Stage

VVC holds two events celebrating largest graduating class

Cheering
Victor Valley College staff and faculty cheer on Class of 2020 graduates as they enter the college’s first-ever “Drive-Thru Celebration by the Lake” on June 13, 2020. (FABIAN GUILLEN)

The Victor Valley College campus, after several months of quietness, was brightened by the spirit of commencement on Saturday, beginning with a drive-thru celebration which may have set a new standard for graduation.

Cap-and-gown-clad grads popped up from sunroofs, waved pompoms out car windows and shed tears of joy as they were exuberantly cheered on by VVC employees during the college’s first-ever “Drive-Thru Celebration by the Lake” from 9 a.m. to noon.

Grad in sunroof
A Victor Valley College graduate drives up for the college’s “Drive-Thru Celebration” on June 13, 2020. Nearly 400 of the 1,500 graduates participated in the event held on the same day as the “Virtual Commencement Ceremony.” (FABIAN GUILLEN)

“It was so fun, and I think my family actually preferred it this way, more than the traditional ceremony … we were able to celebrate all together in the moment,” said graduate Dario Arriaga.

Complete with colorful decorations around the lake, live music from Mariachi Aguila Real, and small ramp “stage” on which graduates could park for a photo-op, the drive-thru was no doubt one of the most memorable VVC graduations, staff and students agreed.

Mariachi Aguila Real
Mariachi Aguila Real, a High Desert-local group of musicians, plays during Victor Valley College’s “Drive-Thru Celebration” to honor graduates on June 13, 2020. (FABIAN GUILLEN)

It was the earlier of two VVC celebratory events on Saturday, to be followed by another first-ever, the “Virtual Commencement Ceremony,” livestreamed from the Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m. 

Interspersed between graduates’ cars were classic cars from several local car clubs in the High Desert, leading the way.

Classic car
Classic cars from several local car clubs guided Victor Valley College graduates onto the ramp “stage” near the VVC Library during the drive-thru celebration on June 13, 2020. (JULIO MANZO)

“As we came around the turn to the lake and I saw everyone cheering and heard the music and seeing our professors there, I started crying with happiness,” said graduate Chad Read. “Again, through everything we’ve endured this year, VVC made sure we felt special and gave us an amazing ceremony.”

Chad Read
Victor Valley College graduate and U.S. Air Force veteran Chad Read drives through the VVC graduation celebration event held on June 13, 2020. (VVC)

With a total of 1,500 graduates and an additional 250 students who earned certificates at VVC this year, the college surveyed students in May, discovering a near tie between those who wanted a drive-thru and those who wanted a virtual ceremony.

Victor Valley College chose to do both. Watch the livestreamed videos of both here.

Driving grad
Eric Pearson, former coordinator of the Victor Valley College Performing Arts Center (retired 2015), drives his daughter, 2020 graduate Aleana Pearson, at the “Drive-Thru Celebration by the Lake” on June 13, 2020. (VVC)

Additionally, VVC has offered 2020 graduates the opportunity to walk in next year’s commencement ceremony, which, assuming coronavirus-related health orders regarding events are withdrawn by then, will be held at the Glen Helen Amphitheater, America’s largest outdoor music venue.

While the drive-thru portion of Saturday’s festivities provided an occasion for graduates to decorate their caps and cars, cheer and honk their horns, and receive small takeaway gifts — including graduation yard signs and commemorative medallions — the virtual ceremony embraced the formal aspects of commencement.

Grad in car
A Victor Valley College graduate and her family drive through the college’s celebration by the lake held on June 13, 2020. (FABIAN GUILLEN)

Superintendent/President Dr. Dan Walden welcomed attendees tuning into the live video on the VVC website, congratulating graduates on joining “a distinguished list” of VVC alumni and recognizing faculty and staff for their contributions to the success of the Class of 2020.

Graduate Jonathan Bañuelos sang the National Anthem, soon followed by an address from VVC Board of Trustees President Joseph W. Brady.

Banuelos
Victor Valley College graduate Jonathan Bañuelos sang the National Anthem during the college’s Virtual Commencement Ceremony on June 13, 2020. (SCREEN SHOT OF VIDEO)

Brady shared many pieces of advice with graduates, including “share your solutions, not your problems,” “do what you love to do or you’re just wasting time” and “challenge the status quo.”

“Our hope, as trustees, is that many of you will return to the High Desert to become our local entrepreneurs, managers and executives, and continue to reshape the leadership that our community needs in order to continually grow and prosper,” Brady said.

