During the only event of its kind in the High Desert, hundreds of adult education graduates from local high school districts were honored with a collective ceremony at Victor Valley College on Friday.
The second annual commencement of the Victor Valley Adult Education Regional Consortium included about 240 participating students of the 470 who graduated from Apple Valley Unified, Hesperia Unified, Snowline Joint Unified and Victor Valley Union High school districts.
Following the Presentation of Colors from the Victor Valley High School Air Force Junior ROTC, VVC Executive Vice President Dr. Peter Maphumulo recognized the graduates.
“In making the decision to complete your high school diploma or equivalency, you have opened up doors to a whole world of opportunities,” Maphumulo said. “Many of our students are transitioning to Victor Valley College to attain a certificate or associate degree.”
Hesperia Career & Adult Education Center graduate Jessica Ontiveros-Becerra is one such student who is currently enrolled at VVC, taking the first steps toward her childhood dream of becoming a registered nurse.
“To my fellow graduates: I feel an overwhelming amount of pride resonating from every one of you,” Ontiveros-Becerra said. “School offered us the second chance we needed. They treated us with respect and kindness … They wanted me to succeed, they wanted you to succeed.”
Maphumulo asked all the graduates enrolled in community college to stand to be acknowledged, along with those who’ve gotten a job as a result of the program, those who became U.S. citizens while enrolled, and those who are parents and/or grandparents.
Johnny Holguin, a Victor Valley Adult Education graduate, shared part of his story with the crowd, explaining that he is a single father raising two daughters while working full-time and studying at Barstow Community College.
“Today we all gather together here because of a common choice we all made to finish what we started,” Holguin said. “I’ve watched young mothers study with a book in one hand and a baby in the other, young men with a gleam in their eye knowing that this is their first step into a larger world, and men and women who, like me, made a life-changing decision to get this done and better themselves.”
Another graduating parent, Angel Almanza, attended Apple Valley Adult School along with his wife, one of three married couples to participate in this year’s commencement.
Rather than a typical quote from a historical figure, Almanza chose to share a poem written by his brother, Peter, which began: “Forget about the days when it’s been cloudy, but don’t forget about the hours in the sun. Forget about the times you’ve been defeated, but don’t forget about the victories you have won.”
“Graduation is not an end goal in itself — it is instead a part of a larger journey in our life,” Almanza said. “Wherever your future takes you, let it take you somewhere.”
There were also three sets of brother and sister siblings among the graduates this year, including Hugo Rosales, who said his younger sister was a major inspiration to him as he attended Apple Valley Adult School with her.
“For years, our way of everyday life is just work, work, work,” Rosales said. “Now it’s time to stop this traditional way and take initiative in challenging ourselves and making a decision to do the most important thing in life: To get an education.”
Commencement speaker Senator Scott Wilk shared a few more interesting facts about the Class of 2019, including that among them were two cancer survivors, one blind student, and one deaf student. The oldest graduate, he said, was 83 years old.
Wilk, 60, also shared his own story about coming to his desired career later in life, despite it being discouraged by others along the way.
“Having heard the stories from the graduates, we already know that today’s achievements came because of your discipline, your commitment, and frankly, your courage,” Wilk said. “I encourage you to pursue life with purpose, passion, and perseverance. It’s never too late to press on.”
Victor Valley College’s 2019 commencement ceremony was the largest in its 58-year history, celebrating more than 1,330 graduates who’ve earned associate degrees.
As such, the event was held at America’s largest outdoor music venue, Glen Helen Amphitheater, for the first time ever to accommodate the near-600 graduates who walked and more than 7,000 guests on Friday.
“You are all examples of the college mission at VVC,” Superintendent/President Dr. Daniel Walden said. “Today, you not only accomplished your goals of completing your associate of arts or science degrees — you join a distinguished list in becoming alumni of Victor Valley College.”
The significant number of degrees earned by students this past year marks a 30 percent increase from last year, with nearly 900 candidates from this Spring semester alone. In addition, close to 400 certificates of achievement were earned among the class of 2019.
Following the National Anthem, performed by the College Singers and led by Dr. Karen Miskell, Music Department chair and vocal music director, Walden introduced the Board of Trustees, cabinet, administration, and elected officials (among them City of Adelanto Council Member Joy Jeanette, one of VVC’s first students in 1961).
College Board President Dennis Henderson spoke next, offering praises and best wishes on behalf of the trustees.
“I hope that your experience at VVC challenged you. That it broadened your horizons. Taught you both academic and life lessons,” Henderson said. “Continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to make us proud. I know you will.”
