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201 Stories And Counting.

Victor Rios, Ph.D.

#201 Victor Rios, Ph.D., Staff
(Professor of Sociology)

Growing up as the youngest of six children of a Chicano migrant worker family in South Texas in the 1960s, the odds of my graduating from high school and going on to college were slight, to say the least. My parents had little to no formal education, most of my siblings had dropped out of school to help the family financially, and it seemed I was destined to follow the same path.

However, my third grade teacher saw something in me that caused her to call my parents in for a conference in which she impressed upon them a potential she saw in me and offered to help them send me to college when the time came. That moment, literally, changed my life.

From then on, my parents began to take a more active interest in my grades and my siblings began protecting me from the negative influences around us, urging me to stay in school and not drop out as they had. With this motivational support and encouragement, despite continued financial obstacles, I went on to receive a B.A. degree in Psychology and Sociology at Texas A&I University, Kingsville and eventually M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame.

It was at Notre Dame that I realized I wanted to teach at the higher education level, not only to help develop a more inclusive and diverse curriculum and environment in the university, but also to be present as an example and support for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Currently, I am Professor of Sociology at College of the Desert where I have found my life’s mission. Our student body is 54 percent Latino, the majority are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and many are the first in their family to go to college. My students are battling so many disadvantages in their lives that when they succeed it is an outsized accomplishment for them and for me. I am proud and humbled to be a member of the faculty at College of the Desert.

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Todor Nikolov

#200 Todor Nikolov, Class of 2014, Transfer to UC Santa Cruz
(Computer Sciences)

Todor Nikolov left Bulgaria in 2004 to come to America with little money and no friends or family but with a big dream, to become a computer software engineer. Since a small boy Todor has been fascinated with computers and software. In May 2014, he graduated from College of the Desert (COD) as Valedictorian with a perfect grade point average. His graduation and transfer to the University of California Santa Cruz moves him one step closer to his dream.

“When I left home at age 19 as part of a student exchange program, I knew it would take time and patience. I was optimistic that I would emerge a winner,” Todor says.

As part of the exchange program he worked in a variety of hospitality related jobs but eventually made his way to California. He found work at Papa Dan’s Pizza in Palm Desert and, with the support of his employer, enrolled at College of the Desert in 2011.

Since day one at the College, Todor focused on math, computer sciences and software, important steps in the path toward his dream career as a computer software engineer. And he began volunteering with Abraham Lincoln Elementary School kids, knowing his passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) might inspire them. He also helps mentor the school's First LEGO League team in building and programming robots - catnip for STEM students.

Support for the pursuit of academic and career goals along the way has come from the Math, Engineering, Science Achievement Program (MESA), and also COD Counselor Amanda Phillips and Math Professor Melissa Flora, two standout female staff and faculty members who have also inspired Todor in other ways. He is already thinking about the scholarship he wants to start at COD, for girls.

“Women are under-represented in math and science, Todor emphasizes. “I hope to pave the way and help motivate more girls to pursue computer science. It’s a great field.”

It is not surprising that this inspirational young man would be thinking about what he could do to pay it forward. He is a past recipient of multiple scholarships including the MESA S-STEM Scholarship and support from generous COD Foundation donors, including the D. Gail Brumwell Scholarship, Anne E. Scholl Memorial Scholarship and COD Student Memorial Scholarship.

Todor is especially proud of MESA Science Day, an outreach program he started during his term as President of the COD MESA Club, where middle school students are invited to visit campus to see college-level math and science experiments.

“I hope the program can continue. It would be very rewarding to think I was able to open the door for the next generation as it was opened for me.”

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#199 Ritchie Lafrate, Class of 1992-93
(Liberal Arts and Advertising and Marketing classes)

I attended College of the Desert during my senior year at Palm Desert High School and played football for the College during the fall of '91 & '92. We had a great season my sophomore year. I am currently finishing my elementary education degree through University of Phoenix, and still to this day know that some of the professors at the College provided me the best education of all. The athletics program gave me a foundation from which my future students will benefit. I am a football coach for both high school and youth programs and can attest that Coach Dean Dowty is the best coach I have ever known, played for and worked with! Student athletes who have the privilege to play for the Roadrunners are truly blessed to learn from the best in the business. I learned important life and education lessons from Coach Dowty. The experience at this school is second to none. I am proud to know that it lives in my home town of Palm Desert, California.

Charles Siebuhr

#198 Charles Siebuhr, Class of 2014
(Culinary Management)

My education was slim when in my teens, I quit school in 9th grade.In 1983 I took an exam to get my GED at College of the Desert (COD), and passed when I was 20. Twenty six years later my life got very difficult, unmanageable. I'm now 47 years old and enrolled at COD in Culinary Arts. Honestly I enrolled with no confidence but now it's 2014 and I graduated with an AA Degree the same time my son (COD student) graduated, same ceremony! THANK YOU TO Paul Maag, Chef Beno, Chef Miller, Bill Grotenrath, Courtney Dousset, DSPS, Dr Jordan, Prof. Tabor, Prof. Stegeman, Dr. George, Les & Shirley Larson, Prof. Tapleshay, Prof. Emerson, Prof. Morrow, Dr. Culhan, Asc tutors, and THANK YOU to every student who told me with confidence I would make it! THANK YOU MOM N NORM. THANK YOU ALAN, MALLORY, KATE. THANK YOU HOLLIHANS. THANK YOU FSP. And THANK YOU COD!

Alan Siebuhr

#197 Alan Siebuhr, Class of 2014, Transfer to UC Berkeley

When I was going through high school, I was a slacker (at least for the first half of my high school career). Because of my lackadaisical attitude towards school along with financial reasons, my college options were very limited. It was only because of those things that I was hesitant to enroll at College of the Desert. However, after a long and thoughtful discussion with a past high school teacher, I made the decision to enroll at COD in the summer of 2012. I am proud to say that going to COD was quite possibly the greatest decision I have ever made in my academic career.

Even after I had enrolled, I remained uncertain because of all I had heard during high school, including how people couldn't get any classes and were not finishing it out. I was very hesitant but with my mother behind me helping me with registering for courses and my father also going to COD, it made my transition a lot easier and helped me to create a strong work ethic.

Because of this strong work ethic, not only was I able to graduate in two years time, but I was also accepted to UC Berkeley to attend in Fall 2014 to study economics. I was also fortunate enough to graduate alongside my father, which was one of the best experiences of my life.

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