Page 1




9900 Cody St. Coalinga, CA 93210

Spring 2017


Support President's Scholars Program In honor of Dr. Frank Gornick The West Hills Community College District Invites you to attend a retirement gala Saturday, May 20, 2017 5 pm West Hills College Coalinga Gymnasium 300 Cherry Lane, Coalinga CA Please join us in celebrating His 23 year Legacy Of wonderful service and dedication To purchase tickets and RSVP please visit

Chancellor Frank Gornick started the President’s Scholars Program soon after he arrived at West Hills College as Superintendent/President in 1994. Since then, more than 800 top-performing high school graduates from our region have had the opportunity to attend their first two years of college tuition-free and with much needed help for expensive textbooks. While the average tenure of California community college chancellors and superintendent/presidents is about 5 years, Chancellor Gornick, a former West Hills College student himself, has served at the helm of the district for over 23 years. Through his personal commitment and tenacity, the President’s Scholars Program has grown stronger over those years. In the early days, 15-25 students per year would access the scholarship, which requires a 3.5 or higher high school GPA. Over the past two decades, that number has grown: more than 130 students have received the scholarship during each of the last two years. For Sarena Foreman, the President’s Scholars Program certainly made a difference in her academic career and she says the opportunity the scholarship provides (free tuition and $250 a semester for books) has made college possible for her. “Without the President’s Scholars Program, I wouldn’t be here getting my degree,” she said.

The district recognizes Chancellor Gornick for his service and all he has done for West Hills. He is set to retire June 30 and is asking that donations be made to the President's Scholar Program he began in 1994. If you would like to donate to the President’s Scholars Program in Chancellor Gornick’s honor, please direct your gift to the West Hills Community College Foundation, 9900 Cody, Coalinga, CA 93210. (Tax ID 77-0186793)

For information on how you can help support education, see our website:, or contact: 9900 Cody St., Coalinga, CA 93210 (559) 934-2134

Innovation and Growth the West Hills College Way West Hills College Earns $3 Million for Innovation Disabled Students Program and Services Instructors Make Hands-on Learning a Priority

Looking Toward the Future as West Hills College Leads in Innovation


Copyright 2017 by West Hills Community College District. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission prohibited. WEST HILLS MAGAZINE Number 8 Spring 2017 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


Frank Gornick, Chancellor, WHCCD Brenda Thames, President, WHCC Kristin Clark, President, WHCL


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


Amber Myrick Director, WHCCD Marketing, Communications, Public Information


WEBMASTER Carlos Posadas


Dennis Gallegos, Kelly Peterson


Cover Photos by Dennis Gallegos Our cover features Mendota's Cardella Winery, which recently won the San Joaquin Valley California Wine Competition award for its 2014 Barbera Reserve. The Cardella family provided the land for the North District Center, Firebaugh's Child Development Center.

This edition of West Hills Magazine features the inevitable process of life: change. We are celebrating our 85th year as an institution of higher education, but it is much more than that. It is about the people, programs, activities, and students that make celebrating 85 years very special. It is about how our work continues to transform our region, its people and our communities. Our district has evolved over the years and our colleges have responded in ways to enrich our partnership with the communities we serve. We have always focused on providing the opportunities that contribute to the economic and educational development of the people in our service area. This edition features just a few of the exciting and successful ways our staff have engaged our communities, challenged our students and supported their efforts to achieve their dreams. The contributions we have and continue to make to our communities could not have been realized without the energy and dedication of our outstanding faculty, classified staff, administrators and Board of Trustees. The support of the local voting public in choosing outstanding trustees is crucial to our continued success. We cannot overlook the generosity of the local voters who support our efforts to improve, modernize and construct new facilities by passing our General Obligation initiatives. People change as the district moves forward: we have a new President at West Hills College Coalinga in Brenda Thames and our new Chancellor, Dr. Stuart Van Horn, will assume his new role on the 1st of July. We will also say farewell to two outstanding colleagues this year, Frances Squire and Sandy McGlothlin, who have served our district with distinction. As I wish them well, I also look to my own retirement on June 30. It has been an honor to serve this district as Superintendent/President and Chancellor for the past 23 years. On behalf of my wife Gloria, our family and myself, we thank you for your support and encouragement all these years. It was always noticed and greatly appreciated.



A College of Our Own: Celebrating 85 Years of West Hills College

After Decades of Physical Growth, Still More Growth on the Horizon for West Hills College West Hills College began life in 1932 as just a few classes offered in a set of buildings at Coalinga High School. Over the past 85 years, it’s grown to include much more.

15 Brings Passion & Experience

WHCC President Brenda Thames After a nationwide search, West Hills College Coalinga has found its new president: Brenda Thames, an educator with over 19 years of experience in higher education. Thames started on Feb. 1 and is enthusiastic about the opportunity.

to Code, Find Success 17 Students in Tech Industry Geekwise Academy Trains

West Hills College has partnered with Bitwise’s Geekwise Academy to help shape the tech industry in the Valley. This program is preparing WHCCD students for computer programing careers and teaching them valuable skills they can use to work from virtually anywhere.

Teachers Support, 23 Prospective Mentorship and Motivation TEAM Teach Program Gives

The TEAM Teach program at WHCL provides students interested in becoming teachers a network of support, mentorship, and motivation. Its purpose is to guide students majoring in education, helping them meet their goal of becoming educators.


California’s 2016-17 budget includes $25 million for the Awards for Innovation in Higher Education. The program recognizes innovations at California’s colleges. WHCCD earned two awards totaling $3 million dollars, the only college to receive dual recognition. This is the third time WHCCD has been recognized for its innovation.

The first ever Wonderful Agriculture Career Camp was held at West Hills College Coalinga in 2013. The first group of campers, now juniors at Avenal High School, have a clear idea of their career path and jobs waiting for them at the Wonderful Company after graduation.

River Conservation & Outdoor


Thanks to a technical assistance grant received from the National Park Service’s River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, students at North District Center will soon have an opportunity to explore the river and study environmental science. The NDC Environmental Science program is currently being developed.

Soule Success Partially thanks to her time as a Falcon, WHCC alumna Lorinda Van Newkirk has taken the business world by storm.


Beyond the Classroom: Instructors Bob Hall and Tim Ellsworth Make Hands-on Learning a Priority

As Early as Middle School

are the Goal in 31 Education Firebaugh

Over the past 85 years, the West Hills Community College District has grown by leaps and bounds – and that was no accident. WHCCD was able to grow from a single college to one of the top community college districts in the state through careful strategic planning and a relentless dedication to serving its community.

West Hills College Earns Two Innovation Awards, Totaling $3 Million

Ag Career Camp 25 Wonderful Paves Way for Career Success


Frank Gornick, Chancellor West Hills Community College District


table of


West Hills College Instructors Bob Hall and Tim Ellsworth make it a point to ensure that learning continues past their classroom doors. On any given day, their students are likely to find themselves outside the classroom getting their hands dirty. Both instructors make it a point to give students real world reinforcement that compliments their studies.

