Patriot Day

‘This college remembers’: VVC holds annual Patriot Day ceremony

Patriot Day
Victor Valley College first responders recite the Pledge of Allegiance in front of the 9/11 “United We Stand” monument designed by VVC student Joan Sowinski. (Fabian Guillen)

Contact: Charity Lindsey – (760) 245-4271 ext. 2619;

VICTORVILLE — The sound of marching and synchronized shouts were heard as Victor Valley College law enforcement, fire technology, and paramedic students signaled the start of the college’s annual Patriot Day Ceremony.

About 250 students, VVC employees, and community members gathered around the “United We Stand” Monument outside the Library at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday to honor the memory of the victims of September 11th, 2001.

Fire students
Victor Valley College Fire Academy 52 stands at attention during the 9/11 ceremony held in remembrance of those who lost their lives. (Fabian Guillen)

“Thank you for coming, thank you for remembering, and thank you for making this world a better place,” said Regina Cervantes, a 9/11 survivor and local resident. “First responders from every corner of the world assisted our nation and I thank you for continuing the legacy of remembering.”

Another survivor, Charlie Gyles, traveled from New York to attend the college’s ceremony and help lay the 3,000 American flags the week prior.

9/11 Survivors
Charlie Gyles (left) and Regina Cervantes (right), 9/11 survivors, announce their appreciation for all who came to the 9/11 memorial ceremony. (Fabian Guillen)

“Eighteen years ago, our country was attacked, unprovoked,” Gyles said. “For many years, I’m told, this college remembers. And we appreciate that.”

Cervantes and Gyles presented the college with a floral wreath to lay in memory beside the monument as well as the official “Remember 911 Flag,” which the college flew at half-staff.

9/11 Flag
Victor Valley College Public Information Officer and ASB Advisor Robert Sewell (left) and Superintendent/President Dr. Daniel Walden (right) hold up the official “Remember 911 Flag” given to the college by survivors Regina Cervantes and Charlie Gyles. (SaddleRock Photography)

Captain Health Cohen, the Fire Technology Program director, spoke of the dangerous, yet rewarding career of firefighting, noting that 546 total firefighters lost their lives as a result of 9/11, many on that day and others subsequently due to illness. He commended VVC Fire Academy 52 for choosing the career path, adding that it has “the highest approval rating of any profession.”

“Why? Because we do what has to be done,” Cohen said. “We are noble, we are self-sacrificing, we are willing to risk our lives to save a total stranger.”

Following Cohen’s introduction, VVC Instructional Media Services Coordinator Tim Isbell delivered the invocation, quoting a “Prayer of Remembrance for 9/11” from Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.

“We remember the heroism of the many that lost their lives in saving others,” Isbell recited. “We remember all those who suffered and died, we grieve for them still, friends and strangers alike, along with their families and friends.”

Dr. Walden
Victor Valley College Paramedic Academy students stand at attention while VVC Superintendent/President Dr. Daniel Walden commends them for committing themselves to the same career path which 9/11 first responders bravely chose. (Robert Sewell)

Superintendent/President Dr. Daniel Walden thanked all of the participating students in the ceremony, who represented the nursing, paramedic, emergency medical services, and criminal justice programs.

“We are here today to remember. And we will never forget,” Walden said. “We’re here to repair, to comfort, and to do everything that we can to make this world a safer place.”

9/11 Flag
Victor Valley College Paramedic Academy students read the American flag which bears the names of all 2,996 victims of 9/11. (Fabian Guillen)

Music Department chair and vocal music director Dr. Karen Miskell led the College Singers in performing “America the Beautiful” and “Earth Song,” their soothing harmonies allowing attendees to share a moment of reflection together.

Everyone was then asked to turn and look over the lake, where, over the golden reflection of dawn sunlight on the water, music faculty member Craig Pridmore stood at the Pearl Pettis Pavilion. His playing of “Taps” from the gazebo concluded VVC’s Patriot Day ceremony.

9/11 Flags
Students in the Victor Valley Nursing Program stand before 3,000 American flags displayed on the hillside adjacent to the Library. (Fabian Guillen)

Flag setup

‘Keeping the memory alive’: VVC places 9/11 Flags of Honor

Flag setup
Associated Student Body Council member Najah Williams places an American flag in the ground during the college’s annual Flags of Honor event. Three thousand flags are displayed by the VVC Library to represent the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Fabian Guillen)

VICTORVILLE — On Labor Day, 3,000 American flags were placed on the hillside beside the Victor Valley College (VVC) Library.

More than 200 students, college staff members and volunteers gathered at 7 a.m. to create the display.

