was overwhelming. She also reminded us of our self worth and continued to motivate us to achieve.

Professor Christina Johannsen is another faculty member who always made time to listen to all her students and really tried to help us succeed. She was very caring and helped everyone who needed it. She helped me see that anyone can become anything they set their minds to, and I knew that I could always rely on her vast knowledge and her keen way with words.

Finally, Professor Jaime Ramos helped me figure out my career plan and motivated me to pursue it. He always answered my career questions honestly and was always very genuine. He helped me establish career goals and ways to achieve them.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I plan to stay at Cypress and enter the Registered Nursing Program. After transferring from Cypress College, I plan to attend Cal State Long Beach and enter their Psychiatric Nursing Program in order to receive a master’s degree and become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I hope to one day become a college professor and share my acquired knowledge the way Professors Afra, Johannsen, and Ramos did for me and motivate other students to move forward with their goals.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I aspire to become a college professor, as well as open a dance therapy studio. I am a dancer for Maha and Company, Professor Afra’s dance company, and I aspire to continue dancing in this company that helps spread cultural awareness through movement.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of being able to take 18 units, be part of a dance company, and have a job all
while paying for my education. I won an award for being one of only three students to maintain straight A’s throughout the Psychiatric Technician Program and my other courses. It was not easy, and I had many sleepless weeks, but it was worth every bit of effort.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Take advantage of everything Cypress College has to offer, from financial help, to all the licensure programs available. Oftentimes, community colleges have a bad stigma; however, it is definitely the smart route as they offer more help both financially and educationally.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I wish the best of luck to everyone. Hard work and dedication always pay off. I wouldn’t have been so successful without the dedicated faculty and staff at Cypress College, and I am very grateful. Furthermore, I would like to thank everyone who I have had the pleasure of meeting at Cypress as they all played a role in helping me achieve some of my goals.

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#CYProud: Dominique Brown, Dance

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2017.

Dominique Brown
Cypress + Grand Canyon University

Brown is a dance major transferring to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona following her graduation from Cypress College. She decided to attend Cypress College after taking a dance class the summer before she was heading to a four-year college. She aspires to receive her master’s degrees in dance and business, and start an international dance company.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born in Jamaica, but raised in Orange County, and I have lived in various cities within Orange County. My favorite residence was in Placentia, mostly because of the pond in the courtyard of the complex. I still remember the joy I had watching the ducks swim from my veranda.

As for my hobbies and interests, I love dancing and creating dance videos. (I also enjoy drawing and eating.) My interest in dancing began the moment I set foot onto American soil in California. I fell in love with the dances I would see in music videos and movies. I enjoyed it so much that I began to mimic the movements I saw, which led to my selection of Poppin’ as my style of origin.

From the top of my head, I would say that the movie Bring it On was the first movie I was crazy for. The Clovers, one of the cheer teams featured in the movie, subconsciously inspired my passion for dance and athletics. Five years later, my passion for krump was inspired by the documentary, RIZE. There are times I regret not continuing to study the movements and history of krump.

Sixth grade was when I became more confident in dancing in front of others, but throughout elementary and junior high my life goal was purely about becoming a professional basketball player in EuroLeague Women. I ate, breathed, and slept basketball, and in between I was involved in other activities like double dutch. Fast forward to the end of my junior year of high school, my life plan took an abrupt detour when I began to hate the sport of basketball, mainly due to my surroundings while I was on the school’s basketball team. I couldn’t even watch March Madness that year and for the next three years. I was not able to write a truthful paper for my “American Dream” assignment because basketball was no longer a part of it. During my senior year, I was an empty vessel on the basketball court. The only things that kept me alive and sane were God and dance.

I am grateful for those who were positive influences in my life and helped me to realize my new plan: becoming an entrepreneur.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I was on the verge of going to a four-year college straight out of high school, but I was invited, along with two schoolmates, to perform a dance at Cypress College’s Triple Threat Showcase. The week before we had also been invited to watch the People in Motion dance concert and I was enthralled by the production level. But what I found more enlightening was my decision to never do a solo on the campus theater stage ever again. At first glance, I thought, “Maybe I should try using the whole stage to make my dance more dynamic.” I was wrong, and I regret it to this day. I was so winded that I almost tripped going up the stairs to get water.