Despite Challenges, Tasha Perkins Finds Academic Success At WHCL, former student Tasha Perkins found patient instructors who understood college policy and were willing to work with the campus Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) office. The WHCL DSPS program staff helped find technological solutions that enabled Perkins to succeed despite hearing challenges. Spring 2017



The South Hall women's dorm at West Hills College Coalinga during renovation.

1932 -2017

By Jamie Applegate

A College of Our Own:

When West Hills Community College District Chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick walked on to the West Hills College Coalinga campus to deliver his first State of the District address to staff, faculty and administrators on Jan. 7, 1994, one of his most pressing thoughts was this:

“What has happened to my school?” A 1966 graduate of what was then called Coalinga College, the fact that his alma mater had fallen on hard times was especially evident to Gornick. The theater he delivered the address in had seen better days. As the 260 employees—who only took up about three rows in the WHCC theater— huddled into their seats, space heaters were carted in to keep them warm. Current WHCCD Chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick in the 1960s when he was the captain of the Coalinga College football team.



West Hills magazine

Dr. Frank Gornick celebrating with board members, staff, and the community at the Grand Re-opening of the WHCC Café in 1994.

Outside, vast, muddy ditches ringed by bright yellow caution tape littered the campus and

landscaping was slim to none, the result of a massive freeze. Both dorms had been closed and sports—including football and baseball—had been discontinued. Enrollment was falling and funding was down. And perhaps most importantly the prevailing attitude, both on campus and off, was grim. “There was a pervasive negative attitude and there just wasn’t much hope or focus,” Gornick said. “The student attitude in particular was really down, one of ‘tell me why I should come here.’ It was an uncertain time.” At that time, West Hills College consisted of a campus in Coalinga, a small education center in Lemoore, the North District Center in Firebaugh and a long and successful track record of delivering education to the Central Valley. In 1994 however, the possibility of closure loomed. “I remember those days when you walked the corridors and there were ditches and dirt and there were rumors about if the place was going to stay open,” said Nina Oxborrow, a long-time member of the West Hills Community College District Board of Trustees. “And our reputation with potential students wasn’t much to talk about.”

Celebrating 85 Years of West Hills College

The Solution –

what Dr. Gornick referred to as his “Vision for Greatness” in that first State of the District—was relatively straightforward: hard work and a focus on long-term planning. “I knew we had a great tradition here but I also knew we wanted to move forward and make new traditions,” Gornick said. “Why would we want to settle? Why shouldn’t we think about being great?” A focus on carefully cultivated success and planning—as well as a willingness to try new things— would become the underlying core of the district with the help of the Board of Trustees, classified staff, faculty, administrators and the community. “The maturation of West Hills to a multi-college district with educational centers in Firebaugh and Lemoore NAS was by design and the result of sound planning and allocating and evaluating processes related to management of institutional resources,” said Dr. Stuart Van Horn, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Workforce Development and Gornick’s successor as Chancellor. “We have a unique approach.”

Dr. Frank Gornick raises campus morale with an end of the year staff barbecue in 1995.

Spring 2017



Vision for Greatness at West Hills College

Our salvation will be HARD WORK,

not Sacramento.

Our success lies in our willingness to do things DIFFERENTLY...

...not the same old way

Our GREATNESS will be in how we honor one another for our DIFFERENCES

and honestly confront our faults. We will develop new traditions, keeping ties to our proud history. We will GROWas professionals who know the value of learning. Our colleagues will identify us as

LEADERS IN OUR PROFESSION because we are student centered and we care for one another. We will measure our success by the

success of our students. The quality of their life and the lives of the people they care for will be better

because of our work. We are in the business of making a difference

because we are learners. Frank Gornick - January 7, 1994



West Hills magazine

To start with, there were concrete goals for the next decade: increasing distance learning opportunities and online course offerings; partnering with local agencies to provide services; increasing student enrollment; reopening the WHCC residence halls and moving to new facilities in Lemoore and Firebaugh; and a renewed focus on staff development. With a plan in place, West Hills College began the process of becoming what it is today. “When people saw these kinds of things happening, attitudes started to change a little bit,” Gornick said. In 1995, the men’s and women’s dorms re-opened. From 1994 to 1996, the campus landscaping was restored as part of a community and college initiative called Campus Re-Leaf. In 1995, football was brought back and baseball followed in 1996.

find themselves on campus learning as part of community summer camps. And, since 1994, enrollment across the district has almost doubled: from 5,150 students in 1994 to 10,252 today. “I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” said Oxborrow. “I’ve had so many people ask me ‘how did you do this?’ and I have to give credit to Dr. Gornick and his team and to our staff and faculty who have built this district up over the years. And our board brings different bits of expertise to the table. We’re not a board that will step back and say we don’t want to try anything new.” Van Horn also sees the role of hard work, innovation and strategy as key to the growth the district has experienced over the past two decades.

In 1998, the current North District Center in Firebaugh opened. In 1999, the first online classes in the district were offered.

However, according to him, there’s one other big reason the college has been able to grow so much: the leadership of Dr. Frank Gornick as Chancellor.

In the new century, West Hills College continued to grow technologically and physically.

“Frank has made West Hills what it is today – a remarkable multi-college district and one of the most innovative I’ve seen since my entry into California community college administration in 1984,” Van Horn said. “It’s a district of doers and high achievers who are collectively dedicated to student success and

West Hills College Lemoore welcomed its first students in 2002. Major renovations took place at WHCC, including classroom and library improvements and the building of the new Farm of the Future. In 2014, WHCCD launched the cutting-edge Reg365 registration program, which allows students to register for a full year of classes at once. West Hills College also made developing open educational resources and free textbooks a priority, a goal which continues to be a main focus today.

On Jan. 13, 2017—a year in which West Hills College Coalinga turned 85 years old, West Hills College Lemoore celebrated 15 years and North District Center, Firebaugh celebrated 46 years— Dr. Frank Gornick gave his last State of the District address after 23 years leading the West Hills Community College District. This time, things couldn’t be more different. He addressed a crowded theater, full of some of the over 800 staff, faculty and administrators employed in the West Hills Community College District today. And the District itself? More than stable. In fact, it’s thriving. WHCCD Board of Trustees President Mark McKean, his wife, and family helping plant trees during the Campus Re-Leaf initiative.

“I want to give a big thank you to the people who saw what we wanted to do over the years and stepped up,”

WHCCD has gained a statewide reputation for innovation and has been singled out for its dedication to innovation three times since 2015 by the state of California, earning three Awards for Innovation in Higher Education. WHCCD was the only Central Valley institution honored all three times. Community partnerships have become commonplace. West Hills College graduates nurses and psychiatric technicians every year to fill hospitals across the state. Intensive career technical education courses are being offered in everything from Java to HTML, often leading to students working with local companies including Bitwise Industries. Students as young as six

college completion. His philosophies, strategies, and tactics are guided by the need of students and our communities in the rural Central Valley.”

Gornick said.

Dr. Frank Gornick helps Board of Trustee member Jeff Levinson and Dr. Barbara Hioco, then president of WHCL, cut the ribbon to commemorate the opening of West Hills College Lemoore.