All of the flags have a paper card attached, each one with a different name hand-written on it. They are the names of those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Flag setup
Victor Valley College students, staff and volunteers placed 3,000 American flags on the hillside beside the college Library on Labor Day. (Photo by Fabian Guillen)

VVC has maintained this tradition of arranging the Flags of Honor since 2005. This year, the college was honored to have two 9/11 survivors help place the flags.

Both Reggie Cervantes and Charlie Gyles were emergency medical technicians in New York when the attacks occurred. Cervantes, a High Desert resident, has spoken at VVC’s past 9/11 events and donated personal artifacts to the college. She invited Gyles to attend the flag-placing as well as VVC’s Patriot Day ceremony.

Flag setup
Reggie Cervantes and Charlie Gyles, two of the emergency medical technicians who responded to the 9/11 attacks, stand in the center of Victor Valley College’s 52nd Fire Academy, who participated in placing 3,000 flags on Labor Day. (Photo by Charity Lindsey)

“This is amazing — that you keep the memory of the people who we tried to save that day,” Gyles said.

Gyles was an EMS supervisor in 2001 and recalls getting a call from his boss to respond to a plane crash at the World Trade Center.

“We thought it was a Cessna — a little accident,” he said. “I’m driving down … and we see this plane coming in over the Hudson and it just turned sideways and smashed into the second tower.”

Gyles outran the collapse of the first tower, but unfortunately suffered injuries when the second tower fell. He still suffers flashbacks and carries with him a piece of the North Tower that he grabbed before being taken away in an ambulance.

“We tried to bring everybody home that day,” he said. “Events like this one, that your college is holding, makes it a little easier for responders because you’re keeping the memory of these people alive.”

All of the victims’ names were hand-written by Associated Student Body (ASB) Council members and volunteers over several weeks before the flags were carefully arranged on Labor Day. Volunteers included more than 70 VVC nursing students and 35 fire academy students.

“The flag display commemorates the fallen victims and their families, which we are grateful that we can pay tribute to,” Fire Academy 52 Commander Chris Kohler said. “It was important for the 52nd academy to be a part of this because, as an academy, we truly enjoy serving our community and this was a small gesture that touched many lives.”

Flag setup
Victor Valley College nursing students help place flags to honor those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Fabian Guillen)

The California Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) of VVC also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the Flags of Honor tradition.
“Each flag represented someone special. Setting the flags reminds us that we will remain one nation under God, and the coming together of Americans on this day,” said Kathryn Spicer, the ASB Representative for CNSA. “We will never stop striving for unity. We will never stop caring. We will never forget.”

The public is welcome to attend VVC’s annual Patriot Day ceremony on Sept. 11, which will begin promptly at 6:30 a.m. and end at 7 a.m. VVC music faculty member Craig Pridmore will play “Taps” and Music Department chair and vocal music director Dr. Karen Miskell will lead the College Singers in performing two patriotic songs. The ceremony will be held adjacent to the college’s official “United We Stand” monument beside the Library.

Flag setup
A dragonfly rests upon the tip of one of 3,000 American flags placed near the Victor Valley College library in remembrance of 9/11. (Photo by Fabian Guillen)

Students enjoy “Hypnopalooza!” and stress relief workshop


As part of the first week of Fall semester celebrations, Victor Valley College welcomed “MindSurfers” to offer a free comedy hypnosis show for students.

Sponsored by the Associated Student Body, Rich and Marielle Aimes presented “Hypnopalooza!” in the Student Activities Center on August 27th, offering a fun hypnosis activity for audience volunteers followed by a free “stress reduction clinic” workshop. 

After inviting a dozen volunteers to the front, Rich Aimes asked them to close their eyes as he began the hypnosis process.


“Keep your eyes closed, take a deep breath and exhale,” Aimes directed the volunteers. “Let go of the last of that tension … You’re going deeper.”

While the students followed Aimes’ directions, he began telling them affirmations and willing them to focus on positive thoughts.

“You have what it takes to be successful at VVC,” he told them. “Not only do you have what it takes to be successful, but you deserve to be successful.”


The experience was described as a “small sampling of the power of the subconscious mind.”

“The hypnosis was nothing like you see in the movies. It was actually a very relaxing and fun experience,” said Marina Gabbett, one of the volunteers and the ASB Council Industrial Sciences & Logistics Senator. “Hypnotizing is kind of like meditation, especially using it to better yourselves like meditation.”

The show continued with more humor infused in the lessons as Aimes continued to involve the audience throughout. Students in attendance also learned effective ways to handle stress and how to increase memory and focus.

friends of the library

‘Friends’ of VVC Library support student success

friends of the library

Victor Valley College’s Friends of the Library program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, recently received a $1,000 donation from the VVC Associated Student Body.

Friends of the Library is a non-profit subsidiary under the VVC Foundation that allows special funding for events and items not generally covered within the library’s general budget. ASB’s recent donation, for instance, will help with the installation of a water filtration and bottle-filling station in the library lobby.