Other than that, experiencing the stage and witnessing other great performances was really great. Even though I was excited, I was still planning to attend the four-year college in the fall after I took one class during the summer at Cypress. Fortunately, that class—multicultural dance—is what made me stay at Cypress. It made me desire to pursue dance as a major along with business.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have participated in two of the dance concerts at Cypress College, one last spring semester and the other this spring semester. For one semester during the 2015-2016 school year, I was a member of the Black Student Union. I was also a member of the Cypress College women’s basketball team this past season (2016-2017). I no longer hate basketball. I have made great friends and acquaintances over the past three years who are reliable. The network I’ve built with them will forever be remembered.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about dance, music, movies, video games, and anything Dragon Ball-related. At times, I feel as if I’m having a heart attack when I am really immersed in any of the things mentioned above. People who witness me in my trance may also see me spazzing out with excitement for an amazing dance move, piano run, or an unexpected plot twist. An example is when I watch Dragon Ball Super, I am practically screaming, jumping, pacing, and extremely animated throughout the entire episode.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

The faculty that have helped me get where I am today are dance professors: Erin Landry, Maha Afra, and Katiana Pallais. Honestly, I would say all the dance professors at Cypress have positively affected my life in one way or another. Another professor I am grateful for is Thomas “TJ” Reynolds. I had him for an English class during the 2017 spring semester. What each of these professors have in common is that they will invest their time into their students. They also encourage students to invest their time and efforts into the desire to learn more.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I will be transferring to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona to continue my dance major. I will also be furthering my business studies, so I can double major in dance and business. After I receive my bachelor’s degree from GCU, I plan to continue my studies as a graduate student.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My main long-term goals are to get my M.F.A. in dance and M.B.A. in business, then form an international dance company. The mission of the company will be to provide a platform to advocate for people who feel their voices are not heard.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my heritage. Maybe it is because I came to the U.S. at a young age, but my Jamaican pride is a major part of who I am. The values and morals that were instilled in me have been my foundation and remain strong.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

I would say to have fun, be responsible, and be ready to sacrifice some fun to get outstanding grades. Cypress College is a great school. It has really prepared me for a four-year college. If I went straight from high school to a four-year, I would have probably struggled mentally and financially. During my time at Cypress, I made the Library and Learning Resource Center my friend. Forming study groups also helped me to succeed in my classes.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

CYPCITY!? ………………… LET’S GO!!! Thank you for helping me mature! ♥

#CYProud: Miguel Ruiz, Biochemistry

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2017.

Miguel Ruiz
Cypress + UCSD

Ruiz is a biochemistry major transferring to the University of California, San Diego following his graduation from Cypress College. While at the college, he’s been involved in a number of clubs and programs, including serving as interim president for the Chemistry Club and cofounding the Cypress College Chapter for the Society of Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. He aspires to enter an M.D.-Ph.D. program and ultimately become a molecular pathologist researching disease.

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Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

Growing up, my family didn’t have the luxury of being fully engaged in my life. I was a latch-key kid, and I was responsible for taking care of my mother and contributing to our household by working since the age of 16. In the face of hard times and financial uncertainty, I elected to derive motivation from my situation and pursue science for its impartiality and objectivity. My mother was a nurse, and her commitment to the care and advancement of others has inspired my desire to pursue biochemistry; it is my medium of choice to follow my mother’s paradigm. It has been up to me to give my life meaning and clear the path toward higher education. Since entering community college, my goal has been to continually challenge myself through more rigorous class schedules each year. At times, I have even taken particularly large class loads exceeding three or four science courses at a time. My goal in taking these rigorous class schedules has been to train myself to adapt to high-stress workloads and improve my discipline and work ethic.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

After my exit from high school, I had no idea where to begin my path toward higher education. I wish I could say that my research of the graduation rate, or the retention rate of Cypress College, was what attracted me initially to the college, but in reality, it was the people; some of the best, hardworking, and most responsible people I knew went to Cypress College.

What has been most remarkable is what’s kept me at Cypress College: community. In high school, I never had an academic identity. I felt like an outside observer whenever I tried to engage in science previously. At Cypress College, I found the (STEM)2 program where I was given the opportunity to become immersed in a community with similar passionate and ambitious individuals who made me feel as though I had developed a niche in the sciences. Then, unbeknownst to me, science became my life. Every person I knew, every person that I called friend, was a science major. My mentors and people I idolized were professors and scientists.

