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258 Stories And Counting.

Jeff Place

#146 Jeff Place, Class of 1973, Staff
(AS degree in Horticulture)

My family came to the Coachella Valley in 1925 and was involved in agriculture and ag support services. I was raised in Indio and came to COD in the fall of 1968 and enrolled in general education courses. After one year, I volunteered for the draft and served in the Army Infantry for almost two years. When I returned to COD in the fall of 1971, on my first day of school, in my first class, there was one open seat left in the class and it was next to me. My future wife sat down in that chair and that was the beginning of my fondness for her and for the college. We’ve been married 37 years.

I graduated from COD in the spring of 1973 with an AS degree in Horticulture and transferred to Cal Poly Pomona where I graduated in 1975 with a BS in Parks Administration. I returned to the Coachella Valley and began teaching Horticulture as an adjunct here. I also worked as a Horticulture Technician at the college until I went into business as a Landscape Contractor in 1978. I remained fond of COD and returned as an adjunct instructor in 1994 and became full-time in Turfgrass and Horticulture in 1997. In many ways, it seems the college and I evolved together.

I find great satisfaction in continuing to “grow” the program and having a direct impact on our students who keep the valley green and beautiful.

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Rebecca Hertsgaard

#145 Rebecca Hertsgaard, Staff
(Adjunct Professor, Social Sciences Department, teaching Philosophy, Religion, Ethics, and Perspectives on Death and Dying.)

After raising five children and enjoying a long career as a nurse, I returned to school as an adult re-entry student, earning undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and Religion, and a Master's Degree in Religion. Those "re-entry" years were incredibly fun and fulfilling, and clarified for me what I wanted to do, as a professor, for my philosophy, ethics, and religion students. My goal was to introduce my students to fresh ways of thinking about life, and to ask big, bold questions. COD has given me that opportunity--I adore my job! My "life experience," as a nurse, a wife, a mom, and as a re-entry student, has enabled me to relate to my students and their own life experiences in ways I never thought possible. I look forward to coming to "work" (or is that "play"?) every day--my students are energizing and fun, and the staff at COD is the most supportive I've ever been around. COD "stepped up" for me, and I can do nothing less than gratefully "step up" for COD!!!

Deanna Thomas Clark

#144 Deanna Thomas Clark, Class of 1964
(A.A. Broadcasting)

I was in the first class that attended for two years and obtained a degree there. I was active in extracurricular activities and received the Outstanding Leadership award my freshman year. Following graduation, I attended Coe College where I majored in history and received my B.A. in 1966.

That was also the year that I married my husband, Glen, who graduated from the University of Iowa. I worked as a social service worker in Iowa, California, and Utah while my husband served for two years in the Army and attended law school for three years. Glen practiced corporate law and prominently served as a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for 26 years.

I enjoyed a large variety of philanthropic leadership positions in our community of Salt Lake City, state of Utah, Western region and nationally and internationally. In 2009 we retired to the barrier island of Saint Simons Island, Georgia and enjoy participating in community activities. We have two children: Andrew and Carissa and one grandchild Vashti.

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Jeanette Negrete

#143 Jeanette Negrete, Class of 2012
(I received my Associate's degree in Liberal Arts, Humanities, and Communication. I am studying Nursing at COD.)

I have lived in the Coachella Valley all my life. My parents immigrated here to the valley from Mexico, and have been an essential part of my success in my education. I graduated from La Quinta High School in 2009 and immediately knew that I wanted to attend COD after graduation. I knew my parents didn't have the financial capacity to afford some of the more expensive colleges, and I knew that COD was a great college with great teachers and faculty. I have had the privilege of having some of the greatest teachers any student could ever ask for, and I will continue to strive for my ultimate dream of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. I have recently been admitted into COD's nursing program and will begin this fall.

My father attended COD at the age of 40. He had graduated from the UTI in Phoenix, Arizona, and after many years decided he wanted to better his position in the workforce. He studied horticulture and landscaping at COD, with what he said to be some of the greatest teachers and staff that truly supported him and helped him achieve the role of assistant superintendent at our valley's own Palm Valley Country Club. His achievement inspired me and my brother as we went through our classes at COD.

I have also had the honor of recently receiving a COD alumni scholarship for the school year granting me the opportunity to continue to study without the stress of the financial barrier. I am truly honored to call myself a Roadrunner, and with the continued support of my family, friends and COD staff I know that I will achieve my goals

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Debbie Suer

#142 Debbie Suer, Student
(Pursuing my AA degree; California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors certificate from COD in 2012)

College of the Desert has opened doors to higher education, academic success, a future career for me and a new life for my entire family. On top of this, I have received an invitation to attend the Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington D.C. based on academic merit achieved at COD. This rare opportunity is not only the outcome of hard work on my part; but also the generous support of my family, faculty and advisers at COD who believe in me and who have offered help and inspiration along the way.

I am currently a full time student pursuing my AA degree, and I plan to continue through my Masters. I received my CAADAC (California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors) certificate from COD in 2012. I have maintained a 4.0 grade point average for seven semesters and recently became a member of the All-USA Community College Academic Team through Phi Theta Kappa.

Prior to attending COD, I worked 30 years in the travel industry. Then the tragedy of 9-11 changed all of that. At the same time my husband was diagnosed with a debilitating illness, resulting in financial hardship for my family. In 2009, I turned to College of the Desert with hope for a new start, enriching my life through higher education, and a new career path.

Being a good role model to my two daughters is my primary motivation for continuing my education and changing my career goals later in life. I am also inspired to share the gifts of sobriety with others who are struggling with addiction as I did 24 years ago. I am learning that the personal and scholarly work never ends, so I am determined to help others learn to live a life of sobriety, as I have, “no matter what".

My advice for any woman considering the decision to go to school is trust your self " trust your gut feelings. Even if it seems impossible, like it did for me, it may not be too late. We each have a special gift and contribution for this world. If it means going back to school to answer your own calling, no obstacle is too big to prevent this.

I am grateful to College of the Desert for the opportunity, help and inspiration, particularly Professors Acree, Emerson, Jones-Cage, and Drs. Britton, Church, Jordan and Greene. They have all encouraged me tremendously. A special thank you goes to Eve-Marie Andrews for her expert guidance in obtaining scholarships. I trust that this story and my life is now making a difference because of this support, and I look forward to making positive contributions to the community; I will continue making a difference in the lives of others as they have made in mine.

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