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In 2019, Cypress College started a new tradition with the selection of the inaugural cohort of Presidential Scholars of Distinction, a new academic recognition and scholarship intended to honor nine students who exemplify what it means to be a Cypress College student. The Presidential Scholars were nominated by the faculty in their specific academic major clusters, selected by the members of that academic pathway, and affirmed by President JoAnna Shilling, Ph.D. During the college’s commencement ceremony, the Presidential Scholars will lead the graduates of their divisions during the commencement processional and be the first students earning their associate degrees to be called to the stage for their diplomas.

Kathy Pannell, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Kinesiology pathway

2024 PSD Kinesiology: Kathy Pannell

We can’t always walk direct paths to our passions. Take Kathy, for example. She spent her years after high school as a mother and customer service rep for local companies. But she’d always wanted to go back to school. It was in her 40s that she stepped back into academics. Not only had she taken […]

Samantha Ramos, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Social Sciences pathway

2024 PSD Social Sciences: Samantha Ramos

Lucky for us, Fullerton College’s Puente Program was almost full when Samantha Ramos applied. Samantha knew she wanted to be part of the affinity group, so she turned instead to Cypress College, which had open spots. With her fellow Puentistas at Cypress, she thrived. She felt more confident in her chosen field, where she excelled, […]

Saul Conde, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the VAPA pathway

2024 PSD Visual and Performing Arts: Saul Conde

Saul always wanted to tell stories. ln high school, he found out exactly how he wanted to: through theatre. He felt he was behind his peers, who appeared to have had voice and acting training already, but instead of feeling intimidated by their apparent head starts, he decided to redouble his efforts and work harder […]

Jesus Ramirez Jr., 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the We Journey Together pathway

2024 PSD We Journey Together: Jesus Ramirez Jr.

Jesus has a thirst for knowledge – which he once considered a blessing and a curse. While it fueled a curiosity that drew him to many interests – sports, gaming, cars – he also felt it prevented him from focusing on, and excelling at, anything in particular. Through every fascination, however, one thing stayed the […]

Subina Adhikari, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Business/CIS pathway

2024 PSD Business/CIS: Subina Adhikari

Subina describes herself as shy in high school. She says that when it came time to go to college, she wanted an institution that help her transition to a four-year university. At Cypress College, she got that help. The supportive instructors and counselors were able to guide her. Beyond simply succeeding at coursework she was […]

Jamie Seitz, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Language Arts pathway

2024 PSD Language Arts: Jamie Seitz

Jamie’s love of writing wasn’t the motivating factor in where she went to college. Cypress simply happened to be close to her home. Here, however, she had a realization that has changed the course of her academic careers. Jamie discovered she loved writing — more than she loved her initial science major. Her newfound passion […]

Cassandra Rehome, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the CTE pathway

2024 PSD Career Technical Education: Cassandra Rehome

Cassandra took culinary and baking classes at Cypress College as a way to switch things up from a difficult first semester. She figured even if she didn’t choose to be a professional chef, she would still learn how to cook – so why not? Soon, she discovered she loved baking; she enjoyed researching the ingredients […]

Eric Johnson, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Health Science pathway

2024 PSD Health Science: Eric Johnson

There is so much that Eric went through to get to where he is today. A re-entry student, he came to Cypress College after a 32-year break from higher education, a decision brought on by a difficult period of employment termination and family health crises. Starting school again held its own challenges. Eric wanted to […]

Daanish Noor, 2024 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the SEM pathway

2024 PSD Science, Engineering, Mathematics: Daanish Noor

Life held little purpose for Daanish as he grew up. He dropped out of high school, eventually getting his diploma through a special program, but he says this educational experience left him in a bad mental state. He took classes at Cerritos College afterward but fell into addiction and saw no meaning to go on […]

Portrait of Azusena Zamarripa, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the We Journey Together pathway, wearing regalia and holding a Cypress College "We Journey Together" pennant with CCCPLX and greenery in the background.

2023 PSD We Journey Together: Azusena Zamarripa

Azusena always wanted to come to Cypress College. She enrolled here after earning her high school diploma at NOCE, where she finished the work she had left incomplete in high school. It took initiative to come back to school after leaving, and it was that same determination that kept her going through her classes at […]

Portrait of Selwyn Gibson, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Social Sciences pathway, wearing regalia with the pond in the background.