Cypress College essentially provided the fundamental environment to facilitate my growth as a scientist when I had no other resources. The experience I had at Cypress College shows that given the proper environment and community, an individual can be positioned to achieve.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

After all the experiences and knowledge I cultivated at Cypress College, I believed it was my duty and certainly an honor to give back to the community that essentially made me. I worked with other Latino students to co-found the Cypress College Chapter for the Society of Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, a club which strives to conduct on- and off-campus science-related activities to promote science in Latino communities. Cypress College also gave me the opportunity to be a part of a club for the first time and serve in a position of leadership. I was a member of the Cypress College Chemistry Club where I served as treasurer and later as interim president.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

In a sense, my major is my absolute passion. But I also believe my greatest passion in general is to understand that which I do not know compounded with a profound desire to improve the human condition. My thirst for knowledge is everything to me, and I believe I manifest my passion through my studies in biochemistry. As a biochemistry major, I’ve been given the opportunity to explore the universe at a molecular level, while applying what I’ve learned toward a greater cause: to ultimately research and produce innovations that I hope will have a significant impact on humanity.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Without the faculty and staff at Cypress College, I would have lacked the inspiration and plethora of knowledge necessary to succeed and overcome. All of my professors at Cypress contributed to my development as a student, but there were some that went above and beyond their role as educators—they became my mentors.

Professor Adel Rajab was my first biology professor in college. Professor Rajab’s BIO 174 was a daunting course, but he was an inspiration. He holds his students to a high standard and motivated us to achieve a deep knowledge of the material.

Professor Torri Draganov gave me the best experience I could have ever hoped for in a chemistry class. Professor Draganov was patient and effusive, and gave me the tools I needed to succeed in chemistry. When I knew nothing about higher education beyond community college, Professor Draganov offered me guidance in structuring my journey through higher education.

I met Professor Alex Mintzer when I began taking rigorous course schedules. Although the material that we learned was heavy, Professor Mintzer was always available to clarify the material for his students or simply be there for his students to talk to.

Yanet Garcia and the STEM faculty were hugely impactful on my growth at Cypress College. Yanet was more than a counselor to me; she pushed me every step of the way to go out and look for the opportunities I needed to succeed and thrive.

Professor Robin De Roo was my organic chemistry professor during my most intense semesters at the college. She was key in helping me keep my sanity during the most challenging of times. Professor De Roo understood my background as a first-generation student who was still learning self discipline. She offered me advice, guidance, and life lessons with an open door, and has impacted me in a way I can never forget.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

This summer, I plan to recertify as a phlebotomist so that I may work in a hospital in close contact with patients and caregivers to better understand my potential role in the medical field. Furthermore, this fall I will be transferring to the University of California, San Diego as a biochemistry and cell biology major. To further elucidate my potential in research, my goal is to pursue research at UCSD in pharmacology, biotechnology, and molecular pathology.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Undergraduate transfer has been one of my first steps in a series of goals. My next step is to graduate from UCSD in two years as a biochemistry and cell biology major with a minor in chemistry and an emphasis in molecular biology. Subsequent to my graduation, my hope is to take the MCAT and obtain a high enough score to achieve my ultimate goal which is to apply and be accepted to an M.D.-Ph.D. program at the University of California, San Francisco. Currently, my life goal is to conduct research in disease as a molecular pathologist.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of who I am now and what I feel I represent. I am proud to be my mother’s son. I am proud to be the son of an immigrant. I am proud to be the first science major in my family. I am proud to represent an underrepresented minority.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Learn how to deal with failure. Failure is inevitable; it will happen. What I think truly defines a person’s character is how they react in the face of utter failure. Life is not about the failure, it’s about the readjustment, the adaptation. Countless times, with people of various backgrounds, I’ve observed that oftentimes failure, or fear of failure, has been the major driver in causing us to lose sight of our goals, get bogged down, and ultimately become intimidated of who we are meant to be. It is my belief that learning to pick yourself up after failure and continuing to pursue what you love is the ability to succeed in anything you desire.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to extend my gratitude to all the faculty and staff at Cypress College. I don’t know what I would have done without this place.

#CYProud: Junnior Rodriguez, Automotive Engineering

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2017.

Junnior Rodriguez
Cypress + Cal Poly SLO

Junnior is an automotive technology, physics, and math major transferring to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo following his graduation from Cypress College. He grew up with a strong passion for automotive technology and engineering, and entered Cypress College as a first-generation college student. He initially went through the College’s Toyota T-TEN program, then pursued his associate degree in physics and math for transfer into mechanical engineering.