Newspaper clipping from an article outlining plans to open West Hills College Lemoore

“Success takes a board that’s willing to say let’s go out for a bond, let’s go out for two bonds, let’s go out for three bonds and let’s put it to good use. It takes people who are willing to say ‘Let’s talk to people about donating land and let’s hire great faculty and staff, people that enjoy teaching.’ It takes faculty and staff who are willing to try new things. Those people are what have made this district great.” Spring 2017



After Decades of Physical Growth, Still More Growth on the Horizon for West Hills College West Hills College began life in 1932 as just a few classes offered in a set of buildings at Coalinga High School. Over the past 85 years, however, it’s become much more. Now, the West Hills Community College District serves dozens of towns and cities within its 3,400 square mile service area and boasts colleges in Lemoore and Coalinga, the North District Center in Firebaugh and several child development centers across the San Joaquin Valley.

The first Coalinga College classes were offered on the Coalinga High School campus.

West Hills Community College District’s physical history is a long one full of careful expansion. The first dedicated campus opened in 1956 at the current location of West Hills College Coalinga—then called Coalinga College— on Cherry Lane in Coalinga.

The first North District Center in Firebaugh opened in 1971 on Saipan Avenue, four classrooms and an office leased from the Firebaugh Elementary School District.


1964 The first classes in Lemoore were offered in 1964 in rented facilities until the district purchased 15 acres in 1979 to offer classes through what was then called the Kings County Center.



West Hills magazine

1998 In 1998, the North District Center moved to its current location: a bowling alley that was extensively renovated to better serve students. Then, in 2002, the first new community college of the 21st century opened as West Hills College Lemoore.

The early 2000s also saw $18.5 million in renovations and improvements at WHCC, including the overhaul of classrooms and the library. An estimated $1.4 million in improvements were also made at the North District Center in Firebaugh, including the addition of a new plaza. In Coalinga, the next decade would see the building of the new Farm of the Future after a generous donation from the Allen family, the opening of the brand new Welborn Wellness Center in 2013, an expanded child development center and the expansion of the Rodney B. Fitch Library to double its 1956 size. The past 85 years have also had their setbacks, including the temporary closure of both the men’s and women’s dorms at West Hills College Coalinga in 1990 and 1982 respectively, $1.7 million in damage from the 1983 Coalinga earthquake, and landscaping damage caused by a major freeze in Coalinga in 1990.

The growth of the colleges and district since 1932 has been steady and, with several major projects on the horizon and one other recently completed, the district is set to continue its physical growth over the next few years. “This growth is important because we’ve had so much student growth,” said Ken Stoppenbrink, Deputy Chancellor. “It’s about modernization and creating more room for students to come in.”

WHCL Student Union ground breaking.

“Having additional spaces like this gives us an opportunity to not only build and increase enrollment but also to become more engaged with the local communities around us,” said Dr. Kristin Clark, President of West Hills College Lemoore. “This is also a great way to give students a space where they can feel comfortable and like they belong.” Construction costs were funded in part by local tax dollars from Measure E and Measure L. Discussions are also being had about the possibility of a new instructional center being built at WHCL in the next few years.

Looking forward, the growth of the district is only going to continue. The brand new Golden Eagle Student Union opened in January 2017 and now serves students and staff every day with a student store, study space, a café and meeting areas. WHCL Student Union ribbon cutting

Spring 2017



A new District office in Coalinga is currently being planned.

One of the biggest building projects, however, will be undertaken in Firebaugh: a new North District Center.

New residence halls

Voters passed Proposition 51 during the November 2016 election to partially fund the building of a new 28,000 square foot facility. The facility will replace the current 11,764 square foot center with the goal of serving as a hub for community education and events.

Major changes are also planned for West Hills College Coalinga. New residence halls are tentatively scheduled to be built in the 2017-2018 fiscal year— and a new two story instructional building featuring new classrooms in the next four or five years. The state-of-the art residence halls would house over 200 students in suite style rooms. Brenda Thames, WHCC President, said the new residence halls are much needed and could help enhance the college experience for students.

“The residence halls are a part of the DNA of this campus,” she said. “It’s one of the unique aspects of WHCC and not something many community colleges can say they have. It’s important to modernize them to meet student needs and enrich the college.” Brenda Thames, WHCC President

“This will be beneficial for this entire area,” said Jack Minnite, WHCCD Board of Trustee member for Area 2, which includes Firebaugh. “It’ll be a real economic and educational contribution to the greater west side.” Minnite added that construction of the center itself will also likely be an economic boon for the Firebaugh region as it will make construction jobs available. He also added that the presence of the new center might attract new businesses to the area.

The multi-million dollar center will be double the size of the current center, on land along Ninth Street, and will feature a community plaza; Fresno County Library branch; community room; computer, science and art labs; study areas; and classrooms. Several local universities including California State University Fresno, University of California Davis, and University of California Merced have also expressed interest in participating in a university center in the new facility. “It’s a win win for the entire westside of Fresno County,” Minnite said. “I think it’s huge and the impact of West Hills College is just going to continue to grow.”

The current WHCC residence halls were built in the late 1950s; the new residence halls will be built with the help of low interest rate USDA funding. A new office in Coalinga to house over 50 District office staff and administrators is also in the works and scheduled to open in 2017-2018. A new North District Center is being planned in Firebaugh. 9


West Hills magazine

Spring 2017



West Hills Community College District has been named a winner of the California Awards for Innovation in Higher Education for the second year in a row.


West Hills Community College District implemented the year round Reg365 registration system in 2014.

West Hills College was the only college to receive multiple awards in 2017.

West Hills Community College District offerrs tools that enhance the student learning experience

West Hills College Earns Two

Innovation Awards,

Totaling $3 Million

Innovation has become a tradition and a way of life at West Hills Community College District. From implementing a year round registration system to offering tools that enhance the student learning experience, West Hills College is consistently on the cutting edge. Once again this year, WHCCD has been recognized at the state level for its dedication to innovation. West Hills Community College District has been named a winner of the California Awards for Innovation in Higher Education for the second year in a row. This year, WHCCD earned two separate awards 11


West Hills magazine

for two of its programs and is among 14 colleges statewide to be honored. The honor comes with two monetary awards for $2 million and $1 million. “Innovation is at the heart of what we do here at West Hills,” said Dr. Frank Gornick, WHCCD Chancellor. “We are always in the process of evaluating and seeking to improve the programs we offer to students. We look to internal and external partnerships to help us achieve our vision - the relentless pursuit of student success. “

West Hills College is the only Central Valley college on the list and the only two-year college slated to receive two awards. The Awards for Innovation in Higher Education were created by the State of California Department of Finance as an incentive to urge colleges to focus on innovative reforms, in an effort to increase completion rates and make college more affordable. They recognize California districts and colleges that help reduce the time it takes students to complete degrees and credentials, reduce the total cost of attendance for students, or do both.

The state set aside $25 million in funding intended to aid in the development of innovative programs at the community college level. In April 2017, the Committee on Awards for Innovation in Higher Education announced the awards which were split among the winning 14 campuses and districts. “Boosting completion rates and reducing college costs are among the highest priorities for all three higher education systems in California,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “The schools recognized (with awards) are leading the way when it comes to making these twin goals a reality for this state.”

