West Hills Magazine - Spring 2014 (Issue 2)

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Spring 2014



ong, Winding Road She Overcomes Cancer, Chemo, and Loses Sight but Never Hope

High Tech Journey from Stone Tablets to Tablets of Light and Sound Large Class of Retirees Begins a New Path After 380 Years of Serving Students

Relentless Focus on Student Success is What Sets Us Apart


Copyright 2014 by West Hills Community College District. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission prohibited. WEST HILLS MAGAZINE, Spring 2014, Number 2, is published Winter, Spring and Summer/Fall by the Office of Marketing and Public Information, WHCCD. 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 tomwixon@whccd.edu

Advisory Board Frank Gornick Chancellor, WHCCD Carole Goldsmith President, WHCC Don Warkentin President, WHCL

board of trustees Mark McKean, President, Area 5 Nina Oxborrow, Area 1 Steve Cantu, Area 6 Edna Ivans, Area 3 Jeff Levinson, Area 7 Jack Minnite, Area 2 Len Falter, Area 4

EDITOR Tom Wixon Director of Marketing


WEBMASTER Carlos Posadas

PHOTOGRAPHY Dennis Gallegos, Kelly Peterson Amy Seed, Tom Wixon



Welcome to our second West Hills Magazine! Our first magazine received many outstanding reviews and comments, so the expectations for our second edition were high. I think that after you finish reading this edition, you will agree that we have upheld our standard. One of the characteristics of a great organization or college is the people who perform the everyday tasks with a positive attitude. We are extremely fortunate at West Hills because we have been blessed with many instructors and staff who come to work every day with great enthusiasm for their work. During my 20 years of service with West Hills I have been amazed and proud of the outstanding work our staff does for the benefit of the students we serve. We have changed a great deal in that time: Our student population has grown, we now have two fully accredited colleges, and significant building projects were started and completed with more in the planning stages. We’ve also met the challenge of adjusting to the ever-changing regulatory environment created by the state and national agencies. Many colleges have difficulty adapting to change, but at West Hills we excel at change – because we do it for the benefit of the students we serve and we see that as our primary mission. That attitude on the part of our employees is what separates us from many institutions in the state. In this edition there is a feature story about the large number of retirees who are retiring at the end of this year. One person has dedicated 40 years of her life to our organization, and several others served for 10, 20, or 30 years (or more). Combined, it’s a marvelous achievement totaling 380 years. In addition to that, we’re pleased to present a number of stories about current and former students who share memories of the ways in which our staff assisted them in their quest to reach their educational or personal goals. As you read these stories, I hope you will come away with a greater understanding of the enthusiasm all of us have for our mission to maintain a “relentless focus on student success.” Regards,

Frank Gornick, Chancellor West Hills Community College District


table of




Essential Elements Series Examines Water Crisis

Psych Tech Program Reaches Milestone

Leaders from throughout California were hosted by WHCCD at a forum to discuss practical ways to relieve the ongoing shortage of water.

The WHCC psychiatric technician program leads the way in job training programs and has helped over 900 students start new careers since 2001.

Lemoore Student Excels Beyond Limitations WHCL student Mia Carius may be completely blind, but nothing stands in the way of her success.


Child Development Center Pupil Comes Full Circle Anabel Iniguez began her education at the WHCC child development center as a young girl. She grew up, attended West Hills College and is back at the CDC as an employee while finishing her education to become a teacher.


College Introduces Revolutionary New Registration Option

With an enhanced focus on student success and retention, West Hills College launches Reg365, a new registration program that allows students to register for a full year of classes at once.


West Hills College 14 From to Thailand Joel Saldaña Jr. got his start at the North District Center, Firebaugh, at West Hills College, before interning for a congressman and more recently serving in Thailand with the Peace Corps.



The Best Thing Since Stone Tablets West Hills will bring iPads to campus to enhance teaching and learning for both faculty and students.

Everyone Goes to School At This College Campus From preschool to middle school to college, the West Hills College Lemoore campus offers quality education for students of all ages.

Retirees Leave Legacy of 380 Years of Service Jean Schawe, number one on the district seniority list with 40 years of service, is one of 17 employees who will retire from WHCCD this year.


Athletic Programs Demonstrate Relentless Focus on Student Success West Hills College emphasizes the student in student athlete, and has a long history of setting academics standards for players on both campuses.

Cover photo by Tom Wixon: Los Gatos Creek Road

Spring 2014



Psych Tech Training Program is the Model for California Colleges

psych techs to assist doctors and staff with patient care. The state estimated it would need hundreds of psychiatric technicians, a job description whose training is similar to licensed vocational nurse (LVN) but with special training in psychological behavior. In addition to both theory and clinical training, PTs would also be taught to spot the potential dangers inherent in treating psych patients, especially those convicted of violent crimes involving sexual assault. The program has evolved over the years to meet the needs of employers and students alike, according to Hector DamMikkelsen, an instructor at West Hills College Coalinga who helped launch the program in August 2001. “I’ve been there since day one,” he said. “We had a class of about 30 and we had four brand new instructors who all came from Atascadero State Hospital near Paso Robles. We were all RNs, it was going to be our first teaching experience, and we were all hired three weeks before classes started. Of the four who started, I’m the sole survivor. I don’t regret it, it’s been an awesome experience.” Today there are nine instructors at the college and two more employed by the Coalinga State Hospital who conduct clinical instruction: Sherry Barragan, Rhonda Mayer, Elesia Evans, Elizabeth Velardez, Marjorie Divine, Jody Mitchell, Sheila Stumbaugh, Donna Todd, and Frank Morales are the WHCC staff; Debbie Scott-Jones and Jacqueline Wesley are the clinical team at CSH. Dam-Mikkelsen’s dedication is typical of everyone involved in the program, from administrators to instructors to students. Many of them commute to work or to classes; students do some clinical training in Porterville, a two-hour drive each way.

by Tom Wixon

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

That’s the driving force behind career technical training at area colleges, and no institution has proven better at it than West Hills College, which this year will reach a milestone in training psychiatric technicians: 200-plus in the past two years and nearly 900 since the program was started in 2001.

The 200 was a goal set under a $19.5 million grant awarded in 2011 by the Department of Labor to a consortium of 13 Central Valley colleges. West Hills is the lead college in the group, having written the grant, and is responsible for its fiscal monitoring. More than that, the West Hills Community College District has taken its appointed leadership seriously in streamlining job training courses and moving higher education toward a new model of collaboration, cooperation, and success. Under grant guidelines, the college has turned the 18-month program into 12 in order to get students out into the job market sooner. The compressed four-day schedule puts students in the classroom seven hours a day, twice a week, and requires two clinical days of 10.5 hours apiece. Then they go home and study. Some basic



West Hills magazine

skills courses, that used to require students to take a semester of classes prior to enrolling in the program, are now embedded in the training so students can get into the program sooner and emerge with the same training. Instead of one class starting every 18 months, there are now two a year. The most recent class, which began in January, has 80 students enrolled; the Fall 2013 class graduated 68. For the recent January start, West Hills College received 170 applications. All this leads to more jobs, and jobs put dollars into the economy. Most of that money is earned and spent in the Central Valley. The psychiatric technician training program pumps an estimated $37 million a year into the California economy in terms of payroll alone.