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Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I was born and raised in Orange County, California. As a child, my favorite toys were Lego and plastic car model kits. I loved the challenge and joy that I experienced while using my imagination to build anything my mind could think of. I spent days, even weeks, creating and building my ideas with these toys. As I got older, my interests and abilities evolved, and so did my toys and hobbies. They went from 1/25-scale model cars to actual production vehicles. Simply out of curiosity, I disassembled my entire car to study how it was made and how it operates. A revelation from this obsession resulted in knowing how things work and how I can improve them. This is when I knew I wanted to become an automotive engineer. From my humble beginnings in this journey toward higher education, Cypress College has enabled me to progress from becoming an automotive technician to evolving toward a mechanical engineer.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

During high school, my dream job was to become an automotive technician. I applied at my local Toyota Dealership, only to be turned down as I didn’t have any work experience. This inspired me to further my education and attend a trade school. It all started with a simple Google search of local schools in my area. Once I saw the T-TEN, Toyota’s Technician Training & Education Network, automotive technician training program at Cypress College, it was love at first sight. Looking through Google images, the state-of-the art and hands-on education alongside the greenest grass I have seen on this beautiful Southern California campus, made the decision to attend Cypress College an easy one. Two weeks after graduating high school, I became a Cypress Charger!

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I initially started attending Cypress College for its Automotive T-TEN Program. Automotive Performance and Drivability Instructor, Michael Klyde, notified me about an internship opportunity with the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association. At first, I thought to myself that there would be no way I could land this opportunity as I was intimidated, afraid, and had never done anything like it before, but I applied for and received top honors in this highly competitive opportunity available to all trade school students in Southern California. From this experience, I saw firsthand that the more we do outside the classroom, the more fulfilling our experiences are inside the classroom. I was more motivated in my classes as I realized that what we are learning, we’ll be using later in our careers. What we study from textbooks isn’t enough, but once you start applying what you have read, that’s the true value of an education. As a result, I wanted to do more and get involved as I saw valuable opportunities the more we apply ourselves. My hunger for learning and finding more about myself led me to get more involved on campus.

By being an active participant and giving myself an opportunity to put myself out there, I saw and felt the community in this community college. I’ve been the secretary of the Automotive Club; member and vice president of the Engineering & Physics Club; member and engineering ambassador for the STEM Club; STEM Study Lounge leader; founder of the study group Physics Friday; and I’m a member of the (STEM)2 Program. Also, with the help of friends, we founded and I was honored to be the president of the Leaders of Tomorrow Club.

I’ve also worked on campus as the Calculus II Supplemental Instruction Leader for Professor Nusbaum’s Math 150B course tutoring in the LRC’s the Math Learning Center, and as a Peer Mentor for the (STEM)2 Program. In my various roles on campus, I’ve turned myself into the student I always knew I could be. By believing in myself and knowing that I am destined for greatness, I’m starting to get more out of life while helping others along the way. My broad background gives me an advantage with various transferrable skills, a flexible mindset, and technical, hands-on experience that will engineer my success wherever I go.

Every opportunity that I’ve received happened because I applied myself and networked, both of which are vital skills I obtained from the (STEM)2 Program. Thanks to this program, I’ve been able to conduct undergraduate research at Cal State Fullerton in mechanical engineering. This experience confirmed to me that what I am studying in school is what I want to do as my career.

When I first started coming back to school and decided that I wanted to become an engineer, I honestly didn’t know what an engineer was or what they do. If it weren’t for my personal mentor, Alan Jaquias (a Cypress College alumnus), and the guest speakers I’ve heard from and workshops I’ve attended here at Cypress College, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I consider internships and summer research opportunities as “test drives” in your intended major. As you should never buy a car without first test driving it, so you should treat majoring the same way. You shouldn’t invest four years of your life studying something and realize you have no passion or “feel” for it because you never experienced it firsthand. So get out there, test drive your major, and get involved! All the effort will pay in great dividends toward your success.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I can’t stop thinking about cars, technology, engines, and building what my mind envisions. It has transcended being an obsession and is almost a love affair with wanting to learn and do more. I am like a sponge, anxiously waiting to be submerged in knowledge to soak up. When most would be sleeping and dreaming in the middle of the night, I would be awake reading, doing practice problems, sketching my ideas, preparing for my future, and making my dreams a reality by putting in that extra work. This leads me to one of my favorite motivational quotes by the legendary Soichiro Honda, founder and former president of Honda Motor Company:

“Many people dream of success. Success can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents one percent of your work, which results only from the 99 percent that is called failure.”