Spring 2017



WHCCD was Honored for Two of its Initiatives with Two Awards. The First Award — which comes with $2 million—is for

The Second Award — for $1 million— is to further a

WHCCD’s prior learning program called Quick Path. WHCCD is working with San Joaquin Delta College, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and AcademyOne to implement the Quick Path Program, to develop a web-enabled prior learning assessment platform.

partnership with Bitwise Industries and California Forward geared toward offering job training for software developers through Bitwise’s Geekwise Academy. WHCCD has been working with Geekwise Academy since last year to train West Hills College students to become software developers.

The WHCCD Bitwise partnership trains West Hills students for careers in the tech industry.

The one-time awards will be used to fund further innovation and develop the award-winning programs as well as other innovative projects throughout the district. “Both the Prior Learning Assessment platform and the Bitwise business partnership are expected to reduce the time it takes students to complete degrees and credentials and reduce the total cost of attendance for our students, which is the intent of the Award for Innovation,” said Anita Wright, WHCCD Director of Grants.

West Hills was previously recognized in 2015 for its unique advance-registration innovation, Reg365, which was launched in 2014 and allows students to register for classes for a full year, all at once. As a part of Reg365 implementation, WHCCD put together an implementation guide outlining guidelines and best practices of an advance registration system. Since the launch of the WHCCD Reg365 registration program, two additional California Community Colleges have embraced the model.

In addition to Reg365, West Hills has embraced a number of innovation initiatives: Student Self Service

Quick Path - The web-enabled prior learning assessment platform for adults.

“We are profoundly honored and humbled by the three-time recognition and we look forward to investing award dollars in ways that help our district respond to identified needs of our citizens, industries, and local and regional entities to address challenges facing the valley,” said Dr. Stuart Van Horn, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Workforce Development at West Hills Community College District.



West Hills magazine

A web tool that allows students to access school records, financial aid information, and student planning and class schedule information.


An online learning management system that allows students and faculty 24-hour access to their virtual classrooms and course materials.

A Select Committee appointed by the Department of Finance approved the list of 14 recipients and determined the funding for each of the colleges. The awards are for $1 million or $2 million, based on scores.

There were 41 entry applications from throughout the state.


Web Redesign

Innovation In Motion

WHCCD is completely redesigning its website. The new website will provide an opportunity for students, employees and the community to access information quickly and on any device.

West Hills Mobile App

Illume and Inspire for Advisors

This app is available for download from the Google Play and the Apple App Stores. It allows students to access records, financial aid information, and more from anywhere. Students can also easily register for classes with the click of a button right on their mobile device.

Two predictive modeling and data analytics tools that help college personnel anticipate students potentially at risk of not successfully completing courses. The tools help college personnel provide timely intervention and support services.

Spring 2017



“You get the true collegiate experience here,” she said. “You get a classic college experience including sports, cultural events and more just like you’d get at a four-year campus. It’s a wonderful college and it has a reputation for a commitment to student success and an amazing faculty and staff.” Thames is a 2016-2017 Fellow with the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence. In 2014, she completed the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management.

WHCC President

Brenda Thames Brings Passion &Experience Following a nationwide search in 2016, West Hills College Coalinga found its new president: Brenda Thames, an educator with over 19 years of experience in higher education. Thames took on the role of president on Feb. 1 and is enthusiastic about the opportunity, bringing a passion for developing the capacities of individuals, institutions and communities to the position. “I am honored and absolutely delighted to be joining the West Hills College Coalinga family,” she said. “WHCC has a long history of providing access, educational opportunity, and academic excellence to the communities on the West Side of the valley. Students are the central focus of the college and this core value is the very heart of our work. I look forward to becoming part of the community and joining with the exceptional faculty and staff of WHCC in the relentless pursuit of student success.”



West Hills magazine

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Sociology and Social Welfare from University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Arts degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from USC.

She is also currently a doctoral candidate in Education with a concentration in Community College Leadership at Oregon State University. In addition to her extensive experience within the community college arena, Thames has over five years of experience as a mental health clinician in county social services, county mental health and at the California Department of Corrections. Thames has several goals for the college including expanding career technical education and concurrent and dual enrollment opportunities and increasing community engagement. “We want this college to be one of the primary institutions in the region and we want to increase our engagement with the community,” she said.

She comes to the role of president with a breadth of experience and a demonstrated dedication to education. Thames previously served at Modesto Junior College as the Vice President of Instruction. She also has served in a broad spectrum of positions at Modesto Junior College, American River College and at the Los Rios Community College District Office including adjunct faculty, tenured faculty, faculty coordinator, department chair, program director, dean, and vice president of Student Services. She was one of three final candidates for the president role, chosen from the top eight candidates who were interviewed by a committee following a national search. While she’s just started as president, Thames said she’s already impressed by the college and excited to help it continue to improve and serve students.

Spring 2017



I’m a Geek

Natalie Solorio, a Coalinga native and one of the students involved in Geekwise Academy, said the idea of going into the tech industry wasn’t something she thought was a possibility for her until now. “I never thought I could do anything with coding because I live in a small town where there isn’t a really strong tech base,” she said. “Normally, when would I ever have this opportunity? But now I’ve learned so much and I want to stay in the field of computer science.”

The first phase of the Geekwise Academy partnership began in Fall 2016 with 20 students total, including two from West Hills College Lemoore. Many of the students involved in both the initial and current group had previously taken Career Technical Education academies offered at both WHCL and WHCC in the 2015-2016 academic year, learning Java and HTML.

Geekwise Academy Trains Students to Code, Find Success in Tech Industry At Bitwise Industries, collaboration is not just welcome but expected. Collaboration, after all, is one of the main reasons that 11 former West Hills College Coalinga students come here five days a week. As part of Bitwise’s Geekwise Academy and a joint partnership with West Hills College, the students have spent the past year learning programming languages including AngularJS and MEAN Stack and how to build websites and mobile apps. They’re also learning one other important lesson: how to land a job in the tech industry and the ins and outs of the field. “We were interested in involving our students with Bitwise because we wanted to connect them with good paying jobs right here in the Central Valley,” said Robert Pimentel, Associate Dean of Educational Services at West Hills College Coalinga. “These are exciting jobs they can be doing right now in Coalinga and Huron rather than continuing to let Silicon Valley be the leader in this field.” 17


West Hills magazine

In fact, as part of the second stage of their involvement in Geekwise Academy, all 11 students are currently employed by Bitwise. They’re not just completing projects for experience either: they’re actually working on projects for real clients including building a 415 page WordPress site and working on websites for companies throughout the state. All of this is at no cost to the students, thanks to an Industry Driven Regional Collaborative grant awarded to West Hills College in 2015. The Geekwise Academy cohort travels to Fresno every day—in vans purchased by Bitwise as part of the partnership—and spend their workday working on these projects, collaborating with other programmers both in Geekwise Academy and out, and building their digital portfolio and resume. “This is important to us because these are our clients and all of the work the students are doing now will be visible on the web,” said Bethany Mily, Geekwise Academy CEO. “They can show that to prospective employers. They’re meeting with real clients and meeting real deadlines.”

