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)


Victor Valley College graduates record number of Rams

Hundreds of burgundy caps are on display at the largest ever Victor Valley College commencement ceremony on June 7th, 2019. (Fabian Guillen)

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.

A sea of nearly 600 burgundy caps and gowns lies before about 7,000 guests attending the 2019 Victor Valley College graduation. (Fabian Guillen)

“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.

Mike Nutter
Victor Valley College Foundation President Mike Nutter delivers a message to graduates during the 2019 commencement ceremony. (Fabian Guillen)

“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.

Tristan Wilkerson
Tristan Wilkerson, Victor Valley College Associated Student Body Council President of 2018-2019, delivers a commencement speech at Glen Helen Amphitheater on June 7th. (Rochelle Aldridge)

“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.

Veteran students were given special recognition during the 2019 Victor Valley College commencement.

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.”

Juliyana Hasroun, one of nine valedictorians of the Class of 2019, offers words of encouragement to her peers during graduation. (Fabian Guillen)

“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.”

Nursing graduation

Victor Valley College celebrates 34 nursing graduates

Nursing graduation

Thirty-four Victor Valley College nursing graduates were celebrated during a pinning ceremony on May 31st, 2019. (JRZ Photography)

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.