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Mike (Ahmad) Diab

#251 Mike (Ahmad) Diab

Lebanon was engulfed in a civil war in 1984. “My father was killed when a rocket bomb hit his car dealership. He was in his office at the time,” Diab said. The dealership was collateral damage, not a target. Diab was just a teenager. He admired his father, who started as a taxi driver and moved up to become the largest used car dealer in Lebanon.

As a youth in Lebanon, Diab was a national black belt karate champion and wanted to continue to study martial arts in America, so he fled the country in the late 1980’s and traveled to Plano, Texas, a karate center. As a 21-year-old immigrant, with almost no ability in English, he cleaned the parking lot at Wendy’s in exchange for a hamburger. He was not qualified to flip burgers at the restaurant. He did janitorial work at a gym in exchange for a cot to sleep on in the basement.

Diab lived in Texas for one year, where he did janitorial work and taught karate at the gym by day. At night, “I rode a bicycle for two hours one way to the library to take English classes.” Through a friend, he was offered a job in California to work at a gas station as a cashier.

While employed in Palm Springs at a gas station, he went to College of the Desert to study English and to a management training school offered by the Shell gas company. He also worked part time, starting at 5 a.m., delivering newspapers for The Desert Sun, and later in the day at the gas station as a cashier. His karate training came in handy during several attempted gas station robberies as he was able to “take them down” until the police arrived.

Today in Palm Springs as a successful entrepreneur owning gas stations, Diab has 25 employees on his payroll, and he plans future expansion of his business and possibly a used car dealership.

His education comes mainly from the school of hard knocks, where he learned to “Chase your dreams… don’t just follow them.” He believes in working hard, usually about 80 hours a week, and dogged persistence.

As living proof of the American dream, Diab said, “Don’t give up, and don’t wait for someone to make it happen for you.”

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#250 Mariah Beatty, Student
(Psychology Major)

Both of my parents are drug addicts and alcoholics. I lived mainly with my grandma my whole life; but, I was bounced back and forth between parents and various family members. In 2009 my grandma passed away from cancer so I was then put into foster care. After graduating, I thought college was impossible! I thought I would need to take out loans and I have bad credit. So I tried online school..that was a mistake! When I came to COD I learned that there are wonderful donors and scholarships out there, I just needed to apply. I am the first generation to go to college. I work full time, I go to school full time, I am married and I also have two children under the age of five. My husband is a stay at home dad. I battle depression, anxiety and stress every day, but those are hurdles I have to overcome to give my children a different life than I had. Thank you to the Pell Grant, the Chaffee Grant, the Charles Yates scholarship, and the amazing counselors and staff at COD. My dream is to one day help troubled kids, teens and young adults and to be successful so my children never have to worry about their future.

Matthew Robles

#249 Matthew Robles, Class of 2008, Staff
(AA in Liberal Arts Adjunct Faculty - Geology and Natural Resources)

College of the Desert was instrumental in getting me to where I am today; but, to illustrate this I must go back approximately 22 years.

I was not a great student in high school. I was an average student who earned B’s and C’s and primarily focused on sports. This lack of interest in education carried over to my first attempt at higher learning immediately following high school. My interests at the time were purely athletic and no particular subject, let alone science, grabbed my interest; in less then two years at university I dropped out. The following ten years were filled with a variety of jobs. These jobs fulfilled their purpose, providing for my family and me; however, I never felt fully satisfied in these positions.

In 2006, after realizing a love for the science of geology, I decided that I would return to school and earn my geology degree. After making this decision I immediately realized that at 30 years old, with a full time job and a family, this endeavor would not be easy. In addition, I still needed to finish most of my general education classes. Balancing work, family and school was a difficult task; however, I also understood that College of the Desert would be instrumental in my transition back to school and on my eventual transfer to CSUSB for my Geology degree.

Returning to school, unlike before, I excelled in all of the subjects I once approached apathetically. Things were different. Not only had my approach to education changed, but I developed the utmost respect for the process of learning and began to admire those individuals, the professors, who were fostering intellectual progress. The professors at College of the Desert were encouraging and inspiring throughout my studies. In fact it was my geology professor, an adjunct, who first inspired me to consider teaching at the community college level. As I was the only student in his class going on to pursue geology as a degree, he would spend extra time after class with me in order to expand on some of the more important topics of the subject. This dedication meant a lot then and still influences my current approach to teaching.

Today, after completing my BS in Geology from CSU San Bernardino in 2010 and my MS in Geology from UC Riverside in 2012, things have come full circle. In addition to being an adjunct faculty member at two Southern California colleges, I am an adjunct faculty member in the geology department here at College of the Desert. It is sometimes surreal to think that I am teaching in the very same classroom that, approximately eight years ago, I once was a student. In this position I am able to bring not only my own life experience, but also the experience I gained as a student at College of the Desert. This insight allows me to foster better relationships with my students and build rapport resulting in more engaging instruction and enables me to continue the cycle of inspiration that was so instrumental to my success as a student.

By serving as an example of what an education from College of the Desert can provide, I am able to encourage our students as they proceed on a path to their own education goals - In a way I am our students and these students are me.

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Mara Papalas

#248 Mara Papalas, Class of 2015, Student
(Liberal Arts AA, Specializing in Health Education and Nutrition. Currently working on my Fitness Specialist Certificate.)

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, spent most of my early life in Michigan, and then moved with my family to Kansas City where I graduated high school. I started college at the University of Iowa, transferred to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and began my singing career at the same time.

Throughout 13 years in Nashville, I worked many different jobs, while at the same time singing with several bands, and performing solo gig performances as opportunities arose. Also, while in Nashville, I even worked and performed at the renowned Bluebird Café. Then I moved around the country (Santa Monica, Colorado Springs, Tucson) and relocated here to the desert about four years ago. Singing has always been my passion and dream in life. Over the years I have sung with about six bands and recorded my first professional CD, Soulshine. I had a very strong voice and thought I was invincible.

Then, in October 2013 my life changed. I lived right next to the Union Bank on El Paseo that had a major fire. By February, I started having severe vocal cord discomfort. At this time I was doing sales and marketing for a time share company. After many trips to doctors and some misdiagnosis, I was placed on a six week vocal rest and consequently had to go on disability. I could no longer work at my sales jobs. Rather than lamenting that fact, I made the best of my situation.

I had driven by College of the Desert (COD) many times, but it was during this period of my life that I decided to turn in and see what other options there were for me. COD has been terrific in helping me get a handle on the next part of my life. So, I enrolled in classes, graduating in May 2015 with an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts, specializing in Health Education and Nutrition.

After that, I began studies to acquire a Fitness Specialist Certificate. At the same time, I became a certified health coach with Take Shape for Life, working with many clients helping them slim down as they learned how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am now an exercise and fitness “nut” and want to work for the greater good and continue making a difference in people’s lives. I also pursue volunteering, most recently with Incight Disability Sports, Coachella Valley, and helping with wheelchair tennis at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. I am committed to my new passions---health, wellness, and giving back to the community!

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Michael Mozingo

#247 Michael Mozingo, Class of 2012
(Liberal Arts AA with a Communications Focus)

College of the Desert opened up a whole new world to me. If it were not for College of The Desert and KCOD, I would not currently be the morning show host on MIX 100.5 or the production director for RR Broadcasting. I always secretly dreamed of being on the radio, but I didn’t know where to start. After working in retail for 13 years, I was abruptly laid off and found myself searching for a new and exciting career. I had always wanted to be on the radio, but didn’t think that there was path to a career in radio in the Coachella Valley; until I heard that College of the Desert had a radio station.

Born and raised in the Coachella Valley, I began my career at COD after graduating from Palm Desert High School in 2001. I was a full time student for 3 semesters, but couldn’t find a subject that I really connected with, so I began working full time. I would fit classes into my schedule where I could, but didn’t really know what I was working towards until I heard that College of the Desert had a radio station. As soon as I could, I signed up for “Writing for TV and Radio,” and “Intro to Radio,” which as it turns out, were two classes that would earn me enough credits to graduate.

One afternoon, in my “Writing for TV and Radio," class, Bradley Ryan, a local morning show host visited to talk about careers in radio. He left his card behind in case anyone was interested in an internship, and I jumped at the opportunity.

So, while honing my skills at KCOD and producing my show “The Alternative Stew,” which would end up winning an IBS award that year, I also began an internship at RR Broadcasting. Over the course of the next 4 months, I did everything from sales assistance, to production assistance, to promotions assistance. I learned a lot, and learned it fast. As my internship concluded, so did my career at COD. I graduated and began working at RR Broadcasting as a part time weekend DJ. Within a year, I was doing mid-days on MIX 100.5 and was promoted to production director. A little less than a year later, I was given the morning show on MIX 100.5

In under 3 years, I was able to go from unpaid intern to morning show host, and it would not have been possible without COD. Not only did their radio classes help me focus on the important skills that I would need to be successful, but having access to KCOD and being able to produce my own show gave me the confidence to sit in front of a microphone and open up to the world.

COD, its faculty and staff, especially Professors Gloria Rodriguez and Laurilie Jackson opened the door to a brand new career for me. I not only earned an Associates in Liberal Arts at College of The Desert, but I gained the skills and confidence needed to pursue a job in a very competitive industry.

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