“The average psych tech job starts somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 a year,” according to Charles Freeman, RN and director of health careers at WHCCD. “We have an excellent first-time pass rate of 91.3 percent and many of our graduates go to work at state hospitals here in Coalinga or in Stockton, Visalia, or Atascadero. There is significant demand for employment and it’s going to be that way for the next several years before demand catches up with supply.” Because of that, many PTs are not only getting base pay per shift, but can choose to work overtime to boost their earnings. College leadership launched the program. Planning began after news broke that California was going to build a State Hospital in Coalinga to house and treat criminals who had completed their prison sentences, but whose psychological profiles deemed them a danger to society and still in need of ongoing therapy and incarceration. The facility was going to hire lots of employees, including

Ernestina Tamayo was one of 68 graduates from the fall 2013 psych tech class and was congratulated at the pinning ceremony by instructor Hector DamMikkelsen who has been with the program since it began in 2001.

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Christina Contreras and Maria Dominguez stood up to celebrate their graduation at the recent psych tech pinning ceremony.

Dam-Mikkelsen started commuting 12 years ago from Atascadero and makes that 85-mile drive each morning and evening. “I’ve had job offers on the coast,” he said, “but to me it’s so fulfilling to see this program progress, and as a college we are turning out a quality product and it’s a win-win. It’s so positive. I never thought I’d be here this long, living in a different county, but I’m still here. It’s just a great program.” Among the things he finds fulfilling is the commitment and dedication he sees among students. “Most of our students stay in, even though it’s not an easy program. The first semester is the most rigorous. It tends to be like a boot camp in a sense; it’s more demanding, it’s fast paced and the students have to be on top of their game. We tell the students up front what they’ll be facing, that they’ll need a supportive home life, what with traveling, studying, and the long hours. It shows the commitment of our students. Other programs, in larger cities, don’t have those long drives as a rule. When we go to Porterville for clinicals, for example, we start working at 6:30 a.m. and they are up at 3:00 or 3:30 to drive there.” Students put that much into it because there is a lot to gain, the instructor said. “Many of our students are either unemployed or under-employed, and many had a job or career and then a plant closed or there were cutbacks due to the recession. And now there’s a way to be employed and working again.” Students range in age from 18 to 58, and the women outnumber the men in the classroom. And not everyone has the temperament for the job. “From my perspective, most of our students did not choose psych tech as a career goal. I think they kind of found themselves needing to train for a job or a new career and looking for a vocational program that would lead to a good salary with benefits,” the instructor said. “People find it interesting that so many of our students are women because we are dealing in the workplace with criminally insane patients, and that is perceived to be dangerous. There is a month-long training program when they get hired on managing assaultive behavior, which teaches ways to deescalate a potentially violent situation.



West Hills magazine

It also trains workers to escape dangerous situations if necessary. You’d think the prison or state hospital aspect would be a strong deterrent, but we’ve never had a shortage of students and most of them are women.” According to Freeman, the program director, WHCC’s PT program has “the largest enrollment of any PT program in the state” and attracts students from Merced, Modesto, Fresno, Visalia, Hanford and, of course, Coalinga and Lemoore. The recent opening of the first phase of a new state hospital in Stockton led to a number of Coalinga State Hospital employees transferring there for job growth opportunities or reasons related to family and commuting time. “This has opened up jobs here in Coalinga,” he said, “and as Stockton opens up a second phase in the near future, they are going to need about 400 PTs over the next three years.” Other students have found jobs in different venues, including the emergency room of a hospital where they’re assigned to evaluate patients who come in with behaviors related to drug use or intoxication. Freeman echoes his instructors when he points with pride to the program’s growth and its potential for self-fulfillment. “I’m thrilled with what’s happening,” he said. “It’s an honor to work with such fine faculty, people who are highly committed and totally dedicated to student success.” He says watching the students grow has also been rewarding. “We’re providing meaningful jobs and a significant number of them, and this is a pathway out of poverty for many of our students who are often first-time graduates in their family from any kind of college program. This is a new chapter in many of their family generational stories, and that’s exciting. Many of their own kids will go to college as a result, and it’s going to rewrite the script.” Wixon is editor of West Hills Magazine and director of marketing/ consultant at WHCCD. By the Numbers 900

Students who have completed psych tech training at WHCC


Applicants for the latest PT class that started in January


Months it takes complete the training program

91.3 Percentage of WHCC trainees who pass the state test the first time around

Economic Impact


Annual average starting compensation

$37,000,000* Payroll dollars that circulate in our local economy as a result of PT employment *estimate based on 900 graduates @ $60,000 per annum X 91% pass rate less 20% in state and federal taxes

EE Series: Water:The very last drop Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and former Stanford professor, kicked off a dynamic forum on solutions to the water crisis by telling the delegates: “We have to look at all sides of the questions and not halt the growth of civilization because of differences of opinion.”

The past year has been one of the driest in 500 years in California. The drought has put environmentalists, farmers, ranchers and government agencies at odds over water use. In periods of prolonged drought, conflicting demands reach overflow proportions. There isn’t enough water to meet the needs of all and the allocation process appears convoluted to some and pleases no one. What to do? That was the topic of a day-long conversation in Coalinga recently, when leaders representing all the stakeholders gathered for “The Very Last Drop: Managing Water and Food Production.” West Hills Community College District hosted the event at Harris Ranch. Chancellor Frank Gornick welcomed the 110 participants, and said, “We haven’t respected one another, we haven’t listened to one another, and we haven’t established the common values that we have and we share. The question for today is, how do we make our political system work for all of us and not just some of us?” Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto and a former Stanford professor, lit up the audience in his opening address. “We have two Californias,” he said. “About 75 percent of the people live where 85 percent of the water isn’t. If we could reverse that, we’d have no problem.” He said water allocation issues are due to a shift in power in state politics. “Coastal residents, from San Diego to Berkeley, have become the largest voice in public policy. An evolution of wealth has created a separation. We have become a state filled with the most billionaires, where untold amounts of wealth were created, due to the growth of wineries and the tech companies and real estate.” Hanson said water use debate is about theories in conflict. “But we have to look at all sides of the questions and not halt the

growth of civilization because of differences of opinion.” Stuart Van Horn, vice chancellor, WHCCD, who conceived and planned the event, was pleased with the turnout. “Our goal behind development of the policy series was to do what we could to contribute solutions to this unprecedented crisis and the challenges facing the valley. We take that commitment seriously and look forward to acting upon the trends developed at the first policy series.” Throughout the day and into the evening, speakers and panelists engaged and challenged the audience. Other key speakers included Marvin Meyers, who owns and operates Meyers Farming and Oxford Farms, Inc., and Sandra Schubert, undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. For more details and a long list of the very impressive moderators and panelists, all experts in their fields, visit the website at: www. essentialelementsseries.com.

