West Hills Magazine - Spring 2016 (Issue 6)

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Spring 2016


Breaking Out

Eye Opening Experience Shifts Student’s Paradigm

Technology Provides Boost In Math, Science Instruction From Huron to Zurich: You Can Go Anywhere! Dual Enrollment Program Provides College Instruction at Valley High Schools


We’re Inspired By the Way Our Students Overcome Obstacles

Copyright 2016 by West Hills Community College District. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission prohibited. WEST HILLS MAGAZINE Number 6 Spring 2016 Published Spring 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 Frank Gornick, Chancellor, WHCCD Carole Goldsmith, President, WHCC Kristin Clark, President, WHCL

BOARD OF TRUSTEES Mark McKean, President, Area 5 Nina Oxborrow, Area 1 Jack Minnite, Area 2 Jeff Levinson, Area 7 Steve Cantu, Area 6 Martin Maldonado, Area 3 Bobby Lee, Area 4

MANAGING EDITOR Amber Myrick Director, WHCCD Marketing, Communications, Public Information

EDITOR Tom Wixon


WEBMASTER Carlos Posadas

PHOTOGRAPHY Dennis Gallegos, Tom Wixon

GRAPHIC DESIGN Merili Loucks, Kristi Carlson


Inspirational. That is the one word I would use to describe this issue of our West Hills Magazine. One of the great joys of being on the team at West Hills Community College District is the opportunity to work with great professionals. They make themselves great by the passion they have for the work they do in assisting students to achieve their educational goals and dreams. I may be biased in my view, but I believe that this characteristic, the relentless pursuit of student success, is what separates us from our competition. Our staff excels at this trait because we are always looking for ways to become better and we are not afraid to look at our weaknesses. We care greatly for the students who attend our colleges and centers. This issue of the magazine highlights just a few of the wonderful success stories of individual students who have been helped to overcome obstacles and reach their goals. You’ll read about a mother and son, an immigrant student, after school programs, our cooperation with other agencies, the introduction of math and science and its relevance to all our programs led by a faculty and staff who have the passion for what they do: inspire to learn! As you browse this edition it is important to note the diversity of life experiences each of these stories brings to the pages of this magazine. This diversity is common at our colleges; we don’t view it as just another challenge; rather it is our “secret sauce.” We thrive on providing students a pathway to their dreams, no matter what path they are on when they first arrive at our doors. I would be remiss in this column if I didn’t single out one staff member who will be retiring this month; he is the Editor of our award winning magazine, Tom Wixon. He helped create this magazine from scratch three years ago and because of his talents and the assembled writers and creative staff we are now the standard bearer for community colleges. On a personal note, Tom and his wife Jeannie have really become friends of the valley and our small town life. He has been a true friend and confidant to me and mentor to many. All of us wish Jeannie and Tom a long and prosperous retirement. Regards,

Frank Gornick, Chancellor West Hills Community College District


table of


8 All In the Family

It’s a Whole New Approach to LIFE

She dropped out of school to marry and raise a family. Her son joined the Marines and suffered serious injuries in combat. Together, mother and son set an ambitious goal: they would graduate from college together.

“…we are not just in the business of serving students with quality educational services, but also developing leaders,” says Oscar Villarreal, who directs Learning In a Fun Environment at West Hills College Lemoore, an afterschool program for young pupils led by college students. Here, everyone learns something valuable about LIFE.

Rush Is a Campus Event 14 Club That Brings Students Together

From sign language to hospitality to art to religion, there’s a club for almost every student at West Hills College. The annual Club Rush event is also a way to bring students together with those who share similar interests.

Event Raises Scholarship 16 Cycling Funds for Students at West Hills

It began two years ago as a “metric century,” a 100 kilometer event through the canyons and hills surrounding West Hills College Coalinga. The two-wheeled adventure from the tree-lined campus past oil fields and derricks winds through Los Gatos Canyon where it gains altitude. And fans. This year, more than 100 riders turned out, thanks in part to a partnership with the Fresno Cycling Club. Join the ride!

Completion Initiatives 18 Degree Pay Off for Students, Employers

California has embarked on a plan designed to speed degree completions from community colleges through the UC and CSU systems and the benefits are real, as the number of students transferring and graduating in four years is on the move. Cassandra Sandoval used the program to earn all her needed transfer credits at WHCL in two years, earned her guaranteed admission at Fresno State, and now, four years after she first started college, she works as a reporter whose beat includes….West Hills College!


From Huron to Zurich: A Long Way from Home

The official motto of West Hills College is, “Once You Go Here, You Can Go Anywhere.” That would include Zurich, high in the Swiss Alps and a million miles from Huron where student Alex Avalos boarded a bus one day to go to class in Coalinga. He wound up on a plane to Switzerland where he and a team of young programmers competed at a global tech summit.

Technology Is the Key to Winning The Race in Math and Science It’s been said that “the rapid expansion of human knowledge” is our greatest challenge in the 21st century. Here’s how science and math instructors at West Hills College are using technology to do their part in helping the United States catch up in this very important race to the future.

and a Little Pixie Dust, 20 College, Leads Students to Disney World


Three students at West Hills College Lemoore were lifelong friends and shared a mutual love for all things Disney. They worked their way through college entertaining at children’s parties, where they dressed as popular Disney characters. Now all three are working for Disney parks on both coasts, thanks to a chance connection they made on campus.

Raising Awareness on Campus Each year, West Hills College holds an Awareness Day event to demonstrate the obstacles faced by students with disabilities. There’s a wheelchair race, designed to showcase the obstacles students face when they have to rely on a wheelchair to navigate the campus. There’s a sign language exhibition, which calls attention to the ways in which being deaf can make communication difficult. Other demonstrations show sighted students what it is like to be blind. “The focus is on what they can do, rather than on what they can’t…,” says Lataria Hall, Associate Dean of Categorical Programs at WHCL. Cover Photo by Dennis Gallegos Spring at the Mendota Wildlife Area



Perseverance, Workforce Connection Changed a Young Man’s Life Rodolfo Rodriguez was struggling to find his path in life, when a program at West Hills College Coalinga introduced him to a world of possibilities. He’s now working on his doctorate at UC Merced, completing a remarkable 10-year journey that has already taken him to places he never imagined.

Spring 2016



Enriching LIFE: After School Program Bridges the Gap and Trains Leaders For activity leader Erik Sanchez, after school begins before school even ends. He’s one of many activity leaders in the Learning in a Fun Environment (LIFE) After-School Program at West Hills College Lemoore. Sanchez will graduate in May with plans to eventually become a biology teacher. In the meantime, he teaches students and assists with extracurricular activities at Lemoore Elementary School all while finishing his associate’s degree. “A typical day for me as an activity leader starts off way before I actually walk into my site,” he said. “I say that because I think about the activities that I will be doing with the kids, answers to questions from the previous day, or what I can add to the classroom to make it more welcoming to the students.” LIFE runs from 2-6 p.m. every Monday through Friday and



West Hills magazine

serves 800 students from eight area schools. In the Lemoore Union Elementary School District, more than 100 students attend from each school. Another 100 students per school attend the program in the Reef Sunset Unified School District, with the exception of the middle school. Overall, the program employs 69 employees with hopes of growing more each year. Oscar Villarreal took over leadership of the program in 2013 and has advocated for its growth. The program consists of activity leaders, site coordinators, LIFE coordinators and volunteers. Each district is assigned a LIFE coordinator while each school has one site coordinator and six activity leaders. For each activity leader, there is a classroom of 20 students. “I get to meet so many students with different backgrounds and cultures, or even some that have the same childhood I had,”

said Sanchez. “It is a great program for the students to expand their knowledge and express their personalities.” The program is structured so that students receive a snack and rotate through homework help and academic support stations. The academic support side of LIFE includes iReady program implementation. This is an online student-paced program that supports development of math and reading skills. It’s already in place in Avenal and Kettleman City with plans to bring it to Lemoore next.

