2020 Business/CIS: Brandon Nguyen

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Brandon Nguyen

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, 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 school clubs.

Since the summer of his sophomore year in high school, Brandon has taken classes at Cypress, first as a special-admit student and later as a dual-enrollment student. He became involved in the CyberPatriot Program, which prepares middle and high school students to compete in the CyberPatriots national cybersecurity competition. After graduating from high school, he became a cybersecurity mentor “so that I could give back what the mentors gave to me while I was in high school.”

Following his graduation this year, Brandon plans to continue pursuing his bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering at UC Irvine—he was a freshman-admit student concurrently completing his first year at UC Irvine and his last year at Cypress—with hopes of landing an internship to gain industry work experience and further his career prospects.

“I have grown to be very passionate about technology and cybersecurity, as well as spreading my knowledge to others,” he said. “It’s kind of become who I am and what I’ve been known for.”

2020 Career Technical Education: John Lasater

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, John Lasater, Career Technical Education

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, John Lasater, Career Technical Education

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 lost both her legs to leukemia; his uncle was in a car accident on the way to visit his wife at the hospital, hit by a driver running a red light.

After his aunt and uncle closed their store, John took up carpentry and plumbing to be able to pay his own bills, then got married and had children. John and his family encountered a difficult situation, ending up homeless and bouncing from motel to motel for nearly 13 years.

“I got involved with the wrong people, doing the wrong things, and at that time, I thought it was for the right reasons, but I was wrong and it almost cost me my family,” he said.

John’s life changed when he found God, leading him not only on a path to reconcile his marriage and restore his relationship with his children and friends, but also straight to Cypress College’s Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Program via Professor Richard Hock, who attends the same church.

Now, following his graduation this year, John plans to continue his education, striving to eventually earn a master’s degree, and teach at Cypress College. “I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.

2020 Fine Arts: Kylie Christensen

Presidential Scholars of Distinction, Kylie Christensen, Fine Arts

Presidential Scholars of Distinction, Kylie Christensen, Fine Arts

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 breast cancer. In high school, she was a member of Sound FX, a national championship show choir, where she had the opportunity to travel across the country and perform at prestigious venues, including Lincoln Center and the Grand Ole Opry.

After high school, Kylie was accepted into a performing arts college, but couldn’t afford the tuition, so she made the decision to attend Cypress College instead. She started as a music major, then switched to dance and psychology after her first semester. Following her graduation this year, she plans to complete a second associate degree in psychology before transferring to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Kylie ultimately hopes to earn a master’s degree in dance and become a college-level dance instructor.

“I want to choreograph and direct concerts to continue to bring the love of the arts to audiences and performers,” she said. “The arts are what got me through the toughest times in my life, and I want to share that with the world!”

2020 Health Science: Christina Williams

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Christina Williams, Health Science

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Christina Williams, Health Science

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 caring for her three younger brothers because her mother had to work significantly more to provide for the family.

Christina’s higher education pursuit began one class at a time while she worked two jobs. After six years of slowly treading toward her educational goals, Christina and her husband decided to prioritize her education, so she entered the college’s Psychiatric Technology Program. While in the program, she was forced to deal with several personal tragedies, including her mother’s diagnosis with kidney cancer and her brother’s suicide.

“The loss of my brother forever changed me, and it changed my purpose and goals,” she said. “I have always had an interest in helping people, but now I want to focus on those that face adversities.”

Following her graduation this year, Christina plans to work as a psychiatric technician and determine where she would like to pursue a registered nursing program. She ultimately aspires to earn a master’s in nursing and open group homes that offer care to those who suffer from mental illness and/or addiction. She is also passionate about advocating for mental health and self-care education in schools.

2020 Kinesiology: Frankie Islas

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Frankie Islas, Kinesiology

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Frankie Islas, Kinesiology

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 pursue an education at Cypress College to play on the college’s successful baseball team. Following his graduation this year, Frankie will be transferring to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. Ultimately, he hopes to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and become a professional physical therapist.

“I am most passionate about making the people around me happy,” he said. “This is what mainly drove me to choose kinesiology, so one day I will become a physical therapist and be able to help people who have injuries and get them healthy as fast as possible.”

2020 Language Arts: Nate Garcia

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Nate Garcia, Language Arts

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Nate Garcia, Language Arts

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 lawyer. He was a good student throughout high school, yet, Nate admits, “I still wrestled with confidence issues about my academics and who I was as an individual.”

He chose to attend Cypress College while he figured out what he wanted to do. “Once I got to Cypress and took a few classes I realized I was right where I was supposed to be,” he said. “At Cypress, my love for politics, debate, and art collided when I took my first communications class.” Nate developed a passion for rhetoric and critical thinking, something that was further galvanized when he joined the college’s speech and debate team. There, he grew his confidence and found a support system in his team.

Nate will transfer to Cal State Fullerton after graduation to complete a bachelor’s degree in communications. After that, he hopes to attend UCLA to pursue a master’s degree in communication as well as his jurisdoctorate. Ultimately, he aspires to become a communications professor and lawyer.

“I know a lot of work lies ahead of me, but every time I think I’ve reached my full potential, there has been someone there showing me that I can do even more,” he said.

2020 Library/Learning Resource Center: Anh Nguyen

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

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

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 pursuing higher education would be the most effective way to be successful in America.

At Cypress College, Anh has been involved in the EOPS Program and has worked at the Math Learning Center as a statistics tutor. She enjoys helping others and cares about other people, so she plans to pursue registered nursing “so that I can contribute my work to improve [people’s] health and help more people.”

Following her graduation, Anh will continue her studies at Cypress College in the Registered Nursing Program. After completing the program, she plans to find a job in healthcare and continue to pursue education by earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing.

“Being a part of the Cypress College family has helped me become more confident in myself to pursue one of the most competitive majors in the U.S.: Registered Nurse,” she said.

2020 Science, Engineering, Mathematics: Connor Kilzer

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

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

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 was accepted into the (STEM)2 Program and eventually became a family group leader. He also became a supplemental instruction leader for CHEM 107 and PHYS 222 in the LRC.