The students spent last year in the Geekwise Academy learning various programming languages and developing apps. They also presented their work in an industry fair at West Hills College Coalinga in Dec. 2016. They’re now in the second phase of the program and will spend the next several months working on their website building projects. While none of the students are attending classes this semester due to the demands of working full-time, many intend to return to school. Others plan on entering the tech industry and begin working.

A possible third leg of the program now being planned could include learning about how to freelance and find programming jobs that can be done anywhere in the world, even and especially the Central Valley.

“There’s a high demand outside of our area for talented technologists and we’re trying to create a greater demand in the area,” said Mily. “Through Geekwise Academy, we’re teaching these students how to be successful in that industry. We want people to feel they can be personally successful in tech in the Fresno area specifically. We don’t want them to think they have to move to Bay Area.” Upper left: Natalie Solorio at Bitwise's Fresno office. Right: The Geekwise Academy students work collaboratively on projects.

Spring 2017



Students on a field trip to San Francisco, at the Twin Peaks overlook. Photo courtesy of: Monique Harris

Be ond The Classroom:

By Jamie Applegate

Instructors Bob Hall and Tim Ellsworth Make Hands-On Learning a Priority For West Hills College Lemoore instructor Bob Hall and West Hills College Coalinga instructor Tim Ellsworth, learning doesn’t stop at their classroom doors.

On any given day, their students are just as likely to find themselves getting their hands dirty in a field or hiking through the Grand Canyon as they are to be leafing through a textbook in a classroom. Both instructors make it a point to take their teaching beyond the classroom and to give students real world reinforcement for what they’re learning in class.

Bob Hall Geography Instructor 19


West Hills magazine

Tim Ellsworth Ag Science / Geology Instructor Spring 2017




Tim Ellsworth, an agriculture science and geology

instructor at West Hills College Coalinga, has a similar commitment to getting students hands-on experience in the subjects they’re learning about in the classroom.

Wendy Tetrault, a WHCL student who has attended three of Hall’s trips, said the experience was an eye opening one for her. An adult learner who returned to school in her 50’s, Tetrault said the trips were a learning opportunity for which she’s especially grateful.

Bob Hall, a long-time West Hills College

geography instructor, is well known for his frequent class field trips to locations including the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Mojave Desert/Calico Ghost Town and San Francisco. West Hills College is one of the only community colleges to offer field trips and has been offering geography-centered trips like this for decades. “The outdoors is the greatest classroom in the world,” Hall said. “You can read about cloud formations but it’s even better to go out and see them. You can read about the desert but you need to go out and experience it. I want them to gain an appreciation and wonder for the world and the beauty and diversity of it.” Every spring break, Hall’s geography class sets out for either the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert or Death Valley for a six day field trip and an experience they won’t soon forget. Hall provides them with thick guidebooks full of facts about where they’re visiting including articles about the culture and geography of the area, information about native plants and animals and even travel tips about local attractions and things to do in the area. At the end of the trip, students get to keep the books should they ever want to return to the area for a follow up visit.

“I just found it so gratifying and I learned so much,” she said. “As a student, I think it’s important because we spend so much time in the classroom and there comes a time when you have to be able to connect what you’re learning in the classroom to the wider world outside.” For Tetrault, the trips were also impactful because they felt less like a class and more like an outing with a group of friends. “It’s like being on a tour,” she said. “We would pull off the freeway and suddenly be looking at Joshua trees and learning about the native animals we could find on the side of the road. You learn every step of the way.” Hall has also previously taken students on a three-day cultural geography trip to San Francisco where they get an introduction to the city and its culture, the impact of earthquakes on the area and more. He’s offering a similar course this semester—a three-day field experience that takes students on a trip to Santa Rosa.

Ellsworth said hands-on experience and outdoor learning is a vital part of all classes at the Farm of the Future and essential to agriculture courses. “The best way to really learn is by doing,” he said. “Students stay engaged when they actually get to apply what you’re talking about in the class and it helps to cement the concept in their minds much better when you actually go out and do it.” Students in the many ag classes Ellsworth has taught—including soil fertility, soil science, introduction to plant science, weeds and poisonous plants, entomology, and integrated pest management—get out of the classroom in dozens of ways.

Field trips are also a big part of the Farm of the Future curriculum in general and of Ellsworth’s geology classes. His agriculture classes have traveled to the World Ag Expo in Tulare, attended USDA events, agriculture conferences and more. His geology classes make regular trips throughout the Valley, including to the nearby town of Parkfield and geology hotspots Tar Peak and Tar Canyon. Whether it’s to the Grand Canyon or just down the road, for both of these instructors learning really does go beyond the classroom.

Courtesy of: Alissa Trevino

Students in his classes, both this semester and in past years, plant crops—everything from small grains to cauliflower— and tend to them in order to monitor the impact of fertilizer on the plants as they grow and get a firsthand look at how weeds crop up around growing plants. They leave the classroom to collect weed samples to identify and conduct experiments revolving around water infiltration to learn more about irrigation and the rate at which water penetrates different soils. They dig in the fields around the farm to get an up close view of different kinds of soil and problems that could arise in it that could affect crop growth. Adrian Jenkins, a current WHCC student who has taken five classes with Ellsworth as part of his path toward an Agricultural Pest Control Adviser license, said this type of hands-on learning has been deeply helpful for him. “It’s just one of the methods he uses to help us remember the material and succeed,” he said. “For me, it’s how I learn best. I read stuff over and over and sometimes I don’t understand but when I get out and experience something I pick up the true meaning of the text. I find things I might have missed out on when reading.”



Top right, bottom right: photos courtesy of Denise M. Gonzalez



West Hills magazine

Spring 2017



In an effort to encourage and motivate its TEAM Teach students, WHCL provides many opportunities to volunteer with its afterschool Learning in a Fun Environment (LIFE) program and during the 5c Experience, a summer camp open to 5th – 8th graders held on campus. “Hands on experience helps fuel students’ fire for education,” said Preston. “It helps them to understand what teaching in a classroom setting is all about.”

To help with the cost of textbooks, students are also given the opportunity to check out up to three textbooks a semester free of charge. This portion of the program has saved students over $500,000 over the last ten years. “The free textbook checkout really helped me keep costs down while I was attending school,” said Sarena Foreman, a current WHCL student and TEAM Teach Participant. “It is such a helpful resource and I know many TEAM Teach students really appreciate the cost savings,”

TEAM Teach Program

Gives Prospective Teachers Support, Mentorship and Motivation In the last several years, California has seen a shortage of special education, mathematics, and science teachers. To help fill this gap in primary and secondary education throughout the Valley, West Hills College Lemoore introduced a free teacher education program called TEAM Teach in 2006. Through this program, West Hills students interested in becoming teachers are provided with a network of support, mentorship, and—most importantly— motivation. Its purpose is to help guide students majoring in education and provide support that helps ensure these students meet their end goal: becoming educators. 23


West Hills magazine

When thinking about why TEAM Teach was created and the need for the program at West Hills, James Preston, WHCL Vice President of Educational Services said,

"Prior to launching the TEAM Teach program, I saw students studying teacher education who would begin with a lot of excitement, but their passion would


They were losing interest. They weren’t transferring and moving on."