I, personally, have failed numerous times in my life—so much so that it’s now a normal occurrence—but I don’t consider those failures to be losses as I have always learned from them. When you’re driven by passion and dreams, every day is a blessing and an opportunity to bring those goals to fruition.

I love anything that has wheels and is motorized. When my mind starts racing and I imagine what could possibly be, it inspires me to learn and do more. I love that I can let my mind run free, get my hands dirty, and apply the principles of math and science to create things that pull on my knowledge, experience, and creativity. That feeling is what drives me.

When sleep started becoming an inconvenience because it took time away from pursuing my goals, I knew I had fallen in love with engineering. By following my dreams and embracing my curiosity, I know that my passion for learning will fuel my future and allow me to reach the pinnacle of what I am capable of in my career. I accept the challenges and risks because when you’re passionate about something, you can’t go wrong!

I prepare myself today to live for a better tomorrow. “Si Se Puede!” (Yes, you can!) is what I tell myself every day in the morning after I wake up. If I am alive and able to get out of bed, then everything else after that is definitely possible. I can’t wait to wake up one morning knowing that I have achieved what was once thought to be impossible. Until then, “Si Se Puede!” You always have to start by believing in yourself. Being passionate about something is only the beginning; executing and planning to achieve your goals is where it all comes together. Embrace those late nights, hard work, risks, and bold, curiosity-driven undertakings as it’ll all be worth it!

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

As a student, I realize that we are a representation of those who we learn from. I have many amazing and profound people to thank, but the list will go on and on. I want to let everybody know that I couldn’t have ever done this alone! To all the professors, instructors, faculty/staff, lab attendants, Math Learning Center tutors, students, study partners, and to my family, friends, and mentors, I want to say THANK YOU for always being there for me, helping me, and believing in me! I would like to recognize specifically:

    • Yanet Garcia, (STEM)2 program director a.k.a. “The STEM Queen” for her continued support, dedication, mentorship, counseling, supervision, and the plentiful opportunities that she has provided, not only for me but for the entire (STEM)2 Program, its scholars, and the entire SEM Division. She has influenced my life in the most positive way, and I am grateful as she always leads by example and has been a person I look up to and admire! Her commitment to all the students is everlasting, and I owe much of my successes to her and the (STEM)2 Program.
    • The (STEM)2 Program, Yanet and “Responsible” Rosa Mejia, SEM Dean Richard Fee, the STEM counselors and peer mentors, STEM “Salad” Secretaries Julie and Susan for their vibrant personalities, Louie (our STEM mascot), and all STEM Scholars for helping me grow professionally, academically, spiritually, and mentally. Thank you for the workshops, club events, university trips, guest speakers, internship and summer research opportunities, scholarships, and the book loan program that has guided and helped me along this educational journey. Thank you all for showing me that when we STEM majors stick together, we can accomplish anything and have fun doing it!
    • Professor Nusbaum, for demonstrating how math is an art where every step of the process plays an essential role. When a class changes you as a person, you know the professor has made a significant impression on you. Professor Nusbaum has taught me to take pride in my work, be detail-oriented and not omit any steps in a process, and carry myself with integrity, humbleness, and resilience. Thank you for believing in me. I am honored to have been your student and your Math 150B (Calculus II) supplemental instruction leader.
    • Michael Klyde, for helping and guiding me since the beginning of my time at Cypress College. He was the first person to notify me and make me aware of internships, scholarships, and other higher education opportunities. He always believed in me and wanted more for me, and is one of the primary reasons why I became more heavily involved in school and in my studies. He’s not only an instructor, but a person I can call my friend; he has been there since day one and continues to push me to keep moving forward.

I would also like to give a shout out to:

  • Jane Jepson for shedding light on my future and leading me down the correct educational path for me;
  • Professors Hoa Tran, Garet Hill, and Christina Plett for the fun math adventures;
  • Professors John D. Alexander, Michael Beard, Marty Orozco, and Don Blanchard for helping me develop into being a proud professional in the automotive industry and for teaching me lifelong lessons, skills, and techniques for becoming a successful technician;
  • Professor Obed Silva for showing me my true passion for writing and how to have fun with it, and for being an example to always do better;
  • Professor Regina Rhymes for supporting my club and being our advisor of Leaders of Tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your positive energy and experience with us; and
  • Professor Brian Shotwell, for being my supportive “tension in the rope” and acknowledging all my hard work and efforts during his fun and interactive physics class.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
With under a six percent chance of being admitted as a transfer student majoring in mechanical engineering, I am proud and humbled to say that I’ve been accepted and will be transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo! Ten years since graduating high school, a career change, and 225.5 completed units later, my educational journey has truly been a dream come true! Thinking back, I never pictured myself going to college and making it this far, but that’s what excites me; I am doing things that I never thought I could do. I plan on taking a cross-country road trip in my own race car to explore and embrace this milestone of mine with the car that I built during my time here at Cypress College. I will visit landmarks and attend many baseball games, reflecting on how far I’ve come, reminiscing on the years, and remembering to always keep moving forward.

