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258 Stories And Counting.

#136 David Mace, Student
(Art Classes for Professional Growth)

I'm taking art classes at COD for professional growth. As a game programmer, I'm relatively at the mercy of artists to do things 'right'; which never happens. So, then either I have to fix it, or try to get them to fix it. Eventually my aim is to do the art myself, and cut this annoyance out of my professional life.

Lisa Rossi-Gomez

#135 Lisa Rossi-Gomez
(A.A., Liberal Arts with emphasis on behavioral sciences)

At 50, I reinvented myself. Glutes. Lats. Pecs and Abs. Untold hours in the gym. I’m 110 pounds lighter than I was at 40. I feel better; look better. But COD was my saving grace.

That’s where I lugged a backpack stuffed with No. 2 pencils to take an assessment test and make mom proud.

I was that kid at Palm Springs High School’s Class of ’75 graduation who saw the valedictorian speak and thought, “I??=2ll never be one of those people.” I’d been that kid who started COD and quit in the first semester to get married, and become the only one in my family who didn’t go to college.

I was fine with it, until 50 rolled around. The kids were growing up; I kept thinking of mom. A COD alumnus, she went to school over-and-over as she was raising four kids. I was scared to death to go back, but took that first class in health anyway, and was amazed at my success. Mom said, “Lisa, I knew you could do it.” A few months later, she died.

The rest of the school year was a blur. All I remember is, COD kept me grounded. I turned in assignments, did my work and held down a full-time job. Plenty of times, I cried; felt terrified. But I never once thought of quitting.

I had COD professors who’d say, “It’s going to be OKAY.” I had wonderful support from my husband, son, other family members and friends. I even taped a goofy, “Never Give Up,” poster inside my textbooks a seagull getting its neck squeezed and its feathers ruffled by frog it failed to eat, to keep me from getting swallowed up in self-doubt.

Mom’s been my inspiration, but COD changed me. It gave me self-confidence, self-worth.

I would have never guessed in a million years that I would graduate from college with highest honors and be asked to speak. Well, mom, here I am. Here I am.

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Antoinette Canchola

#134 Antoinette Canchola, Student
(Retail Management Certificate Program)

I’m big on school. I always liked and did well in school. I even started college out of high school, but quit. The idea of making money was just too appealing to resist. Then reality hit: You can’t get too far on $6.96 an hour. I decided the only way I could go to the top was to get the tools I needed to set me apart.

My employer, Food 4 Less, and COD did that for me. I started at Food 4 Less as a courtesy clerk. Now, I’m a customer-first manager. Thanks to the retail management certificate program that’s offered by the School of Business, Technical and Workforce Education, I’m making enough as a manager to live comfortably. I have two new cars. I take vacations when I want. I can support my family. I have only been in my new position one year, and I’ve already interviewed for a promotion. My training at COD has helped me grow by leaps and bounds. It’s that learning and training that set me apart; what gave me a competitive advantage.

Food 4 Less paid for my tuition and books; and the California Grocers Association will be giving me an Awards Party and a $100 cash honorarium. But, what COD did for me is more priceless than that. I got to hear professors from the field tell me, “I’m not going to let you fail.” And that meant the world to me.

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Jason  Powell

#133 Jason Powell, Class of 2004
(AA Culinary Management)

As a child growing up in the desert, I had my share of difficulties; as many kids did. I grew up in a broken home consisting of my mother, a step father, and three half sisters. It was a hard life, but we all "made do" with what had been given to us. The weeks leading into my high school graduation were difficult as my father left the house just before the death of my mother. These events left my three siblings and I orphaned and seeking direction. Seeing that I had been raising my sisters pretty much their whole lives, I decided to fight for full guardianship. The courts ruled in my favor with many stipulations; one of which was to attend college.

I quickly enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at COD where I remained until I had fulfilled the requirements for an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Management. During my second year at COD, a performance by the COD percussion ensemble sparked a fire in me, causing me to pursue an Associates in Music at COD following receipt of my Culinary Degree. I have continued on to receive both a Bachelor's and Masters Degree, and am now working towards my Doctorate. I would never have had the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees if not for the educational beginning I received at COD.

As the proud Director of Strings at Palm Springs High School I am able to share my love of music with over 200 students each year while also serving as the Conductor of the Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony and the Strings Instructor for the Hi-Desert Cultural Center in Joshua Tree. As part of my efforts to give back to COD and the community, I perform as a percussionist for the Coachella Valley Symphony, a violinist for the Joshua Tree Phil Harmonic, and a guitarist at Our Savior's Church. My sisters have also gone on to do great things in their lives. One has graduated college, one is currently enrolled at COD, and the third is in high school working hard on her own education.

While life is not always easy, I know firsthand that it is your choice to determine the outcome. If you look at a person for what they are, that is what they will remain. But if you look at a person for what they could be, that is what they will become. I will always be grateful to College of the Desert for opening the door to a life of possibilities.

Jason Powell, M.Mus., BME., Doctoral Candidate. Director of Strings PSHS, Conductor-Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony

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Anthony Mariano

#132 Anthony Mariano, Student
(A.A. business management)

I’ve sailed the open seas, and been to more than 25 countries. I served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years; joined right out of high school. I was a welder-firefighter and maintenance technician on three ships, retiring as a Senior Chief Petty Officer before COD became my port-of-call.

Thanks to my GI benefits, my U.S. Navy retirement pay and my wife's career as an operating room nurse, we have been able to support our family as I reconstruct my civilian life to suit the business world. I never thought I’d ever go to college. But once I got to COD, I was a changed man.

At 44, I wasn’t your typical student. I bulked up on credits, swapped math stories with my two sons, and later tutored students in math and accounting. I got my share of A’s, but it’s not that I’m smarter than anyone else. For me, it’s just what I learned in the service: Stay until it’s done, and if you’re going to do it, do it right. For me, that calculates out at 100 percent.

After graduation, I plan to attend Brandman University to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business management. For now, I’ll wear my veteran’s cord with pride. I look at it as a way to show other veterans that COD has a place for them when they come back. I look at it like a higher rank.

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