They also have an opportunity to participate in after-school activities, such as sports, a cooking elective, and even Girl Scouts. In Avenal, students learn sports fundamentals through the Responsible Athletes Program. LIFE also added a new cooking elective at Reef Sunset Middle School where students gain nutritional knowledge and learn recipes. Other students created a mural based off their favorite healthy foods thanks to involvement from the Kings Community Action Organization. The mural was completed in April and is aimed at promoting healthy eating. Overall, LIFE is living up to its mission statement, which says in part that the program provides a quality enrichment environment that bridges the gap between home and school. It’s not only a benefit to the younger students but the employees and volunteers as well. “The LIFE program provides a great training ground for our future teachers,” said James Preston, Dean of Educational Services and head of the T.E.A.M. Teach program at WHCL. “Over the years, it has been powerful to hear from our students how they take what they have learned in their education classes and how they have put it into practice.” It’s something Elyana Salinas, a WHCL graduate from 2011, values about the program. She initially participated to earn community service hours during high school, then volunteered during college at WHCL and is now back as an activity leader with a degree from Fresno State. Salinas is placed at Avenal Elementary School and has plans to complete her credential and become a teacher. “I enjoy working with kids and making a difference in their lives,” she said. “I enjoy being a role model to them. The program influenced me to become an elementary school teacher.” The program empowers students to excel in school and in life, and it also trains up future teachers. All staff attend leadership trainings and gain invaluable firsthand experience in the classroom. They’ll attend their first retreat later this year. “These programs will continue to evolve and new leaders will rise who will make a difference in our students,” said Villarreal. “The cycle will continue for years to come, because we are not just in the business of serving students with quality educational services, but also developing leaders for our future.”

Elyana Salinas, upper left, with some of the LIFE students; Above, Erik Sanchez in the classroom. LIFE is an after-school program for elementary school students that also serves as a laboratory for future teachers studying at West Hills College Lemoore. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and serves 800 students from eight area schools. For more information, visit the website: WestHillsCollege.com/Lemoore, or contact oscarvillarreal@whccd.edu

Spring 2016



is going to help people not just find jobs but find one with a good wage and it’ll help farmers too.” Avalos’ team won first place at the Hackathon and a spot at the Thought for Food Global Summit in Zurich, Switzerland in early April, where they competed against developers from around the world and showcased Ag for Hire. They were one of 10 teams who competed for a grand prize of $10,000 to be used to further develop their projects. While they did not win the top prize, they felt honored to be invited and are continuing to develop and promote Ag for Hire. A beta-version of the app—which Avalos is continuing to help refine through research, media design and translation as the project’s director of Program Development—is scheduled to launch in June. Avalos has been working with farm workers on the app and making sure it’s accessible and easy to use as well as developing the look of it and the app’s website. Avalos said the experience, a journey which began with a single conversation, has been life-changing. Last year, he graduated from high school. This year, he’s competing internationally and making valuable connections in the world of ag technology. When he’s not at his job as a dishwasher, he’s now pursuing a degree in Computer Information Systems at WHCC and plans on a career in the field. He’s also taking advantage of the new Computer Programming Academy at WHCC, a set of rigorous courses introducing students to various programming languages. And when he’s not doing homework or studying for a quiz, he’s growing his ties in the agriculture technology and computer programming worlds, including a recent visit to California State University, Fresno to meet with computer programmers from Brazil interested in learning more about ag tech.

Alex Avalos is

Out to Change the Farm Labor World,

One App at a Time Alejandro “Alex” Avalos knows agriculture and the backbreaking work of farm labor, knows it like the back of his hand or a line of computer code. Since he arrived in the United States from Mexico at age 10, speaking English with an accent and looking for his place in a new country, he’s been working in the fields and out, busy and—most of all— insatiably curious. That focused curiosity found an outlet one late afternoon as he boarded a van in his hometown of Huron taking students to the West Hills College Coalinga Farm of the Future for a welding class and struck up a conversation with the driver of the van, who just happened to be Farm Director Clint Cowden. That simple conversation has set the 18-year old Avalos on a new educational path and inspired him to get involved in the growing movement to integrate agriculture with technology, a goal which West Hills is helping to foster. “He told me he liked computers and had some coding experience from high school so I told him about the Apps for Ag Hackathon and as we talked he got more and more excited,”



West Hills magazine

by Jamie Applegate

Cowden said. “For each student, we try to look at them and try to find what motivates them and encourage them to follow it and motivate them to be successful. For Alex, he’s a young guy who’s ‘bilingual’ not just in English and Spanish but also in agriculture and technology.” Avalos attended the second Apps for Ag Hackathon—the inaugural competition was held at WHCC in 2015— and used that unique combination of agriculture and technology experience to work with a team of other students and programmers to develop an app that helps connect farm laborers and farmers. The app, called Ag for Hire, is being called a LinkedIn for agriculture, is less expensive for both farmers and workers to use than traditional labor contractors and is an example of the kind of bridging of agriculture and technology Avalos is most interested in. “Once I went to the Hackathon, I noticed that there’s a huge need for tech in the Valley, especially in agriculture,” he said. “This has completely changed my future plans. Coming from my experience as a 13-year old looking for work in the fields, this app

“He spent four or five hours with them mixing around ideas, using Google Translate on my phone to have a pretty in-depth conversation,” said Cowden. “He’s that student who has the ability to adapt in these different scenarios. He’s grown so much and is learning to hold his own.”

‘For Alex, he’s a young guy who’s bilingual not just in English and Spanish but also in agriculture and technology.’ – Clint Cowden, Director, Farm of the Future He’s also travelled to the World Ag Expo in Tulare and other large agriculture conferences to market the app and was recently approached to serve as a motivational speaker for local students involved in agriculture education programs. “I’m trying to change the perspective of what people like me are capable of,” he said. “I have an accent and when I came here at 10-years old, English wasn’t my first language and even people of my own race made fun of my accent. I’ve never let it push me down. People sometimes think kids from Huron and Coalinga don’t have the potential to do these kinds of things.” His drive to succeed, however, is nothing new according to Ryan Davey, who taught Avalos at Huron Middle School in the sixth grade and has remained close to him. “That’s the type of student and person he is,” he said. “He’s persistent in a positive way and he appreciates this opportunity and knows it’s once in a lifetime. He’ll make the most of it and he’ll definitely take it to the next level.” While Avalos had always originally planned to attend school and get a four-year degree, he didn’t have an idea of what to focus on and had planned to attend school outside the Central Valley. Now, he has a different plan and a goal: to help Central Valley agriculture mesh with the expanding world of technology. “A lot of people in the Valley need help and there’s a lot to be done here,” he said. “I want to be involved in that.” Learn more about Ag for Hire at the app’s website: http://www.agforhire.com/ Jamie Applegate is the Marketing Assistant at West Hills CCD and a former journalist.

‘I’ve never let it push me down. People sometimes think kids from Huron and Coalinga don’t have the potential to do these kinds of things.’ – Alex Avalos

Opposite page, left: Alex Avalos with WHCC president Carole Goldsmith; Above: Avalos in Zurich with fellow Ag for Hire team members Joshua Brown, Founder and CEO of Ag for Hire, and Samantha Collins, Marketing Director; Right: snapshot of the Ag for Hire app that competed at a global summit in Switzerland.