“The ASB’s donation will be used towards installing a ‘hydration station’ that will directly benefit students,” said Library Department Chair Leslie Huiner. “The library is open 65 hours a week, on evenings and weekends, and students will be able to easily access good drinking water.”

Established in August of 1994, VVC’s Friends of the Library program is connected to the national organization, Friends of the Libraries U.S.A., which is part of the American Library Association. In 1996, VVC was given a national Academic Library Friends award from Friends of Libraries U.S.A.

Fran Elgin, a volunteer emeritus of the library, was part of the team who established the program at VVC.

“It brought people together — a lot of people met here, including some lifelong friends,” Elgin said. “And it has helped finance whatever our budget doesn’t allow.”

Elgin maintains the Local History Collection in the library. This collection, which includes books, manuscripts, maps, oral histories, photographs and more of the High Desert region is available to students and the community by appointment.

In addition to serving as the only academic library in the region, the library teaches information literacy to all VVC students as a graduation requirement for the associate degree.

“Transfer students and those going into careers need to know how to find, evaluate, and think critically about research,” Huiner said. “Research skills will help students write better papers and be more successful in college.”

The library also hosts events, such as a celebration held last year for the 100th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. One hundred copies of the book were hidden around campus and a costume party and trivia contest were held in the library.

Friends of the Library provides an opportunity for members of the community to contribute to these events and services. Past donations have provided the addition of permanent art pieces and maintenance of plants in the library.

“These have allowed us to maintain a friendly environment conducive to student learning,” Huiner said. She added that the library also welcomes students with resources like the group study rooms and comfortable couches with built-in charging ports.

One of the next needs that library staff hopes to fill through donations is the addition of a bike rack outside of the building. 

“That’s another thing we really need. Students now have to leave their bikes unattended in the lobby,” Huiner said. “Our focus for funding is always ‘How can we help students be more successful?’”

Through a donation of $12 a year, community members may join the Friends of the Library and are able to borrow library materials. Members must be 18 years or older and reside in the college service area. Special donors can purchase a plaque in the library’s lobby for a donation of $100 to $1,000. Visit for more information or call 760-245-4271 ext. 2321.


VVC Art Department gains new kiln through ASB donation


By Jacob Nobles

With the help of a $8,000 contribution from the Associated Student Body, Victor Valley College saw an upgrade to the Art Department kiln.

This glaze fire kiln will be used for ceramics classes and other activities on campus.

It is a patented kiln design provided by Paul Geil. The kiln is unique in its chimney size being shorter than usual kilns.

When VVC art instructor Chris Rowland attended VVC as a student in the 1980s, ceramics was a thriving art subject. It began to fall off in the 1990s, he noted. Rowland returned to VVC in recent years to teach art and drawing.

Since he came back, he has expressed a passion to bring back ceramics.

“So now my goal since I came back is to rejuvenate the ceramics,” Rowland said.

Upon further inspection of the older kiln, Rowland found that the kiln’s air vent was never installed. For the past couple of years, Rowland has been seeking some sort of grant(s) to fund the upgrade to the kiln.

Typically, a kiln, gas or electric, is used for glazing and firing, particularly with ceramics. The ceramics process starts by drying the clay in the desired shape. Then, on a low fire, the process of bisque firing commences, which cures the mold. Next, minerals are painted on that transform on high temperatures to give the piece a shiny, smooth look.

Rowland calls the process of ceramics “alchemy” and the process of turning something “from clay to gold.”

Upon the Art Department’s receipt of the generous contribution from ASB, the work of Paul Geil was requested to add a vent to the kiln. In the public VVC Art Club Facebook group, a video showcases the refurbishing of the kiln by Rowland and Geil.

The kiln is operational once again; and Rowland is now working on coursework for the upcoming ceramics classes, starting next year.


Federal Work Study helps VVC student gain full-time job


By Sophia Mancillas

Danielle McLaughlin is a 23-year-old Victor Valley College student who recently attained a full-time position with the Victorville City Library after working there through the VVC Federal Work Study (FWS) program.

During her time as a FWS student worker, McLaughlin tutored all subjects and all grades, though most of the students who needed her help were in elementary school and struggled with math.

“I absolutely loved it,” she said, adding that it brought her joy to see the students progress with her help.

After her FWS came to an end, she applied to the library for a permanent position in June. She was soon interviewed and offered a job and has since been working as a library aide

Her job requires her to help people check out books, shelve books, and arrange set-ups and decorations in the library. She also helps run the children’s reading programs and gives prizes to kids who read books, such as bubble wands and blow-up toys. They also give big prizes like certificates for 3D printing workshops and free video game rentals.

“You get to build that bond with the students who really enjoy reading.” She said.

