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.

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

2021 Counseling: Ayah Said

Ayah’s interest in social justice started at an early age. Growing up, she heard about her parents’ native Eritrea and the oppression its citizens faced. 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 […]

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. He 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 5, 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: 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 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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, 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: 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 […]