Following his graduation this year, Connor is transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. After that, he hopes to work as a biomedical engineer designing robotic prostheses and other medical devices to expand and innovate the medical field. He also plans to pursue a master’s degree.

“The farther I go into my education, the more I want to learn,” he said. “This passion has driven me to excel in my classes and achieve my goals as both a student and future STEM professional.”

2020 Social Sciences: Sarah Queneau

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Sarah Queneau, Social Sciences

Presidential Scholar of Distinction, Sarah Queneau, Social Sciences

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 the deceased and the ones attending.” After taking an Anthropology of Death class from Professor Becky Floyd, however, she felt encouraged to change her major.

Following her graduation in fall 2019, Sarah transferred to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She plans to pursue a graduate degree that will lead to fieldwork and ultimately writing ethnographies about death and dying from a cross-cultural perspective.

“I aim to be able to take this information and write books, not just for academia, but for the general population,” she said. “I want them to be able to read about the similarities and differences in people across the world, hopefully closing that gap of the idea of the ‘other,’ while also relieving some of the anxieties that we have about death.”

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 Career Day and this semester served as a supplemental instruction leader for Accounting 101.

Sagidah is graduating with an associate of science degree in business administration. She is transferring to Cal State Fullerton in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She one day hopes to become an accounting professor like the ones she’s had who have motivated her to work hard and never give up on her educational goals.

When asked what she is most passionate about, Sagidah said it’s “inspiring students to excel.”

“I want to make a positive impact on the success of my students,” she added. “I hope that I can continue to support and inspire accounting students to work hard and stay motivated when it comes to achieving their goals.”

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I was born in the city of San Bernardino, California. As a young child, I grew up in Palestine. I moved here to Orange County when I was 7 years old. Growing up, I had a very difficult time adjusting to the new life I had in Orange County. English was not my first language. As a result, I struggled tremendously in school. However, I’ve always been hardworking and motivated when it comes to achieving my goals. I enjoy writing and being involved on campus. I especially love creative writing. My goal is to write my own book one day.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
I decided to attend Cypress College because my sister once attended this college as well. I was amazed by how academically successful she was at Cypress College, that is, thanks to the programs she was involved in. Her success at Cypress College made me want to attend and explore my career options. I was also amazed by the long-lasting relationships she built with faculty members at Cypress College. The faculty members at Cypress College showed my sister that they valued diversity. This factor alone made me want to attend Cypress College. Choosing to attend Cypress College has been the best decision I’ve made for myself.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I’ve been heavily involved in the MSA (Muslim Student Association) and the Business Club. In the MSA and Business Club, I took on leadership positions like being the Inter-Club Council (ICC) representative and secretary. I attended weekly ICC meetings to represent both the MSA and Business Club. My main goal in the MSA was to raise awareness about my religion and to provide a support system for Muslim students.

Through the Business club, I was able to network and meet other students who were the same major as me. Being part of the Business Club significantly impacted my college career. I decided to major in accounting because of one crucial event I attended and participated in. Attending and participating in the Accounting Career Day in the Business Club was a life-changing experience. I learned more about the accounting profession and networked with professional accountants as well.

This spring semester, I have worked as an Accounting 101 Supplemental Instruction (SI) leader. I conduct weekly review sessions by utilizing collaborative learning techniques and study group activities. Becoming an Accounting 101 SI leader has been one my biggest accomplishments this semester. As an SI leader, I assist students struggling in financial accounting. I pass on what I’ve learned in Accounting 101 to my students. My favorite thing about my job is knowing that I have an impact on student learning. My students know that I care about their success in Accounting 101, and I know that they appreciate everything that I do for them. Whether it’s conducting an exam review session or clarifying any confusion about lecture material, my students appreciate the guidance and feedback that I provide them in Accounting 101.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
Inspiring students to excel. I want to make a positive impact on the success of my students. This is all due to my current job as an SI leader. Working as an SI leader this semester has been a very rewarding job. I hope that I can continue to support and inspire accounting students to work hard and stay motivated when it comes to achieving their goals.

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

The accounting faculty at Cypress College have significantly impacted my college career. Professor Ann Sheridan-Solis has been my biggest support in my time here at Cypress College. She has inspired me to work hard and stay motivated in achieving my educational goals. Professor Sheridan-Solis has taught me the importance of networking and becoming involved on campus. Professor Sheridan-Solis inspired me to become an Accounting 101 SI leader.

Professor Samreen Manjra also impacted my educational career. I got the opportunity to work closely with Professor Manjra as an SI leader. Professor Samreen Manjra motivated me to apply for scholarships this semester. Thanks to Professor Samreen Manjra, I was awarded the Sheron Huston Memorial and Cindy Blume Memorial scholarships. I’m so incredibly thankful to have met and worked with the accounting faculty at Cypress College.

Professor Kathleen Troy has continued to inspire me as well. I’ve enjoyed having her as my management instructor for two semesters now. Professor Troy has given me the best advice in achieving my educational and professional goals. She truly cares about the success of her students. I appreciate everything that she has done for me.

Professor Thomas Reynolds (TJ) II inspired me to explore creative writing. Because of Professor TJ, I’ve realized how much I enjoy writing. He has has continued to support me and has challenged me to grow in my writing capabilities. I’m thankful to have met an individual like him.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
After Cypress College, I’ll be transferring to Cal State Fullerton. I plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in accounting. My goal at CSUF is to expand my network and build more meaningful relationships with business students and faculty members. I plan to become involved in the accounting society and Beta Alpha Psi at CSUF.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My long-term goal is to become an accounting college professor. I have a lot of respect and admiration for my college professors who have always motivated me to work hard and to never give up when it comes to accomplishing my educational goals. As a result, I want to do the same for my students. My current job as an SI leader has significantly impacted my goal of becoming an accounting college professor.