President of the VVC Foundation, Mike Nutter, encouraged graduates to “consider paying it forward” to the students who will follow in their footsteps.
“You will not only enrich your own lives, but the lives of the people around you and the community you call home,” Nutter said.
Faculty Senate President Harry “Lee” Bennett Jr. asked the crowd to join him in thanking VVC’s dedicated faculty and academic leadership, with special recognition to retiring communication studies professor Dr. Gregory Jones.
To the graduates, Bennett said: “Your journey was not accomplished solely because of your tenacity and dedication — it was accomplished because of the support from your friends and family and the dedication of the faculty, staff and administrators of VVC.”
Dawning stoles from both the Associated Student Body Council and the Black Student Union, ASB President Tristan Wilkerson introduced himself to guests in his native language of Wampanoag, that of a Native American tribe.
“I offer you peace, love and friendship,” he said in Wampanoag before continuing with words of encouragement for his fellow graduates.
“Strategically place yourself in environments that empower you,” Wilkerson said. “Be a warrior forged in fire but tempered by knowledge and love.”
Walden introduced commencement speaker Assemblyman Jay Obernolte next, who shared his story about the many “twists and turns” his career took. From not having a plan after college to landing in jobs he didn’t seek out, Obernolte’s best learned advice is to “not have so much stress about where life is going to take you.”
“There will be many doors open to you. Your job at this stage of life is to close as few doors as possible,” Obernolte said. “And I want you to know that your community college will always be here for you. Whenever you feel like you need to brush up your skills or learn something that you didn’t get an opportunity to, you could always come back and do that.”
Executive Vice President of Instruction Dr. Peter Maphumulo gave special recognition to all of the honor graduates, Phi Theta Kappa international honors students, those who served the ASB Council and veteran students.
He also introduced salutatorian Danika Hennessy and the nine valedictorians, Isaac Carranza, Sarah Francis, Barbara Gutierrez, Ashley Langston, Joshua Sanchez, Sandra Schumacher, Yeni Serrano, Samantha Tossell and Juliyana Hasroun.
Hasroun, who was selected as the valedictorian speaker, shared her experience of coming to VVC as an English learner hoping to improve her language skills to becoming dedicated to earning the “highest grade possible in each class.”
“This moment is living proof that magical things can happen when we have the right motivation and are impacted by a strong willpower,” Hasroun said. “We’ve made it really far, my friends, and we ought to be very proud of our achievements.”
Victor Valley College celebrated the graduation of 34 nursing students during a pinning and candlelight ceremony at High Desert Church Friday evening.
The nursing Class of Spring 2019 was dressed in traditional white uniforms as they recited the International Nursing Pledge, promising to care for the sick and uphold the integrity of the professional nurse.
College leaders, staff, family members, and friends all gathered together to commemorate the graduates’ completion of one of the nation’s most elite nursing programs.
Katherine Shields, president of the VVC chapter of the California Student Nursing Association, shared with guests her experiences in the program.
She explained that the CNSA is an opportunity for nursing students to learn about leadership, delegation, education stewardship, and community.
“As cabinet members, we have learned about leadership and delegation while setting up various events,” Shields said, such as March of Dimes, Relay for Life, and many of the chapter’s own events. “CNSA encourages both personal and professional development.”
She went on to present the Make a Difference award to nursing instructor Silvia Portillo, stating that Portillo was hugely supportive of the nursing students through the highs and lows of the program.
“She has given us all that she has while remaining compassionate and of course, fashionable,” Shields said.
Class President Kristin Hennekens also thanked Portillo, along with all the instructors of the program, “for sharing their passion for nursing.” She went on to thank her fellow classmates, revisiting some of the important moments shared during their studies.
“As each of us look back at our time here at VVC, a few moments stick out more than others,” Hennekens said. “I recall my first successful IV in the Emergency Department of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center — I felt so accomplished!”
She went on to recount participating in caring for a young preemie in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, caring for patients on ventilators, and successfully performing CPR on a patient.
“Each of us have had these kinds of experiences, and through them have found that nursing is such an emotionally rewarding profession that will change your heart forever,” Hennekens said. “Most of the patients we encounter at the hospital, it will be one of their worst days, and as nurses we have the opportunity to change that for them through the care we provide.”
Of the 34 graduates, 11 made up the first graduating cohort of students who had their tuition and fees completely covered through a contract with Desert Valley Hospital.
The VVC Foundation brokered the contract, which covers tuition and the cost of books and supplies for 64 total nursing students, in 2016. As part of the agreement, the nursing students selected for the award will, upon graduation, enter three years of employment at DVH.
