West Hills Magazine - Winter 2019 (Issue 13)

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Winter 2019

See Yourself in Me: WHCC Alumni Goes Full Circle from Student to Teacher West Hills College Lemoore WIN Center Helps Students, Employers Connect

A Second Chance: Pleasant Valley State Prison Equine Care Program Gives Inmates and Horses a New Shot at Life LA Sanitation Gives Back


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Copyright 2019 by West Hills Community College District. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission prohibited. WEST HILLS MAGAZINE Number 13 Published Winter and Fall Marketing, Communications and Public Information Office Contact us by mail at the address below, or, by phone or email at: West Hills CCD Marketing Office 9900 Cody St. Coalinga, CA 93210 (559) 934-2132 ambermyrick@whccd.edu ADVISORY BOARD Stuart Van Horn, Chancellor, WHCCD Brenda Thames, President, WHCC Kristin Clark, President, WHCL BOARD OF TRUSTEES Mark McKean, President, Area 5 Nina Oxborrow, Area 1 Salvador Raygoza, Area 2 Jeff Levinson, Area 7 Steve Cantu, Area 6 Martin Maldonado, Area 3 Bobby Lee, Area 4 EDITOR Amber Myrick Director, WHCCD Marketing, Communications, Public Information EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Jamie Applegate WEBMASTER Carlos Posadas PHOTOGRAPHY Dennis Gallegos, Kelly Peterson GRAPHIC DESIGN Robert Jesus



Flag Flies Here: WHCCD 3 AEmployee Presents Flag Once again, the holiday season has snuck up on me. This year, it seemed as though one minute it was June and the next it was December. It has been a busy, challenging and productive year for West Hills. While we have faced obstacles, we have not wavered from our relentless pursuit of student access and success. The summer and fall has reminded me of systemic challenges that our district often faces yet is among the most rewarding of my long administrative career. Frequently, I was reminded that education is the only thing ever invented that can lift people out of poverty and our institutions and centers are directed by individuals that never lose sight of our focus to help students succeed. This issue embodies our motto: “once you go here, you can go anywhere.” This issue focuses in on what really matters most to us: student success. It highlights the stories of treasured alumni who have moved on to academic and personal success, our continued expansion of programs serving non-traditional students including incarcerated individuals, and the dedication of our employees. It also looks at the dedication of our generous scholarship donors and the importance of employer outreach. In these pages, you’ll hear from many different voices: students, alumni, community partners, employers and employees. As we approach 2020 and 2019 draws to a close, I wish you good health and happiness in the future. I look forward to another year of innovation and responsiveness by our college district to create educational, economic, cultural and social opportunities for the citizens of the region. Season’s greetings,

Dr. Stuart Van Horn, Chancellor West Hills Community College District

to Commemorate New District Office Building

Yourself in Me: WHCC 5 See Alumni Goes Full Circle from Student to Teacher

9 Degrees: West Hills Alumni From WHCL to Advanced Show the Power of Belief

13 WIN Center Helps Students, West Hills College Lemoore Employers Connect

15 Postcards from CAMP Between 17 Partnership West Hills College

Lemoore and University of Phoenix Gives Future Nurses a Leg Up

Second Chance: 19 APleasant Valley State

Prison Equine Care Program Gives Inmates and Horses a Shot at a New Life

Enable 23 Apprenticeships Upward Mobility, On-the-Job Training

Within Your Reach: 25 It’sA program to promote

Educational Empowerment and Workforce Development A Main Focus of Efforts

District 27 LAGivesSanitation Back How You Can Help 30 Here’s Change Lives


See Yourself in Me: WHCC Alumni Goes Full Circle from Student to Teacher Rodolfo Rodriguez has gone from troubled youth to Sociology Instructor. His goal: improve the lives of students much like him.


West Hills College Lemoore WIN Center Helps Students, Employers Connect

Monica Vargas found herself confused about her future when she came to West Hills College Lemoore. However, thanks to the WIN Center and its local partnerships, she’s found her footing.


A Second Chance: Pleasant Valley State Prison Equine Care Program Gives Inmates and Horses a New Shot at Life For four hours a day, five days a week, some silent form of redemption and rehabilitation plays out at Pleasant Valley State Prison. Thanks to a public/private partnership involving WHCC, inmates and former racehorses are getting job training and more at Pleasant Valley State Prison.


LA Sanitation Gives Back Since 2011, Los Angeles Sanitation District has donated $270,000 to WHCL for scholarships. However, they’ve done more than that, extending internships to WHCL students that have led to careers and life goals.

Winter 2019


A Flag Flies Here: WHCCD Employee Presents Flag to Commemorate New District Office Building

By Jamie Applegate

When West Hills Community College District Applications Analyst John Wright thought about the new home of the West Hills Community College District, he knew he wanted to do something special to commemorate it. A new 23,150 square foot West Hills Community College District office opened this December in Coalinga. Wright did something special to mark the occasion: he presented a 48 star, vintage US Flag—the same amount of stars a flag would have had in 1932 when West Hills College Coalinga was founded—to District Chancellor Dr. Stuart Van Horn. The flag, however, is not just a flag. Before it was presented to the chancellor, it went on a whirlwind tour of the California state capitol building, the federal capitol building, the state community college chancellor’s office, and each college and center within the West Hills Community College District. It was flown above each of these locations and will be flown in front of the new WHCCD building.