Upcoming Events in the Series June 12, 2014 Energy Development and Transmission Petroleum, solar, wind, biomass, hydraulic fracturing

September 18, 2014 Trade and Logistics Impact of Panama Canal expansion on California


Spring 2014



Achieving Beyond Limits:

Overcoming Cancer and Living with Vision Loss by Amy Seed

Mia Carius says her weakness is math. And apparently it’s her only one. To those who know her story, overcoming a math class seems like a minute achievement compared to what Carius experienced earlier in life. She walks around campus with a white cane, an identifiable marker that she is blind. She speaks English fluently, but until she was 7 years old, she lived in Pohnpei, Micronesia, and spoke Pohnpei. She stayed there with her grandmother while her parents were in San Diego with the Navy. When she was 7, she began having blurry vision and trouble walking straight. Her parents arranged for her to move to San Diego along with her grandmother. Carius underwent tests at the naval hospital, and they diagnosed her with a brain tumor. “The tumor had grown so big that they could only remove very little of it,” she said. “But if they were to remove the whole thing, then I would be paralyzed.” Her parents were faced with a choice. Their options were to have their daughter blind but active, or confined to a wheelchair at so young an age. They chose the former. As a result, Carius went through two years of chemotherapy all while adjusting to a new culture and an entirely new language.

‘Even though we might be disabled, we can still accomplish something big.’ 8


West Hills magazine

Learning to communicate was a struggle because not only did she have to learn a new language, she had to learn how to live life blind. It took her about a year to learn braille, and she had to repeat second grade because of the language barrier. “When all the struggles happened, they just somehow happened all at once,” said Carius. “I just had to fight little by little.” After two years of chemotherapy, her doctor told her the tumor was stable and in remission. Beating the cancer was only the beginning. She moved to Monterey with her family during high school and competed in marathons with the help of running guides. She even completed the 10.6-mile Big Sur International Half Marathon in 2009. Even though she could have chosen to attend college in Monterey and stay near her family, she enrolled at California State University, Sacramento. She wanted to learn how to be independent. She was only there for one year due to the cost of living expenses she paid out of pocket, but she learned how to do tasks on her own, such as laundry. “I wanted to take an adventure,” she said. “I just wanted to see how it feels to be independent.” It was then that her parents, who by that time had moved to Lemoore, told her about the local community college. She enrolled in WHCL with big plans to continue her education. Once she graduates in May, Carius will attend California State University, Fresno, and plans to go even further and earn a master’s degree in social work. Eventually, she would like to work as a department of rehabilitation counselor for education. But for now, her focus is on her education at WHCL. She is the president of Mission Possible Awareness Club (MPAC), whose mission is to raise awareness on campus of various disabilities. She’s also involved in the West Hills Eagles Pantry, a club that gives donated food items to college students in need.

Mia Carius finds assistance in the Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) lab at WHCL, using tailored technology such as JAWS, a screen reading software, and BrailleNote, a refreshable braille keyboard that allows her to read or listen to digital materials such as emails.

She likes that it’s small and she knows mostly everyone, which makes getting around campus much easier. “I love West Hills for a lot of reasons,” she said. “When I’m lost on campus or I don’t know where I am, anybody I hear walk by me I can easily get to help me.” She also appreciates the support services offered through Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS). “The DSPS program is excellent,” she said. “We’re like a little family in that DSPS program. The staff, they’re always there and everything I need including technology, getting my books into electronics, they’re there. And the counselors are right there.” Her outlook on life is nothing but positive, and she doesn’t let her disability stand in the way of her success. Even through

her involvement in MPAC, she encourages students to look beyond their disabilities and not take no for an answer just because something is difficult. Carius said disabled persons don’t need as much help as people might think. They can dream big and chase after their dreams just like anyone else. She should know. It’s how she got to WHCL with such big plans for her future. “Even though we might be disabled, we know we can still accomplish something big.”

Amy Seed is the assistant to the director of marketing and public information at West Hills CCD and a former newspaper reporter.

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West Hills College Lemoore Child Development Center.

The CDC Offers

the Fresno County communities of San Joaquin, Huron and Firebaugh. The other co-director, Nancy Jeffcoach, is in charge of three centers in Avenal and one in Lemoore. Former CDC Director Kathy Watts retired in December 2013 after 14 years at the helm. A stranger entering any classroom feels quickly assessed by both children and staff and just as quickly made comfortable if he’s accompanied by a staff member – someone they know. “Their safety and security are essential,” says Cleveland. The children learn self-respect and to respect others as well as developing an appreciation for the various cultures represented among the other children and center staff members. For parents, the centers offer a range of learning opportunities from child-rearing skills and head lice prevention and treatment to improving reading, language and science abilities. With their youngest children in West Hills’ centers, parents have time to enhance their family’s circumstances and, in doing so, help their communities economically. Parents also work closely with center

staff through monthly Parents Advisory Committee meetings. The center operates yearround, with half-day classes available during the traditional school year, daycare operating all 12 months and school-aged children attending during summers. The child development centers are funded by grants from many government agencies and parents also pay for services based upon their income. The range is from Nancy Jeffcoach, site supervisor more than $1,000 per month at the WHCL child development for infant care to around $20 a center, is also co-director of the 55 staffers who work to serve the month. And there are waiting program’s 740 children. lists for center openings. Cleveland started working part-time at the Coalinga center in 1991 and later, encouraged by her husband, she pursued her passion for early-childhood education. She earned a bachelor’s degree at California State University, Fresno, and then a master’s at Fresno Pacific University and returned to the Coalinga center in 2001. She deftly steers a conversation about her to a discussion of what the child development centers’ program and staff have accomplished since its founding in 1985. “It takes a team to make it work,” says Cleveland. There are 55 center staffers, most of the teachers have bachelor’s degrees or are near to completing them.

Child Care, Learning, Careers, and Hope for the Future Anabel Iniguez was just 3 when her mom brought her to West Hills Community College’s Child Development Center in Coalinga, nearly 20 years ago. She still goes to the center each day, but now she’s Miss Anabel. It says so on her red teacher’s shirt and that’s how the children address her. Her mother, Miss Juana, has been on the center staff more than 20 years, while younger sister Miss Cristina is a West Hills student who wants to be a teacher and is learning at the center. A visitor quickly understands why they all want to be there. It’s the energy generated by friendly, enthusiastic, respectful children and welcoming educators housed just beyond the outfield fence of the softball field on the West Hills College Coalinga campus. Each room – from those devoted to infants 2 months and up to those with 24 children getting ready for kindergarten – in this purpose-built, three-building complex has its complement of teachers and assistants in red or blue shirts and children involved in activities. Everyone smiles.