Spring 2016




Mother Son Team Up to Graduate Together

by Amber Myrick


hen Tami Shannon first enrolled at West Hills College Lemoore in 2002, she was not sure she was up to the challenge. She had dropped out of high school, gotten married and raised a family. The thought of going back into a formal education environment intimidated her. As Shannon witnessed members of her family enroll at WHCL, she found the courage to register for her first college class despite her initial hesitation. Recalling her first experience at West Hills, Shannon said, “I was surprised at how well I did my first time around as a college student. My instructor was supportive and encouraging.” 8


West Hills magazine

Despite doing well in her first two classes, Shannon was forced to put her college career on hold temporarily when her life took a scary turn. She was notified that her son Garrett Shannon, a United States Marine, was severely injured while serving in Afghanistan. He suffered a traumatic brain injury which led to speech impairment and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “Life sometimes gets in the way,” Shannon said, recalling this time in her life. “I wanted to be able to fully focus as a college student and needed to take time to help my son the best that I could.” When Garrett’s health did not improve, Shannon and her family feared he would not recover. He was medically discharged from the Marine Corps and was given a service dog. The bond between the two was undeniable and his health began to improve. He then moved home to Lemoore to be closer to family.

With her son’s health improving, Shannon found more time to dedicate to her studies and returned to WHCL in 2009. “I knew I wanted to pursue my Associate’s degree but if I was going to do this I would have to complete my high school studies and earn a General Education Diploma,” Shannon said. Once she successfully passed the GED exam, Shannon started working towards a Health Sciences degree which she earned in 2012. She was delighted to find that the classes she took doubled as prerequisites for the Registered Nursing program offered at WHCL. “I had an interest in healthcare and am still passionate about it,” she said. “After I earned my Health Sciences degree, I set a goal to also complete the Registered Nursing program in the hope of entering into the nursing field.” As each semester passed, Shannon got closer to her educational goals. She was feeling accomplished as she crossed off completed classes from her education plan. Her classes were challenging and she worked hard to maintain a high grade point average. Garrett was inspired by his mother’s dedication to her coursework. “My mom worked really hard and that was inspiring to me,” he said. “She showed me going to college was doable.” Garrett enrolled at WHCL using his military education benefits in the fall of 2013. It was then that both mother and son set a mutual goal: they would graduate together. The Shannons consistently attended school, passing each class needed to earn their degrees. Kathryn DeFede, Interim District Director of Health Careers with WHCCD, has always been impressed with the level of dedication and commitment Tami Shannon brought into the classroom. “She was the leader of her class and many students came to her for advice,” she said “This combined with her stellar academic career is why she was selected to receive the Health Careers Director Award.” This award is given annually to one deserving student who demonstrates leadership and has an outstanding academic record. Aimee Freitas, Student Services Technician with WHCL, was inspired by Garrett’s level of commitment despite his prior military injuries. “He was committed to graduating in two years,” she said. “He set a goal and followed through. It was really impressive and our team was proud to help him during his time on our campus.” In the spring of 2015 Tami and Garrett Shannon graduated

together, Garrett earning an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice and Tami earning an additional Associate’s Degree in Nursing. Today, Garrett Shannon is happily married and employed and living in St. Louis, Missouri. Tami Shannon works as a registered nurse at Clovis Community Hospital in the Cardiac Progressive Unit. In her spare time she works at West Hills College Lemoore as a Supplemental Instructor with Health Careers and also donates her time to the annual Heath Careers Wine and Wellness event. The Health Careers Program at WHCL very much appreciates Shannon’s undying devotion to the program as an alumni. “Our current students benefit from her so much in the classroom,” said DeFede. “We can always count on her to help and love that she is so active with our fundraising campaigns. She is such an inspiration to our students.” Shannon sees her work for the program as a way to help the college that gave her so much in life. “I am happy to give back,” she said “This college has given so much to me. My instructors were always supportive and helped me through some of the hardest times in my life. Now my goal is to show students no matter what you are going through, you can earn a degree and reach the goals you set.” Amber Myrick is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Information at the West Hills Community College District.

Opposite page, left: Garrett Shannon with his mother, Tami Shannon, at the 2015 graduation ceremony at WHC Lemoore. Above: Tami in the simulation lab in 2015 with fellow student Sabrina Holland and Interim Health Careers Director Kathryn DeFede, RN, MSN.

Spring 2016



Teaching, and Learning

Math, Science i s N ow M o re I m p o r t a nt Th a n Eve r Don’t know much about a science book Don’t know much trigonometry Don’t know much about algebra —Sam Cooke, 1957 The world has changed since singer-songwriter Sam Cooke put those words to music in 1957, the year the Russians shot Sputnik into orbit and launched the Space Race. The event woke up the sleeping giant (the United States) and just 12 years later, Americans took the lead for all time by landing men on the moon. Something like that is taking place in higher education today, with respect to the teaching of math and science, according to goals set forth by a government agency, the National Research Council. Working closely with the National Academies of Science and Engineering and the Institute for Medicine, the Council reported their findings in 2013: “The education that many students receive in science, mathematics, and technology is not adequate for a world that is being transformed by scientific and technological advances. People have to be familiar with the basic concepts of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology to think critically about the world and to make informed decisions about personal and societal issues. Literacy in these fields is essential also for an appreciation of the rapid expansion of human knowledge—surely one of the great adventures of the 20th century.” That rapid expansion is underway in higher education at West Hills College. For instructors, the thing that’s changed the most is technology. Newer and better equipment and facilities are part of the equation, but the computer age has changed everything when it comes to teaching. “I try to use it as much as I can,” said David Babb, who teaches Human Anatomy at West Hills College Lemoore. “We have the new iPads we’re working with and various apps that help students learn. All the technology that’s available really resonates with students as it is a great teaching aid.” For him, teaching has changed because of technology. “There’s so much material, it can be overwhelming for students. I try to organize the material – it’s a lot – and distill it down as much as possible.” One thing that’s remained constant in the classroom, however, is the instructor. “I try to be there for them, to answer questions. I teach them how to study and, hopefully, get them excited. It’s not just recitation. I try to instill some awe and wonder and be passionate about (Continued on next page) Technology, a comfortable environment, and caring, qualified faculty are the keys to learning at West Hills College Lemoore. David Babb teaches Human Anatomy and other sciences. On the microscope is Haley Cardoza; the other student is Manpreet Kaur.