During the ceremony, nursing instructor Terry Truelove reminded the graduates that nursing is “the most trusted profession in our country.”
“I challenge you — I want you to go out and protect our community,” Truelove said. “Know that they’re relying on you for good care, to be wise, to be knowledgeable, and to be prepared.”
Student Achievement awards were given to four graduates with the highest grade point averages: Cindy Priber, Erin M. Thornton, Alison Biery, and Dillon Moffett.
Clinical Excellence awards went to Heather R. Reano for psychiatric, Stephanie M. Zapiain for pediatrics, Christina Gonzalez for maternal child, Jose S. Guzman for medical surgery, and Kelly Dowland for advanced medical surgery.
The Spirit of Nursing award went to Shayla Rae Savchenko, while the Community Service awards went to Mayra Hernandez and Christine Mayer.
The entire graduating class of Spring 2019 is as follows: BreAnna Baca, Alison Biery, Jennifer Buckley, Misti Bustos, Khrysa Calevro, Diane R. Chaffin, Angelina Chavarria, Josue Cisneros, Tanya Corrales, Christina A. Dean, Nikki Drost, Heather Tolson Fortner, Jonathan Garcia, Charlene Jeanette Gonzalez, Christina Gonzalez, Jose S. Guzman, Kristin Hennekens, Mayra C. Hernandez, Erika Starman-Leon, Christine Mayer, Jarett A. Mejia, Dillon Moffett, Cindy Priber, Heather R. Reano, Shayla Rae Savchenko, Amy L. Shaw, Katherine H. Shields, Andrea M. Sidnam, Karmilah Taylor, Erin M. Thornton, Kimberly Wiles-Ulmer, Stephanie Urban, Stephanie M. Zapiain, Robert Brian Zelleck II.
Victor Valley College alumnae Ashley Martin was recently surprised by the Helpful Honda Guys, who awarded her $5,000 in school supplies for her efforts in promoting positive mental health awareness.
Martin, 33, attended VVC from 2005 to 2006 and is now a full-time theater teacher at Alta Loma High School in Rancho Cucamonga, where she has taught for seven years.
She was nominated for Honda’s Random Acts of Helpfulness program by Alta Loma high Principal Jason Kaylor, who said that Martin provides “above and beyond the typical theater arts program.”
“She creates a home for everyone and has built an incredibly inclusive program in which all students feel comfortable,” a news release states.
In a video on the SoCalHondaDealers YouTube channel, one of Martin’s students, Daimyan, says that she helped give him direction in what he wanted to do.
“She helped me develop real life skills that I am going to use getting out of high school into college and into the workforce,” Daimyan said in the video.
Some of Martin’s own skill development took place at VVC, where she decided she wanted to be a theater major and later transferred to California State University Fullerton.
“I had a really easy transition,” Martin said. “I think my theater classes at VVC created a really cool bridge between high school theater and the big program at Fullerton.”
While she studied at VVC, she also helped direct theater shows at her other alma mater, Victor Valley High School.
“It was great to get that experience at the same time because the coursework was so flexible,” she said.
While she attended Fullerton, Martin worked in the transfer center, advising high school students.
“That’s when I could really see the value of community college. For one, the affordability, and because so many of the classes transfer,” Martin said. “A lot of kids don’t really realize you can get a lot of foundation courses and a lot of your major courses to transfer at a community college.”
She continues to share this information and her own experience with her students at Alta Loma, along with teaching them valuable lessons in theater arts.
“They are taught how to work in teams, how to collaborate,” she said in the Honda video. “And these are the skills that are going to make them successful … Because they know how to be responsible. They know how to work with people.”
Martin’s hard work was rewarded in a way that’s especially meaningful to her: with much-needed supplies for her classes.
Honda presented her with everything she needs to help students create their own costumes for school productions, including electric sewing machines, sewing tools, and fabric.
“I really appreciate that (Honda) values teachers …” Martin said in the video. “You guys are making a real impact, so thank you for recognizing what we do.”
The Victor Valley College Police Department and the ALICE Training Institute have teamed up to bring ALICE Instructor Certification Training to Victorville, CA, on June 26-27, 2019. The course will be held at the Victor Valley Community College, 18422 Bear Valley Road, Victorville, CA 92395.
This two-day Instructor Certification course is designed to teach proactive option-based strategies to increase survivability in a violent critical incident. The ALICE strategies empower individuals to participate in their own survival in the gap between when a violent situation begins and when law enforcement arrives.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate and is a valuable strategy for everyone: law enforcement, schools, universities, hospitals, businesses, and places of worship. Completing the ALICE Certification Instructor course provides individuals with certification in ALICE proactive strategies and allows them the opportunity to bring those same strategies back to their organization. Additionally, registrants will gain access to exclusive ALICE resources.