West Hills magazine

By Lanny Larson

West Hills Chancellor Frank Gornick outlines the underlying mission of the Child Development Center program, saying, “By having a center with our name on it in every community we serve, we are investing in our children. We are making provision for the long-term planting of seeds so the children in these communities grow up with the idea they can go to college. We do this by being involved in our communities, by having a presence there.” Together, the centers are licensed to serve more than 700 children with a clear mission. “Our primary goal is to have a safe and nurturing environment for all children and to provide stability for parents who attend classes at West Hills or work,” says Conne Cleveland, the Coalinga center director. “We prepare children socio-emotionally, physically and cognitively for life and kindergarten.” Besides teaching future teachers at West Hills and supervising the center, Cleveland is co-director of the West Hills Child Development Center program, responsible for other centers in

Spring 2014



Creativity gets high priority. “All our teachers encourage the children and we have projects all of them work on together,” learning individuality and how to work with a group. Some of the children’s sculpture, painting, mobiles and other artwork is displayed gallery-style on donated easels during the annual Week of the Young Child and sold to the people who attend. Children and their instructors seemingly turn anything into art, including colorful puzzle pieces, inexpensive plastic beads and even plastic milk containers, which were transformed into an igloo. All the class programs include meals and outdoors activities – playtime and tending six garden boxes, learning additional skills to last a lifetime. Children with speech issues get the attention of therapists and assistants from the Coalinga-Huron Joint Unified School District. Several autistic children at the Coalinga center receive customized attention. The centers forge partnerships with school districts and also with First 5, Children’s Services Network, the Fresno County Office of Education, fire and police departments and waste management agencies. There are different connections in each community. One example is establishing an office for the state’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. “We didn’t have one in Coalinga and many of our parents need WIC,” says Cleveland. “We had some office space available, so I asked WIC if they’d like to be here and they agreed,” making the center WIC’s Coalinga community headquarters. Another key ingredient of the center program is early-childhood education training for prospective teachers such as Iniguez, who says she’s been around the center “forever,” starting in Miss Marisela’s class two decades ago. Marisela Tamayo still teaches at the center and her daughter, Mayra, is an assistant. Iniguez began reading to center children when she was in middle school and was an intern during high school. Besides that, she volunteered to help out whenever she could. “Because of my mother working here, I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little,” she says, now just two classes shy of earning a degree from Ashford University (an online college headquartered in Iowa) Cleveland calls Iniguez “a natural teacher.” But Iniguez says she is still learning, and the center offers support and experience-training to pursue her teaching career after obtaining a credential. “I can ask anyone [on the staff] anything and they’ll help me,” she says. “I learn different ways to do things and they let me try things.” The 4-year-old kinder-prep children in her class play outside as she chats with a visitor, but they come close from time to time to connect with their teacher, never interrupting, and Iniguez constantly scans the playground watching out for her “family.” And they are like family – the teacher and her charges – because of the center’s continuity of care commitment in which teachers stay with the children from infancy through the kindergarten prep program whenever possible. The goal is help ensure children – and their parents – are comfortable with the teacher and that the teacher can form a bond with each child. Iniguez, in embracing the West Hills Community College Child Development Centers program from childhood to young adulthood, is that seed about which Chancellor Gornick spoke. And when she’s teaching and drawing on what she learned at the Coalinga center, she plants new seeds to bear new fruit. Larson is a retired journalist, freelance writer and editor, whose stories have appeared in the Fresno State magazine and other publications.

Read more about the CDC online at: http://www.westhillscollege.com/district/child_development_centers/staff.asp



West Hills magazine

West Hills College Child Development Centers program goals

• To provide high-quality early care and

education emphasizing social, emotional, cognitive, language, literacy, and physical growth and development for each child.

• To provide early intervention for children with special needs in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team (our staff, the parents, the local school district, and various service agencies).

• To enhance family capacity by providing

services and education for parents while they pursue their career and/or educational goals and to develop a true partnership with each family.

• To be an exemplary model of best practices

in early education and serve as a laboratory school for students enrolled in courses, which are related to children and their development.

EECU has everything the big banks have, but with way better customer service! — Andrea Bavaro Member Since 2004

• To support early childhood educators throughout the district with their professional and personal growth.

West Hills CDC program by the numbers

• • •

2 months, the youngest children enrolled

10 hours the Coalinga center is open weekdays (7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)

• • •

24 children in biggest center classes

740 children served by all the centers

3 infants per staff member in that program 8 centers (3 in Avenal, 1 each in Lemoore, Coalinga, San Joaquin, Huron and Firebaugh)

55 staffers at the centers 80 percent of staff bilingual (Spanish and English)

Call 1-800-538-EECU or visit one of our 15 branches to find out what we can do for you!

WHC Grad

Peace Corps gives back through the


oel Saldaña, Jr. sat through a grueling three-hour interview process, followed by several lengthy phone interviews, assessments and even language tests. He underwent medical exams and a hefty security clearance before the process was done. Finally, he was invited to become a Peace Corps volunteer in the Royal Kingdom of Thailand.

“Many people think that you just join the Peace Corps,” he said. “In reality, I went through a year-long vetting process.” Saldaña, a 2006 WHCC graduate who attended the North District Center, Firebaugh, was invited to serve 27 months in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, as a community development volunteer. After a year of service, he learned that investing in people by spending time with them and sharing in their experiences of daily life, and not his actual work, was the most important part of his service. “What mattered much more than the giving of my time was to eat with someone and to enjoy strange new foods - which I eventually came to love and will miss. That is what mattered most,” he said. “In the end it was about simple things - the spending time together with my villagers harvesting rice by hand, or making merit at the temple. Living like them was the most important thing.” He spent most of his time teaching English to elementary school children and adults such as village health volunteers. He also spent



West Hills magazine

some time volunteering with the Thai Youth Theatre, helping children grow in their English skills through performing arts. While the most rewarding of experiences, Saldaña said it was also more challenging than he expected. He spent two months in a Bangkok hospital for knee surgery and underwent physical therapy for three months. “While teaching students at a leadership camp how to play capture the flag, I twisted my leg and tore my ACL,” he said. “At least it was in the line of duty.” In March, he finished up his service, adding yet another achievement to the list that is ever growing. “As a first-generation American, I’m living the American dream,” he said. Saldaña grew up in Firebaugh, but his parents were born and raised in Mexico, met while working in the Imperial Valley and eventually moved to the Central Valley. Saldaña is the first in his family to attend college, and he earned his associate’s degree in liberal arts from West Hills College.

“Undoubtedly, my education at NDC prepared me and opened my eyes to a world of higher education, public discourse, and lifelong learning,” he said. “I remember very well it was during my time at NDC that I began my love of reading, propelling my passion to make a difference in the world and to continue my education.” But education is only the first of his accomplishments. His goal was to start teaching high school after earning his bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural education from California State University, Fresno. However, life took him in a much different direction after graduation. “Ironically, I never ended up in the classroom but instead found myself at the center of agricultural, food and water policy in my post-graduate years working in politics for a valley congressman,” he said. He developed an interest in politics during college and landed his first internship working for Congressman Jose E. Serrano in Washington, D.C., in 2007. It was an opportunity granted to him by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. The following summer, Saldaña returned to D.C. as a Costa Scholar Intern for Congressman Jim Costa, this time through the Maddy Institute at Fresno State. Upon graduation, Saldaña worked as a district representative for Costa’s office in Fresno. “The passion I have in politics is beyond interest,” said Saldaña. “I have always believed in doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people and this principle will remain with me for the eternity of my life.” Now that his term in the Peace Corps is over, Saldaña isn’t sure what lies ahead. But he does know one thing: growing up in the

‘As a first-generation American, I’m living the American dream.’ Central Valley and his education at West Hills College prepared him well for whatever he will face in life, and he will use those experiences to continue helping others. “We are a product of our experiences and being raised in the Valley has prepared me for everything,” he said. “I used to read posters on the walls during my time at West Hills, that once you go here, you can go anywhere. Those words could not be more true to me than they are today.”

Peace Corps volunteer Joel Saldaña, Jr. had many new experiences during his service in Thailand, including being welcomed to the villages with a traditional cultural ceremony, harvesting rice by hand from a local rice paddy, feeding bananas to an elephant and working with village children to improve their English skills.