West Hills magazine

Spring 2016



(Continued from page 11)

the subject. If a teacher is really excited, it makes students more interested in the material.” Scott Wilson teaches several math courses at North District Center, Firebaugh. He cited distance learning as one of the more important changes in technology, along with unlimited access to information which has revolutionized learning. “Technology has enabled better quality long-distance education for all of us,” he said. “Via the internet, we are now able to learn more about virtually any topic or subject.” He sees his role as a guide for students through the maze of massive quantities of available information. “My teaching and learning philosophy is that every student can greatly improve their mathematics ability with enough time and effort. A teacher can be a guide, but the student’s success is ultimately due to the work that he or she puts in.” Tim Ellsworth teaches soil and plant science, geology, and several classes related to agricultural science including pest control and irrigation at West Hills College Coalinga’s Farm of the Future. His perspective is unique. For instance, on technology, he cites the usual advantages – information retrieval and available instant response or feedback to student questions, but especially appreciates virtual reality simulations. “At West Hills College, our ag instruction includes the use of equipment simulators to teach the motor skills and coordination required to operate heavy equipment,” he said. “Students can learn to operate a tractor or heavy earth-moving equipment while seated in front of a monitor and a joystick before they ever get behind the wheel of the actual equipment. “We live in a rapidly changing world, and the capacity to change and adapt is critical. It is in the process of gaining new knowledge, skills and experience that some of life’s richest rewards are found. My objective as a teacher is to inspire students to become selfdirected, life-long learners. I believe Charles Eliot had it right when he stated that (in his 1869 inaugural address as President of Harvard), ‘Science (should be) taught in a rational way, objects and instruments in hand—not from books merely, not through the memory chiefly, but by the seeing eye and the informing fingers.’” Unlike our singer-songwriter, Frieda Ganter does know something about algebra and trigonometry, not to mention calculus. She teaches higher levels of math for the engineering program at WHCL. “Whenever possible I try to ground lessons with both historical context and



West Hills magazine

current applications,” Ganter said. “Students are far more likely to remember content when there is an interesting story behind it. I learned that from my father, who was a humanities teacher and was known by his students for his interesting ‘backstories’ of historical figures. Fortunately the history of mathematics, and calculus in particular, is replete with colorful figures and controversies.” While the mathematical rules that govern the universe haven’t changed, she used technology to make her lessons memorable, often projecting digital presentations on the screen, featuring pictures of her pet goats (yes, goats) solving mathematical equations. It’s become her trademark. “I hope I inspire my students,” she said. “They certainly inspire me.” Most of these instructors are teaching students who are taking required courses, but others in the classroom can learn a great deal of useful information as well. “Most of the subject matter is geared toward nursing students because that’s mostly who I’m teaching,” said Babb, the anatomy instructor. “There are others taking the class who aren’t going into nursing, so we have to include that perspective, too.

Jobs have become more technical in nature and employers expect a higher level of critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills. – Kristin Clark, WHCL President

“It’s not possible to understand the world around us without studying science. As for anatomy, there are a lot of claims by snake oil salesmen on TV, but when you look at the physiology, the science, it just doesn’t add up. If you understand the science of human anatomy, you won’t be easily swayed by some of those health claims. “The human body is an organic system. It can repair itself, fix itself. If you have to build this (a human body) using wood or metal, how would you? Those materials can’t fix themselves the way our body, our cells, can repair our body. It’s a living system of millions of cells – all trying to stay alive, and keep you alive.” Wilson agrees: “I think that an education in at least some math and science helps us to understand the underpinnings of most of our world.” Ellsworth sums it up this way: “There are many practical and

illuminating aspects to obtaining an increased understanding of math and science. For instance, an understanding of math and science enables us to more wisely and efficiently manage energy resources and personal finances, plan vacations and retirement, make investments and purchases, perform home repairs and construction projects, plan landscaping projects such as installing lawn irrigation systems and especially, make informed decisions as voting citizens. Furthermore, I believe an understanding of math and science gives us a much greater appreciation for the fascinating physical and biological world we live in, including the wonder of life itself and the myriad of fortuitous events that made it possible.” For Ganter, the benefits of studying math and science – for everyone – are immense. “Mathematics is as much about the process of obtaining the answer as the answer itself,” she said. “Learning mathematics trains the mind to think both logically and abstractly. It involves learning a new language that is universally understood. As with learning any foreign language, learning math makes us aware of the syntax and grammar parallels with our native language and enhances our ability to communicate in both. “These essential abstraction and communication skills will stay with the student long after the quadratic formula has been forgotten.” “It’s not possible to understand the world around us without studying science,” according to Frieda Ganter, pictured opposite page. Other instructors shared their insights as well, including Scott Wilson, top, and Tim Ellsworth, middle. “Technology has enabled better quality long-distance education for all of us,” says Wilson, who teaches at NDC, Firebaugh. Ellsworth notes that “our ag instruction includes the use of equipment simulators to teach the motor skills and coordination required to operate heavy equipment. Students learn to operate a tractor or heavy earth-moving equipment while seated in front of a monitor and a joystick before they ever get behind the wheel.”

T ransitionS Paul Blair Network Support Specialist Paul Blair was awarded the Technology Excellence Award by the California Community College Chief Information Systems Officers Association. The award recognizes leadership in educational technology and excellence through technological advances along with collaboration and mentorship of other professionals. Blair, one of only three people who received the award state-wide this year, has been with West Hills Community College District since 1999 and works on several large projects that benefit the district, including the recent integration of a new learning management system and the migration of student and staff email to Office365.

Don Warkentin Former West Hills College Lemoore President Don Warkentin died on Feb. 1 of a heart attack, only one month after retiring in December. He had served WHCL for 29 years and had been an educator for 40 years. He became president in 2004 after serving in administrative positions at the West Hills College Lemoore Center, which preceded the current WHCL campus. He joined the district in 1986 after 13 years at Lemoore High School. Don was instrumental in the creation of WHCL as an independent campus and the building of the Golden Eagle Arena. He is survived by his wife Betty of Lemoore and two grown children, Brooke and Steven. He was a former U.S. Army Infantry officer and served in Vietnam, where he earned two Purple Hearts. He had been active in the Lemoore community, serving on many civic and service club boards. On his retirement, he was named President Emeritus of WHCL by the WHHCD Board of Trustees.

Bobby Lee Bobby C. Lee was elected to the West Hills Community College District Board of Trustees in November to represent Trustee Area 4. Lee is from Lemoore and is a businessman and retired naval officer. He served in the United States Navy for 35 years, reaching the rank of Rear Admiral before retirement. He is a former Lemoore City Council member and has served as a member of various boards including the Kings United Way, Lemoore Christian Aid, Kings County Mosquito Abatement District and Kings County Finance boards. Lee said one of his goals as a member of WHCCD Board of Trustees is to support vocational education throughout the district.

Amber Myrick Amber Myrick is the new Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Information for the West Hills Community College District. Myrick brings experience and education focused on marketing and communication and is a trained graphic designer. She taught as an adjunct instructor at Fortis College in Florida and at West Hills College Lemoore and is the former marketing manager for Deccan International, a San Diego software company. She most recently worked as part-time marketing director for the CoalingaHuron Recreation and Parks District. Myrick holds a Master’s degree from National University in Strategic Communications, with an emphasis in Marketing, and two Bachelor’s degrees in Design and Digital Media from CSU Dominguez Hills. In her new post, she will serve as managing editor of West Hills Magazine.

Spring 2016



Andrea Wood, co-founder of the Go Green club—which focuses on sustainability and the environment—sees Club Rush as an invaluable part of the student experience. “We get most of our sign ups at Club Rush and seeing students interacting at Club Rush is awesome,” she said. “For just a short moment, they are able to put aside the stress of homework, classes and essays and just relax. I think as a whole, the ASB would like to hold more events like this.” Club Rush also provides an opportunity for students like Wood, who serves as the ASB’s Commissioner of Finance, to benefit their fellow students and take responsibility for organizing a large event. Students looking to join a club have several options, including an American Sign Language Club, Cru Christian Club, Central Valley Hospitality Club and the SPLAAT art club. According to Ruble, joining a club and the Club Rush event itself helps students to explore their own interests in a way that might not be possible in the classroom. “Clubs give students an outlet to express their interests and passions that the college cannot provide

through curriculum,” he said. “Some clubs, like Central Valley Hospitality or ASL, enhance a curricular experience for students while others, like the Multicultural Club or Cru Christian Club, are completely separate from curriculum. In either case, students get to connect with other like-minded students. This enhances their experience on our campus very much.” Club Rush brings students together from all over campus. Clockwise from opposite page: Soccer players Felipe Polycarpo, Judas Dantas, Nathalye Munoz and Vinicius Costa (left to right) fundraise for the National Breast Cancer Foundation; Vanessa Whited shows off her face painting; Alyssa Sanchez (left) and Dora Gomez promote the Eagle Pantry, which provides food to students and their families who need help; and Marlena Miller, Brianna Soto (in the background) and Hunter Ford pass out flyers for a WHCL soccer pancake breakfast.