West Hills magazine

“Over the last couple of years I have been baffled by what form of appreciation I could show the District as gratitude for the new District Office,” said John Wright, an employee of the WHCCD for 15 years. “This ‘Forever Home’ for the District is the first purpose designed facility that the District has ever occupied. My own personal difficulty that I wanted to resolve was to find something to tie the diverse past to the future for West Hills Community College District. I wanted the flag to have provenance so the idea came to me to find a vintage flag that would have been around when West Hills was founded. I have a background in history, my son is a Marine and I’m greatly involved with Memorial Day celebrations in Kingsburg so the flag is a symbol that means a lot to me.” The flag presented is an actual 48-star Storm Flag from the World War II era. Storm Flags were typically flown during inclement weather and many have since been repurposed

as internment flags, intended to be presented to family members of fallen soldiers. Wright purchased the flag from an antiques dealer in Connecticut in June of this year.

West Hills College Lemoore [Flown on July 24, 2019]

Dr. Stuart Van Horn, WHCCD Chancellor, feels that the flag is an excellent representation of the dedication many employees have for the WHCCD. “The nearly 800 employees of West Hills have an incredible sense of community, of purpose, and civic pride,” said Van Horn. “John, who works in our IT department, is a genuine, authentic testimony of the pride all of us should have in our country. His commitment to uphold American values makes me very proud to call him one of our own at West Hills. I am deeply touched by his incredible gift to the district. The story behind this flag reminds us all that we live in the greatest country in the world.”

West Hills College Coalinga

As for Wright, he’s proud to be a part of an important moment in the history of West Hills.

[Flown on August 5, 2019]

“The history of the District and the current WHCCD leadership provide a perspective for education that ignites dreams,” said Wright. “When the flag is hoisted up on any one of the WHCCD flag poles, you can feel the pride and one acquires the strong feeling that thebest years for the West Hills Community College District are boldly before us."

[Flown on July 25, 2019]

West Hills College North District Center

California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office [Displayed in Board Room, August 5, 2019]

California State Capitol Building , Sacramento [Flown on August 5, 2019]

United State Capitol Building, Washington, DC [Flown on August 27, 2019]

Flag will be flown at a later date in 2020 at the new District Office.

Winter 2019


See Yourself in Me: WHCC Alumni Goes Full Circle

from Student to Teacher

By Jamie Applegate

“It’s scary to think where I would be right now without West Hills,” says Rodolfo Rodriguez, West Hills College Coalinga/North District Center Firebaugh Sociology Instructor. You can see the emotion on his face when he says this. While his family valued education and knew its importance, he says the reality of growing up in a poor community was that most of his family and his neighbors didn’t feel valued in educational institutions. As a result, a life in the fields, or



West Hills magazine

on the streets or in the graveyard—in the case of some of his friends, some of the boys he grew up with—was what many ended up with. “I go and visit friends all the time and they’ve gone down different paths,” he said. “Some of them are not doing well and some are on drugs. I go to the cemetery and I talk to my friends at least once a month and I tell them about how I’m doing. I tell them about how thankful I am to have this position because who knows? That could have been me.”

Rodriguez describes being a Sociology Instructor at West Hills College Coalinga and North District Center Firebaugh as his “dream job.” Every day, he gets to work with and inspire kids that remind him a lot of him when he was younger. Looking at his past and the trajectory he’s taken to get to this point, it’s easy to see why. He was once in their shoes, sometimes having sat in the exact same seat when he was a student at WHCC. Rodriguez’s first interaction with West Hills College Coalinga was at the tender age of 15. He was rebellious, chomping at the bit of teenagehood, and his mother saw some guidance in the form of the All Youth One Program, a county program that is housed at and partners with West Hills College Coalinga. Rodriguez, though initially hesitant, found inspiration there. “I was upset, frustrated and had a lot of anger at that age,” he said. “But all these individuals there took the time out of their busy day to sit down and talk to me and let me vent.” He was in awe of the fact that all the people giving him advice, all the people talking to him, had college degrees. It got him thinking. April Betterson has been with Workforce Connection—which oversees the All Youth One Program at WHCC—since Rodriguez joined the program. She’s seen him grow from a young man facing an uncertain future to a teacher of students much like him. “Rodolfo is truly an example of what our program strives to do each and every day for our youth,” she said. “He was an outstanding participant in our program. Rodolfo completed assessments, job readiness, mock interviews, and work experience while in our program. He was one of those students you knew would make a difference and become successful. He was always willing to do whatever it took to flourish in our program.”

Not without struggle, Rodriguez succeeded, graduating from high school and then from West Hills College Coalinga in 2011. He has fond memories of his time at WHCC. “I made a lot of friends and I was able to gain a lot of social and cultural capital,” he said. “I was able to network. Being at West Hills and having the mentors and advisors I had was so important. I know the importance of West Hills College Coalinga to this community.”

April Betterson WHCC Coordinator of Special GrantsWorkforce Connection

After graduating, Rodriguez headed for California State University Sacramento, where he majored in sociology and ethnic studies with an emphasis in Chicano studies. He earned a place in the McNair Scholars Program and started conducting independent research on his passion: farmworkers on the westside of Fresno County. He earned his bachelor’s degree and then faced a choice: would he pursue further education? He began the sociology master’s degree program at CSU Sacramento before transferring to UC Merced at the advice of his mentor, where he enrolled in a dual degree program to earn both his master’s degree and doctorate. “I had imposter’s syndrome until that point,” said Rodriguez. “I didn’t think that I belonged in graduate school. I was one of the only Latino students in my class. Me getting into this doctorate program broke a lot of internal barriers. It was a huge accomplishment personally, not just for me but my family.” He thrived in the program and, more importantly, found his great love: teaching.