As a part of the program, specialized academic counseling is provided to ensure courses being taken will meet prerequisites in education programs at four-year universities students plan to transfer into. Additionally, students participate in monthly meetings and an annual conference where mentors share information and best practices from the industry.

Pathology. She attributes much of her academic success to the help she received from the TEAM Teach program, the focused counseling she was given being part of the program, and from the WHCL faculty.

“Everything you need to know about going into education is laid out for you,” said Foreman. “I am interested in speech pathology and TEAM Teach arranged meetings where I got to meet with real pathologists that work in education. The program helped me figure out what I wanted to do in life and they kept me motivated to continue pursuing my goals.” Foreman will be transferring to Sacramento State in Fall 2017 and plans to study Communication Sciences and Disorders focusing on Speech-Language Spring 2017



As Early as Middle School, Wonderful Ag Career Camp Paves Way for Career Success

In the 8th grade, they have the option to take a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) course to strengthen their math and science skills. They can also take a similar course in the 7th grade before attending camp. Then, in the 9th grade they can apply for the Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep program. Several—18— of the 54 students who attended the first camp in 2013 are now juniors in this program at Avenal High School. They take West Hills College classes during their regular school day, on their high school campus, with the goal of earning a degree by the time they graduate high school. They also get to participate in job shadowing, internships and, of course, have a guaranteed job waiting for them at Wonderful after graduation.

The first ever Wonderful Agriculture Career Camp was held at West Hills College Coalinga in 2013. Now, the first group of campers are juniors at Avenal High School and not only do they have a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives, they also have a guaranteed $35,000 to $50,000 job waiting for them at the Wonderful Company after graduation if they want it.

A similar pathway is being developed at Mendota High School, with the first summer campers attending in 2016.

The unique partnership has a simple goal: Create job opportunities for students from the very beginning, as early as middle school and train them for that pathway. Wonderful Ag Career campers conduct an experiment at WHCC.

It’s all thanks to a partnership between West Hills College Coalinga and the Wonderful Company, which starts students as early as middle school on a pathway toward a career in agriculture. For the more than 40 students from Avenal and Kettleman City and over 30 students from Mendota who attend the Wonderful Agriculture Career Camp at WHCC each summer, that means they get a head start on their career. That head start doesn’t end when they leave the camp, however. The partnership carries them from middle school to after high school graduation. From the summer before their 8th grade year, the students at the camp have an opportunity, should they stick with it, to follow a pathway to a career in agriculture. 25


West Hills magazine

“It’s helped me become a better student and prepare for other challenges I know I will be facing in life,” said Esther Olmos, one of the campers who attended the first camp in 2013. “It’s definitely helped me to decide what I want to do.” Olmos is now a junior at Avenal High School. The students start off by attending the Wonderful Agriculture Career Camp the summer before 8th grade. At the camp, they learn about plant science careers through hands on projects. “The camp is an introduction where they get an array of different experiences so that they can build an interest in the pathway,” said Lupe Espinoza, WHCC Director of Special Grant Programs.

“There’s a really big skills gap in the Valley for some of these jobs and we’re dedicated to being industry driven,” Espinoza said. “We want these students to be able to land a good job when they graduate and we also want to meet the needs of local employers.”

the company™ Hands on learning is important to WHCC Farm Director Clint Cowden, shown here working with a camper.

Spring 2017



Despite Challenges

Tasha Perkins

Finds Academic Success By: Amber Myrick

Comtek FM Keith Brock, WHCL DSPS Adaptive Technology Coordinator

Students at West Hills College have a variety of goals in mind when they begin their collegiate journey. Some students are interested in transferring to four-year universities where they seek to earn a bachelor’s degree. Others are pursuing certificate programs and skill building classes that will advance their careers. And some are taking one or two courses that fulfill degree requirements from neighboring colleges. No matter what their end goal, most West Hills students find the small class sizes, lack of waitlists, and the dedication of faculty and staff refreshing. Former West Hills College Lemoore student Tasha Perkins is no exception. She chose to attend WHCL because she found patient instructors who understood college policy and were willing to work with the campus Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) office. The WHCL DSPS program offers special assistance to students with disabilities through individualized help and counseling and is committed to providing students with support that enables academic achievement. In fact, the WHCL DSPS program proved to be an essential part of Perkins’ success at West Hills, as she has moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss with 70% loss in clarity. “I have one-on-one conversations where I understand everything the other person I am talking to says because I read lips well,” she said. “I also use hearing 27


West Hills magazine

aids. My hearing disability really affects me in the classroom, however, because it’s difficult to read the lips of my instructor during a lecture and take notes at the same time. A lot of times in class, instructors walk around and turn their back to class. When this happens, I’m not able to understand what is being said.” Perkins’ hearing loss can make learning difficult and, without support from a DSPS office, particularly challenging. Before attending WHCL, Perkins had previously attended another community college closer to where she lives and found their lack of a robust DSPS program challenging. “They had a DSPS person but their department wasn’t very big,” she said. “It was hard because I would take classes with different adjunct instructors who didn’t always know what DSPS was or what I needed. When I started attending West Hills, I found they had an actual DSPS department with counselors and technical staff. The West Hills DSPS department worked with me and my instructors and provided me with equipment that really helped.”


Disabled Students Program and Services

Keith Brock— who works in the WHCL DSPS office as an adaptive technology coordinator— was one of the staff members who helped Perkins. His role within DSPS is to help determine the type of technology and equipment that is needed to help students in the program. After meeting with Perkins, Brock provided her with equipment that he felt would help her take notes while listening to her instructors during class. He set Perkins up with a Comtek FM personal listening system, a device that improves the effectiveness of hearing aids by amplifying the voice it is connected to while eliminating background noise. Using this device, Perkins’ instructors wore a special microphone that transmitted their voice directly to her hearing aids. The Comtek FM aided in Tasha’s ability to hear her instructors as they lectured. She quickly encountered issues however because the device did not transmit the voices of her classmates as they asked questions and engaged with her instructors. “To help Tasha understand and participate with classroom interaction, we added a conference boundary microphone that routed through the Comtek which was then connected to her hearing aids,” said Brock. “This equipment was especially helpful in her communication classes where students were encouraged to ask questions and respond to instructor questions.”

Perkins appreciated the lengths DSPS and Brock went to to help her find the perfect technology to meet her needs. “It was a process of finding the right type of equipment,” said Perkins. “When I took a West Hills public speaking class, I ran into so many challenges. My instructor was high energy and was always asking our class questions. I had a hard time understanding my classmates, because at first she was the only person with a mic. I talked to Keith and he added a classroom mic which really helped.” It wouldn’t be the last time that Perkins and Brock worked together to find solutions. When Perkins began taking a West Hills Statistics class, she ran into additional challenges. “A lot of people don’t realize that math has its own vocabulary and many of the words used have three and four syllables,” she said. “These words are hard for me to interpret during a lecture especially with my classmates asking questions and rustling paper in the background. Phrases like ‘Coefficient of Determination’ and ‘Explanatory Variable’ are just hard to make out using the Comtek system so my notes were almost always incomplete.” Brock sought to help her solve this issue by providing her with a Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) system that connected her instructor’s voice to a transcriptionist who typed the lecture in real time for Perkins to read during her lecture. Spring 2017



CART Service

Leo Orange, Sr., WHCL DSPS Learning Skills Program Assistant

RevoLabs xTag

“In order to route sound both to the CART transcriptionist and to Tasha, her instructor would wear two mics – one connected to the Comtek FM for Tasha, and the other connected to CART services,” said Brock.