In her speech, Associated Student Body (ASB) President Amber Scott encouraged her peers to “apply the knowledge and skills” they gained at VVC to elevate themselves and others.

Scott
Victor Valley College graduate Amber Scott, the 2019-2020 Associated Student Body President and Students Trustee, addresses her graduating peers during the college’s Virtual Commencement Ceremony on June 13, 2020. (SCREEN SHOT OF VIDEO)

“We will never forget the time in 2020 when the entire world had to stop,” Scott said. ‘But we always remember and carry with us the very same character, ethics, and beliefs that helped us remain loyal to our goals. Today we celebrate that.”

Walden introduced the featured guest speaker, Mugunth Vaithylingam, Chief Information Officer for the College of Southern Nevada, to provide graduates with additional guidance as they look toward future opportunities. Listen to his full speech here.

“You surmounted a challenge that has necessitated this ceremony to be virtual, and that is not something to be understated,” Vaithylingam said. “As you go on to the next part of your life story, cherish what you have accomplished, lift up others, value time, and remember that we are all in this life together.”

Vaithylingam
Mugunth Vaithylingam, Chief Information Officer for the College of Southern Nevada, served as the featured guest speaker for Victor Valley College’s Virtual Commencement Ceremony on June 13, 2020. (SCREEN SHOT OF VIDEO)

He ended on this phrase: “Humankind. Be both.”

Vice President of Instruction Dr. Peter Maphumulo recognized all of the honor graduates, Phi Theta Kappa international honors students and those who served the ASB Council, while Walden gave special thanks and congratulations to VVC’s veteran graduates.

The college had a record number of valedictorians this year, with 22 students graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Of them, Courtney Wells, who earned three associate degrees including a sociology degree for transfer, was selected as the valedictorian class speaker.

Wells shared that her experience of being homeschooled 1st through 12th grade taught her to be independent, but caused her to miss out on “a sense of community.”

Wells
Courtney Wells, one of 22 valedictorians in Victor Valley College’s 2020 graduating class, speaks during the Virtual Commencement Ceremony on June 13, 2020. (SCREEN SHOT OF VIDEO)

“After coming to VVC, it was a really massive turning point for me to realize that I couldn’t just get through life without forming connections with others or without utilizing every support system that is offered to me,” Wells said. “…as we look out for each other through these unusual times and continue on towards the endeavors that await us in the future, Victor Valley College will continue to be a source of support for us because this college has been, and always will be, a welcoming community for all.”

Following the speeches, a slideshow played featuring nearly 600 graduates who signed up to participate in the virtual ceremony. Each graduate’s name was announced as their personalized slide displayed their photo, degrees earned and a short personal statement.

Once all the graduates were recognized, Walden and Maphumulo performed the official conferring of degrees and Scott led the class in the traditional turning of the tassel to symbolize the end of the VVC Class of 2020’s journey together.

Watch the livestreamed videos of the Drive-Thru Celebration and the Virtual Commencement here.

You did it
Corrections

VVC celebrates 23 graduates of Corrections Academy

Corrections

Story by Brian Woods

Victor Valley College recently celebrated the graduation of the 70th session Corrections Core Academy program.

The Standards and Training for Corrections (STC) module provided a platform for 23 graduates to complete the 16-week program, held at the VVC Regional Public Safety Training Center in Apple Valley.

Communication, integrity and self-discipline were among the recurring themes of the night,  with an intimate crowd of faculty, family, and friends attending in support. 

The opening statement was given by Administration of Justice Director Rand Padgett, with an inspiring invocation by class Assisting Officer Mariah Treto. A moment of silence ensued to pay respect to fallen law enforcement entities, and the introduction of the Session #70 class began thereafter. 

Class speaker Arick Luna filled the venue with a hopeful message of insight and growth.

“Looking back, it’s the small details we will all take with us from this day forward,” Luna said. “Integrity begins with the smallest amount of effort… a symbolic representation of who we are becoming.”

Luna continued to say that the values he and his peers gained through the program can be applied to any future trials they face.

“Although this course has come to an end, we must take our experiences and the applications of self-defence, integrity, communication, and self-discipline,” he said.

Guest speaker Shannon Dicus, Undersheriff for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, also delivered a powerful speech on the importance of youth in Corrections’ careers.

“I left the graduation inspired. The young people in the graduating class were focused on their career choices, and it was evident by the ceremony that they are well on their way,” Dicus said. “VVC is doing its part by providing this essential training to area youth…To say I left inspired isn’t enough — I feel taller after spending time with the graduates. We are in good hands.”

The STC Core Academy prepares students for an established and fulfilling career in criminal justice, as a city or county corrections officer, and more. Visit www.vvc.edu/academic/administration_of_justice/ to learn more about the VVC Corrections Academy.

Corrections
graduation

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.”

Victor Valley College celebrates 27 nursing graduates at pinning ceremony

VICTORVILLE — Twenty-seven Victor Valley College nursing graduates participated in a pinning and candlelight ceremony to celebrate their completion of one of the nation’s most elite nursing programs.

The ceremony was held at High Desert Church in December to honor the nursing class of Fall 2018. Dressed in traditional white uniforms, the future registered nurses each recited the International Nursing Pledge.

The first line of the pledge reads: “I promise to care for the sick with all the skill and understanding I possess, without regard to race, creed, colour, politics or social status, sparing no effort to conserve life, to alleviate suffering and to promote health.”

VVC Nursing Program Assistant Director Renate Longoria explained that the ceremony symbolizes the end of the many challenges that the students overcame throughout the semesters of the program.
“They all showed growth and became stronger as we, their instructors, watched their journey,” Longoria said. “The knowledge they gained not only made them able to become Registered Nurses, but it also made them more confident individuals to be successful in their chosen professional careers.”

Longoria introduced various notable figures present at the ceremony, including the VVC Board of Trustees and VVC Vice President of Instruction & Student Services Dr. Peter Maphumulo, and thanked the family and friends of the graduates for their continued support.

Veronica Williams, president of the California Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) for the class, recognized the cabinet members of CNSA and shared some highlights of the program.

“This semester we collaborated with local organizations in handing out food and providing preventative healthcare to those in need, as well as donations of warm clothing to give to the elderly in assisted living homes,” she said.

Williams also introduced instructor Diana Sisk, who was honored with the Fall 2018 “Make a Difference” award.

“As a class we voted on one staff member who we felt helped each of us make it through the program,” Williams said. “Before each exam, (Diana) would see us with our panicked faces and always offer words of encouragement. We are truly grateful for your kind words, positivity and support.”

Class of Fall 2018 President Maile Martinez also spoke before her peers, sharing some of her favorite memories from the program as well as the challenges faced throughout.

“Tonight’s pinning ceremony is an endcap to our nursing student academic career and a hallmark to our full-fledge oath as future nurses to our community,” Martinez said. “As the future nurses of our community, we would like to take this time and recognize with grateful hearts the people in our lives who have helped us achieve our success in leading up to tonight’s event.”

Student Achievement awards went to four graduates with the highest grade point averages: Sarah Elizabeth Moya, Kelly Dowland, Veronica Williams, and Angela Sara Milberger.

Clinical Excellence awards went to Frankie Gullart for psychology, Rebecca Kristina Parker for pediatrics, Maile E. Martinez for obstetrics and gynecology, Roman Petrovich Litvin for medical surgery, and Kelly Dowland for advanced medical surgery. The Spirit of Nursing award went to Emma Rae Hill, while the Community Service award went to Nicolle Ann-Wick.
VVC’s nursing program is among the nation’s most elite. In California, it is ranked among the top 5 programs by several surveys, including RegisteredNursing.org, which ranks it as No. 4 and praises it for producing graduates who are “ready to work.”

The entire graduating class of Fall 2018 is as follows: Jannete Acevedo, Eden Cabingatan, Doris CalderOn, Anna Castillo, Kelly Dowland, Christina Duarte, Lyndsey Nicole Easley, Amanda Marie Eldridge, Frankie Gullart, Ethan, Patrick Hamel, Emma Rae Hill, Heidy Jaimes, Chelsea Maxine Jenkins, Bryan James Kennedy, Kamra Michelle Leontas, Roman Petrovich Litvin, Maile E. Martinez, Angela Sara Milberger, Sara Elizabeth Moya, Valerie E. Muro, Rebecca Kristina Parker, Veronica Barba Salgado, Jordan Marie Self, Mitsy Weigle, Nicolle Ann Wick, Veronica Williams, La Tonya Woodson.

CONTACT: Robert A. Sewell, Director of Marketing and Public Relations | Victor Valley College

E: Robert.Sewell@vvc.edu | T: 760.245.4271 ext. 2395 | C: 909.208.8515

CONTACT: Charity Lindsey – (760) 245-4271 ext. 2619; charity.lindsey@vvc.edu