Winter 2019


As a graduate student, student teaching was part of the job. Through various organizations of which he was a part, Rodriguez also did college outreach, encouraging students to attend college and reach for their dreams. After that experience, he decided. He wanted to come back to the Central Valley and reach students living lives much like the life he had lived in Coalinga before coming to West Hills. Poor but proud and driven. Uneducated but striving for greater, often while facing many stumbling blocks. Working night shifts and then rolling into class at 8 a.m. He knows the world his students inhabit every day.



West Hills magazine

After receiving his master’s degree from UC Merced, he began teaching at West Hills College Coalinga as an adjunct before getting a once in a lifetime opportunity when a full-time Sociology appointment opened up. Now, he’s spending his time influencing students at West Hills College Coalinga and North District Center Firebaugh. Most of all, he tries to connect with them and remind them that people like them, people like him, do get master’s degrees. They do get jobs other than fieldwork. They do succeed.

“I try to do my best to be a great instructor, a great colleague, because without this community, without West Hills I wouldn’t be who I am today,” he said. “I want my students to feel like their experience and knowledge is important and accepted in my classroom because I’ve been there. I don’t see them as an empty vessel or a piggy bank to be filled with knowledge. I value their experience and their reality.” Rodriguez talks about real topics in the classroom, from changes in the family structure in the 21st century to the dangers of farmwork. He also makes sure the students

know that graduate students and those pursuing higher education are just people. “I’m bringing in some of my friends from Merced to talk to the students because I want them to see that they’re just normal people,” he said. “Getting a degree is difficult but not impossible. I want my students to see that it’s within their reach.” And that's Rodolfo's ultimate goal: to help his students see themselves in him and all that his success demonstrates is possible.

Winter 2019


From WHCL to Advanced Degrees:

West Hills Alumni Show the Power of Belief By Matt Weeks

When do you realize your potential? For many college students, there is a light bulb moment of ashing clarity, that moment when they realize what they want to do with their lives. Thanks to West Hills College Lemoore, two WHCL alumni had their light bulb moments and have since gone on to great success.



West Hills magazine

Matthew Warren was in the middle of a science conference in Kansas City, Missouri, when he first realized his potential. He was attending the event through a USDA grant he received during his third year at West Hills College Lemoore. “It was one of the strongest catalysts of my life,” the 2011 West Hills alumnus said. “When I got there, I realized there was so much I could learn. I was someone from the small world of the San Joaquin Valley and was thrown into a place with professionals doing science who can speak to large audiences. I saw that these were possibilities of what I could become.” Now, Warren is slated to graduate in May from North Carolina State University with a Ph.D.

His journey is unique and impressive, but not unusual. West Hills’ impact has a long reach. For many alumni, a West Hills education was as much about textbooks as it was about life lessons. Earning two associate’s degrees at West Hills laid the foundation for his future by stoking his interest in science and teaching. “It’s been quite an extraordinary journey,” he said . “West Hills exposed me to the world of higher education. I was also given the chance to be a college tutor, which gave me teaching experience, and I realized I liked it. Another thing I learned was understanding all the aspects involved with being a leader, which is one of the strongest things West Hills gave me.”

Warren came to West Hills in August 2008. He chose the college because it was close to home, and he thought it would be a good place to develop as student. What he received, however, was far more than that. His love for the college that inspired him runs deep. He regularly returns to talk with students and encourage their development, said West Hills College Lemoore President Kristin Clark.

Learning to Fly: Matthew Warren

“Since he graduated, he’s been back to speak to students on the importance of pursuing their dreams through education,” Clark said. “His passion for science and his drive to solve real-world problems in agriculture inspires us all, but especially students. The last time he came to speak to students on campus, you could have heard a pin drop when he told them about his doctoral research and what he hoped to accomplish.” For Warren, the back-to-school talks are about imparting lessons to the community that taught him so much.

“I love their motto: ‘Once you go here, you can go anywhere,’” he said. “That really resonates with someone like myself. I went because I love learning, and it brought me to the realization that there’s a whole world out there — and I have chance to make my own mark.”

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Coast to Coast: Julian Ponce

Julian Ponce’s journey took him from the rural town of Avenal, California, to the Ivy League — an incredible journey for a first-generation student — thanks to a lot of hard work and a bit of guidance from West Hills College Lemoore’s Upward Bound Program. A master’s student at Columbia University, Ponce completed his undergraduate education at the University of California at Berkeley. He's gone from small town to prestige. “What the Upward Bound Program offered me was exposure to different types of universities and college campuses,” Ponce says. “I think the mentorship from the program director, Oscar Villareal, was crucial in my path to college. He encouraged me to apply for the Ivy League Project, which I never would have known about without him, and that showed me what life could be like at these East Coast universities and expanded my goals to more than just what’s in California.”

Upward Bound is a motivational program that introduces high school students to college life, and provides them with support to succeed there. Students also take classes at WHCL while in high school and get tutoring and college application help, ranging from one on one advice to college tours. With Villareal’s help, Ponce applied for and received a Gates Millennium Scholarship — one of only 1,000 students nationally to get the honor. The scholarship pays for minority students to attend undergraduate and graduate programs. Over 10 years, Ponce will have received almost half a million dollars for his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University. “He is a great success story,” said Oscar Villareal, WHCL Director of Upward Bound. “It goes to show that we are surrounded by exemplary students who have the potential to go far in life.”

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients

“.... Ponce applied for and received a Gates Millennium Scholarship....will receive almost half a million dollars for his studies”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Ponce sees his journey from rural California to New York City as a benefit, not a hindrance, to success. “Especially now that I’m at a master's level, there are so few people here who have the same skill set I do, thanks to my upbringing,” he said. “No matter what public health program I go into, they’re going to talk about disparities, like those in poorer communities with less access to medical care and education. It’s so empowering to have grown up in one of those communities and have firsthand experience. A lot of my peers who have more privileged backgrounds don’t have that, so I’m able to see things they don’t.” Ponce is especially interested in public health’s Latino paradox. Against all odds, Latino immigrants to the United States have the best health outcomes out of all Americans, despite lower socioeconomic status. He wants to understand why that’s true — or if it is. There’s a chance that public health researchers have overlooked or misrepresented some vital aspects of the community, Ponce said.

“I see how little minority representation there is in spaces in the Ivy League,” he said. “The reason there are no students who look like me here isn’t because they’re not able to qualify, but because of the disparities that exist and the lack of resources that minority students have. I’ve taken these things as strengths for me. I’m super thankful for Upward Bound because high school was such a crucial time period, especially for first-generation students.” He added that Upward Bound, in many ways, completely changed his trajectory. “I look back and think none of this would’ve been possible if, at that crucial stage in my life, I didn’t have Upward Bound exposing me to new opportunities and believing in me,” he added. “During high school was when my mother passed away. My life could’ve gone another way very easily, but luckily, I had a really strong support system that believed in me. Because of that, I was able to use that experience to empower myself.”

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West Hills College Lemoore WIN Center Helps Students, Employers Connect

By Jamie Applegate

Monica Vargas wants to help the residents of Kings County. In her position as a Program Specialist for Kings United Way, she does exactly that. She helps connect anyone who calls for help with resources ranging from food to help paying the utility bill. For Monica, the urge to help comes naturally. After all, she’s in the position she’s in now through a combination of hard work and a little help from West Hills College Lemoore and the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce. “When I was a student at West Hills College Lemoore, I confided in the staff at the WIN Center a lot about my life situation,” said Vargas. “It was through those conversations that I was connected with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.” Vargas, an Administration of Justice and Liberal Studies major at West Hills College Lemoore at the time, was encouraged to apply for an internship at the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.



West Hills magazine

Amy Ward, the Chamber of Commerce CEO, was looking for an intern and turned to the WHCL WIN Center, a campus resource for students that strives to connect industry and students through workshops, internships, and more all while teaching students how to be successful in the workforce. “My interest in partnering with West Hills began when I started meeting regularly with people from the college and hearing a lot about everything they were doing,” said Ward. “I realized that West Hills is really digging deep to meet the needs of all ages of people in the community, not just those straight out of high school or people who decided not to go to a four-year. They’re working to help everyone.” Ward was also impressed by how West Hills worked directly with her to find an intern who was right for her, matching the skill sets she needed with a student who had them. Vargas started at the chamber in July of 2018. Initially, she assumed she would be handling “typical” intern

responsibilities, like filing and answering phones. While Vargas did file and answer phones, she primarily spent her time attending events with Ward, networking and getting to know the community. During her time as an intern, Vargas sat in on interview committees, helped organize events, networked and saw a change in her perspective when it came to careers. For Vargas, the internship was a learning opportunity and a chance to find her life path. Vargas had been a teen mother, welcoming her son into the world at age 16. For her, the internship helped her to find her footing. “I remember when I first got to the chamber, Amy took me on a walk around downtown and she asked what I wanted to get from my internship,” Vargas said. “I wanted to find my voice. I didn’t want to be embarrassed or shy.”

“I learned about a company and liked what I heard,” she said. “Then, a few months later, there was a job opportunity in Human Resources with the same employer. I mentioned during the interview that I had met the Human Resources Manager and I interviewed well so I got the job.” Rodriguez said that she felt the opportunity to meet a representative from the company made the interview process go smoother and may have helped her chances. She also attributed her interview skills to the WIN Center. “I would just like to encourage students to check out the WIN Center because not a lot of students are aware of the many resources they offer,” she said. Rodriguez is now a Human Resources Specialist. For both students, the WIN Center made a difference.

The Lemoore Chamber of Commerce is now looking to place two more interns and Vargas is hoping to leverage her time with her current employer, Kings United Way, into a career as a Parole Officer. Another student who benefited from the WIN Center’s connection to industry was Janet Rodriguez. The WIN Center puts on an annual event called Entrée to Employment. The event connects students with employers over dinner and gives both an opportunity to network. Rodriguez, then a Business Administration student, attended the event in December 2018. There, she met representatives from various companies and was able to network. Vargas posing with her coworkers promoting the Lemoore Chamber Instagram page.

Kris Costa, Dean of Career and Technical Education at WHCL, oversees the WIN Center. For her, the WIN Center is all about making connections, between employers, students and the college. “If we can’t provide our employers with what they need in the workforce, then why do we exist?” she said. “We have a population that wants to work and has the skill sets to be successful so we need to help make the connection between student and employer.” The WIN Center accomplishes this by offering many different activities that work hard to get employers on campus and students talking to them. The center offers workshops, special events like Entrée to Employment, and even informal pizza parties featuring employers discussing what they are looking for in employees.

! g n i n n i W

The WIN Center is located in Room 275 and offers many different services, including interview help, resume help and many events where students can connect with local employers and learn more about different career fields.

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Postcards from I VAL




By Matt Weeks







Jazmin Murillo on CAMP trip at UCLAa






Time for a ROAD TRIP!








Jazmin at Camp Sequ


Camping exposes people to new surroundings. It forces them to navigate unfamiliar parts of the world. At West Hills, a resource called CAMP works exactly the same way — but for college. The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) exposes new students to the elements of a college lifestyle. It provides ongoing academic, social and financial support to first-generation students during their initial year at West Hills. Jazmin Murillo, a student at WHCC, is the second member of her family to take advantage of CAMP. After seeing how it helped her cousin, now a student at California State University Fresno, she had to sign up.



West Hills magazine






“One of my parents worked in the fields, and this program is designed for the children of people like them, to support us and guide us through college life because it’s more likely that our parents didn’t go to college,” she said. “It’s been really helpful in helping me meet people and see what is out there.”


Through CAMP, a cohort of students take field trips to college campuses, regularly meet with advisors and mentors, and receive financial stipends throughout the year for hitting specific milestones such as participating in college activities or staying enrolled past the census date. “One of the main things I like are the bonding exercises,” Murillo said. “Recently, we went to Camp Sequoia for three days and did a bunch of leadership exercises and activities to get to know one another. It helps make connections for when we transfer, like maybe we can room with somebody we’ve met already.” The sense of community with other first-generation students is crucial to instilling a connection to the college and navigating the path beyond an associate degree, she said. “Since our parents are constantly working, they don’t have the opportunity to take us on these trips, so I really appreciate that the school takes us to visit college campuses, like UCLA,” Murillo said. The program also ensures that its students hit the books. Every month, they meet with a counselor to ensure they’re progressing in classes and exploring their options during and after West Hills.

“Throughout the year we see the students often,” said CAMP advisor Domenica Sanchez. “In the fall, they have to see their advisor once a month for a grade check, and in addition we have social hours where we get together, provide them lunch and talk about updates within the program and within the college, relaying anything that’s informative.” The program is built on a simple premise: Students who complete the first year of college are much more likely to finish their degrees. So, CAMP works to ensure that first-generation students have the tools they need to finish their first year. That includes not only working with students, but also with their parents — a powerful influence on student success. “At our orientation, we invite the parents to come. We actually have a session for parents only on how to support your college student,” Sanchez said. “Our sessions are bilingual because we want everybody there. It’s important for the parents to understand what’s going on because if you haven’t been to college, it’s going to be a new ride for you, and we want to talk about that.” For Murillo, CAMP was the easiest decision she’s made at college. “Honestly, it’s easy to gain something from this program,” she said. “They have incredible support services. There are scholarships available. It’s a great culture to be a part of.”

Jazmin Murillo on CAMP group trips

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Partnership Between West Hills College Lemoore and University of Phoenix Gives Future Nurses a Leg Up


Once she got started, Erin Chieze just couldn’t stop. The pediatric nurse at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno began her medical education at West Hills College Lemoore, where she took advantage of a program that allowed her to complete credits toward a bachelor’s while earning her associate degree. Now she’s back in school, getting a master’s degree. She attributes a unique partnership between West Hills College Lemoore’s nursing program and University of Phoenix for getting her started on this path.



West Hills magazine

By Matt Weeks

“I recommend the West Hills program all the time,” Chieze said. “It’s definitely a rigorous program, but I feel like you come out being more prepared and ready for what real nursing is like. Our instructors have very high expectations of us. And getting a head start on my Bachelor of Nursing was such a big help.” The Transfer Pathway-Concurrent Enrollment Program is a partnership between West Hills College Lemoore and the University of Phoenix. Students in the program earn credits Erin Chieze (middle) at her WHCL graduation. To the right: Chieze (bottom left) pictured with some of her nursing class

toward both their associate’s degree at WHCL and their bachelor’s degree at University of Phoenix through concurrent enrollment, and most are able to earn their bachelor’s less than a year after graduating from WHCL. “Being given the opportunity to go to University of Phoenix while I was still in the program at West Hills was fantastic. It motivated me to continue on with my education,” Chieze says. “Looking back, I think that the biggest change was a confidence I got. I got a feel for what it was like working 12-hour days with little to no breaks and having people dependent on you for you for their care. The program taught me that I really could do this, that I was capable of doing the job well.” Currently, about 25% of nursing students at West Hills take advantage of the Transfer-Pathway Concurrent Enrollment Program, says Kathryn DeFede, WHCL Director of Health Careers and Director of Nursing, RN MSN. “The first key to success is the program’s cost,” she said. “University of Phoenix has made it so students have a very flexible payment plan. And the cost is so reasonable. You almost can’t turn it down because it’s such a great price.”

The WHCL nursing program runs about $7,000, including tuition, uniforms, books and testing fees. Enrolling in the University of Phoenix partnership program adds about $4,000 to the total cost, but students finish with a year of bachelor’s degree work under their belts. “It speaks to the trend of where healthcare is going. When students first come in for orientation, I tell them I believe within five years you will not be able to get a job without a bachelor’s degree in nursing,” DeFede said. “Students need to factor that into their overall education plan. They can’t just graduate and not think about it again. The healthcare environment just doesn’t work that way.” The program also makes students more employable, she added. “Most healthcare facilities want a magnet status, which means 80% of their nurses need bachelor’s degrees,” DeFede said. “They’re going to make hiring considerations on whether you have that degree or not. So, if one of my students has already completed the program and just has a few credits left to get a bachelor’s degree, versus someone else who hasn’t started a bachelor’s program at all, my student has a real advantage in getting that job.”

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A Second Chance:

Pleasant Valley State Prison Equine Care Program Gives Inmates and Horses a

Shot at a New Life

By Jamie Applegate

“Every moment of your life is a second chance.�- Rick Price 19


West Hills magazine

The Prison Equine Care Program pairs inmates with racehorses, who often need rehabilitation after their racing career.

For four hours a day, five days a week, some silent form of redemption and rehabilitation plays out at Pleasant Valley State Prison. In the training facility they built with their own hands, 15 men run horses through exercises: they walk them under tarps, cheer them on as they step over fences, and work on getting them resaddled. They have a special bond, the men and horses. The men are inmates, locked before prison into a certain way of life. The horses are former racehorses, born only to run. Neither, to some degree, know anything else. Now, thanks to the Pleasant Valley State Prison Equine Care Program, both are getting a second chance. The Prison Equine Care Program pairs inmates with racehorses, who often need rehabilitation after their racing career. The inmates learn how to work with and rehabilitate the horses, who later go on to new jobs as trail horses, therapy horses and more. Inmates who complete the 18-week program earn 6 units of college credit through West Hills College Coalinga as well as a third party certificate from Groom Elite. The inmates gain the practical experience necessary to secure jobs in equine care after they are released.

“This is a great program to rehabilitate both the inmates and the horses,” said PVSP Officer Heidi Richards, who oversees and conceived the initial idea for the program. “It gives the inmates hands on training they can later use to get a rewarding career.” The program is the only one of its kind currently operating in California and is also an excellent example of private-public partnership. West Hills Community College District helped to secure the grant funding for the program, a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation grant under the Innovative Programming Grants in California Prisons program. The $300,776 grant will fund the program until 2022. The program has also received support from Harris Farms, who donated two of the horses being rehabilitated and helped with landscaping and veterinary care, and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chance Program, which has lent support and curriculum development help based on their presence in other prisons.

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As part of the program, Richards—an alumni of West Hills College Coalinga’s former Equine Science program— and 15 inmates built a new equine care facility at the prison, including five stalls, a training arena, and a pen. The inmates work daily with the horses. “Racehorses are a lot like inmates in that they often only really know how to do one thing and don’t have the skills they need to move on to something else,” said Richards. “Our goal is to work with both the inmates and horses to gain those additional skills.” The program is also just one of many ways that West Hills College Coalinga is involved in inmate education. WHCC is currently facilitating degree programs at Avenal State Prison and Pleasant Valley State Prison for over 300 inmates. “All of these students have the potential to be our neighbors,” said Sarah Shephard, West Hills College Coalinga Faculty Inmate Education Coordinator. “We have a strong commitment to serving our entire community,

including those who are incarcerated. We hope to contribute to lowering the recidivism rate and hone the skills and preparation needed for them to have a successful transition upon release.” For Terry Brase, Director of the West Hills College Coalinga Farm of the Future, the Equine Care program is a unique example of this kind of outreach. “Students who have served time are in many cases our most motivated students, so we see value in assisting in their rehabilitation,” said Brase. “Our original plan was something with plants or crop science, but the equine program teaches the inmates something that dealing with plants can’t.” The Equine Care program is currently rehabilitating four horses, with plans to secure a fifth. The horses were provided by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chance Program and Harris Farms. During the first few weeks of class—which began on August 16— the inmates learn to handle the horses, including walking them regularly. During the next few weeks after that, they take them through obstacle courses and desensitizing training. The inmates help develop a game plan for the horse, including narrowing down what job the horse might be suited for after retraining. “The biggest thing we hear across the program is that inmates find the whole experience grounding,” said Chelsea O’Reilly, Program Development Manager for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chance Program. “Once you start working with an animal, you need to learn to listen to it. You’re also not going to be able to bully that animal, but it’s also not going to judge you. It tears everything down to very simple basics.”



West Hills magazine

Similar programs exist in eight other prisons across the country and, in general, have proven to help lower the recidivism rates for inmates involved. According to Lisa Torres, Assistant Trainer at Harris Farms Horse Division, it gives inmates something to strive toward. “Can you put a value on someone starting a new life and a horse getting a new life?”, said Torres. “There is no value on it. If we can change just one person’s life and these guys can attribute that to the horse it’s an awesome feeling. It’s a win-win situation for both.”

An inmate and Equine Care Program participant guides of of the program's horses

Community, private and public partners gathered to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Pleasant Valley Prison and the grand opening of the Equine Care Program facility Winter 2019

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Apprenticeships Enable Upward Mobility,

On-the-job Training

By Jamie Applegate Jessica Rivera has been working in Human Resources for nine years. She began at Firebaugh’s Red Rooster, a tomato packing, growing and shipping company, as an office assistant. Slowly, she worked her way up to Human Resources Assistant, handling payroll and other responsibilities. She achieved all of this without a formal Human Resources degree.

That’s where Westside Works stepped in. Westside Works—an initiative of the West Hills Community College District— partners with local employers to develop registered apprenticeships and deliver a qualified, homegrown workforce to Westside Fresno and Kings County businesses and other organizations.



West Hills magazine

The program recently received state approval for three local employer-partners who can now employ and train apprentices to receive state-supported industry credentials, including Red Rooster. Jessica Rivera will be one of those apprentices. “I was interested in getting involved because I don’t have much formal schooling on human resources and I want to learn more,” said Rivera. “This will help me understand employees better and the laws and it’ll also give me an actual certification.”

As part of the approved apprenticeship programs, students spend two to four years on the job and taking one to two classes per semester—free to apprentices—at any West Hills Community College District campus. At the end of the apprenticeship, they receive a valuable state certification, meaning that they are then considered a journeyperson in their occupation. “For the employer, apprenticeships build up a pipeline and a homegrown workforce,” said Corinna Pereira, Director of Apprenticeship Programs. “Apprenticeship training can address important rural area labor market deficiencies. We’re grateful to our committed industry partners, who believe in this important initiative and are taking steps to ensure there are highly qualified professionals being trained to enter the workforce.” For Randy Kee, Plant Manager at Red Rooster, the chance to be a part of the program is a crucial one when it comes to growing the company from within. “I believe it offers an excellent opportunity for growing

professionals to reinforce their marketability and skills,” he said. “Being that West Hills College offers local access to these classes, it makes it really accessible so that we can enhance our own future viability.” Red Rooster is one of three companies that attained state approval for apprenticeships, with the help of West Hills College. The three approved apprenticeships will train workers in a variety of occupations including Human Resources Analysts for the City of Coalinga and Farm Equipment Mechanics for Fresno Equipment Company in Five Points. Red Rooster plans to offer apprenticeships in careers related to agriculture sales and marketing, food safety/science, plant maintenance, human resources and plant management. Westside Works has also received $1 million total in grant funding through the California Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI). $500,000 was awarded for Agriculture and Industrial Science apprenticeships while $500,000 was awarded for Child Development Educator apprenticeships.

Pereira said the funding will go toward facilitating the development of employer sponsored apprenticeships in these fields. “WHCCD looks forward to serving constituents and stakeholders by delivering real workforce solutions,” said Pereira. “We want to make a difference in our local communities and the lives of our residents.”

Corinna Pereira, Director of Apprenticeship Programs

For more information on partnering with WHCCD to offer apprenticeships in your organization, contact Corinna Pereira at 559-934-2168.

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It’s Within Your Reach

A program to promote educational empowerment and workforce development across the region By Amber Myrick

The West Hills Community College District (WHCCD) serves approximately: 10,000 students, spanning: 3,464 square miles of rural communities on the Westside of Fresno and Kings counties. The majority of our region is Hispanic and face challenges including high unemployment rates, low-income levels, skills gaps, and high poverty levels. The area’s low educational attainment rates contribute to the stunting of social and upward mobility within the region. WHCCD is focused on collaborative efforts to increase educational attainment rates within the region it serves and seeks to help drive regional economies and upward mobility. Although educational attainment may provide



West Hills magazine

community members with credentials that open the door to better employment options, WHCCD also realizes continued economic development and sustained investment in both Fresno and Kings counties is needed to support a larger, more diverse, and 21st century job ready workforce. Through public-private partnerships, we are seeking to broker solutions to the economic crises and challenges in the Valley while placing emphasis on cultural transformation and regional economic growth.

While raising the region's educational attainment levels is the goal, attainment is only possible if students first enroll. WHCCD has cultivated a partnership with Univision which will help communicate strong regional messaging in Spanish that encourages college enrollment while reaching our target audience and their families in an organic way through an annual television and radio campaign. This campaign will address possible Hispanic students, their families, and extended families by honestly addressing unique challenges these individuals face. WHCCD is dedicated to helping change our region’s perspective on higher education, a perception that often discourages college enrollment because college is seen as a barrier to immediate employment after high school.

WHCCD seeks to create an external culture change: a shift toward acceptance of college enrollment.

For many individuals living in our region, attending college may seem beyond their means. Most are working to support their families. WHCCD is looking to assure

our communities that college is not only manageable, but also attainable within the constraints of their daily lives.

In partnership with Univision, WHCCD seeks to launch a comprehensive television and radio campaign that addresses our region's unique challenges and places emphasis on how educational attainment can occur.

Univision Campaign Details: • Integrated on-the-ground, on-the air broadcast effort, together with the country’s leading Spanish-language Media and cultural influencer, UNIVISION.

▪ Unlike General Market Media and audiences, Hispanic

families consume broadcast programming and many events as a family where all generations including those who influence the next generation participate.

• Broadcast & on-the-ground elements include: ▪ Long and short format “Day in the Life” video stories that portray realities and opportunities for empowerment in the lives of these generations—for broadcast and digital delivery.

▪ In-programming interviews with families, educators,

students, employers and role models to discuss the challenges and breakthroughs, with clear pathways to access higher education and career opportunities.

▪ Live Call Centers on-air to answer questions of students and families, much like a telethon format, in their language speaking directly to how and why.

▪ Engagement at community events to dialogue with students and their families, again offering clear pathways.

▪ Mobile, on the road pop-ups inside neighborhoods for one-on-one engagement.

We are seeking partners to help us uplift and equip our population, while growing our region's output and self-esteem and creating a built-in workforce development tool for regional industries. If you are interested in helping to generate a better equipped workforce and branding your organization a true community builder, with logo and appropriate credit in all communications as a founding sponsor, please contact us today!

Alex Perez

Executive Director, WHCC Foundation (559) 577-4687 alexperez4@whccd.edu

Amber Myrick

District Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Information 559-934-2132 ambermyrick@whccd.edu

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LA Sanitation District

Gives Back

By Jamie Applegate

Since 2011, Los Angeles Sanitation District has donated a grand total of


to the West Hills Community College District Foundation. The money has gone toward engineering scholarships, supporting students in their academic endeavors. However, the organization hasn’t stopped there in their support of West Hills College Lemoore students in particular. For two West Hills College Lemoore students, this unique partnership has had life changing results. In addition to donating to scholarships, LA Sanitation District has hosted six interns since 2016 at their Tulare Lake Compost Facility. These interns do not have your “average” intern experience, however. They get hands-on experience at the facility, garnering valuable work experience they can use toward a career in engineering or compost management. To top it all off, they also get paid. “I think our relationship with West Hills College Lemoore has been just a total win-win,” said Richard Kish, Superintendent of Tulare Lake Compost. “We have gotten some really talented young people out of this and they have been a big part of the facility’s stability. We’re happy because we’ve given them job experience and they’re a great help to our facility. They don’t just do one thing for us. They do a lot of different things, ranging from testing to gathering samples. We have an onsite lab and there’s numerous pieces of lab equipment that they all use. A lot of times they’re out in the field taking temperatures.”



West Hills magazine

Richard Kish

For James Grunwald, that internship has led to a full-time job. Grunwald joined Tulare Compost as one of their first interns when the facility opened in 2016. He connected with the internship through West Hills College Lemoore, where he was a second year student studying engineering. He was hired in February 2015, helping the facility get up and running. He’s since moved into a more long-term role as a Compost Engineering Technician and is pursuing his Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at Fresno State. “The internship was great for giving me a taste for the real world my engineering degree was leading to,” he said. “I found out that I really liked the working environment and it made me a better student because I had an idea of what I was heading toward.”

James Grunwald

Jonathan Maravilla is another student whose life was impacted by the partnership between West Hills College Lemoore. Maravilla is a current intern with Tulare Lake Compost and is also a recent WHCL graduate. He’s working on his Civil Engineering degree at Fresno State. In addition to being a part of the internship program, Maravilla also benefited from engineering scholarships at WHCL, the same scholarships to which LA Sanitation donates an average $30,000 per year. He learned about the internship opportunity partially as a result of the frequent presence of LA Sanitation representatives at WHCL scholarship banquets, which Richard Kish makes a point to attend. “This is such a great opportunity for students and it’s not something I would have ever known about without West Hills College Lemoore,” said Maravilla. “It’s helping me develop the skills I need to continue on the path I’m interested in.” Maravilla plans to put his engineering degree to good use in the Central Valley.

Jonathan Maravilla

Alex Perez, Executive Director of the West Hills Community College Foundation, said partnerships like this make a big difference in student’s lives. “Partnerships like this are so important because they are a benefit to both the employer and the student,” he said. “On one hand, we provide educational access for students. They get a scholarship without having to worry about tuition and books and they get internship opportunities. But it’s also great for the organization because they develop a relationship with a potential employee.” He also applauded LA Sanitation for their interest not just in donating, but in being at events and meeting students. “What’s impressed me is their dedication to being present at events where we honor students, like scholarship banquets and scholar’s breakfasts,” he said. “Richard Kish has gone out of his way to have a presence with the students. The supervising engineer, Matt Bao from LA Sanitation, has also been a great help. They’re very involved and open in the process and I wish we had more partners that are really engaged to the student experience.”

“I want to be able to stay here and use all my knowledge and work skills to benefit the Valley and make an impact where I’m from,” he said.

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Here’s How You Can Help

Change Lives

Your gift, no matter how large or small, will make a difference in all of our lives. Students get a direct benefit, of course, when you make it possible for more residents to attend and finish college. All of us benefit from an educated citizenry with marketable skills who find jobs and pay taxes, thus strengthening our economy. In the end, we all win. Your donation will help make more investments in more students, scholarships and college programs. Your donation will inspire others to give, helping more students and college programs. Please consider making a gift before December 31st.

It’s easy:

Contact WHCCF Executive Director

Alex Perez @ (559) 934-2134 Online:

http://westhillscollege.com/district/foundation/giving-and-donations/ As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, contributions are tax deductible. Tax ID number 77-0186793



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9900 Cody Ave. Coalinga, CA 93210

For information on how you can help support education, see our website: www.whcgift.org, or contact: Alexis Perez • West Hills Community College Foundation Executive Director alexperez4@whccd.edu 9900 Cody Ave. Coalinga, Ca 93210 (559) 934-2134 WestHillsCollege.com

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