I always dreamed of a career in music but never thought it was possible, particularly because I am legally blind. Born in Indio, I spent most of my childhood years in the Coachella Valley and faced an uncertain future following high school. Pursuing my love of music and becoming a professional musician didn’t seem like a practical reality, but once I began classes at College of the Desert (COD), I was able to develop a true vision for a future life and career in music.
My professors really encouraged me to pursue the classical guitar, which I was so surprised and happy to hear after having so many doubts. And with the special program at the College for people with disabilities; including tutors, software, and magnifiers; it really helped me overcome my disability and go for my dream.
After completing basic courses at COD, I applied to California State University, Fullerton. I was told I would be perfect for their classical guitar program. Leaving the Coachella Valley for Orange County seemed scary at first, but it was, without question, the place I felt I was meant to be.
I earned my four year degree, and am currently close to completing my master’s degree. Following graduate school, I would love to come back to the Coachella Valley, open my own studio for kids and teach a guitar course at the college that gave me my start. I really want to give back, because the Valley is so fortunate to have an institution like College of the Desert. The College makes a difference in people’s lives, it made a difference in mine.
Growing up in Thermal, I always knew I wanted to give back to my community. But it was my start at College of the Desert (COD) that helped define my career and path to public service. After graduating from Coachella Valley High School, I knew my hometown college was the perfect place to begin my higher education. After receiving the core academic building blocks at College of the Desert, I transferred to the University of California at Riverside and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Public Service. I recently completed a Masters of Politics, Economics and Business from Claremont Graduate University.
While at College of the Desert I began working with then Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor Roy Wilson as a Youth Coordinator. I was later promoted to Legislative Assistant, where I focused on health and human services and served as the liaison between the Supervisor’s office, county departments and the community, particularly the Eastern Coachella Valley.
Education is truly a passion of mine. As President of the Riverside County Board of Education, my goal is to improve educational opportunities for students and families. The Coachella Valley is my home, and I want to see doors opened for everyone in our Valley.
Life and career have now come full circle for me. At the age of fifteen I began working as a Youth Promotora with Planned Parenthood and recently returned as Director of Community and Government Relations at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Inc.
I am grateful to College of the Desert for opening the doors to higher education and a great career in public service.
#174 Tiffany Silva, Class of 1993, Transfer to California State University Los Angeles
(Computer Science, Foreign Languages, and General Studies)
I started my path at College of the Desert after taking time off after high school to save money for college. During the time off, I had my beautiful daughter. She became my reason for going back to school. I started out as a computer science major, planning on going to work in the computer field to help support my little family. I continued to take language classes as I loved to learn about foreign cultures. I decided to switch my goals and continue the language learning in order to teach high school French. Well, it ended up taking me four years to finish at College of the Desert. All this time, I rode the SunBus everyday for four hours with my little girl just to complete my degrees.
After receiving my AA in both Language Studies and General Studies, I transferred to UC Santa Cruz. I continued the Language Studies and received by BA in that field. I did switch my focus when going for the teaching credential as I fell in love with my daughter's kindergarten class. I returned to the COD campus to work with Cal State San Bernardino on my credential. I am now a first grade teacher and have been loving that for the past 18 years! Thank you, COD for setting me on my path!
I often wonder what or who influences the path we choose to take in life and the decisions we make. Is it the obstacles that seem to occur so spontaneously and challenge us to be the best we can be? Or is it a multitude of people and their achievements we try to emulate? Perhaps there are as many answers as there are people in the world. For me, it was one singular moment that completely changed the direction of my journey.
In April 2007, only one month before graduating from COD, I thought I had my future planned out. With an acceptance letter from CSUSB in hand, I dreamed of joining the students of the Psychology Department and becoming…what exactly? Hmm. Not so planned out, after all. But it didn’t matter because that one single moment of clear lucidity which would change my destiny was about to happen. My epiphany came while I was reading William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” for my English Composition 1B. The story’s climax brought me to a state of complete awe and ushered in a flood of childhood memories. “I want to do that!” I remember saying to myself. “I want to paint with words, expand the limits of people’s imagination, make them live in different moments at the same time.” I have wanted to tell stories ever since I was a little girl growing up in the Czech Republic, with my nose constantly buried in a book. I admired the authors’ ability to portray an entire world within the four corners of a sheet of paper, and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to write.
COD’s English Composition 1B revived my love for literature, and the college’s wonderful counselors helped me with all the necessary paperwork to change my major from Psychology to English. After graduating from the College of the Desert, I went on to earn my BA in English Literature and MFA in Creative Writing. And finally, as I’d promised myself, I became a published author. My debut novel, Heartbreak Hotel, was released in September 2013 by Black Opal Books Publishing, and my second novel, The Guardian, will be out in early 2014 by the same publisher.
My dreams don’t end with writing books, however. I learned from my experiences at COD that it is necessary to dream, and to dream BIG. My next big dream is to return to COD and pay it forward by teaching English and guiding others on their path to success.
At age 23, I decided to enroll in College of the Desert’s (COD) culinary arts program after my parents retired in Palm Springs. I got all the basics at College of the Desert, which really helped me to excel when I transferred to Cal Pomona. And I have to say, my most memorable professors were right here at COD. The local culinary program is truly respected in this business, and it’s the most impressive part of my resume.
Following my education, I took a job with the Yucaipa/Calimesa School District and really developed a passion for providing nutritional lunches to kids. The challenge of balancing healthy foods that taste good for students of a variety of different ages and palates is very rewarding.
I joined Palm Springs Unified School District in July 2013 as Director of Nutrition Services where I oversee the planning, preparation and serving of an average 22,000 meals per day.
I’ll go out and sit at the lunch tables with second and third graders to get their feedback. They’re so honest, but what I love most is that nine times out of 10, what they have to say is really positive. It’s the best part of my day!
What I appreciated most about my time at the desert’s community college was how they encouraged students to be active participants in the community. Working with students, faculty, parents and local partners to promote healthy eating and active living for the next generation is one of the best parts of my job. Thanks, COD.