Using the abundance of knowledge and skills that I’ve learned and gained here at Cypress College, largely through the automotive T-TEN and (STEM)2 programs, I’ll be networking and making vital connections with industry professionals to obtain internships and summer research opportunities once I transfer to better prepare myself for the future; the difference is all in the preparation. I plan on joining Cal Poly’s Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) team to further gain hands-on experience and be able to build what my mind and thoughts create. I consider myself a “doer” and know the true value of my education doesn’t come from what I’ve memorized or the exams I’ve passed, but from what I do with what I’ve learned. Knowing that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s philosophy is “Learn by Doing” is how I know I’ll thrive. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

My goals are to graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo knowing that I used the tools that I gathered here at Cypress College to take full advantage of the opportunities available there and to find out what I am capable of and see how I can contribute to be of service to others. As Cypress College Astronomy Professor Michael Frey once commented, “Be an advantage for those who are at a disadvantage.” The circle of life of helping one another will help us all. I aspire to be an inspiration to others. In science we trust, and we must trust to always keep moving forward for the better!

Our strengths don’t come from being the best, but from bringing out the best in one another. Together we are strong while divided, just like in math, we will only be a portion of who we can really be. I am here to help. I will be doing what I can to contribute toward evolving and becoming a well-rounded individual. Bringing in the Latino Heat and not just breaking the stereotypes but incinerating them, along with my unique and diverse experiences will convey a whole new perspective into how we do things. I don’t plan on building any walls but I do plan on helping you all build the best version of yourselves. Some call me crazy, but I think it’s crazy to not follow one’s dreams.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of how far I’ve come on this educational journey. Being a first-generation college student has definitely been a challenge filled with lack of direction and support, and feeling lost and scared. My time here at Cypress College has changed my life because I stayed true to myself and built myself up through my struggles and failures. I’m definitely not the same person I was when I first started attending Cypress College. I’m graduating as a proud, confident, determined, persistent, positive leader who knows that I have the ability to make this world a better place. I’ve realized that I’m not alone on this voyage to become an engineer and have evolved completely as a person. I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of faculty, staff, and the (STEM)2 Program, as well as support from my family, friends, and fellow students who all believed in me. The plethora of opportunities that I’ve encountered because of Cypress College have been the catalyst of growth and giving back.

Being the type of person that will always give more than what I receive, I contributed to the College by advocating for and sharing my story about my experiences at Cypress College for the construction of the new Science Engineering and Mathematics building. I spoke in front of the North Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees and told them that I never saw myself going to college, that it was something my family had never done before. But knowing I had the power to make a change and further my education at the College, I never looked back and it’s been the best decision of my life. Investing in education is an investment for all mankind. I expressed how the Board has the power to affect every student that comes after me to be exposed to better educational experiences and they shouldn’t limit anybody having a better tomorrow. Proudly, I received a standing ovation from everybody in the room and got praised for staying persistent in my studies. I received the nickname “SEM Savior” by Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson, and the Board unanimously voted in favor for the new building right after my speech.

I may be the first one in my family to pursue a college degree, but I know I won’t be the last! I want every future generation to be better than the one before. I’m proud to have paved the way, not only for myself, but for my family and for future students to believe in themselves and to always remember to give back. Some have called me a role model, someone that they can look up to. I leave Cypress College with a legacy of being a student who came, dreamed, studied, helped, and ultimately succeeded in making a change for the better! I’m beyond proud to call myself a Cypress Charger. This place has been my second home, where I’ve flourished and become someone who now has the confidence to make a valuable impact anywhere I go. I’ll forever be #CYProud! Thank You.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

I would tell them that they are not alone. Everyone around you is also struggling, and those who have struggled the most are usually willing to help out the most. I am one of those people. You won’t ever be the first person to face these challenges and you won’t be the last, so while you’re in need, all you have to do is ask. Don’t be afraid or view asking for help as a weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength to know you need help and are willing to admit it. I would recommend getting involved in a collaborative learning environment that leads to active participation, asking questions, and being with fellow students so that no one struggles alone.

The first step to addressing any problem is confirming that there is a problem. Keep your head up, your mind open, give someone your full attention, and be ready to seek and ask for help as that will benefit you greatly. With that being said, we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help at least one other person, so always be willing to help others, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Work hard and get involved! Something beautiful happens when you start applying yourself as that’s when you start growing out of your comfort zone. Three words that I live by are accept, adapt, and overcome. You must embrace change and never be afraid of it. As the legendary Michael Jackson said: “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” Go out and join programs and clubs; attend school events and workshops; apply for internships, scholarships, and summer research experiences. Doing all these things is how you’ll learn what you do and don’t like. Take the risks; nobody is going to do it for you. Always do things with integrity and purpose, and don’t take your time here at Cypress College for granted. Anything is possible as long as you keep trying. There’s beauty in the struggle, and I’ve seen a lot of beauty after all of my failures. Nothing is more satisfying than achieving and feeling proud knowing that you didn’t give up!

I may have taken a longer route than others, but I am the first in my family to embark on this educational pathway where I’ve worked multiple jobs, gotten involved on campus, was a leader to fellow students and I was still able to achieve academically. We are here in the land of opportunity, so no matter where we go, one thing is for sure, don’t quit until you get to your destination and be forever grateful for those who help you. Show everybody that we can make it and that it doesn’t matter which path you take as long as you get to where you want to be! Hard work forever pays off, so keep on charging, fellow Cypress Chargers!

-Junnior “Si Se Puede” Rodriguez

#CYProud: Evan Sue, Chemistry

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2017.

Evan Sue
Cypress + Chapman

Sue is a chemistry major transferring to Chapman University following his graduation from Cypress College. He represented the College as a student ambassador, and was involved in a number of programs and clubs, including the Honors and (STEM)2 programs. Sue hopes to pursue lab research on alternative fuels and clean energy, or medicine.

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Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

My name is Evan Sue. I grew up in Cerritos, CA, and I attended Cerritos High School. Some of my interests are reading, biking to the beach, playing video games, music, backpacking, and last but not least, chemistry.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

As a senior in high school, my plan was to go to a university like all my friends. After not receiving acceptances from some of the universities that I would have liked, I wondered if there was still a way to go to these dream universities. That’s when I heard about Cypress College and their amazing transfer rates. It also helped that I live 10 minutes from campus.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

While I was at Cypress College, I was involved in the Honors Program and Honors Club, the Chemistry Club, the (STEM)2 Program, the Student Ambassador Program, the Cypress College Jazz Band, and the Applied Music Program. I was involved in a lot, and I believe it has made me a well-rounded student. By being involved in so many activities, I was able to create a personalized education for myself, which I really enjoyed.

The Honors program gave me a small classroom setting and challenged me to think critically; the (STEM)2 Program helped motivate me by showing me the endless opportunities I can receive with my STEM degree; the Jazz Band and Applied Music Program made me a better musician, both in group and solo performances. Also, while I was a Student Ambassador, I had the chance to help guide students through their first steps in enrolling at Cypress College and starting their educational journeys. Through all of this, I have created many strong friendships and learned that the word “community” in community college represents the close group of peers and faculty that helped, supported, and believed in me.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am very passionate about helping people. I have been this way from a very young age, starting with my time in the Boy Scouts. I am an Eagle Scout, and I loved all the community service work I had the opportunity to do. Even though I am no longer involved with the Scouts, I still volunteer my time to help others through my church. This is my passion because I can see that society needs people to step up and help the less fortunate. I may not have a lot of money, but I have more than enough time to spare.

This passion led me to choose chemistry as my major, because I love science and I want to use science to help others. While I do not have a specific field of interest, I hope that my degree allows me to achieve this goal either indirectly by researching alternative fuels and clean energy or creating more biodegradable plastics, or directly by researching a cure for cancer.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

During my two years at Cypress, I have had a lot of faculty and professors help me along the way. I would like to thank:

  • Professor Kathryn Sonne, the Honors Program coordinator, and Penny Gabourie, the Honors Program counselor. Without them, I would have never had the opportunity to be a part of the Honors Program, which I really enjoyed. They also helped me choose classes, answered my questions, and made sure I got all of my transfer requirements completed.

  • Yanet Garcia and all of the (STEM)2 staff. Without them, I would have never had the chance to meet professionals in various scientific fields and been exposed to the many opportunities available to me after I earn my degree.