ALICE is aligned with recommendations from Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Education, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and many State government agencies.
Please visit alicetraining.com/training-classes (Ctrl + click to follow link) to register.
About ALICE Training Institute
ALICE training is the original options-based response program that is designed to replace an inadequate lockdown-only response plan. ALICE addresses the fallacies of a one-size-fits-all response plan by explaining the truths and realities of Violent Critical Incidents. The reality is that extremely tragic outcomes in these events can be mitigated. They are very much survivable. Through training and empowerment, citizens can apply the ALICE proactive strategies and improve chances of survival in any environment where they may find themselves confronted by an active shooter or violent intruder. ALICE strategies are now also mirrored and recommended by many Federal and State official guidelines. For More Information about ALICE Training Institute Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In honor of Mother’s Day, the Victor Valley College Associated Student Body gifted 80 student mothers with a relaxing manicure treatment.
Manicurists from Bella Mia Salon in Hesperia were on campus Monday and Tuesday to polish and pamper. The manicures were given to the first 80 student mothers to submit an essay of at least 150 words on the following prompt: “Describe your experience while attending Victor Valley College as a mother.”
The essays poured in with many beautiful stories shared and lots of heartfelt thanks to ASB for providing the event.
Here are just a few excerpts from the numerous essays submitted:
- “Jumping into school after 15 years has been an adjustment … My daughters and husband have been very supportive throughout this journey so far and my goal is to finish strong as I should have done years ago. I always tell my children, ‘Study hard and you will reap the rewards later in life.’ The achievement of a degree should always be a personal one. We have to be self motivated and VVC has been extremely supportive as well.”
- (My 15-year-old son) is proud of the fact that I went back. Of course he can practically take care of himself now. But last semester he got a head injury and that made going to school difficult. We had so many doctors appointments. And he couldn’t be left alone. But we made it through it. Six months later we found out we both had celiac disease. And that was a little difficult, but we made it through. I joined Phi Theta Kappa and my son was able to see me sworn in. And carrying a 3.65 GPA. Through all of that. I love VVC for the future it affords me.”
- “I do want to include that VVC has prepared me in life to move forward confidently in receiving my B.A. I want to say that this has been a smooth path even with three children as a single mother. I have gained so much knowledge and also having a refresher of subjects that I may have taken 20 plus years ago. It has helped me prepare in helping my kids with their studies and making it easier. I am so honored to say that I have attended VVC and will truly miss this campus.”
- “It’s very nice to be able to go to college classes with my daughter. It’s silly that she’s the one who’s been teaching me and helping me to be a student again. My daughter is the one who’s been pushing me to get my degree in Fine Arts. The ASB people are very encouraging too and always help me out when I’m struggling to print something out in the ASB lab.”
- “Immediately when I stepped foot on the campus I said to myself, ‘Wow this is what a college should feel like.’ … I have been able to have access to helpful counselors, beautiful water lake views, that allow me to meditate and regroup after a long day class. One of my favorite things about Victor Valley College is the opportunity the school provide for transfer students and students in general to travel to other universities in have tours.”
- “Being a mother while attending Victor Valley College has been one of the most challenging and fulfilling decisions of my life. Not only do I have to learn to manage my time, but I have to learn to be equally a good mother and student. I love that VVC offers tutoring and flexible classes for me to be successful. The online classes have proved he most helpful for allowing me to study on my own time. Overall, I believe VVC provides flexible classes and tutoring for even the busiest mother!”
- “My experience at VVC as a mother has been great! I have had my share of ups and downs during my pregnancy trying to remain focused on school and handling a high risk pregnancy and recovering from a car accident. I thank God for allowing me to get through all the trouble to see how much I am to accomplish. My baby is almost one now and I’m still taking online classes, my teachers are helpful and very flexible schedules that allow me to be a mother and a student without feeling like I’m missing out on either one.”
- “I learned how to adjust life being a mother while being a student also. I’ve joined EOPS, CalWORKs, and I’m a DSPS student which made it even more difficult but I got through it all. The CalWORKs program makes it where parents can be good students and still be able to take care of our children They treat you like family and they are the reason I’m able to be successful.”
- “I am a returning student, and a mother of 5 daughters. It has been a challenge, however I am determined to finish and get my degree and now I am almost done. My family has been such a positive reinforcement for me to complete my degree. I would also like to point out that there are some professors that have been really great at encouraging and teaching me along the way. For that I am very grateful. It is never to late to go back and get your education.”