What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the progress I’ve made these past couple of years. I’m most proud of graduating high school in two years. With English being second my language, I thought that I could never accomplish my goals. I’m also most proud of becoming an Accounting 101 SI leader. Becoming an SI leader has been the most rewarding job. Lastly, I’m most proud of the relationships that I have developed with my peers and instructors. I’m so incredibly thankful to have met such individuals here at Cypress College.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
Build your network and take advantage of the resources you have on campus. It’s important to form good relationships with your peers and instructors. I think this will open up so many opportunities to progress and succeed. Be proud of your accomplishments and hard work. There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your thinking. Lastly, step out of your comfort zone and try new things.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am so thankful to be representing the Business and CIS Division as one of the inaugural Presidential Scholars of Distinction. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities and support the Business and CIS faculty members have provided me with. I’m proud of the contributions I’ve made to the Accounting Department, Business Club, and Business and CIS Division. Attending Cypress College has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Thank you, Cypress College!

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 10 p.m. Through hard work and dedication, she started to speak and write in English within a year.

After high school, Claudia earned a medical assistant certificate from Santa Ana College and continued pursuing an associate degree until realizing that she was not passionate about the field. It wasn’t until she started working as an assistant manager at a restaurant that she discovered her love for hospitality.

Claudia is graduating with associate of arts degrees in hospitality management, and food and beverage management. She is transferring to Cal State Long Beach in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and ultimately aspires to become a director of food and beverage at a full-service resort.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
My name is Claudia, I was born in Santa Ana, California. At the age of 2, my parents decided to move back to Mexico, where I grew up and lived for 14 years. At the age of 16, my parents decided it was time for us to come back to the United States in hopes of a better life and future. Moving to the United States was a major change in my life; I was in a place I did not know, and I did not speak any English. I started going to high school soon after we moved. That first year of high school was the most challenging. I remember I cried out of frustration at the end of the first day of school because I did not understand anything, but after that, I set my mind on working hard to learn English and being able to communicate and understand what was happening around me. My days were long. I was going to my regular classes in the morning, then going home after school to do homework, which was another challenge. To be able to do my homework, I had to translate all of it to Spanish on Google Translate to be able to do it, after finishing I translated it back to English so my teachers could understand and grade my assignments. After homework, I had to go to ESL classes at Santa Ana College until 10 p.m. and start all over again the next morning. Thanks to all that hard work and dedication, I started to speak and write English within a year. I graduated from NOVA Academy Early College High School in 2010.

After high school, I continued attending Santa Ana College where I achieved a medical assistant certificate. When I was close to completing the requirements for the associate degree, I changed my major to Spanish. I knew then that I liked working with people, but what I was pursuing was not my passion. I did not know exactly what I wanted to do until I started working in restaurants. I worked as assistant manager at a restaurant, and that is when I discovered my love for hospitality. After a break from school, I decided to go back to school and pursue a career in hospitality and food and beverage. Now, I am close to completing my courses to earn my associate degrees in hospitality management, and food and beverage management. I will transfer to Cal State Long Beach this upcoming fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College by suggestion of my sister. One day I was talking to her about my plans of going back to school and she suggested that I look into the HRC program, so I did. After going through the curriculum, I became interested and enrolled in the program.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I have been involved in the Hospitality, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts Program. As a student in this program, I had the opportunity to be part of the management team on opening week for the Cypress Bistro, and was part of the team that operated the front of the house of the Cypress Bistro through the fall of 2018. I was also involved in Hospitality Career Expo 2019, where students have the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience creating and executing an event.

The HRC program has played an important role unfolding my path. I have learned and received information that has helped me understand my options in the hospitality industry. Our professors are passionate about their careers, and share their passion and experience with their students. They also are committed to our education and prepare us to be successful in this industry.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am most passionate about learning new things. I also love traveling and food, which is why I majored in hospitality and food and beverage management. I believe there is always room for improvement, and we can learn new things every day. Learning new things helps me to have an open mind to new ideas, especially in this industry because there are always new trends and technology changing the way we do things. I love visiting new places and learning about their cultures and their food.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
All of my instructors in the HRC program have contributed to my academic success, especially Professor Lisa Clark, who has motivated me with her passion for hospitality and her dedication toward her students’ education and success. She is encouraging and her enthusiasm is contagious. I am extremely grateful for having her as a professor.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
My immediate plans after graduating from Cypress College are starting my education at Cal State Long Beach in the fall of 2019 and earning my bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, while working in the industry.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My long-term goals are to become a director of food and beverage at a full-service resort, travel the world, and maintain a healthy balance in my life.

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being where I am right now. I am doing what I love, and I am about to graduate from Cypress College and transfer to CSULB. This would not have been possible if I had not had the support of my family and my professors.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
One bit of advice that I would give to current and future students is: “Don’t be scared of dreaming big.” If you work hard for what you want, you can achieve anything you set your mind on.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” -Pele

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 business administration and associate of science degree in marketing. She is transferring to Cal State Long Beach in the fall and is the first graduate from the leadership team of FITE (From Incarceration to Empowerment) Club, a new club that was started last fall.

“I am ecstatic to be graduating today as a role model to those who also thought they’d never get this far,” she said. “We can all graduate successfully and change our lives. We take this journey together!”

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 job; however, her first art professor helped her believe in her skills and abilities, and inspired her to pursue art instead.

Nhi is graduating with an associate of art degree for transfer in studio art. She is transferring to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in graphic and interactive design. She also hopes to pursue a master’s degree and dreams of becoming a successful graphic designer.

“No matter what language an artist speaks, I can understand what he is trying to represent and express through his art piece,” she said. “So, art seems to have a power of speaking in a universal language, which is why I’ve been interested in art.”

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
My name is Nhi Nguyen. I grew up in Vietnam. When I was 19 years old, my mother and I moved to the United States. I am interested in designing, crafting, and drawing. My hobbies are singing and swimming.
I have been attending Cypress College since fall 2016. I became part of the EOPS program in fall 2017 and started to work in the Career Planning Center on campus in fall 2018. As I am not a native English speaker, English is a significant challenge for me. Moreover, because of my Vietnamese accent, I also feel self-conscious and hesitant when communicating in English. However, with all the help and enthusiasm of my professors, my coworkers, and my friends at Cypress, my English has improved a lot, and I feel more confident when using English.