  • Gary Gopar, the Cypress College Jazz Band director. I loved playing the trumpet in his band; it was a great way to relieve the stress of the day. I learned many different musical styles from him, and he helped me become a better musician.

  • Professor Torri Draganov, my General Chemistry II professor, and Professor Anthony Hollow, my Organic Chemistry II lab instructor. They were both amazing professors and were always available to answer my questions, both during and after class (even when the class would end at 10:00 p.m.). They both cemented my interest in chemistry, giving me the confidence to pursue my passion.

  • Lark Crumpler, the Student Ambassador supervisor. Her cheerful mood always made my day, and through the Student Ambassador program I have made amazing friendships and memories.

  • Professor Bryan Seiling, one of my first professors at Cypress College. His U.S. History I course was one of the best general education courses I have ever taken. He is a great lecturer, funny, and great at explaining the content. He showed me that classes can actually be fun, something I am very grateful for.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

After completing my studies at Cypress College, I will be transferring to Chapman University to continue my education and earn my bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

For my long-term educational goals, I plan to earn a master’s degree and then eventually a Ph.D. I aspire to work in a research lab.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of how far I’ve grown during my two years at Cypress College. I was pushed, challenged, and worked harder than I have ever had to in my entire life. I have had a very well-rounded education, and this has given me not only a wealth of knowledge, but an even greater work ethic, a plethora of skills, and many great memories.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Study hard, go to class, make some new friends, and don’t be afraid to try something new. You’ll learn a lot during your time at Cypress College, not only academic knowledge, but life skills as well: work ethics, communication skills, leadership, and organization to name a few.

Also, go to your professor’s office hours! They will love meeting you and answering any and all questions you have.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to say thank you to all the friends and faculty that have pushed and motivated me to get where I am today. Cypress College is more than a place, it is my home, and I will never forget it.

#CYProud: Anna Rodriguez, History

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students for 2017.

Anna Rodriguez
Cypress + Cal

Rodriguez is a history major transferring to the University of California, Berkeley following her graduation from Cypress College. She persevered in her education despite falling ill during her senior year in high school, and has been part of the Honors Program at Cypress College, representing the College at the Honors Transfer Council of California’s Annual Student Research conference. She has a passion for learning and is interested in a wide variety of fields in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and sciences. She will major in classical studies at Cal.

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Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I’ve actually lived in Cypress my whole life! I graduated from Cornelia Connelly School in 2014 with over a 4.0, but during my senior year I started getting really sick. I went off to school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but I left after my first quarter because my health started to deteriorate. I decided to start at Cypress, which is something I had never imagined myself doing before. That decision turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever could have made. Over the years, my health has gotten better along with my outlook on life! Being at Cypress was the unexpected experience in my life that has made all the difference.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress College because it’s close to home and because I knew it was a great school with many opportunities!

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

When I first got to Cypress College, I was pretty confused. I hadn’t had orientation, I signed up for classes really late, and I didn’t even know community colleges had majors.

That first semester, I had signed up for an honors class because it had room. The next semester, I took a few more honors classes and found out about the Honors Program. Joining the program has been an integral part of my time here. It’s an amazing program that really encourages students and helps them achieve great things.

I represented Cypress College this year at the Honors Transfer Council of California’s 18th Annual Student Research for California Community Colleges at the University of California, Irvine! It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about conducting humanities research and presenting. My presentation was on the role of women in ancient Rome as revealed through original Latin texts. For the project, I compiled primary sources written in Latin and translated them into English, then used that evidence to form an analysis and summary of the lives of these women.

Most of my time here was spent taking different classes and preparing to transfer. I’ve also been quite involved in the art program at Cypress College, having taken three painting classes, pottery, and digital painting. The art program here is great, and I’ve learned so much from all my teachers. I’ve also had the opportunity to show some of my pieces in the annual student art show and in a few publications across campus!

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I’m most passionate about learning! I love school and I wish I could study and be a full-time student for the rest of my life! It’s really hard for me to pin down exactly what I’m most passionate about. I love the Classics, and will be studying that at Berkeley. I love the field because it combines so many interesting things, my love for Latin, history, philosophy, art, religion, politics, and so much more!

I’m also really passionate about astronomy/space exploration and art. I’m a huge Star Trek nerd, so naturally, I love space! This year, I participated in the online segment of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program (NCAS). It was exciting to learn from people at NASA about space exploration, astronomy, physics, and the future of science and technology. I will a