WHCL Club Rush

Brings Students Together on Campus While the West Hills College Lemoore community can often seem difficult to navigate for new students, it’s made to feel more accessible thanks to a bi-annual event that brings students, staff and community partners together. The event is Club Rush, which serves as a recruiting event for almost a dozen campus student organizations while also accomplishing much more. “Student life is an important part of student development,” said Joel Ruble, Dean of Student Services and advisor for the Associated Student Body, which organizes the event. “Club activities serve to shrink the institution for our students; that is, it brings it closer to them. They are more invested in the college and perform, persist and succeed better.” At the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, students are able to learn about the variety of student clubs on campus— covering interests ranging from art to sustainability—and



West Hills magazine

community partners including banks, health organizations, businesses that serve students and the colleges students may want to transfer to. It also serves the purpose of encouraging student collaboration. “It brings all the clubs together, giving us the opportunity to interact with and support each other’s ideas instead of looking at it as a competition,” said Jeronimo Araujo, the president and cofounder of Multicultural Club. “We end up promoting engagement in the campus, no matter which club you’re a part of.”

For some students, the event has become a key part of the student experience, not just as a means of recruitment for clubs but also as a time to relax and socialize. Spring 2016



MORE THAN A BIKE RIDE Cycling Event Helps Students Go To College For one day a year, the back roads of Coalinga fill with more than 100 bicycles and riders from across the state for one of West Hills College Coalinga’s newest and fastest growing events: the West Hills College Century.

Partnership and cooperation is also an intrinsic and essential part of the event, as WHCC partners with the Fresno Cycling Club to put on the event. “We saw it as an opportunity to not only stimulate some interest in bicycling in the area, but also do something good for the community,” said Dennis Ball, President of the Fresno Cycling Club. “We are fortunate in that the riding routes are ideal, the roads are good and the traffic is minimal. I hope that we can draw many more riders next year.”

The event—which began in 2014 with 10-

Local cycling clubs and friends of the college around the Valley donate to the event along with private sponsorships.

mile, 38-mile mini-metric and 62- mile metric

Student volunteers also play a big role and are involved in everything from offering support and gear (SAG) support, to

century routes and has been expanded to include

handling food and drink, to serving as staff including coaches, counselors and administrators who not only participate

a full, 100-mile century route—is more than just a

in the event but help orchestrate it.

cycling event. It raises thousands of dollars annually for the

“West Hills College Coalinga’s culture is founded on an integrated holistic approach that strives to increase student success through engagement,” said Goldsmith. “This is one event that encourages students to get involved by helping to

President’s Scholars program through registration

plan the event, volunteering and riding. It promotes a healthy, balanced lifestyle and at the same time raises funds that

fees and sponsorships. In 2016, more than $7,000

directly benefit our students.”

was fundraised for the program, which enables students to attend their first two years of college at almost no cost by offering scholars free tuition and $250 a semester for books. “This is more than a bike ride,” said WHCC President Dr. Carole Goldsmith, who helped found the event. “I love cycling and so do many others, but this ride is a ride with a purpose. It helps students go to college.” The WHCC Century takes riders through the Coalinga oil fields and hills and up the scenic Los Gatos Creek Canyon, with some riders going to the San Benito County line and beyond. According to Al Graves, event organizer, cofounder, and WHCC instructor, the event serves as a way to raise funds, but it also raises awareness about West Hills College and Coalinga. “This event really brings people together,” he said. “The college is a part of the community and to have a ride like this draws people not just from

More than 100 riders were attracted to a 100-mile tour of Coalinga, the nearby oil fields, and the winding road up the scenic Los Gatos Canyon. Some chose shorter routes, but all of the activity raised money for student scholarships at WHCC. Fresno Cycling Club members turned out in force this year.



West Hills magazine

Coalinga but from Clovis, Hanford, Visalia and more. This year, we even had riders from San Francisco. It introduces people who don’t see this place much or haven’t ever been here to our school and this side of the Valley.”

Spring 2016



New Student Focus: Finish In Four The need for college-educated employees is ever present across most industries from agriculture to education, to journalism, to the creative arts, and West Hills College is doing something about it. West Hills Community College District recognized the need several years ago to increase the rates of degree completion and improve the speed at which new students could be prepared to transfer to a four-year institution. Before 2010, the district began offering a pathway to degree completion that included counseling, advising, crafting a student education plan, and other support. It’s all designed to get those students whose goal is a bachelor’s degree through the system, degree in hand, in four years. The Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) program was approved by the California Legislature in 2010, to guarantee students a seamless admission to a California State University when they enroll in the program and complete their studies. Additionally, credits earned at West Hills and other community colleges are now recognized at the CSU level. The program’s popularity has grown as students have become more aware of its benefits. West Hills College has seen more than a 50 percent increase in ADT graduates each year since 2011. In the 2014-2015 school year, 24 graduates completed degrees for transfer under the program, a relatively small number among the hundreds of degrees and certificates granted that year. In 2014 West Hills introduced its unique Reg365 program, which allows students who want to earn transfer credits on a streamlined schedule to enroll for classes up to a year in advance. This revolutionary process guaranteed students a seat in required classes after completing a prerequisite; in the past, students had to hope there’d be a seat available for the next required class in a sequence. The college initiated the program and was later recognized by the State of California as one of just 14 colleges to be recognized for an Innovation Award in Higher Education, which came with a $2.5 million award to be used to further increase and facilitate degree completion. Reg365 helped to bolster the ADT program by making securing classes easier. As the 2016 graduation ceremonies near, the district anticipates the number of students completing their transfer requirements in two years to more than double. Local businesses in the Central Valley are now

benefiting from the WHCCD ADT program as West Hills transfer students are graduating from CSU institutions and becoming gainfully employed. Cassandra Sandoval, a WHCL alumni, is an example of how current students can get the most from the ADT program. “Before I graduated high school, I looked for a college program that could provide me flexibility and would help me earn a Bachelor’s degree quickly,” she said. Sandoval decided to attend West Hills College Lemoore because it was close to home. She found her counselor to be very helpful and followed the education plan given to her closely. “All I had to do is take the classes lined up for me and pass them,” she said. “Each class I took counted towards a credit I needed to earn a degree with Fresno State.” Sandoval completed her degree to transfer in Spring 2013 and transferred to Fresno State where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in Spring 2015. She is now an education reporter for the Hanford Sentinel and has written many stories featuring her alma mater WHCL. When approached for an interview to this story, Sandoval was happy to contribute. “West Hills helped me so much by saving me time and money before I transferred to Fresno State,” she said. “I have to admit, it’s a little different being on the interviewee side of a story, though!” Students like the new program and endorse it. WHCC student Fernando Escandon appreciates how organized his education plan and pathway to transfer has been as he worked toward his Associate Degree for Transfer “The transfer program has helped me stay organized by acknowledging the classes that I need to take in order to transfer,” he said. “The roadmap given to me was easy to follow because it displayed each class I needed to take every semester.” After spending two years as a full time student at WHCC, Escandon is excited to continue his education and plans to transfer to Sacramento State University in the fall of 2016. WHCL Engineering Scholar and former President’s Scholar Kate Appleby sees the value in earning a degree for transfer and is happy she was able to save money

during her first two years of college. “Tuition at West Hills is more affordable than with four-year institutions,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to attend Fresno State, but was happy to find out I could save on tuition costs during the first two years of my college career. It was an added bonus that the classes I took [at WHCL] would be counted toward a four-year degree at Fresno State!” Appleby plans to transfer to Fresno State in the fall of 2016 where she will continue her studies as a mechanical engineering major. The impact on students of the ADT pathway throughout California has the potential to be enormous, according to Brice Harris, California Community Colleges Chancellor.