Spring 2014



WHCCD Offers Revolutionary New Class Schedule Option

A new registration program will soon allow students in the West Hills Community College District to register for all three semesters of the academic year at once and will aid student retention and academic planning. The new Reg365 program will enable students district-wide to plan and guarantee their schedule for the full academic year. West Hills College Coalinga President Carole Goldsmith said the program is a move toward a new way of thinking about providing scheduling for and serving a new type of student. “We can’t continue to do business as we’ve done for the past 100 years,” Goldsmith said. “Our students look different and we know our students aren’t traditional, and so we want to make sure we aren’t a traditional college. We want to meet their needs.” Goldsmith added that the year-round scheduling would benefit all students, but would be particularly of use to students with educational plans and non-traditional students including working students and student parents by providing the opportunity to plan their year. WHCC Student Body President Kristian Wilson said the program will provide students with a way to stay focused. “It’s a good way for students to stay on task and on top of everything they need to do to graduate,” Wilson said. “It gives them a better outlook on what exactly they need to do and how to do it.” Sandy McGlothlin, vice president of student services at WHCC, said planning for the program began in the spring of 2013 after the passage of Senate Bill 1456 and creation of the Student Success and Support Program.



West Hills magazine

“The Student Success Task Force recommendations were put into place which target orientation, assessment, counseling and developing an educational plan,” McGlothlin said. As the new program launches, the class schedule for 201415 has been developed, with open registration beginning on May 5. Students can also access priority registration dates on April 7. Students will need to pay for classes within 24 hours of registering with payment for Spring 2015 due on Nov. 1. By allowing for the ability to schedule in advance, Sylvia Dorsey-Robinson, West Hills College Lemoore vice president of student services, said the new program could serve to keep students from procrastinating when it comes to designing their education plan and choosing classes. “When you do individual semester registration you tend to lose students semester to semester, but this gives students the tools to commit to a full year,” she said. “This allows them the window to seal the deal.” WHCL Lemoore Student Body President Jason Loyche said the program gives students a goal to work toward. He added that it can serve as motivation. “As student body president, and as a student, I think Reg365 is a great thing,” Loyche said. “It gives students a view of the end game for them and a goal. When that goal is in place, it is easy to reach.”

The program’s implementation comes at a time when both WHCC and WHCL are working with several outside groups to refine their classes and goals for student learning. The Coalinga campus is one of 11 schools chosen as part of the Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile Project, which kicked off in April 2013. Then, in December 2013, WHCL was chosen as one of 12 community colleges to participate in the Achieving the Dream program. Achieving the Dream, which will kick off in August 2014, is designed to help colleges increase graduation and transfer rates for underrepresented and minority students by analyzing data about student populations. As part of the program, a coach will come to the Lemoore campus and help install processes and programs that target these underrepresented groups. WHCL President Don Warkentin said the program is well suited to increasing graduation rates in the area and improving how the school serves its community. “There’s high unemployment and low college completion as far as number of residents with a bachelor’s degree in our area and more and more jobs are requiring higher degrees,” Warkentin said. “We’re perfectly situated to help serve our community and help them to get the training and education they need.” In Coalinga, the Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile Project has helped administrators, counselors and professors at WHCC take a look at the educational value of the degrees offered to students. Project co-chair Sarah Shepard said the profile analyzes student learning outcomes, or what the student is expected to know how to do by the end of a course, and analyzes the value of a degree based on five categories of learning.

The five categories of learning include specialized and broad knowledge, intellectual skills, applied learning and civic learning. Shepard said the ultimate goal of the program is to institutionalize this way of looking at degrees so that degree programs can be refined to better prepare students for their field. She said the program will make it easier to define and illustrate to students the value of their degree and courses and will make it easier to design an educational plan. “We will be able to demonstrate the value of all of our degrees to any student,” Shepard said. “If a student says they want to be a chemist we can look at the chemistry degree and explain the value of that degree and how it’s going to help them achieve their long-term goals.” According to Dorsey-Robinson, all three programs demonstrate the attitude the West Hills Community College District takes toward student success. “West Hills views student success as a personal responsibility and commitment, and everything we do is a line to that execution of student success,” she said. “Ultimately, an educated Central Valley is a prosperous Central Valley.”

‘We can’t continue to do business as we’ve done for the past 100 years.’ Carole Goldsmith WHCC President

Spring 2014



“The instructors are really open and they talk to us if a student is struggling,” Rosa said. “I know some other middle college high schools have a tough time with college instructors but our relationship with the college is absolutely phenomenal.” In addition to attending classes, the students also engage in campus life. They conduct campus clean-up days, cheer on WHCL’s sports teams at games and perform concerts on campus as part of the high school’s music program. Some students are also involved in college clubs. “We don’t feel like a stepchild in any way,” Rosa said. “We feel like a part of campus and the school makes us feel that way.” The school has had the highest test scores in Kings County for the last six years in a row and is the number one ranked academic high school in King’s County and fifth in the Central Valley. The campus also hosts the Lemoore University Elementary Charter School, which serves 240 students from grades 5 through 8. The school was a 2013 California Distinguished School, a recognition awarded to recognize high performing elementary schools in California. According to school dean Crescenciano Camarena, this was the first time in at least 20 years that the Lemoore Union Elementary School District had a school gain this recognition. Gage Teller, a 7th grade student at the school, said he feels the school provides a great environment in which to learn. “The teachers help me out and it feels good to have great teachers that really care about their students,” Teller said. Lemoore Middle College High School students Nora Jimenez and Douglas Burleson are among more than 200 high school students who take classes at WHCL and work closely with librarian Ron Oxford and LMCHS teacher Linda Reis.

Education Provided for All Ages at West Hills College Lemoore By Jamie Applegate


visitor to the library on the West Hills College Lemoore campus might notice something interesting: while the library has its fair share of studying college students, it’s also often full of busy middle school and high school students. The college campus is home to Lemoore University Elementary Charter School, Lemoore Middle College High School and the WHCL Child Development Center. Their students and staff contribute in several ways to the campus atmosphere. Librarian Ron Oxford, who has worked closely with both Middle College High School and Elementary Charter School students in his role as librarian, said the campus’ unique relationship with these groups has sculpted it into a place for people of all ages to receive a great education. “It’s easy once we’re on campus to become used to the fact that we have toddlers walking around and high school students studying next to college students and students dropping their kids



West Hills magazine

off to daycare,” Oxford said. “That whole dynamic is very unique and I don’t know of anywhere else that students can literally go from being an infant at the child care center to being a student at the college, and that’s great.” The more than 200 students of Lemoore Middle College High School have a close working relationship with the college and often engage in campus activities in addition to attending WHCL classes, said Principal Victor Rosa. Cassidy Scott, a junior at LMCHS, said the school provides many opportunities for motivated students. “This school is all around a great opportunity for those seeking further education and is a great challenge for anyone up to it,” said Scott. As a college preparation school, its students take classes at WHCL as part of their regular school day - including a college success class and classes that could be applied toward their future college major.