2023 PSD Social Sciences: Selwyn Gibson

If we saw Selwyn running for national office, we wouldn’t be surprised. He’s been a highly engaged student at Cypress College – whether studying Political Science for his degree, representing students through A2MEND, or speaking at the Cypress College Foundation Golf Tournament – with the goal of uniting a politically divided nation on his mind. […]

Portrait of Mia Nguyen, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Science, Engineering, Mathematics pathway, wearing regalia and holding a Cypress College "We Journey Together" pennant with the pond in the background.

2023 PSD Science, Engineering, Mathematics: Mia Nguyen

Mia came to the United States from Vietnam when she was 15 years old, ready for a challenge. It was her dream to go to college in the U.S., and she worked hard to make that dream a reality. That included joining the military, which she says “sharpened” her, and applying to four-year colleges. She […]

Portrait of Olly Tetrault, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Language Arts pathway, wearing regalia and holding a Cypress College "We Journey Together" pennant with CCCPLX and the Sergio O'Cadiz sculpture in the background.

2023 PSD Language Arts: Olly Tetrault

Keep going — that sums up Olly Tetrault’s philosophy. Olly wanted to be a writer from a young age, and joining Cypress College’s English program is helping them with this goal. It took a while for Olly to get here, and a few years to earn their degree, but with the support of professors, the […]

Portrait of Anthony Delgado, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Kinesiology pathway, wearing regalia with the pond in the background.

2023 PSD Kinesiology: Anthony Delgado

Anthony Delgado’s mission is to help people. He entered the Kinesiology program at Cypress College with the goal of working in sports medicine, which combines his love of sports with his drive to help others. But his motivation to support people found other outlets along the way. He also helped fellow students through leadership roles […]

Portrait of Stephanie Wood, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Health Science pathway, wearing regalia and holding a Cypress College "We Journey Together" pennant with the Fine Arts Plaza and piazza in the background.

2023 PSD Health Science: Stephanie Wood

Stephanie Wood is passionate about helping people. Sometime after she earned her Sociology degree at UC Irvine, she decided to enter a field that more directly influenced people’s lives, and fulfilled that personal goal. She came to Cypress College and joined the competitive Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. Now she’s entering the field and doing the […]

Portrait of Preston Harris, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Fine Arts pathway, wearing regalia with Gateway Plaza, including the Student Center and Campanile, in the background.

2023 PSD Fine Arts: Preston Harris

Improvisation skills have helped Preston Harris from a young age. Starting with role-playing games as a kid, to leading acting and writing workshops in high school to learning how to run lines with fellow theater students through Zoom glitches during lockdown, Preston has used acting techniques that call for quick thinking and inventiveness. As a […]

Portrait of Sabrina Tosti, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the CTE pathway, wearing regalia, holding a Cypress College "We Journey Together" pennant, with the 2nd floor piazza in the background.

2023 PSD Career Technical Education: Sabrina Tosti

Having grown up baking with her grandmother, it is just something that’s always been in Sabrina Tosti’s life. She knew she enjoyed baking birthday cakes for family and making desserts for different holidays, so after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Cal State Fullerton, she decided to earn a degree in baking and […]

Portrait of Jesse Chang, the 2023 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Business/CIS pathway. Business building and Gateway Plaza in the background.

2023 PSD Business/CIS: Jesse Chang

Jesse Chang said he started attending Cypress College with a mission to improve himself. He grew up trying to follow a set checklist of life requirements, such as attending a good high school and achieving high grades, but found that way of life stifling and at odds with the way he really wanted to live: […]

Student Mireya Alt poses in front of Cypress College Student Center while wearing graduation regalia.

2022 Social Sciences: Mireya Alt

Despite the difficult series of roadblocks Mireya Alt has encountered on her higher education journey, her overriding experience at college appears to be one of gratitude. The challenges Mireya faced include childhood trauma and a period of homelessness – extremely difficult situations that might have ended anyone’s college plans. Yet Mireya never gave up on […]

Student Pauline Lim poses with "We Journey Together" pennant as she wears graduation regalia and stands on the piazza.