“In the first year, 800 students took advantage of the new pathways (that streamline transfer to Cal States), then 5,000, then 11,000, and 21,000 last year,” he said in a recent media interview. “The trends are skyrocketing. I think if we go forward five or 10 years, we are probably going to see the vast majority of students matriculating to the California State University using these transfer pathways. The challenge we face is making students aware of the degrees.”

Fernando Escandon and Kate Appleby, above, are among the many students taking advantage of the advanced Degree for Transfer program; Opposite page, right: Former student Cassandra Sandoval (with Joseph Castro; CSU Fresno President).



West Hills magazine

Spring 2016



From West Hills College to the World of Disney T

he magic all started when Jennifer Gudgel, Jessica Kristenson and Brooklyn Tuman dressed up as Disney characters to perform at a children’s church event. A fun off-hand activity quickly spiraled into more as parents across the Central Valley called the group of teenage girls and hired them to dress up as Frozen characters for birthday parties. Now, they’ve all moved on to the real thing. It might sound like a lucky coincidence, but it took a shared dream to make it happen. They met when they were about four years old, and their love for Disney has been deeply rooted in their friendship ever since. “We’ve been planning this,” said Tuman. “This has been a dream that we didn’t think would happen for a long time, and we finally buckled down and said we’re going to make this happen.”



West Hills magazine

It was an idea that started to form when the girls were in high school. All three attended West Hills College Lemoore as President’s Scholars, and now all three work for Disney at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It helped that they had a local connection through Steve Warkentin, the son of the late Don Warkentin, who was president of WHCL at the time. They were able to hear about the experience of working for Disney through Steve before experiencing it themselves. When they graduated in Spring 2015, Tuman and Kristenson moved and became roommates in Anaheim, living just minutes away from Disneyland, while Gudgel headed to Florida for Disney College. Gudgel graduated with a degree in business administration and

mathematics with initial plans to become a math teacher. She enrolled in Disney College after already being accepted to CSU Fullerton, so she took online classes while she worked at Disney World. Through Disney College, Gudgel was assigned to a merchandise position in the park. It was the perfect fit. She wanted to be in a role where there would be high interaction with guests, and she wanted to be able to add to the magic of their experiences. That’s what she does in Fantasyland, and sometimes, it even includes a little pixie dust. “We have this wand that has pixie dust in it, and people will come in and we’ll tell them that it’s magic wishing dust,” she said. “They’ll close their eyes, and then we say magic words and sprinkle it on them. Then they open their eyes, and they’ve made

by Amy Kessler

their wish and they’re covered in glitter. It’s magical.” Gudgel extended her stay to include a second program instead of the typical one semester, but she’ll be heading back to California and CSU Fullerton in May. She’s keeping her options open about working at Disneyland, but whether she decides to pick up another job there or not, she’ll be close to her favorite park and her two best friends. (Continued on next page) Above: WHCL graduates Jessica Kristenson, Jennifer Gudgel and Brooklyn Tuman are making their dreams come true working for Disney. Gudgel is at Walt Disney World where she’s also enrolled in Disney College, taking online courses. Her park job is working at Fantasyland. “We have this wand that has pixie dust in it, and people will come in and we’ll tell them that it’s magic wishing dust,” she said. Much like the pixie dust that made dreams come true for three West Hills College grads!

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(Continued from page 21)

Tuman is working at Disneyland while getting her feet on the ground in Southern California and building a client base for her photography. She’s also keeping her options open for a long-term career path with Disney while following her own dreams of being a freelance photographer. She currently works as an outdoor vendor, where she rotates roles through every land of the park. Part of her job includes walking in the parade and selling treats and balloons to guests. “Little interactions with kids are my favorite, and being able to see a glimpse of their personality and aid in that and help make magic with that is so fun,” she said. Unlike the other two who are open to any promising opportunity, Kristenson is at Disneyland for the long haul. She remembers asking cast members during her visits to the park about how they got their jobs. In high school, when she asked herself what a fulfilling career would look like, Disney kept coming to mind. She wanted to be part of the big picture of the company that encourages people to follow their dreams. And she knew that having a job like that would be worth every good and bad day. Her role is in attractions, where she helps operate the rides and Below: Jessica and Brooklyn decorated their caps for graduation, one with a Disney theme. Tuman’s job at Disneyland has her rotating through every land of the park; her career goal is to be a photographer. Kristenson says she is at Disneyland for the long haul. “I love being part of something that means so much to so many people,” she says. (Insert on previous page): the girls earned money while in high school and college by performing for children’s parties, dressed as Disney characters.



West Hills magazine

make sure guests have a memorable experience. “I just love being a part of something that means so much to so many people,” she said. “Even though what I’m doing, really anyone can do, it’s just really neat to be a small part in something so big.” While the three of them aim to create magical memories for park guests, they’re also creating their own. For them, growing up together, graduating from West Hills College together, and working with their best friends at Disneyland is one big dream come true, pixie dust and all. Any Kessler is the former marketing assistant for West Hills CCD and a former journalist who now lives in San Luis Obispo.

Rodolfo Rodriguez

Finds Success Through College Program and Personal Perseverance By Tom Wixon

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” —Wayne Dyer Rodolfo Rodriguez was 14, maybe 15, and like a lot of boys growing up in California’s Central Valley his outlook for the future was limited by what he saw around him, which meant working the fields, as did his father and many of the adults he knew. Military service was an option, a chance to see new places and an opportunity for job training or education. Or he could follow the path taken by some of his childhood friends, which sometimes led to gangs and prison. Then his mother read about a youth program that offered tutorial and mentoring services to high school students who might otherwise drop out of school. She told young Rodolfo to check it out. “He came to us when I was at the Workforce Connection and working with our youth program,” recalls Brian Boomer, a Grants Coordinator at West Hills College. Boomer was then a mentor and tutor at the government-run program, a partnership between the college and Fresno County. “He was smart, had a good head on his shoulders, but he wasn’t doing that well in high school. He responded to the mentoring and tutorial programs and the field trips; we took students to CSU Monterey Bay, Fresno State, UC Berkeley, and other campuses. The kids got a version of the new student tour and it opened their eyes to possibilities.” “It got me to thinking,” Rodriguez says. “I was seeing people who looked like me, talked like me. In high school, people with a history like mine, we’d been socialized to think our options were limited to the service, lock-up, or field work.” For Rodolfo, the possibility he saw was that he too might become a college graduate. Looking back, “I felt very empowered,” he said. Empowered enough to finish high school, graduate from West Hills College and then CSU Sacramento and on to UC Merced, where the son of a field worker