This is my third year at Cypress. I am working on my associate degree for transfer in studio art and will be graduating this spring. Next fall, I am transferring to California State University, Fullerton, to earn my bachelor’s degree.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
As I am looking forward to transfer to university to earn my bachelor’s degree, I chose to attend a local community college. Fortunately, I decided to go to Cypress College, which is one of best decisions I have ever made.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
Being an EOPS student, I have received many supports from the program such as counseling and book awards. In addition, while I am one of the student workers in the Career Planning Center on campus, I have not only earned experience and am involved in campus events, but also had opportunities to help other students and introduce them to the beneficial career counseling services offered at the center.
Even though I am interested in art, I started my first semester as a health science student, since it seemed there would be a higher chance to get a stable job with a health science degree. However, my first art professor at Cypress really inspired me. He not only taught valuable knowledge and assigned interesting projects, but also helped me believe in my art skills and ability. Hence, I chose art with a concentration in graphic design as my major.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am passionate about art. The first reason why I love art is that there is no right or wrong answer, so I can express myself, my feelings, and become more creative. There are meanings that can be interpreted from art elements and principles, which are “formulas” I use to tell the stories through my paintings, drawings, and designs. I also use these “formulas” to “read” and understand the story, feeling, and context of an artwork. Then, no matter what language an artist speaks, I can understand what he is trying to represent and express through his art piece. So art seems to have a power of speaking in a universal language, which is why I’ve been interested in art.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
I really appreciate the time I have experienced at Cypress College and I am thankful to all my passionate, incredible, and amazing professors and counselors. I would like to say thank you to my art and media art design professors: Edward Giardina, Carleton Christy, Janet Owen Driggs, Katalin Angelov, Daniel Gross, Rema Ghuloum, my EOPS counselor Alan Reza, and my supervisors Deann Burch, Belinda Allan, and Zola Aponte.

  1. Edward Giardina: my first art professor at Cypress College. I was inspired from his first lectures about the elements of art. He is a great professor who not only helped me with my art projects and letters of recommendation, but also gave me advice about what major I should pursue and which university I should transfer to.
  2. Carleton Christy: my drawing professor. I enjoyed his class a lot. He is hilarious, so I never felt stressed in his class or while talking with him. He encouraged me to do my best and allowed me to explore and use different art techniques. He taught me many new skills. He has been always willing to help me. Since I am not a native English speaker, he even helped me look up words in the dictionary when I was having trouble with English.
  3. Janet Owen Driggs: my art history professor. I learned a lot from her lectures and she made me love art history. One of the amazing things she taught me was to “read” an image.
  4. Katalin Angelov: my first digital art professor. Besides her interesting lectures, she has everything for a great professor: kindness, warmth, and understanding.
  5. Daniel Gross: my graphic design professor. He also works as a graphic designer, so while working on his class assignments, I earned experience and got advice that is valuable and important for my profession.
  6. Rema Ghuloum: my color theory professor. She has a great understanding about colors, so I learned, explored, and worked on many different projects that applied the variety of color theories, which are so amazing and valuable to my major.
  7. Alan Reza: my EOPS counselor for two years. Besides discussing my academic plan, he also talked about my artworks and gave me some interesting project ideas.
  8. Deann Burch, Belinda Allan, and Zola Aponte: my supervisors in the Career Planning Center. I always feel their kindness toward me as well as other staff. I can see their enthusiasm while instructing students and their passion for their work and the center.

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 will be transferring to California State University, Fullerton, and working on my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in graphic and interactive design. Meanwhile, I plan to work on campus in order to improve my English communication skills as well as to help other students. I will also look for a job that is related to my major, so I can earn more work experience.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My biggest dream is to become a successful graphic designer. I am interested in working on logos, brand identities, layouts, and poster designs for movies, magazines, product advertisements, social issues, etc. In addition, I like creating motion graphics that provide the audience with information about a company, topic, or issue. Besides taking digital design courses, I also take other classes such as drawing, color theory, and animation to gain more knowledge and improve my art skills, as well as to obtain an ability to work with other types of art such as digital illustration and animation. The interactive design program at California State University, Fullerton, is another branch of design that I also want to pursue. Then, after getting my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I also plan to earn a Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts.

What are you most proud of?
It has been my honor to be on the Cypress College President’s Honor Roll with a GPA of 4.0. Furthermore, I am the 2019 Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Fine Arts Division. I won the 2019 Sheron Huston Memorial Scholarship and the 2019 Freddie Czerniel Transfer Scholarship that was offered by the Cypress College Fine Arts Division. In addition, I am the winner of the 2019 Cypress College Holiday Card Contest. My product advertisement project that includes three posters and a motion graphic is displayed at the Students’ Show 2019 in the Cypress College Art Gallery. Also, my still life drawing and animal digital illustration were selected for the Student Exhibition in May 2018, and my ink drawing was chosen for display at the Student Exhibition in May 2017.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
I would like to say do your best, so you will have no regrets about anything. Also, think about your interests, strengths, and skills while choosing the major and career path that you would like to pursue. If you like and are passionate about something, you absolutely can do well at it, so believe in yourself and your abilities. Then, do not struggle with yourself because there are tons of service on campus such as counseling, financial aid, the health center, open computer lab, and tutoring that are really helpful and can help you find your solution.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am really happy that I will be graduating. I also appreciate my time at Cypress College. I have learned valuable information from various subjects and numerous practical skills. I am really thankful for the help and support from the campus services as well as the inspiration and encouragement from all my Cypress College professors.

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 hoping they’d be able to help me, and it was the best mistake I ever made,” she said.

Evelyn is graduating with an associate of science degree in radiologic technology. After earning her American Registry of Radiologic Technologists credential, she hopes to work in computed tomography (CT) and possibly cross-train in a catheterization lab. She also hopes to attend Cal State Northridge in the future.

“I want to continue growing and set an example for my kids,” she said. “I want them to be proud of the person I worked so hard to become. I want them to know anything is possible with hard work and a little effort.”

#CYPresidential

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

I’m currently married with two wonderful little girls, and I’ve lived in Orange County for most of my life.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

Choosing Cypress is the best decision I’ve ever made. I love the campus, the atmosphere, the diversity. From day one I felt it was my second home away from home. I had made an attempt to start college at a different campus before, and it was just the complete opposite. Cypress and its faculty have always felt welcoming when I felt the most insecure. I was a first-generation college student, a single parent, didn’t know anything about the application process or even where to go. I just remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed and vulnerable. I recall accidentally walking into some random office hoping they’d be able to help me and it was the best mistake I ever made. Thank you, EOPS; without you I wouldn’t be standing here with my peers!