2022 Health Science: Pauline Lim

Pauline Lim found herself on an endless treadmill of working for a paycheck and not a passion. At one point she had to step off and ask herself if there wasn’t more to life. She says after six years she decided to stop work completely and turn her attention to school. That’s when she enrolled […]

Student Krystal Kosacki wears graduation regalia and poses in front of campus pond.

2022 Language Arts: Krystal Kosacki

Krystal Kosacki says Cypress College has a place for every interest and every person. With her extracurricular activity experience, she’s qualified to make this statement. A heavily involved student, Krystal has been vice president of student relations in Associated Students, one of the first student ambassadors when the program began, in the Honors Program, in […]

Student Justin Urquilla poses in front of library wearing Cypress College graduation regalia.

2022 Library/Learning Resource Center: Justin Urquilla

Justin Urquilla’s curiosity has fueled his route to higher education. Although his motivation was hampered by insecurities in coming to terms with his queer identity, he took some time to build himself back up and reenter college with a new determination. Now, Justin has branched out beyond his classes. He is helping other students through […]

Student Garrett Deiro stands in front of a Cypress College building while wearing graduation regalia.

Kinesiology 2022: Garrett Deiro

From the beginning, life was challenging for Garrett Deiro. He says, however, that it also motivated him and informed him on his future career. Garrett underwent two open-heart surgeries as an infant for a congenital heart defect; he had two more by the time he was 14 years old. Many hours were logged in doctors’ […]

Student Rasha Jasim poses in front of the Cypress College pond wearing graduation regalia.

2022 Business: Rasha Jasim

Rasha Jasim took a long road to Cypress College. Originally from Baghdad, she moved with her parents and sister to the United States as a young adult and eventually settled near Cypress. She started her own family when she got married and began raising children, five in total. Looking after a family of seven, in […]

Student Abdul Meelar stands in graduation regalia in front of Gateway Plaza with green grass and buildings in background.

2022 Fine Arts: Abdul Meelar

Graphic Design student Abdul Meelar moved to the States from Sri Lanka when he was 7 years old. To absorb the most he could about his new home, he turned to American pop culture. That’s when he fell in love with science fiction and fantasy, through movies, video games, photography, and what he calls “anything […]

Culinary Arts student Dan Kim poses in graduation regalia in front of gonfalons for Cypress College and Career Technical Education

2022 Career Technical Education: Dan Kim

Dan Kim entered the hospitality field at an inhospitable time – during the COVID19 lockdown. He was eager to work in culinary arts. He saw food as more than simply sustenance and wanted to share this message. He sought education in this arena, to better inform himself and others, and began to research programs in […]

Student Bradi Palomarez stands in front of the Science and Math building on campus, wearing graduation regalia.

2022 Science, Engineering, Math: Bradi Palomarez

First-generation college graduate Bradi Palomarez enrolled in Cypress to be part of the SEM division. She took physics, and it clicked. Her strength in the program led her to work as a Supplemental Instruction leader for physics, sharing her love of the science with others. Bradi did all of this while caring for her ailing […]

Counseling student Ayah Said poses in front of blue background with Legacy Program sash.

2021 Counseling: Ayah Said

Ayah took classes at Cypress College because of the Charger/Pledge program’s free tuition for students who graduate from any high school in the Anaheim Union High School District. What kept her engaged at the school was the Legacy Program. Through it, Ayah spoke at events, helped represent the club at Kindercaminata, and aided in planning […]

SEM student Lia Thompson poses in front of blue backdrop.

2021 Science, Engineering, Math: Lia Thompson

Lia has made her own higher education plan. She went to work directly out of high school to afford college, and as she continued to be promoted, she had less time for classes. When Lia decided something had to give, she dedicated herself to school and extra-curricular activities at Cypress College. It was there that […]

Social Sciences student Wilfredo Carrasco poses in front of blue background.

2021 Social Sciences: Wilfredo Carrasco

Wilfredo grew up between southern California and El Salvador, and began studying at Cypress College in 2018. He is glad he stuck to his studies in Human Services and didn’t give up – even when times were tough. That includes a difficult final year in which he lost his father to COVID-19 and contracted the […]

Hiroki Funahashi, Flight Attendant and Communications Studies student, poses in front of blue background.