‘There are few community colleges in California that have these sorts of partnerships on their campuses like West Hills College Lemoore.’ Dave Bolt VP of Educational Services

The University Charter School and WHCL child development center also serve as teaching labs where West Hills students gain valuable teaching experience as they tutor and teach at the facilities. At the University Charter School, students in WHCL’s Education 5 class conduct classroom observations and work with teachers to create and teach lessons. “Having an elementary school on campus makes it easier for education students to have real world experiences without them having to leave campus,” Camarena said. “The convenience is a plus for the students.” The campus child development center also provides a lab school setting for courses offered at West Hills College, Brandman University and Fresno Pacific University. Students can work directly with the children or under the direction of a lead teacher, or can work in the kitchen or front business office. Nancy Jeffcoach, site supervisor, said the center not only provides a safe place for student parents to take children up to five years old, but also serves the community and students alike. “Over the course of the years our goal of serving the student population has expanded to our serving our community and providing high quality early learning opportunities so children and families could reach their potentials and goals,” Jeffcoach said. She said the child development center has also worked with the Middle College High School art and music departments to provide opportunities for the children at the center to learn about instruments and art. The high school also hosts a fall carnival for the child development program each year, organized by the school’s students. According to Camarena, the presence of the charter schools and development center on campus helps to get students of all ages used to the idea of attending college and encourages them to do so. “Our kids think of college as a possibility because they’re already close to a college Dawn Thomas teaches a 7th grade class at Lemoore University Elementary School, which campus, so it isn’t a leap to think of continuing serves students in grades 5-8. It also functions as a teaching lab along with the WHCL Child Development Center, where education majors can gain real-world experience. their education at a college campus,” he said.

Applegate is a freelance writer and a reporter for the Coalinga Recorder, and a recent graduate of UC Berkeley.

Spring 2014




umans once wrote on stone tablets in order to communicate laws, history and information. The discovery of papyrus scrolls revolutionized communications in its time. Today we write by tapping a keyboard that transforms words onto an electronic screen. We are now reading symbols chiseled on light rather than stone.

The Journey from Stone Tablets to Tablets Full of We’ve evolved to the point we are writing on tablets again. But these tablets are smaller and lighter than in the days of old. We’ve come full circle, but we stand in a different place. What’s unchanged is the revolution; it continues on. That pretty much describes the transformation taking place at West Hills Community College District, where administrators and faculty are sharing ideas about using tablets – mobile electronic devices – to enhance learning, level the playing field for a diverse student body, and meet the growing demand placed on higher education to own student success. The idea is to bring tablets – specifically the Apple iPad – to campus and integrate them into the curriculum, put them in the hands of instructors and students, and move forward into the 21st century. To WHCCD Chancellor Frank Gornick it’s the logical extension of the district’s “relentless focus on student success.” He is not alone in his vision. The seven-person Board of Trustees of the district, with a combined total of more than 150 years of experience in serving students and higher education at WHCCD, approved the concept and invited the Apple tech team to come to campus to talk. Those talks led to an agreement that will put iPads into the hands of about 100 faculty members, counselors and librarians and, soon after that, into the hands of a large number of students. There are details to work out, of course, but an initial training session is on the calendar this spring. At that time, faculty from the district’s campuses in Coalinga and Lemoore will each spend time being trained to use these devices to enhance their teaching goals. Students will get theirs later and they’ll be eligible for a



West Hills magazine

unique program that the college calls Lend/Learn. Students will be able to lease iPads for a small monthly fee and become eligible to purchase at a nominal cost when they finish their coursework. “There is no doubt that the technology that we use today will be a forerunner of how it will be used in the future,” Gornick said. “Education will be a significant benefactor of this technology. Our goal is to enable our faculty to engage students in new and different ways. At the same time, we will be able to maintain the high standards necessary for students to compete in our global economy. We are very excited about this.” West Hills began moving in a new direction months ago when the district shifted the Board of Trustees over to a “paperless” method of conducting business at their regular monthly meetings. The board used to receive several pounds of paper, mailed to them prior to each meeting. This included numerous support documents, contracts, reports, and the like. Trustees shuffled paper and went through the agenda. Over just a few months, they were trained to use iPads, their documents were emailed to them in advance, and they walked into the meeting with a device weighing about one pound. It sped up meeting preparation and the meetings themselves and changed everything. At a recent board meeting, there was a discussion about the new technology. Board members were positive about the experience. Gornick outlined the next suggested step, to bring iPads to the classroom. “We are extremely aware that these tools are changing the way we work and live,” he said. “At Corcoran High School, for example, which feeds a number of students into our colleges, the students are being taught to learn with the help

of these devices. This is a trend that will quickly spread to other schools. Soon these students will come to our classrooms. Right now, they would look around and wonder where our technology is. We could show them we do use PowerPoint, and they’d ask, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ We can’t lead if that happens. And leading is what we are supposed to do. The use of technology to achieve student success and retention, that’s our brand.” The board brought up questions and Gornick and the college staff responded. The discussion covered a lot of ground: • Was there enough broadband on campus to allow all these devices to go online? • Would the Lend/Learn program level the playing field for students who couldn’t afford to buy iPads? • Would financial aid cover some of the cost of these devices? • Should the campus set up a “Genius Bar” to help faculty and students with operational questions? • Could the college reach out to business owners to provide more web access to students, the way Starbucks and some fast food restaurants do? • Would the move impact remediation and basic skills development so students could advance more quickly? • Would faculty and students buy into the program? “There is a lot of thought behind this initiative,” according to Stu Van Horn, vice chancellor of educational services and workforce development, “and a lot of research has been done by faculty and the administration about how to best do this so that dollars aren’t wasted. It will open up a world to our students and we’re going all in because we believe, along with so many

hundreds of institutions around the country, that this is the right way to allow teachers to teach and students to learn.” Van Horn said a survey of both full-time and adjunct faculty members was completed recently. The district will integrate the responses into the training and roll out of the Apple iPad Project. Jeffrey Wanderer, president of the academic senate at West Hills College Coalinga, said the project is “a very exciting way for our students and our faculty to pioneer education as we head in to the 21st century. The landscape of education is changing and we need to respond. While we don’t need to throw away all of our chalk, we should take full advantage of the tools by which the next generation accesses and understands information.” The college is already known as a leader in reforming the way colleges teach career tech courses and has in recent years raised the bar with such initiatives as imbedded remediation, open source textbooks, priority registration as well as the just-announced Reg365 which allows students to sign up for a year’s worth of classes at one time. This is one more step in that evolutionary process.

‘A lot of research has been done … and it will open up a world to our students.’ Stu Van Horn Vice Chancellor of Educational Services, Workforce Development

Spring 2014



Teaching Student Athletes to Become

Successful in College &Life by Tyler A. Takeda After sitting through hundreds of athletic contests, spectators are trained to keep one eye on the scoreboard. It tells them who’s winning, who’s losing. The scoreboard doesn’t lie. It just doesn’t tell the whole story. In some instances, that scoreboard doesn’t really matter, particularly at the community college level. In the overall scheme of things, the role that the community college plays in getting a student-athlete ready for the next level, either at a four-year institution or in the workforce, is the primary goal. “Our main focus is enhancing a student-athlete’s academic and social skills before their athletic enhancement,” said Mark Gritton, West Hills College Coalinga athletic director. “Some of them don’t graduate, but it’s nice knowing that they are coming out of this program and are successful.” “Our goal is to move them on, whether athletically or Focus on academic success was already part of the academic program back when Walt Johnson (third from left) was head baseball coach in 1963. He’s flanked by his coaching staff: Bill Boyer, Lee Graupman, and Dave Sherbourne.