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

I was a proud member of EOPS for two years. The staff was amazing—you could really tell how invested everyone in the program was with the students. They helped me stay on track and push myself; to be honest our success is just a reflection of their hard work at hand. Thanks, Alan Reza!

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Definitely helping others. Someday, I want to make the same impact my professors and program director had on me, with others. I want to pass on my knowledge with that same enthusiasm they carry; they have a gift, and I’m thankful for that. Who knows, maybe becoming a Cypress College professor in the future could be next on my checklist.

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

Many have helped me get where I am today. My family, friends, and staff, but I’d really like to thank Ms. Lynn Mitts. I’ve always sold myself short, but she’s always made me feel like I could accomplish anything when I didn’t even believe in myself. I’d also like to thank Dr. Michael Frianeza; his enthusiasm is the reason I sealed the deal and decided to become a radiologic technologist on day one. Mr. Barry Siegel, who has selflessly poured his heart and soul aiding us all throughout the program. Ms. Phan Pak and Mr. Gary Binoya, for helping us swim not sink, your patience and support was just what we needed. Thank you all for always going above and beyond!

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

After completing my studies I hope to continue to grow in my facility. Computer Tomography (CT) is definitely my next goal.

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

I definitely need to start working on my bachelor’s, sooner rather than later. I want to continue growing and set an example for my kids. I want them to be proud of the person I worked so hard to become! I want them to know anything is possible with hard work and a little effort.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of my mom: rough life, single parent of three, always working hard to make ends meet. I’ve never told her, but she’s MY role model. Thanks for doing the best that YOU could for us. We love you, even if you don’t hear us say it often enough.

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

No one is born a professional, a little time and perseverance goes along way. Be patient, work hard, and you’ll be a recipe for success. Most important of all, always help those around you; someday they’ll be able to give you a hand when you most need it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I want to thank all the people that have been on this journey with me, especially my friends and family. It’s been a hell of a ride and it’s finally coming to an end. Thank you for ALL your support, you guys were my rock!

I also want to thank my Clinical Instructor and the rest of the staff in my clinical site. Thank you for taking the time to teach me everything you know; I’m eternally grateful. I’m sure I was a headache sometimes, but thank you for not giving up on me. I hope to continue to grow and to make you all proud. Remember, I’m only as good as the sum of all your best parts, thank you!

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 finished her career at Cypress with 321 career kills and 122 blocks, earning a 2018 all-Orange Empire Conference First Team selection and earning a spot on the 2018 All-State Tournament Team.

Jane is graduating with an associate of science degree in kinesiology. She is transferring to Cal Poly Pomona on a volleyball scholarship and will pursue a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology. She aspires to become a physical therapist and high school volleyball coach.

“I am most passionate about being the best version of myself that I can be,” she said. “Coming from a troubled background, losing my mother at a young age, I have an internal drive to succeed and make the most out of my life.”

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and attended Woodrow Wilson High School there. I moved down to Southern California after high school by myself in order to start a life here and attend Cypress College, as well as play volleyball and beach volleyball for the school. I spend my time balancing school, collegiate athletics, and work at Angel Stadium.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College because of the exceptional academic opportunities that the school has for kinesiology students, as well as the success of the volleyball team in previous years and a desire to join the team and work with the coaching staff here.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I have been involved in two sports here at the school: volleyball and beach volleyball. It took me two years to get my degree in kinesiology here at Cypress, so my semester course loads were heavy, and I spent countless hours in the LRC, but it was all worth it.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am most passionate about being the best version of myself that I can be. Coming from a troubled background, losing my mother at a young age, I have an internal drive to succeed and make the most out of my life. I also have a strong passion for athletics and all kinds of sports, as I feel the most at home in a sports-like atmosphere.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
The faculty here at Cypress that have helped me substantially along the way are of course my coaches: Nancy Welliver, Nicky Cannon, and Chris Gomez. I also would like to acknowledge Jeff Cutkomp for his unwavering support and class schedule guidance, and Dana Bedard for all of his help.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
I plan on attending Cal Poly Pomona to study exercise physiology and earn a bachelor’s degree. Once I complete my time there, I want to one day work as a physical therapist and high school volleyball coach.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My long-term goals are to one day be a physical therapist, ideally for a professional sports team, as well as coach women’s volleyball. I would love to travel the world, live a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly: be happy.

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how I spent my time here at Cypress, earning my degree in two years with a solid GPA while trying to figure out how life goes away from home, on my own, and at the same time playing two collegiate sports and working in order to support myself.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
If I were to give advice to current and future Cypress students, I would just do my best to inspire them to work their hardest and work to be the best versions of themselves, always. Particularly when things get tough and it feels like there is no point or no direction to your life, there undoubtedly is, but you just have to work hard in order to find it.

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 Program to gain practical work experience.

In addition to working part-time in the International Students Program office, Jene was cast and has performed in the college’s dance productions, and was a member of the Cypress College Forensics Team. She aspires to earn a master’s degree in speech language pathology and become a certified speech therapist with the goal of helping children improve their speech and ability to communicate.

“I find joy in helping others in a way that can encourage their success and well-being,” she said. “Knowing that my actions and words have the power to impact other peoples’ lives positively is rewarding in itself.”

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I am an international student born in the Philippines and raised in United Arab Emirates. Living away from my family has been a challenge. Fortunately, through Cypress College, I was able to meet other students who have kept me company and have been so supportive of me. I am truly grateful for each one of them.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College for its reputable faculty members and student services. There are various programs and services on campus that have been so helpful to my success, from the tutoring services at the Learning Resource Center, to free flu vax at the Health Center. The availability of these services has definitely affected my academics and overall well-being. Nonetheless, the faculty and staff are very welcoming and professional. My professors have all motivated and inspired me to be where I am today.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I have spent the majority of my time here as a part-time student at the International Students Program office. It has allowed me to interact with prospective and new international students while also enhancing my professional skills. Besides work, I personally enjoy dancing, and I had the pleasure to be casted for the spring 2019 dance concert as a student volunteer. Last but not least, I was part of the Forensics Team and had the opportunity to compete and represent Cypress Chargers at the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament, and it was quite a memorable experience. Meeting other forensics competitors only reaffirmed my passion for the communications field.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
During my past volunteer experience with various paralympic organizations such as the Boccia International Sports Federation and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, I have met such inspirational athletes who all embodied sheer determination and commitment. Throughout these experiences I realized the importance of communication in all aspects of life. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to work in the communicative disorders branch of communications. I find joy in helping others in a way that can encourage their success and well-being. Knowing that my actions and words have the power to impact other people’s lives positively is rewarding in itself. Thus, my ultimate goal of being a certified speech therapist will definitely allow me to work in a field that I am most passionate about.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
There are various faculty members who have helped and guided me throughout my studies at Cypress College. The staff at the ISP office — Yongmi Han, Gina Marrocco, and Deepa Tharani (our academic counselor) — have all spent time to ensure that I am following the right path to completing my degree. I must also say that all of my past professors have always managed to ignite my curiosity and thirst for knowledge. There are far too many names to mention, but I really am grateful for each of my professors. I also want to thank Professor Jennifer Page, my forensics coach, for always believing in me. Finally, I also appreciate all of the faculty and staff in the Language Arts Division who all have influenced my success.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
Upon graduation I intend to do optional practical training for a year before transferring to Cal State Long Beach for my bachelor’s degree.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
Once I complete my bachelor’s degree, I want to pursue my master’s degree in speech language pathology and ultimately become a certified speech therapist. I aspire to work with children and help improve their speech and ability to communicate. I believe that speech therapy is vital during childhood because it is at its most effective stage.

What are you most proud of?
One thing I am most proud of is my experience living abroad. As an international student, I have learned the importance of the people I surround myself with. Living and adjusting to a whole different culture has also taught me patience and perseverance. All these experiences have indeed made me proud because they have led to my personal growth.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
You are not alone. One thing I want current and future students to realize is that we all take this journey together so no one is ever on their own. Whatever it may be and no matter how silly it may seem, they should not be afraid to ask for help. At the end of the day, their peers, the faculty, and staff are all rooting for their success.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Buen Cypress!

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 wanted to pursue a degree. After changing her major three times, she discovered a passion for mechanical engineering.

Selina is graduating with associate of science degrees in mathematics, physics, liberal arts in math and science, and pre-engineering. She is transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and later hopes to earn her master’s degree from UCLA. Passionate about helping others, Selina hopes to work in the prostheses industry and also aspires to become a STEM counselor for undocumented students.

“I have faced many challenges on my path to graduation: poverty, no transportation, lack of guidance, my undocumented status, coming from divorced parents, being a first-generation student, starting in the lowest math course, and not having a place to live at times,” she said. “No matter what, I overcame the barriers placed in front of me.”

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

I was born in Iguala Guerrero, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when I was only 3 years old. Growing up in Huntington Park, California, it was difficult to find a sense of belonging in a place with different people, a foreign language, and a completely new lifestyle. Despite the tough transition, I have managed to adapt and strive for success. Throughout middle school and high school, I was part of the Honors Program and AVID Program. I graduated with high honors from Huntington Park High School in 2013. I am what you might call a “teacher’s pet.” I am also the first in my family to pursue higher education. In my free time, I like to go hiking and watch movies. I enjoy hearing other people’s stories and learning about where their journeys began.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

When I was growing up, my parents would work all day to create a better future for our family. They never had time to help me with my homework, and they never talked about higher education. In my senior year of high school, I got rejected from four California State Universities despite having a 3.9 GPA. I was devastated because I worked hard to get into a good university. Still, I believe everything happens for a reason.

After high school graduation, I wasn’t quite sure what career I wanted to pursue. I didn’t even know that attending community college and transferring to a university was one of my options. I first heard about Cypress College from my friend Janette, who was interested in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program. She invited me to visit the campus with her, and I said yes. After attending orientation, I took the placement test. I was placed in the lowest math level (Math 10), so I signed up for the math lab in the continuing education school on campus. After that day, everything fell into place.

I spent my summer at Cypress, Monday through Friday. In one month, I completed two math classes. According to Armando, who oversaw the Math Lab at the time, that was a record! After that month, I knew I had found where I was meant to be. I can’t say that I chose Cypress College; Cypress College chose me. I began my academic path here before I realized that this is one of the best community colleges in California. I thank God for always guiding me and placing me in the right place with the right people. My time at this school have been the best years of my life, because they enabled me to grow into an educated Latina.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
During my freshman year, I was pursuing a Diagnostic Medical Sonography Certificate. I also began volunteering in the Radiology Department at the PIH Health Hospital in Downey. As a volunteer, I scanned the mammogram X-rays into the system, shadowed the ultrasound technologist, and walked the patients to their rooms. I really enjoyed my year-and-a-half spent volunteering there because the staff was incredibly kind, and I enjoyed caring for patients. However, through this experience, I also realized that I wanted to pursue something more than a certification. If I was going to school for about three years to get a certification, why not put the same time toward a bachelor’s degree? It took three years of trial and error before I decided on an academic path. I changed my major three times before finally discovering my passion for mechanical engineering.

As a mechanical engineering major, I love conquering difficult math and science courses. I have always enjoyed rising to a challenge, so the vision of being a Latina woman in the engineering field lit a fire in me. With a concrete goal in mind, I got to work chasing my dream of lifelong learning. I took the most rigorous calculus and physics courses on campus. When I proved that I could succeed despite being the only female in my engineering classes at times, it fueled my determination.

On campus, I have taken advantage of every opportunity available to me. Each educational opportunity has changed my life completely. First, the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) offered me invaluable academic guidance. I built a strong relationship with my counselor, Eva Palomares, and she supported me throughout my academic journey. Through this program, I ensured that I was on a successful academic path and made my transfer process easier and much more enjoyable. I also participated in the TLOP program at University of California, Irvine, where I got to challenge my fears and complete an obstacle course where I realized that I am a leader by heart. It comes naturally to me to take the lead when others can’t. It wasn’t easy overcoming fears or having to rely on others, but I learned that working with the support of a team makes things easier.