2021 Language Arts: Hiroki Funahashi

Hiroki came to Cypress College three years ago from Japan. He was drawn to the Flight Attendant program and Cal State Long Beach nearby, which he hoped to attend someday. Shy at first, and feeling his fluency wasn’t strong enough, Hiroki joined the Forensics team to work on his English. He felt embraced by his […]

Abigail Villegas stands in front of the campanile wearing graduation regalia.

2021 Health Science: Abigail Villegas

Abigail is studying and working in health care – and has been affected by health care concerns as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her grandmother and mother were both hospitalized. Her mother recovered but after a month and a half Abigail’s grandmother passed away. Although it was a difficult final year, Abigail is graduating in […]

Kinesiology Presidential Scholar of Distinction Jonathan Gad poses in front of blue wall.

2021 Kinesiology: Jonathan Gad

Jonathan took his love of sports and turned it into a career path. Originally from Egypt, Jonathan moved to Buena Park at age 6, when his family secured a visa. He always enjoyed playing sports and being part of a team, so Kinesiology was a natural fit when selecting a program. A professor encouraged Jonathan […]

Film student Paul Scott poses in front of the campanile in graduation regalia.

2021 Fine Arts: Paul Scott

Paul has a passion for filmmaking and its transformative effects. He went through sort of a transformation himself after diverging from his first college path; he had enrolled at Cal State Fullerton but left after his mother passed away. He began studying at Cypress College after a hiatus and began working toward a Film, TV, […]

Culinary Arts student Alexandra Camacho poses in front of a blue background.

2021 Career Technical Education: Alexandra Camacho

Alexandra learned to cook from her mother at the family’s home in south Los Angeles. At age 15, Alexandra’s world was shaken when her mother was deported to Mexico. Alexandra’s studies faltered, and she had to find an alternative to traditional high school. When Alexandra started college, she initially resisted the idea of studying Culinary […]

Student Jacklyn Williamson poses in front of blue wall as a Presidential Scholar of Distinction.

2021 Business/CIS: Jacklyn Williamson

Jacklyn grew up living in motels with her family in Orange County. When Jacklyn was 16, her mother passed away; when Jacklyn turned 21, she lost her father, too. Jacklyn had to support herself at a young age, and thinking about her future had to wait. She began working in Downtown Disney at Haagen Dazs […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Brandon Nguyen

2020 Business/CIS: Brandon Nguyen

Brandon is a cyber defense major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Business/CIS Division at Cypress College. Growing up in Orange County, he found a love for computers at an early age and often enjoyed “fiddling” with them. Brandon’s love for technology continued to grow through online resources and high […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, John Lasater, Career Technical Education

2020 Career Technical Education: John Lasater

John is an air conditioning and refrigeration major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Career Technical Education Division at Cypress College. His initial educational journey was cut short in high school when he dropped out to help his aunt and uncle at the flooring store they owned. His aunt had […]

Presidential Scholars of Distinction, Kylie Christensen, Fine Arts

2020 Fine Arts: Kylie Christensen

Kylie is a dance major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Fine Arts Division at Cypress College. She found a passion for music and the performing arts at a young age, and discovered that it gave her something positive to focus on after the untimely passing of her mother from […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Christina Williams, Health Science

2020 Health Science: Christina Williams

Christina is a psychiatric technology major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Health Science Division at Cypress College. Throughout her life, she has been a caregiver. At a young age, she cared for her ailing father, who passed away when she was only 12 years old, and she ended up […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Frankie Islas, Kinesiology

2020 Kinesiology: Frankie Islas

Frankie is a kinesiology major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Kinesiology Division at Cypress College. He has always been involved in sports in one way or another, whether through playing baseball and football, or cheering on his favorite teams. He loves the outdoors and staying active. Frankie chose to […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Nate Garcia, Language Arts

2020 Language Arts: Nate Garcia

Nate is a communication studies major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Language Arts Division at Cypress College. Growing up, he had a number of interests and passions: to be an animator; to be like his MRI technician dad; and to turn his politics and government interest into becoming a […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Anh Nguyen, Library & Learning Resource Center

2020 Library/Learning Resource Center: Anh Nguyen

Anh is a liberal arts major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Library/Learning Resource Center at Cypress College. She immigrated to the U.S. five years ago and originally chose to attend Cypress College to improve her English skills in the English as a Second Language Program. She soon realized that […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Connor Kilzer, Science, Engineering, Mathematics

2020 Science, Engineering, Mathematics: Connor Kilzer

Connor is a pre-engineering major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Science, Engineering, Mathematics Division at Cypress College. After graduating from high school, he chose to attend Cypress College because it “seemed to be the best fit for me as I transitioned into higher education.” In his first semester, he […]

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Sarah Queneau, Social Sciences

2020 Social Sciences: Sarah Queneau

Sarah is an anthropology major and was selected as the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Social Sciences Division at Cypress College. She originally decided to return to school to pursue certification through the college’s Mortuary Science Program because “I love culture and felt that I could create custom funerals that encompass the beliefs of […]

2019 Business CIS Presidential Scholar of Distinction Sagidah Karakra

2019 Business/CIS: Sagidah Karakra

Cypress College’s appreciation and value for diversity, along with her older sister’s academic success at the college, motivated Sagidah Karakra to pursue higher education at Cypress College. Sagidah has been involved in a number of extra-curricular activities, including the Muslim Student Association and Business Club. She found her niche in accounting after participating in Accounting […]

2019 Career Technical Presidential Scholar of Distinction Claudia Espinoza

2019 Career Technical Education: Claudia Espinoza

Claudia Espinoza was born in Santa Ana, but at the age of 2, moved to Mexico where she grew up for 14 years. At 16, her family moved back to California where she spent long days going to school, completed homework in the afternoon in a language she barely understood, then attended ESL classes until […]

2019 Counseling Presidential Scholar of Distinction Jessica Button.

2019 Counseling: Jessica Button

Jessica Button has said she’s come further than she ever thought realistic. A fun-loving girl with endless creativity, she chased many different opportunities that deferred her degree completion, but for a third time, she found herself registering for college classes at Cypress College. Jessica is graduating with her associate of science degree for transfer in […]

2019 Fine Arts Presidential Scholar of Distinction Nhi Nguyen

2019 Fine Arts: Nhi Nguyen

At the age of 19, Nhi Nguyen emigrated from Vietnam to the United States with her mother. In a completely new environment and having to cope in an unfamiliar language, Nhi initially intended to earn a degree in a health science field because she thought she would have a higher chance of finding a stable […]

2019 Health Science Presidential Scholar of Distinction Evelyn Hernandez

2019 Health Science: Evelyn Hernandez

A first-generation college student and single parent when she first started on her educational journey at Cypress College, Evelyn Hernandez said the college has been her home away from home since day one. She is a proud member of EOPS, a program she learned of by happenstance. “I recall accidentally walking into some random office […]

2019 Kinesiology Presidential Scholar of Distinction Jane Woodward in gym

2019 Kinesiology: Jane Woodward

Jane Woodward was a four-sport standout in high school, participating in varsity women’s volleyball, basketball, track, and tennis at Woodrow Wilson High School in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. After high school, Jane moved to Orange County on her own to attend Cypress College and play on the college’s volleyball and beach volleyball teams. She […]

2019 Language Arts Presidential Scholar of Distinction Jene Viray

2019 Language Arts: Jene Viray

Born in the Philippines and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Jene Viray is an international student at Cypress College who is graduating with her associate of arts degree in communication studies. She hopes to transfer to Cal State Long Beach in fall 2020, and until then, will continue working in the college’s International Students […]

2019 Science, Engineering, Math Presidential Scholar of Distinction Selina Jaimes Davila

2019 Science, Engineering, Mathematics: Selina Jaimes Davila

Selina Jaimes Davila has been a high-achieving student from a young age and worked hard to graduate with high honors from Huntington Park High School, only to be rejected admission by four Cal States. Uncertain of her next step, Selina ended up at Cypress College pursuing a diagnostic medical sonography certification until deciding that she […]

2019 Social Sciences Presidential Scholar of Distinction Sandra Enriquez

2019 Social Sciences: Sandra Enriquez

Sandra Enriquez was still in high school when she had her first child. As a young mother who, admittedly, did not understand the reality of being a mother, she rebelled and found herself in an “extremely negative environment.” Pulling from her own experiences, Sandra said she is most passionate about helping others overcome obstacles, especially […]