In addition to the technical support Brock provided, Perkins also received reassurance and assistance during the course of her academic study with West Hills College Lemoore from her DSPS Learning Skills Program Assistant, Leo Orange, Sr.

Despite these efforts, Perkins was not able to completely understand the mathematical jargon being used in her class primarily because the standard conference microphone that connected to the CART system resulted in a lag between the teacher speaking and the sound being processed and sent to the CART service. This meant that Perkins heard what was being said through the Comtek FM connection well before she was able to read it through the CART system.

“Leo was very supportive,” she said. “He was always willing to talk and encouraged me during some of the most challenging moments of my academic career. It was very nice to have an entire staff dedicated to helping students like me. That’s one of the main reasons I chose to take classes at West Hills College Lemoore.”

“It took some time to figure out the right type of microphone we needed to use,” Brock said. “After much research, we found a mic made by RevoLabs called xTag that eliminated the lag and gave Tasha real time lecture transcription.” Through the help of DSPS and Brock—and much trouble shooting—Perkins was eventually able to pass the Statistics class after not being able to pass the class on her first try. “The first time I took the class, I was frustrated because I couldn’t hear exactly what my instructor was saying,” she said. “However, I felt supported by my DSPS team. They gave me encouragement and told me to keep going. The mic lag was eventually solved and I was happy no one gave up. We just kept trying until something worked.” 29


West Hills magazine

Orange was, in turn, impressed by Perkins' dedication and determination. “I find Tasha has serious work ethic and is driven and hard-working," said Orange. “During her time at West Hills College Lemoore, she made continuous progress towards her educational goals even though she faced setbacks that would have caused others to abandon their dreams. She is a role model to other DSPS students. She advocates for herself and encourages others to do the same.” Despite many challenges, Perkins was able to complete her general education requirements and transferred to California State University, Fresno in spring 2017. She is currently studying Criminology with an emphasis in Forensic Behavior Science. She plans to graduate in 2019 and hopes to find a career where she can work with domestic violence victims.

River Conservation &Outdoor Education are the Goal in Firebaugh Since its founding as a ferry crossing for prospectors heading for gold country, Firebaugh has been a city well known for its river. West Hills College’s North District Center in Firebaugh is no exception as the center itself, and the planned 28,000 sq. ft facility that will replace the current buildings, is close to the San Joaquin River. Now, thanks to a technical assistance grant received from the National Park Service’s River, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program in 2015, students at North District Center will soon have an opportunity to get to know their river and environmental science.

The tentative name for the program is the San Joaquin River Outdoor Education Program and it has several goals including:

Create an outdoor classroom for students at North District Center Establish a river trail from Mendota to Firebaugh

Offer a fishing camp for the community

“This is really about community enrichment and helping our students and community residents get to know their river and respect the river.” Brian Boomer - Program organizer and Coordinator of Special Grants for the West Hills Community College District.

The program is still in its early stages, but an environmental science club has already been founded for NDC students. So far, club members have helped to fill sandbags to curb river flooding and plan to work on projects ranging from recycling to sponsoring an annual canoe or kayak event on the river.

With the nearest national park nearly 100 miles away, one of the main goals of the program is to help the community come to see the river as a great place to recreate and experience nature.

Another component of the project is the creation of an outdoor classroom. The new North District Center facility, which is set to be constructed in the next few years, will be right on the river and would lend itself to outdoor learning. Al Graves, a geography instructor at NDC and one of the faculty advisors for the environmental science club, is excited about the possibilities for outdoor learning. “We’re going to be making a stronger effort to get students out of the classroom and down to the river,” Graves said. “Especially with the sciences, if the students are able to get out there in nature and actually feel things, touch things, smell things and hear things it adds dimensions you don’t get from a PowerPoint or video.” Environmental science will also have a bigger place going forward in science classes at NDC, according to Boomer. Students won’t be the only ones to benefit from the program. The outdoor education program will also have a big community aspect, including offering community activities such as a fishing camp.

MaLisa Martin, Outdoor Recreation Planner with the National Park Service “It seems that with a little bit of help from RTCA, we can connect residents and students with the resources around them,” said MaLisa Martin, Outdoor Recreation Planner with the National Park Service. “My own philosophy is that being outside makes you a happier, healthier person and we want that for Firebaugh.”

The National Park Service is just one of the community partners working on this project alongside West Hills College. Other supporters include the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, Firebaugh High School and Firebaugh Rotary, Workforce Connection, the City of Firebaugh and Firebaugh Police Department, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mendota High School, UC Merced’s Harmon Research Lab, San Joaquin Valley Rural Development Center and Meyers Water Bank and Wildlife Project have also supported the effort.

North District Center TRiO and Environmental Club fill sand bags to combat river flooding. 31


West Hills magazine

Spring 2017



When Lorinda Van Newkirk came to West Hills College Coalinga as a student in the 1990s, she was nervous. School was never something that came easy to her. However, she found being in a tight-knit community like the one at WHCC made the experience more enjoyable for her. She felt at home being around agriculturally like-minded people.

“Lorinda has always been a go getter with huge dreams and a no-limits mentality,” said Hunt-Lee.

By Amy Kessler

Left: an ad for Gyspy Soule. Above: Lorinda Van Newkirk. Bottom right: Van Newkirk still competes in rodeo.

The relationships made and personal growth achieved at West Hills College paid off. Newkirk has lead an interesting life as a successful entrepreneur, businesswoman and Western/Rodeo fashion designer. Some of that success stems from her time as a Falcon. “I think the biggest thing that people need to realize from college is it’s not just about getting the degree,” she said. “It’s the relationships that you make as you grow as a person that put you where you’re going to be in life.” She enjoyed her classes, appreciated her professors, and gained something that has proven valuable to her career: contacts and relationships that would help her create and manage successful businesses. 33


West Hills magazine

She also speaks at conferences and charity events, using her business experience to inspire younger entrepreneurs. One of her favorite speaking engagements was at a conference addressing an audience of young women aspiring to be successful in the western fashion industry.

She was involved in rodeo during high school and although she did not compete in college, she felt at home with the WHCC rodeo team. That’s how she met longtime friend Nora Hunt-Lee, daughter of former rodeo coach, Bruce Hunt.

“Lorinda has always had good taste, and she understands what people like, but more important is her work ethic.” She is so driven that she launched her first business while finishing her sophomore year at WHCC, One Stop Cowboy Shop. Founded in 1996 with a focus on horse tack—equipment like saddles, bridles and ropes— it eventually grew to include western wear such as vests and jewelry. When Van Newkirk transferred to California State University, Fresno, in 1996 to study agriculture communications and marketing, she kept her business going. The One Stop Cowboy Shop was only the beginning of her business ventures.