Next, the Puente Program gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my culture. It’s been 20 years since I left my birthplace, Iguala Guerrero, and immigrated to the place my parents call the dreamland. It earned this nickname because they believed that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Still, leaving my home country made me feel that I had lost my culture and identity. In Puente, I reconnected with my roots by reading Latino novels that made writing essays enjoyable. Having Dr. Therese Mosqueda-Ponce and Mr. Obed Silva as role models was such an inspiration. When I went on my first Northern Trip with the Puente Program, it opened my eyes to all my possible paths for transfer. In summer 2015, I was selected to represent Cypress College at the UC Riverside Puente Leadership Conference, which selects one student from each California community college. At UCRP, I was surrounded with incredible, educated individuals who had similar backgrounds and struggles as me. I didn’t have to fear people finding out I wasn’t born in this country. I didn’t have to hide my smallpox vaccination scar on my right arm because no one there was going to bully me for having a “Beaner Mark.” For the first time, I shared that I was undocumented and my peers received me with open arms and love. It was breathtaking to experience that sense of belonging and to know that I was meant to be there with my Puente Familia.

Lastly, joining the (STEM)2 Program has provided me with the opportunity to flourish as both a professional and a leader. Through the program, I had the privilege to complete a summer research experience at California State University, Fullerton, on physics education with Dr. Gina Passante in 2016. That experience led to my acceptance at UC San Diego’s STARS Program this past summer, where I had the opportunity to work in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department with Dr. Nicholas Boechler for eight weeks. These research experiences have allowed me to develop my networking and professional skills. Most importantly, I was able to get hands-on experience in the engineering field before transferring! On top of that, I was extremely honored to have Dr. Boechler ask me to continue conducting research with him.

Through the (STEM)2 Program, I have also attended national conferences like SACNAS and HENAAC, where I met STEM professionals from across the nation. I have also been able to tour the science and engineering labs at several different universities like Stanford, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Davis, Berkeley, and many more. The (STEM)2 Program’s annual university trips have helped me to explore my options and envision what my life will be like once I transfer out of Cypress. If it weren’t for this program, I wouldn’t even know that these types of opportunities were possible for me. Finally, through my role as a peer mentor for the (STEM)2 Program, I have been able to develop my leadership skills and serve as a role model for my fellow STEM scholars. I’ve received so much support during my time at Cypress, and my position allows me to pay it forward by mentoring other STEM scholars. I feel privileged to help and support our scholars on their educational journey because I know firsthand that being a STEM major isn’t easy. Overall, I have seen myself grow as an individual and become more confident in my ability to take on new challenges. I feel lucky to be able to give back to the programs that have done so much for me.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about helping others by mentoring them. I have learned and grown so much these past years at Cypress, and I have been able to help others by sharing my story. I use my platform to voice the need for additional educational opportunities for undocumented students, especially those who come from low-income backgrounds. There are many students who live in the shadows due to their fear of being deported. As an undocumented student, I have to work harder than my peers because of the color of my skin and the stereotypes of my culture. We, “the undocumented,” are hard workers and we value everything we have. We make sacrifices every day for our loved ones. Even stepping out of the house is a sacrifice because we might not come back. We value having a roof over our heads, being able to have a shower instead of buckets of water, and a chance at an education that our parents and grandparents never had. My parents taught me to be humble and to appreciate what I have and our roots show us how to be luchistas!

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

Every step of the way, I have been extremely fortunate to have the support of my professors, faculty, and peers. These awesome individuals have encouraged me when I needed it the most, on the days when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even in my most difficult moments, they saw a potential in me that at times I did not see in myself. With that, I would like to thank: Jane Gross, Garet Hill, Christina Plett, Torri Draganov, Massoud Saleh, Dr. Brinda Subramaniam, Allison Gotoh, Dean Richard Fee, Anthony Hall, Laurie Morvan, Hoa Tran, Keith Vescial, Obed Silva, Will Mann, and all my professors for being patient with me when I didn’t understand the material and for helping me build a strong foundation in my education; Dr. Therese Mosqueda-Ponce, Eva Palomares, Ernesto Heredia, and Dr. Deidre Porter for their guidance; the STEM Staff, Yanet Garcia, Rosa Mejia, Lyndsay Madru, Mareena Morrow, Luis Miranda, Anella Aquino, and peer mentors for being my family; Lily Perez, AnnMarie Ruelas, Dee Sato, and Julie Angevine for always being there for me; Nicole Ledesma, for being such a great role model and being the sister I never had; Mal and Kay Bruce, for their scholarships and support; the LRC’s Gonzalo, Ally, Nancy, Dean Treisa Cassens and Veronica for helping me get my first job on campus; the Cypress College maintenance staff, for allowing me to stay late on campus and opening the SEM door for me at 6 a.m. the next day; and last but certainly not least, Dr. JoAnna Shilling and Marc Posner, thank you for allowing me to share my journey.

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 sleep for a week straight! Then, I will go for a hike and spend time with my family and friends. This fall, I will be transferring to one of the best hands-on engineering universities: Cal Poly SLO. I worked tremendously for the last five-and-a-half years to pass all my classes, prerequisites, and recommended courses to be able to attend Cal Poly SLO, which only takes 5% of transfer students. I was in tears when I received my acceptance letter because I never thought I would be accepted to such a prestigious university. Cal Poly SLO’s motto of “Learning by Doing” is what caught my eye because I am a visual learner and learn better by seeing how things work rather than just reading about it. I am most excited to create and design things at their machine shop and for the projects I will be working on.