West Hills magazine

academically,” said Allen Fortune, West Hills College Lemoore athletic director. “We need to help them find their focus academically. We try to hone in on the talents and some of their interests.” Emphasizing academics at West Hills College is the approach that’s been taken since the college district was born in 1932. “The philosophy has stayed the same, whether we won or lost,” said Frank Gornick, who played football at Coalinga College in the 1960s. “It carried over when we built the campus at Lemoore a decade ago. It’s a common thread running through our history.” That was the case when Gornick attended college here. The athletic director who had a big impact on his life as a young man was Walt Johnson, who later moved to Bakersfield College and has long since retired. “We tried to prepare them for the next level,” Johnson said. “I’m a guy that believes our job is to get them prepared to transfer and come out with a degree. I think the community colleges have done a great job. If it weren’t for athletics, a lot of them wouldn’t have come to college.” New coaches adopt the same approach. In fact, when there’s an opening the college insists on hiring coaches who already possess those standards. And the coaches in turn play the student success card when talking with interested student athletes about coming to college here.

Andrea Picchi is the women’s basketball coach at West Hills College Lemoore. “We emphasize academics from the start in the recruiting process,” she said. “Our job as instructors and coaches is to prepare the student athlete for the next level. That includes time management and study skills as well as jumpers and dribbling.”

Former Athletic Director Bob Clement (right), receives a commendation from WHCL President Don Warkentin for his years of service. Clement emphasized to his athletes how important it was that they set an example and maintain high academic standards.

This often involves setting specific guidelines for new players when they’re in the classroom. “To accomplish this we have academic standards such as all students must sit in the first three rows,” Picchi said. “Study hall has a mandatory set amount of time and grade checks are distributed. We believe that with consistency, understanding of expectations, and support to achieve these goals the student athlete will rise to the occasion.” Robert (Bob) Clement is a retired coach and athletic director whose resume includes stints as athletic director at WHC Coalinga, and later at WHC Lemoore. One way he was instrumental in encouraging college athletes to be “students first” was in creating a Student Athlete Orientation Day. The event was held prior to the start of the fall semester at West Hills College. “Rarely are all the athletes in the same room at the same time during the year,” he said, “so this was an opportunity to get them together and talk to them about their role on campus.” The orientation emphasized the need for a strong work ethic and responsibility. “We talked about being held to a higher standard, about being visible at the college, ambassadors in the community, and setting the example,” Clement recalls. “We tried to get across a very strong message: that you are a student first, an athlete second.”

Spring 2014



District Retirees Make History with 380 Years of Service

WHCC students suit up the uniform of several team sports including baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, football and rodeo, and are joined by the cheerleaders. West Hills College promotes a healthy balance between sports and academics.

Gritton says that it’s the job of the community college to get students prepared for the next level. Not only prepared, but prepared to succeed. “It’s our job to make sure that, academically and socially, they are prepared to not only go to those other schools, but to graduate from those schools.” West Hills’ newly adopted mission Allen Fortune WHCL athletic director statement includes this phrase: “We are relentlessly focused on student success.” While the phrase is new, the idea is not. “It was the foundation to the building process,” said Darius Vinnett, West Hills College graduate (2004), former National Football League player and scout for the Arizona Cardinals. “The community college taught me to prioritize my time and be responsible. Mark Gritton It was a long way from home for me. WHCC athletic director I didn’t have people to tell me to go to class, do my homework or do my studies. It taught me to be on my own and self-sufficient.” The role of community college athletics might pale in comparison to action at the Division I level seen on television at



West Hills magazine

the national championships, but it is an important part in a student’s life. “The NCAA has shown commercials emphasizing not all of us are going to be professional athletes,” Fortune said. “Athletics can be an incentive for students to use as a way to motivate them to achieve academic goals when they don’t necessarily know what they Andrea Picchi WHCL women’s want to do.” basketball coach “We’re putting them into a structure,” Gritton said. “As athletes, we’re held to a higher standard because of the eligibility requirements. Our opinion is just being eligible is the bare minimum while our goal is to exceed the bare minimum. Why not do more than barely get by?” The community college landscape can be a perfect atmosphere for young men and women to find themselves. “West Hills was my first college experience and I had a lot of people in my corner,” Vinnett said. “I look back at my experience there and wouldn’t trade it. I tell Coach Gritton that he’s the best coach I’ve had.”

Takeda is an area journalist, sports editor for the Madera Tribune and editor of the Coalinga Recorder.

A strong tribute to any employer is the dedication and longevity of its employees. West Hills Community College District has 17 employees retiring this year with a combined total of 380 years of service. Some, like Jean Schawe, have worked for the district as many as 40 years. “The combined longevity of our retirees this year is a testament to West Hills College as a premier institution that is dedicated to serving its students and its community,” said Don Warkentin, president of West Hills College Lemoore. Some of these employees remember a time when the district had only one campus called Coalinga College. They remember a period when there was not yet a chancellor. Others were here for the opening of the North District Center in Firebaugh. Marlese Roton, who worked as a counselor at NDC for 18 years, helped move boxes into the new offices that now occupy the vacated bowling alley in Firebaugh. She said she looks back on their framed pictures of graduates and is pleased to notice that the first photo showcases six students while the most recent boasts 50 graduates. Some of the retirees remember when West Hills College Lemoore was still a small campus in portable buildings on Cinnamon Ave. All but two were here when the new campus was built in 2002. Schawe is the only employee with 40 years of service and is No. 1 on the district seniority list (see sidebar on Schawe). Those with 30 years or more are Larry Beloof, Veronica Grijalva, Bruce Hunt and Merlin Welch. Employees with 20 or more are Anne Jorgens, Kim Castagna, Linda Amaya-Guenon, Laura Ames (not pictured) and Cherie Mitchell. The impact these employees have had on the district and its success over the years is unquestionable. Retirees note that the district has had its share of positive influences on them as well. “While working at West Hills College, I became inspired to start attending college at the age of 35,” said Grijalva, a counselor at WHCL. “I always worked here full time and attended school part time. It took me 15 years to earn my master’s degree in educational counseling.”

Roton, Annie Mata, Jose Lopez, Leonard Bass and Kathy Watts have all been with the district more than 10 years. Those with less than 10 years of service are Jim Brixey and Michael McDowell. The longevity of these employees speaks highly of the district, and their dedication and passion for education made it an ideal place to work. It became a source of family for many. “I will miss working with the students most, especially the art majors,” said McDowell, art instructor at WCHL. “I’ll also miss the camaraderie shared with many of my fellow faculty members. I feel particularly blessed to have worked with many committed educators and to be a part of a great team in the Arts and Letters learning area.” Of the 17 retirees, 7 are from WHCC, 6 are from WHCL and three are district employees. “Our employees have dedicated their careers to the educational attainment of individuals and the advancement of our community through the power of education,” said Carole Goldsmith, WHCC President. “They have given a lifetime of dedication to our students, our communities and ultimately our state. For that, they are most deserving of our highest respect.”

30 Years or more

Bruce Hunt

Bruce Hunt | My wife Liz and I came with two young children to West Hills in the fall of 1983 and we never left. West Hills gave me the opportunity to combine my passion for rodeo and a career as a coach and mentor. I will miss my West Hills family. I take pride in being a small part of the success of the hundreds of students that competed as Rodeo Falcons. I look forward to the future of West Hills College and watching it soar to the next level and think that I was once a part of this great organization.

Spring 2014



hen Jean Schawe was hired at Coalinga College 42 years ago, all the paperwork in the business office was done the old-fashioned way. Schawe is retiring this year and taking with her much of the history of the two-campus district. “The first several years I was here, everything was done by hand, and so going to a computer system, that was a big change,” said Schawe. “You look back now and think, how were we able to do our work by hand and without the help of a computer?” During her career at West Hills College, she transitioned from working by hand to using computers, Frank Gornick became the first chancellor, and the district opened West Hills College Lemoore and the North District Center. No. 1 on the seniority list, Schawe is retiring in April from the only job she’s ever had. Through her two years as a student worker and her 40 years as a full-time employee, Schawe has worked under at least six West Hills College Coalinga presidents and at least six business managers. And during that time, she’s only had two different positions: switchboard operator and accounting technician. She earned her associate’s degree in business from WHCC and intended to transfer to Fresno State, but she enjoyed having a consistent paycheck and decided to stay in Coalinga and continue working for the college. “It’s the one and only job I’ve ever had,” she said. “I liked my job, and I was born and raised here. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else.” Among her favorite memories of work were the Christmas and retirement parties at Fifth Lane, a former restaurant, steakhouse and bowling alley in Huron. She also commends district faculty and staff for making her job enjoyable. She will miss seeing them in the office every day although she admits she will still see some of them on occasion. “There’s just too many memories to pick just one out, but I really enjoyed getting to know the staff, teachers, administration and students,” she said. “There were a lot of really, really, really good people.” Despite the level of dedication Schawe has to her job, she’s looking forward to retirement. She has plans to sleep in, travel throughout the United States and visit with family in neighboring towns. “I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I can do what I want when I want instead of having my job dictate when I can do things, so I’m looking forward to that. But other than that, I don’t know what to expect yet.”

40 Years



West Hills magazine

Veronica Grijalva Veronica Grijalva | I have worked for West Hills College for 30 years. One of my favorite memories from working at West Hills College Lemoore is when we first moved into the new facilities. Another wonderful day was when our beautiful Golden Eagle Arena was completed and we had our first WHCL graduation ceremony in a temperature controlled building. My thoughts on retirement are that I can’t believe it came so fast! I plan on traveling a lot and enjoying my three children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as my husband. I will volunteer. I have plenty of places in mind and “rest for the first year.” After that who knows, maybe I’ll try teaching here at West Hills College, a class or two. I feel I still have a lot of knowledge to share.

20 Years or more

Linda Amaya-Guenon

Linda Amaya-Guenon | I worked at West Hills College Lemoore for 27 years, and one of my favorite memories is working out of the “trailer park,” which is what we called the old site on Cinnamon Ave. I will miss being an EOPS counselor and guiding and encouraging our students to reach their potential. My thought on retirement is that retirement is greatly exaggerated. I will relocate in a few years and work part time. Anne Jorgens

Anne Jorgens | I started out working as a farm office secretary in 1985 and worked my way up to budget services supervisor in 2001. I’ve been with West Hills College for 29 years. Some of my favorite memories include watching all the changes throughout the district during that time. It’s amazing to see where West Hills is today compared to where we were in 1985. Aside from being “Grandma-On-Call,” I’m planning a trip to Australia this year to visit my mom, sister, brother and all my other relatives, and a visit my daughter in Portland, Ore. The rest of the time I’ll read, take up knitting again and just relax.

10 Years or more


Jose Lopez

Jose Lopez | I worked at West Hills College Lemoore for 14 years as a full-time employee. My favorite memory was my first day on the job, and I enjoyed working with James Preston. Of course, my favorite part of my job is working with the students. It’s all about the students. What are my thoughts on retirement? Anticipation, perhaps watching the days go by like catsup from a bottle.

Former West Hills College Trustee Vernon Gordon Dies at 85

Marlese Roton Marlese Roton | I started working at the North District Center on Saipan in December 1994 and helped everyone move into the current facility in January 1995. I became a full-time counselor in 1997. For a few years, I served as the North District Center director. I enjoyed serving as a counselor and my involvement with ASB to organize and carry out events for students. I am very excited about retiring. We plan to live half the year on the island of Kauai and half the year in Aptos, Calif. We plan to travel (road trips in California and neighboring states) and a few trips out of the country. I will have more time for my hobbies which include: painting, crafting, picking up sea glass, snorkeling, surfing, learning to play the ukulele and to do the hula, take a few college and community classes, teach a few online classes through WHCCD., and possibly take a few mission trips with our church! I also plan to spend more time with family and friends, especially my hubby, parents, children, sister and grandchildren.

less than10 Years

Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell | I worked for the college for 15 years. I will miss working with the students most, especially the art majors. I’ll also miss the camaraderie shared with many of my fellow faculty members. Retirement sounds like such a finite term. I prefer to think of this new chapter in life as being infinite. The first order of business will be to re-establish a career as an exhibiting artist. Once that has been accomplished I hope to continue broadening my understanding of the world around me by striving to have new experiences and gaining new perspectives. What is one thing people would be never believe I am planning to do in retirement? That I might become a golfer, and they’re probably right. It will never happen.

Retirees will be honored during a special dinner April 26. 30 Years or more Larry Beloof

20 Years or more Merlin Welch

Kim Castagna

10 Years or more Cherie Mitchell

Leonard Bass


Vernon Gordon, a former member of the West Hills College Board of Trustees, died Jan. 9 in Fresno, Calif., at the age of 85. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Mae. Gordon served as a trustee from June 1981 to January 1994. When he moved to California from Oklahoma in 1943, he worked nights baling hay at a cotton gin and drove a gasoline tanker at a service station. Gordon began farming in 1950 and continued until he retired in 2000. He was a Korean War veteran and served in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps from 1953-1954. Gordon was Grand Master of Masons in California and Hawaii in 1980 and a member of Emeritus of the International Supreme Council Order of DeMolay. He was also Worthy Grand Patron of the Order of the Eastern Star in California in 1992. Gordon was a member at Tranquillity Methodist Church for 58 years.

Former WHCC Employee Sandra Belt Was 79 Sandra Belt, a retired food services worker at West Hills College Coalinga, died Feb. 16 at the age of 79. Belt was a survivor of bladder cancer. She graduated from Coalinga Union High School in 1954 and attended Coalinga College. Before working in food services at WHCC, she worked in the snack bar at Coalinga High School. She raised her four children in Coalinga and lived there for 72 years. She was an active member of St. Phillip’s Anglican Church and was involved in the Camp San Joaquin Booster Association. She was also voted Mother of the Year and was a member of the Class of ’54 alumni group and the Diocesan’s Women’s Group.

less than 10 Years Annie Mata

Kathy Watts

Jim Brixey

Spring 2014






9900 Cody Street Coalinga, CA 93210

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9900 Cody St., Coalinga, CA 93210 (559) 934-2134 Email: FrancesSquire@whccd.edu