- “I would love to win this mothers day manicure so that I can have a nice and relaxing day after school from all the stress of tests. I encouraged my kids to come to this school because of the great nursing program as well as the affordable degrees and programs that VVC offers. I believe that VVC offers the same quality classes as the top schools in California.”
- “It was a hard choice for me to make (returning to school) because I’m still going through health issues. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage going to school, my home, my family and my health. I guess fighting breast cancer has made me a stronger person and has given me the want to do better in my life. I wanted to show my son that no matter what life throws at you that you can still accomplish great things in this world. I’ve had some great teachers that were understanding of my situation and that helped to ease my worries.”
- “Although it has been challenging, it has taught me to be resilient … I have twin daughters who are now four years old. I am currently on the road to receiving my associates in Child Development. Although it is only a two year program, I have been enrolled for three years because I have been going slow but steady. However, that’s okay because like they say, slow and steady wins the race.”
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Three years ago, the Victor Valley College Automotive Technology Department obtained a clean fuels grant that helped create new and improved curriculum.
The California Energy Commission / Advanced Transportation and Renewable Energy grant also supported increased professional development and the purchase of state-of-the-art classroom equipment.
As a recent extension of the award, VVC partnered with Victor Valley Union High School District to channel funding from the energy commission to developing pilot training programs at two local high schools.
Adelanto and Victor Valley high schools were two of just eight schools in the state to be awarded. VVC officials joined representatives from the energy commission, Strong Workforce Transportation Sector, and VVUHSD at an award presentation last Wednesday.
“It was a really cool day,” said VVC Automotive/Industrial Technologies faculty member Steve Coultas. “It reinforces the linkages between us — there will be a much clearer, better transitional pathway from their propulsion programs to ours.”
Both high schools now have “Switch Lab” kits from Switch Vehicles, Inc., allowing students to build fully-functional electric cars from start to finish.
“Building an electric car is an experience I would have never thought I’d be a part of during high school,” Adelanto student Jayden White said to the crowd during the award presentation. “This project has been an amazing experience and it is something I will always remember.”
In October, Coultas attended a Switch Labs training workshop along with auto instructors from the awarded high schools, Robert Carlos from Victor Valley and Dave Mendoza from Adelanto.
“The automotive industry is evolving, and so are our automotive programs,” VVUHSD Career Technology Education Coordinator Dr. McKenzie Tarango said. “We are working with VVC to train a new generation of electric car technicians to meet the needs of the industry while providing students exposure to the high-wage careers of today and tomorrow.”
While the high schools received vehicle kits with direct current (DC) propulsion, VVC’s auto program ordered a kit with alternating current (AC) propulsion thanks to funding from the Strong Workforce Program.
Arriving in time for a class in the Spring 2020 semester, it will compliment and advance what students coming out of the local high school programs have already learned.
“We have increased the rigor of our program by about 25 percent (in light of the industry changing rapidly),” Coultas said. “Thankfully, because of the grant funding, we’re a year ahead of other schools.”
Two Victor Valley College nursing program graduates — husband and wife Steve and April Early — have both recently been promoted to hospital emergency department administrators.
April, a VVC graduate of Spring 2014, was named the Emergency Department Director at Bear Valley Community Hospital (BVCHD), while Steve was named the Emergency Department Manager at Mountains Community Hospital (MCH).
April was promoted to the position by the BVCHD Administrative Team on March 25th, according to a post on the hospital’s website. She is a long-time resident of Big Bear who has worked at BVCHD on and off since she was 18.
“BVCHD is so happy to have April take on this position,” the hospital website states. “We look forward to seeing what new and exciting things she has planned for the Emergency Department!
According to a Big Bear Grizzly newspaper story, April began as a clerk in the BVHCD emergency room soon after graduating high school in 2004, while becoming certified as an EMT.
“I was inspired by my coworkers as I learned what nurses can do (in emergency medicine),” Early told the Grizzly. “Emergency medicine was my original plan out of school. I like the excitement, the adrenaline. I felt I was making a different.”
Both Earlys decided to attend VVC to continue their education and earn their nursing degrees.
“I think that is the smart way to go,” Early told the newspaper. “Victor Valley (College) has a great reputation. Community college leads to an associate’s degree that lets you get to work.”
Both Steve and April also recently obtained their masters degrees in nursing.
Steve has been working in emergency rooms for the past 17 years, according to a post on ROTWNews. He began as an EMT after he was honorably discharged from the military after 10 years of service. He most recently worked at BVCHD.
“(Steve) is excited and very honored to be given the privilege of leading the ER at MCH,” the post states.