West Hills magazine

is enrolled in a dual Master’s-Doctorate program and this close to earning his master’s while simultaneously working on his doctorate. “It was an amazing program,” he says, recalling his introduction to the Workforce program and the college environment. “I took advantage of it until I was 18. The staff was great; I felt welcome and supported there. They treated me as an adult, not as a potential gangster; they didn’t see me like that. I was able to interact with college graduates and professionals. As a first generation Chicano student, I didn’t have much access to those sorts of role models. I didn’t know many people who had gone to college when I was growing up.” Rodriguez said another turning point in his life came as he was a senior in high school, about to graduate. “I was going to take a job in a packing plant and earn some money to go to college,” he said. But he

really needed a job he could work around his college class schedule in the coming fall. Enter Ana Sanchez, another mentor at the Workforce Connection who now works out of the North District Center, Firebaugh. “She was instrumental in helping me enroll at West Hills and apply for financial aid,” Rodriguez recalls. “She suggested I take a three-month Certified Nursing Assistant course at the college in the summer after graduating from high school. That way, I could support myself while going to school.” After getting his CNA license, Rodriguez took a job at the Coalinga Regional Medical

Center, working nights. At West Hills College, he was active in student government, studied hard, and earned good grades, thanks to the tutorial sessions with Boomer. “I’d go to school all day and get a few hours sleep in the evening, then back to work.” Sanchez said Rodriguez took community service seriously while at West Hills College. “The young man went on to help create and become president of the Youth Leadership Club which focused on helping in the community, heading food drives, partnering with Chevron and the Warm-a-Heart program, creating Christmas cards for the elderly and delivering them to the convalescent center in Coalinga, and was active in community cleanup with volunteers who cleaned up the yards of the elderly in Coalinga.” He credits his West Hills supporters, Boomer, Sanchez, and others including current Workforce Connection Director Robert Pimentel, with helping him transfer to CSU Sacramento. He applied for and won the McNair Scholarship, which led to an opportunity to research and publish a paper during his senior year. The scholarly work was entitled: “From the Fields to College: An Analysis of College Aspirations of Latino Farm Workers.” He also won a Dwight Brydie Scholarship offered through California Workforce Association. After earning a B.A. in Sociology at Sac State, he enrolled in the master’s degree program there and earned a 4.0 GPA his first year. But an offer of a scholarship at UC Merced came along and he transferred there; it meant starting over on his master’s in order to complete the unique dual degree program, but his mentors said it would be worth it. “The program is well reported on,” the student said, “and I wanted to experience it from the beginning.” He also accepted a teaching assistant position at UC Merced. He still feels strong ties to Coalinga, his family home. Rodriguez wants to come back when he finishes school in 2020. “I’d love to teach at West Hills College,” he said. “I would like to serve, perhaps even run for office and be a civil servant. I see the need of people in my community. When we think of what we’ve achieved, we tend to think it was due solely to our own hard work. But we forget the role that the community played, our family, friends, and mentors.” The road he’s on is a long way from the limited options he foresaw 11 years ago, at age 14. His advice for a young Rodolfo is this: “I’d tell him, or her, to read. To learn about who you are, about your preColumbian history, that you came from a strong, resilient people. I’d tell him to remember our community and to remain rooted and humble, and to fight for what is right.”

Wixon edits and writes for West Hills Magazine and is a former marketing director for several colleges in California and Arizona.

The youth program mentioned in the accompanying story has changed a bit since Rodolfo Rodriguez entered it a decade ago. The youth program then targeted different age groups: Rodolfo was part of the 14-18 group. As of July 2015 the program has changed to serve youth who are not currently in any school and are between the ages of 16-24

For more information on the youth program and other Workforce Connection opportunities, contact: Cecilio Mora, Coordinator of Special Grants (559) 934-2430 | ceciliomora@whccd.edu or visit http://tiny.cc/workforce

Spring 2016



College Event Builds Awareness of

What It Takes to Cope with Disabilities W

hat issues do people with disabilities face in daily life? What are some ways to accommodate those with disabilities and help them succeed as students? What resources are available? West Hills College Lemoore’s Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) strives to answer these questions. One way they do that is through their annual Operation Awareness event, held on campus for the past five years. “The event is held to bring awareness on campus and provide education regarding disabilities and to eliminate stigma, and most importantly highlight people with disabilities,” said Lataria Hall, Associate Dean of Categorical Programs. “It encourages the awareness of each’s student’s abilities and provides a focus on what they can do rather than on what they can’t do.” The event regularly features over 20 vendors from the community, who come to speak about their services for students with disabilities. These include California State University, Fresno, WayFinders program, the Department of Rehabilitation, Kings County Behavioral Health, Resources for Independence, and Central Valley Regional Center. Awareness Day is also an opportunity to learn about the many supportive services offered by DSPS, which include access to assistive technology, text in alternate formats, testing services and more. And, through a few different activities, those without disabilities are also



West Hills magazine

made aware of what it’s like to live with a disability. For example, students who are used to walking everywhere are invited to compete in a wheelchair race to draw attention to the challenges their disabled cohorts have to contend with. In another event, a cash cube in which students try to catch airborne Monopoly money re-enacts the difficulties blind students face. Sighted students are blindfolded to represent blindness and to show what someone with a visual impairment has to deal with daily. Importantly, they also learn about the daily life of a student with disabilities from students themselves. Operation Awareness has also helped to inspire the creation of a club that further helps students with disabilities: the Mission Possible Awareness Club. The club connects students with resources offered by DSPS and aims to support students with everything from their first trip to the program office to getting around campus.

“It provides a focus on what they can do rather than on what they can’t do.” — Lataria Hall Associate Dean of Categorical Programs

Clockwise, from opposite page on left: The sign for “now” in American Sign Language is demonstrated by Taylor Galanti of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center; Dean of Student Services Joel “Jody” Ruble declares the wheelchair race a tie between students Angel Aguiniga, on the left, and Fermin Avila; Mikayla Riley poses for the camera after finishing the course, with Samantha Earl in the background.

Spring 2016



Zachary and Alexandra Osterland, twin siblings and high school seniors attending Lemoore Middle College High School, have found many benefits while participating in the program. “Dual credit classes made financial sense for both of us,” said Alexandra Osterland. “Upon graduating this spring, my brother and I will have earned both our high school diplomas and associate’s degrees, at no cost of our own.” Zachary Osterland added, “In addition to the money the program saved our family, we both feel taking college level courses in high school has set us apart from other high school seniors looking to attend a four-year college for the first time.” Lemoore Middle College High School is located on the WHCL campus which makes attending college classes in person easy for the Osterlands. “Because our charter school is small, we did not have many elective options through the school itself,” said Alexandra. “It was nice having the option of taking college level elective classes in addition to the requirements needed for our Associate degrees. The variety of classes West Hills offers provided both my brother and I with many options

that were both stimulating and challenging. We have really enjoyed all the college coursework we have taken.” The Osterland Twins recently were offered half-ride scholarships to Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA and have been accepted to multiple UC campuses including UCLA, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UC Berkeley. Neither Osterland sibling has decided upon a university to attend just yet, but both are leaning towards the UC system. One thing is determined, however. In the fall of 2016, at the young age of 18, both Alexandra and Zachary Osterland will step foot onto four-year university campus’ starting their junior year of college. Gianna Jimenez, a junior attending Coalinga High School is excited about earning a high school diploma and concurrent associate’s degree. “I am really getting challenged in the courses I take with West Hills,” she said. “I enjoy being pushed academically and think it’s making me a well-rounded student. I am sure this experience will help me excel when I transfer to a fouryear university.” Because her high school class schedule does not permit attending college classes during the day, Jimenez completes (Continued on next page)


Dual-enrolled students have different circumstances. Gianna Jimenez, below, is a junior at Coalinga High School who is earning her high school diploma and, at the same time, her Associate’s Degree from West Hills College. “I enjoy being pushed academically and think it’s making me a well-rounded student,” she said. Ian Sutherland, left, chose a different path. He is home schooled by his parents, both college instructors, and graduated from WHCC at 18. He’s been accepted as a transfer student at Oregon State University and plans to attend the University of Melbourne in Australia to obtain his master’s.

from College on Friday, High School on Saturday


hen West Hills College graduates file into their respective campus gymnasiums at Coalinga and Lemoore in May, there will be the usual pomp and circumstance, but a few guests will receive special recognition. Among those will be a growing number of high school seniors belonging to a unique cohort: They will be graduating from the college a day or two before they get their high school diplomas. A handful of students have achieved this pinnacle over time. Some students were home-schooled and never formally went to



West Hills magazine

high school. Some did but also took college level courses at a nearby college, often on weekends or at night or, in recent years, online. Some enrolled in special programs that brought college classes to their high school campus. Some students enrolled in the West Hills dual credit program attend classes at a campus, while others complete courses online. Students taking dual credit classes attend West Hills College classes free of any tuition charge and depending on the high school they attend, are expected to pick up only the cost of books and supplies.

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(Continued from page 29)

her college course work online. It’s not an easy schedule to maintain, according to one of her parents who points out: “Between high school and college, it’s 40 hours a week, it’s like her job.” Students have to be disciplined and motivated. “I appreciate the flexibility with this program,” Jimenez said. “It’s nice to know I can go to school during regular class hours and in my own time, log into my college classes online and finish the work being required of me there.” Jimenez plans to complete her high school studies concurrently with an Associate’s degree in the spring of 2017. She is still considering her options as it relates to transfer. “When I think about attending a four-year university, I know there are many possibilities out there for me, especially if I already have the first two years of college completed,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what is in store for me in the years to come!” High school students who complete their first two years of college concurrent with their high school studies enviably find



West Hills magazine

they are ahead of the game. These students generally graduate from four-year universities at younger ages and begin working sooner than students following the traditional college path. Kimberlee Davis, Human Resources Analyst for WHCCD, took advantage of an early career by participating in the West Hills dual credit program while completing high school with Faith Christian Academy in Coalinga. “I earned both my Associate’s in Liberal Arts and high school diploma on the same day,” Davis said. “I went on to complete two additional semesters with West Hills and earned another Associate’s degree in Business Administration. From there I transferred to DeVry University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Technical Management with an emphasis in Human Resources.” She accomplished that feat at the age of 19. While Davis completed her college studies, she found work at the district office as a Human Resources temp. After earning her bachelor’s degree, an opening became available in the department.

She applied and now works full time in the Human Resources department. “I attribute my ability to find work at a young age to my participation in West Hills’ dual credit program,” she said. “I knew I wanted financial independence and a good job. This motivated me in high school to complete the college classes I needed to earn my associate’s degree. The program saved me a lot of time and gave me the ability to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. From there I was able to qualify for full time work in my area of study.” Dual enrollment opportunities are not limited to regular high school students. Ian Sutherland was home-schooled by his parents, his father an English Instructor at West Hills College, his mother a Registered Nurse. They taught him at home and enrolled him in college courses when he was 14. They home schooled Ian under the state guidelines, which required application approval and sets certain guidelines and standards. Scott Sutherland, Ian’s father, said it worked out very well for the family; Ian scored high on his assessment test to get into West Hills College and maintained a 3.9 GPA there. He graduated with an AA degree last May and was accepted to attend Fresno Pacific University, but opted to sit out for a year. “He wanted to work and make some money and reduce the amount of college loan debt he’d have by the time he finished several years of college,” Sutherland said.

Ian worked at several jobs and served a mission for his church. When he turned 19 recently, he traveled to China so he could stand on the Great Wall on his birthday. He’s been accepted by two universities to begin this fall; he is leaning towards Oregon State University and may apply for graduate work at the other college he’s looking at, the University of Melbourne in Australia. “He plans to major in psychology and work as a guidance counselor and work with troubled students,” Sutherland said. WHCC and WHCL have partnerships developed with area high schools which has made the program widely available throughout the Valley. In the past, the most common road to earning college credit in high school was often via Advanced Placement courses which are structured around high school students who prepare to take an exam that could translate into full or partial college credit depending on a student’s score. In contrast, the WHCCD dual enrollment program has a wider reach and provides access to college level course work and credit to all high school students. It’s all related to a plethora of programs designed to increase access for high school students to education and careers in the region. “The college provides students with counseling, advising, internships, job shadows, industry trips, summer enrichment and other activities that strengthen academic and career skills as they progress through the pathway,” said Giselle Simon, Director of Special Grants for the Pathway program at West Hills College Lemoore. “The ultimate goal is to encourage these students to pursue a degree or certificate and to provide them with additional support.” Career pathways have been developed in business, culinary arts, education, engineering, agriculture, performing arts, education, health care and more, all with the goal of increasing college and career readiness. Students also get the opportunity to take advantage of dual enrollment and often end up taking college courses at West Hills while still in high school with the goal of earning an Associate’s degree or certificate before they graduate. “This helps us take the dual enrollment concept further and offer not just general education college credits to high school students but also the option of enrolling them in a series of pathway classes leading to eventual degrees in health science, engineering, the culinary/hospitality field, and business,” said James Preston, WHCL Dean of Educational Services.

Twin siblings Zachary and Alexandra Osterland (opposite page, left) will graduate in May from Lemoore Middle College High School on the campus of West Hills College Lemoore, from which they will also graduate during the same week. Thanks to the dual enrollment program, most of their college costs have been covered. Above: Kimberlee Davis graduated from Faith Christian High School and WHCC simultaneously and then earned her bachelor’s degree online, all by the age of 19. She’s pictured with retired long-time college trustee Edna Ivans.

Spring 2016






9900 Cody St. Coalinga, CA 93210

Solid Waste Turns to Gold for West Hills College Students Engineering students at West Hills College Lemoore have a unique scholarship opportunity thanks to a partnership between our college Foundation and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. As part of a decade-long project to build a solid waste handling facility in Kettleman City, SDLAC reached out to the Engineering Program at WHCL and offered support in the form of $30,000 a year for scholarships. As a result, each year since 2010, some 10 to 20 students have received free tuition and $600 a semester for books—enabling them to complete the first two years of an engineering degree at almost no cost. The degree they earn at WHCL allows them to transfer into a third-year Engineering Program at a number of CSU and UC campuses including Fresno, Merced and San Luis Obispo. Students can intern at the environmentally friendly Tulare Lake Compost facility where solid waste from urban areas is mixed with green waste from cities and farms in the Central Valley to create compost used on area farms. (Interns pictured above: Iriana Pina and James Grunwald). The experience gives them an overview of multiple engineering disciplines integral to operations at the state of the art plant. For students from Kettleman City, Avenal, Huron, Lemoore, Riverdale, Hanford and Coalinga, solid waste has turned into gold. For more information on the Engineering Scholars Program, visit: http://westhillscollege.com/lemoore/academics/engineering

For information on how you can help support education, see our website: www.whcgift.org, or contact: FrancesSquire@whccd.edu 9900 Cody St., Coalinga, CA 93210 (559) 934-2134 WestHillsCollege.com