McLaughlin is now helping to create a program for special needs students, which would give them activities to do all year round. She has already created 83 worksheets for them.

“We want them to feel welcome here,” she noted.

McLaughlin is grateful because through the money she has earned through the FWS program, she was able to replace her rundown ‘93 Toyota corolla with a 2008 Jeep she bought from her grandmother.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t have anything that I have right now. I wouldn’t be able to help my family out to the extent I do,” she said.

She is studying kinesiology and planning to transfer to Cal State San Bernardino. Her goal is to become a physical therapist to continue helping people in an area that she’s passionate about.

county service

College partners with county to connect students with mental health services

By Jacob Nobles

Recognizing the importance of mental health awareness, Victor Valley College has taken steps to connect students with local services.

A major step in addressing the mental health of students was made through VVC’s partnership with the San Bernardino County’s Behavioral Health Department’s new TEST service. This county-wide service stands for Triage, Engagement and Support Teams.

One of its key services at VVC will be to assist campus police in helping people who are in crisis and link them to emergency services in the community.

In essence, TEST acts as a bridge to community services. This service may assist students with depression by suggesting coping skills or by recommending a therapist. Additionally, students can refer themselves to the services that TEST offers. Jaime Gonzales, a social worker for the County since 2007, will be the professional available at VVC students to meet with.

“We’re here to help the campus deal with students who are experiencing a mental health emergency,” Gonzales said. “We will triage the situation, engage them, make them comfortable, and get them to appropriate services.”

All services referred through TEST are dependent upon the student’s health insurance and local services can be utilized by those who are uninsured.

Typically, TEST is offered through law enforcement agencies. VVC is the one of two colleges to provide the service, along with Cal State University of San Bernardino.

“I’m from the High Desert, so I know there’s a big need here,” Gonzales said. “I know there’s a lack of resources. Campus police may not have the particular skills to bring to the table during certain situations, so we’re here to assist.”

Triage, Engagement and Support Teams (TEST) is now available on campus in Room 141 of the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., open to all students.

Phone: 760-245-4271 ext 4427.

Another mental health-focused modification recently adotped at VVC is the listing of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the backs of all student IDs and ASB cards.

Nicole Nelson was the first VVC student to receive a Fall 2019 ASB card with the inclusion of the crisis line information. She applauded the addition, noting that it’s important to have the text option in particular for those who may not feel comfortable talking on the phone.

“Mental health is a real issue all over. It does not discriminate against age, color, race or sex,” Nelson said. “This is an important step schools are taking to ensure everyone knows how to reach out for help … Great job, VVC!”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line allows students to text HOME to 741741 at any time to connect with a professional.


New VVC art mural welcomes students


Campus is looking a little more vibrant these days thanks to a new mural created in collaboration between the VVC Art Club and Art Department faculty.

Completed on August 14th, the mural is located on the concrete wall that connects the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) and Art buildings. It features a group of colorful silhouettes of people walking closely together in a single direction.

“That wall has been screaming for something,” said Chris Rowland, the adjunct art instructor who led the project.

It’s something that you’re able to see from across the lake and a major improvement from the stark, gray concrete wall.”

The intent of the project was to feature student art in order to beautify the campus and promote a theme of diversity of inclusivity. It conveys an uplifting image of a diverse array of students.

Rowland led a group of VVC art students in completing the mural bit by bit over the course of a  week. They worked during evening hours, using a projector to display the outline in which to paint.

The unity and alignment of the figures communicates a partnership toward a shared goal of success, while the ranging colors of figures convey the diversity of paths students walk.

It supports one of the Associated Student Body Council’s goals for the 2019 – 2020 academic year, which is to “enhance the school’s beauty, overall enjoyment and school spirit” through the display of student artwork and other means.

“It sets the tone on inclusivity that is very important to all constituents at VVC,” ASB Vice President Amber Scott said. “Each person facing the same direction to me says we are valuable. We are each capable and our futures look bright. We are going together. #Ubuntu.”

The display is also aligned with the new college mission, which states that VVC is dedicated to providing opportunities for students “in partnership with the community.”

“Another goal of the project is to bring attention to the Art Department,” Rowland said. “We really want to reinvigorate the department. We have a lot of really talented students and we’d like to continue building the department’s reputation to support them.”


VVC hosts adult education graduation commencement

About 240 graduates out of 470 participated in the 2019 Victor Valley Adult Education Regional Consortium commencement ceremony. (Fabian Guillen)

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.

grad caps
About 240 graduates out of 470 participated in the 2019 Victor Valley Adult Education Regional Consortium commencement ceremony. (Fabian Guillen)

“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.

scott wilk
Senator Scott Wilk gives a commencement speech during the 2019 Victor Valley Adult Education Regional Consortium graduation ceremony. (Fabian Guillen)

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.”