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

My long-term goals are to get my bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly SLO and master’s degree from UCLA in mechanical engineering. I would love to work in the industry building prosthetics to help people who need arms, legs, and organs. I also aspire to be a STEM counselor for undocumented students because I know first-hand the struggle of pursuing a STEM degree and it is not easy to navigate all the barriers undocumented students face. I want to mentor and provide guidance to students who don’t have representation in the STEM fields.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of graduating from Cypress College despite the obstacles I had to endure to be here. I have faced many challenges on my path to graduation: poverty, no transportation, lack of guidance, my undocumented status, coming from divorced parents, being a first-generation student, starting in the lowest math course, and not having a place to live at times. No matter what, I overcame the barriers placed in front of me. I joined programs, took two-hour bus rides, lived in a van with my mom, survived four years of math courses, studied at Denny’s or Taco Bell late at night, and much more to ensure that I would graduate with honors. I will be receiving an Associate of Science in mathematics, physics, liberal arts in math and science, and pre-engineering. I had to take courses at two different campuses to complete all of the requirements.
Of all these opportunities, the most significant occurred this past August when the president of Cypress College personally invited me to speak at Opening Day. At this event, I shared my story with 400 professors, administrators, board members, directors, and many other educated individuals. My speech was an incredible way to let all the people who have helped me along the way hear what I have accomplished. It was powerful to share the struggles that so many students must overcome to succeed in the academic realm. I received a standing ovation, and I was completely overwhelmed with the love and support I received after my speech. By far, the most rewarding moment was when professors approached me in tears and told me that my story had inspired them to improve themselves as professors. My voice emphasized the obstacles presented to Latinx undocumented students in need of support from faculty and administrators. By sacrificing my identity and taking advantage of that educational opportunity I have made a change for future undocumented students. As a future doctor of mechanical engineering, I will continue to use educational opportunities to break barriers and create positive and alternative pathways for marginalized student populations. I am also humbled to be the Presidential Scholar of Distinction for the Science, Engineering, and Math (SEM) Division. It is such an honor to represent my peers at graduation as a future Latina engineer!!

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

Always do what your heart desires, regardless of what other people say or do. Never give up, and fight for your dreams. Get involved!!! Take advantage of every opportunity you can. It will make your college experience more enjoyable and fun. Reach out for help because whatever it is you might be going through, I am sure someone else is also going through that. You are not alone!!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to thank my family, friends, and peers for supporting me through my journey at Cypress. It has not been easy and I know I have missed many important events like family gatherings, weddings, baby showers, and birthdays because I had to study for exams or work on projects, but I appreciate their patience and understanding. There were many times that I felt like giving up but what kept me going was being surrounded by incredible, smart individuals that have the same dreams and goals as me. So, thank you, Nicole Ledesma, Cat Aburto, Amanda Macias, Junnior “Si Se Puede” Rodriguez, Carlos Magallon, Kevin Patel, and Chidi Ewenike, Marlene Vega, and my mother for being with me through my ups and down. Now, on to the next adventure!!

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 single parents, “because I know how difficult life can sometimes get.”

After years overcoming the difficulties in her life, Sandra has earned three certificates from Cypress College in family studies, addiction studies, and human services generalist. She is graduating with associate of arts degrees in human services and liberal arts with an emphasis in social and behavioral science. She is transferring in the fall to Cal State Fullerton.

“I am a living testimony that regardless of how deep you think you have dug yourself into a hole, you are not buried; you can get yourself out and, most importantly, ‘You deserve it’.”

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I grew up in Santa Ana where I lived with my amazing, hardworking parents and three siblings. I became a parent really young, yet still managed to graduate high school. I was a teenager with kids who still didn’t grasp the reality of being a mother. As teens usually do, I rebelled; as I tend to do things, I took it a step further and found myself in an extremely negative environment. It took me many years to overcome that dark time in my life and become the woman, mother, daughter, sister, and friend that I am today.
I have always been interested in music; I am a sucker for good lyrics. I enjoy biopics and a fun workout class.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College because I drove by it one day and could not get it out of my head. I went home, Googled it, and was impressed by everything it had to offer.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I have been part of the EOPS/CARE program and Human Services Club. Both EOPS and CARE provide extended opportunities to assist students’ success in higher education, the only difference is that CARE is for single parents like myself. In the Human Services Club, we have put together services for the community, but most importantly for the student body that need it: from clothing drives to collecting food for our school Food Bank. Unfortunately, I was not able to be involved in other programs as I would have liked, but I got so much from the ones I did participate in. I was also fortunate in receiving multiple scholarships during my time here.
My path here at Cypress has unfolded semester by semester. I became a student with a goal of attaining a certificate; now I am graduating with honors and have been on the President’s and Dean’s Honor Roll multiple semesters. I also have obtained three certificates: family studies, addiction studies, and human services generalist. I will be receiving an associate degree in human services and another in liberal arts with an emphasis in social and behavioral science. In the fall, I will be transferring to California State University, Fullerton.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am most passionate about helping others overcome obstacles, especially single parents, because I know how difficult life can sometimes get. I realize that everyone is at their own pace with different needs; I just want to be able to provide the tools, guides, and support while they get there. I am a living testimony that regardless of how deeply you think you have dug yourself into a hole, you are not buried, you can get yourself out, and, most important, “you deserve it.”

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
I have to say that if it wasn’t for my EOPS Counselor Eva Palomares navigating, encouraging, and pushing me to reach for more, I would not be here. As well as all the other wonderful EOPS/CARE counselors and staff – they rock! I can’t tell you how many CARE seminars I attended that provided me with so many resources for everything from education, to mental health, to physical health, and so much more.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
I am still on the fence of what I want to be, either a licensed therapist/counselor or transition into social work. To be honest, the human services field is so broad that I just know I want to be part of it. Life has prepared me in many ways and education is helping me gain information and acquire new skills to be productive and excel in my career.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My long-term goals are establishing my career, paying my parents’ home off, owning my own home. and being able to travel the world.

What are you most proud of?
What I am most proud of is each and every one of my accomplishments and how far I have come. I am a role model to my children and without them this would not be worth it. My road has not been easy, but giving up is not an option. Hope and faith is what drives me, and I am ultimately PROUD of MYSELF!

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
A bit of advice would be to get involved with the student activities held throughout the semester, to ask questions, and to network. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, set goals, attain them, and set new goals. It is a process and it can get difficult, but reach out to someone because there are plenty of resources that can help.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks, Cypress College, for this recognition of where I was six years ago to today; this is truly a blessing. Thanks to all my professors who shared their passion for teaching because it motivated me to find the passion in my work, and thank to all staff and faculty members.