Some 20 years later, Van Newkirk is still nurturing relationships she made during her WHCC days. She’s come a long way from the classroom taking the business world by storm and truly living out the WHCC motto, “Once you go here, you can go anywhere.”

She sold it in 2001, with the exception of the jewelry component, and began Lorinda’s Jewels. She placed her jewelry in high-end day spas up and down the Central Coast for several years, visiting spas on their busiest days to help sell her products. Next, she tackled her biggest business venture yet. Lorinda was inspired to design flip flops with cowhide and crystals. Gypsy Soule, a western wear company, was born. The feedback she received from customers made her realize that her products resonated with people on a deeper level. For her, Gypsy Soule became a way she could empower women and help instill confidence.

“The product that I produced really changed the way people felt about themselves,” she said. “Women sent me letters saying wearing Gypsy Soule flip flops gave them confidence. Women would stop them, or even men, and tell them, ‘Oh my gosh, your shoes are so pretty, where did you get them?’” Van Newkirk started the business in 2003 and ran it until a larger company bought it in 2015. Her next move was to the airwaves. For about a year in 2015-2016, she worked as a radio co-host for Women in Radio. She now primarily does business and marketing consulting. Clients call her for advice about everything from setting up booths for trade shows to making contacts and growing their own businesses. Spring 2017



Long-Serving Trustees Celebrate 20 -30 years of Service to District Three of West Hills Community College District’s trustees celebrated significant and impressive milestones in 2015 and 2016: decades of service to the District.

As of 2016, Jeff Levinson—who represents Trustee Area 7—reached his 31st year serving the WHCCD. He was honored in April of last year by California Community College Trustees for his then 30 years of service to the community. He has served on the Board of Trustees since November of 1985. Levinson is an attorney at Griswold, LaSalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin L.L.P. He is an alumnus of UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and San Joaquin College of Law and is also the author of several books. He resides in Lemoore.

James Preston named West Hills College Lemoore Vice President of Educational Services Following the retirement of long-time administrator Dave Bolt, WHCL now has a new Vice President of Educational Services: former Dean of Educational Services James Preston. Preston has been with WHCL since 2000. He began as an English instructor and also developed and taught Education classes. He also created the T.E.A.M. Teach program during his time as

a faculty member and worked with a team to design and implement the 5c Experience summer camp. After 18 years in the classroom, he became Dean and worked closely on staffing, scheduling and program development. In his new role, he plans to focus on initiatives including development of Open Educational Resources, pathways and course design.

Steve Cantu Jeff Levinson

Jack Minnite

Steve Cantu, Trustee for Area 6, and Jack Minnite, Trustee for Area 2, both reached 20 years of service in 2016.

Jack Minnite has served on the Board since December of 1996 and is a West Hills College—then Coalinga Junior College—alumnus. He lives in Firebaugh and is a retired restaurant owner. He is also involved with the Firebaugh Rotary and the Fresno County Water Advisory Committee.

Corinna Pereira

Steve Cantu has served on the Board since February of 1996 and lives in Tranquillity. He is the owner/operator of S. Cantu Farms and is also an alumnus of West Hills College as well as California State University, Fresno. He is also involved with Valley Health Team, USDA Cotton Board, and the National Cotton Council.

All three trustees have overseen great change during their time on the board. This includes the birth of West Hills College Lemoore, the ongoing modernization of the West Hills College Coalinga campus and North District Center, Firebaugh, and the passage of multiple bond measures to support projects including the Golden Eagle Arena and Student Union at West Hills College Lemoore and the implementation of cutting edge technology across the District. 35


West Hills magazine

James Preston

Corinna Pereira Joins WHCCD as Workplace Learning Liaison Coordinator Corinna Pereira has joined West Hills Community College District for an exciting goal: increasing career technical education and employment opportunities for students throughout the district. She is the new Workplace Learning Liaison Coordinator and will perform employer engagement and coordinate internships between students, staff and local employers. She will also work toward launching a

formal internship program on both campuses with the goal of placing 120 Career Technical Education students per year in internships with local businesses. Pereira formerly worked for ten years for the State of California, most recently with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards. She is a Riverdale native and a United States Navy Veteran. She holds a Masters in Leadership and Management.

Spring 2017



WHCC VP Sandy McGlothlin Retires After Two Decades of Service Don Warkentin Permanently Honored with Plaque on Golden Eagle Student Union Former West Hills College Lemoore President Don Warkentin has been honored for his decades of service to the college and community with a permanent place on the WHCL campus: a plaque on the recently opened Golden Eagle Student Union. Warkentin was president of the college from 2004 to 2015 and served WHCL for 29 years. He passed away in 2016, shortly after retiring from the college.

Sandy McGlothlin, Vice President of Student Services at West Hills College Coalinga, will be retiring in June 2017 after over two decades of service to the college. She began her career at WHCC as a counselor in 1995. In 1998, she began overseeing the Student Success and Support Program and joined the Curriculum Committee. From 1995 to 2013, she was also an adjunct instructor in College Success, Career Planning and Introduction to Social Welfare. In 2013, she took on her current Vice President role. In that position, she has overseen and guided student

services. She also served as the Accreditation Liaison Officer for WHCC during the campus’ recent accreditation visit. Outside of her work at WHCC, McGlothlin has served on the Board of Directors for the Coalinga Regional Medical Center. She has also volunteered with CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program for Fresno and Madera counties. She was honored for her work in the community in 2016 with the Coalinga Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award.

Frances Squire Don Warkentin

Sandy McGlothlin

Dr. Frank Gornick


Foundation Director Frances Squire Retires After 16 Years of Service

WHCCD Chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick will Retire as of June 30 After 23 Years of Service

Foundation Director Frances Squire will retire this year after 16 years of service to the West Hills Community College District and seven years of service as the executive director of the West Hills Community College Foundation. Squire joined the district as the director of marketing in 2001 before transitioning to the Foundation in 2010. During Squire’s tenure, the foundation’s assets have grown from $956,000 to $2.5 million and the number of scholarships awarded has grown dramatically, with almost $500,000 in

West Hills Community College District Chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick will retire as of June 30 after 23 years of service. Gornick has served the district since 1994, when he was hired as Superintendent/President. He transitioned to Chancellor when WHCCD became a multi-college district in 2001. As Chancellor, he ushered in a great amount of change at WHCCD, including the creation of it as a multi-college district, the opening of West Hills College Lemoore, and an era of innovation that has led to state and national recognition. He himself has also received recognition from his peers. Gornick was a Governor’s appointee


West Hills magazine

scholarships awarded to students each year. Squire is particularly proud of the growth of the President’s Scholars Program—which offers free tuition and $250 a semester to top students—over her time as Foundation executive director. Prior to coming to West Hills, Squire handled media relations at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. She will retire on June 30, 2017.

for higher education on the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and served as past Chair of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium. Additionally, he has served as a public representative for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 2009. He was elected by his peers to serve as Chair of the Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges Board. He was also the recipient of the 2017 Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award. His successor, Dr. Stuart Van Horn, will begin on July 1. Spring 2017



Profile for West Hills Colleges

West Hills Magazine - Spring 2017 (Issue 8)  

West Hills Magazine - Spring 2017 (Issue 8)  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded