#CYProfessional: Marcia Jeffredo, Locksmith, Maintenance and Operations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

What inspires you as an education facilitator?

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

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

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

Institutional Research Director Philip Dykstra Stands in Front of Campanile

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

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

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

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

#CYProud: David Su, Psychology

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

David Su

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYProud: Tasmia Alam, Business Administration

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

Tasmia Alam

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYProud: Musab Awad, Registered Nursing

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

Musab Awad

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am passionate about helping others in their worst times.

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

All the Registered Nursing and EOPS faculty and staff!

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

#CYProud: Leah Nakahara, Elementary Education

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

Leah Nakahara

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

#CYProud: Vy Vu, Business Administration

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

Vy Vu

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

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

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

#CYProud: Jolene Gazmen, Communication Studies and English

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

Jolene Gazmen

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYPossible: Pedro Romero-Nieva Santos, ESL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYProud: Timothy O’Connor, Mathematics

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

Timothy O’Connor

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYProud: Holly Herrera, Mortuary Science

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

Holly Herrera

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

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYProud: Minh Nguyen, Chemistry

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

Minh Nguyen

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“Be awesome and join Chemistry Club!”

#CYProud: Felicia Cleaver, Psychology

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

Felicia Cleaver

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

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

#CYProud: Abby Omolafe, Political Science and Dance

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

Abby Omolafe

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

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

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

Why did you choose Cypress College?

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If I can do it, you can too!

#CYProfessional: Gary Gopar, Music Department Chair

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

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

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

What inspires you as a teacher?

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

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

Third are the good deeds of others in my profession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#CYPossible: Fernando Rodriguez, Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

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

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

#CYPossible: Young Lee, ESL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

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

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

 

#CYPossible: Karina Vanessa Lopez, Business Administration

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most passionate about? Why?

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

What are you most proud of?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

#CYProfessional: Robert Grantham, Business and CIS Division Counselor

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

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

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

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

What inspires you as a counselor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

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

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

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

What inspires you as a registrar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO. Not at all.

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

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

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

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

What inspires you as a counselor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

#CYProfessional: Jane Jepson, Career & Technical Education Counselor

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

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

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

What inspires you as a counselor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#CYProfessional: Jolena Grande, Professor, Mortuary Science

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

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

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

What inspires you as a teacher?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What was your path to Cypress?

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

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

What inspires you as a teacher?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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