School had never been my thing. In fact, I tested out of high school early so I could go join the Marine Corps sooner. I was 17 when I went to boot camp. Over the course of the next five years, I went all over the country. I was trained to inspect and repair T/AV-8B attack jets. I did two years with the military police. I got married. I had a son. When my five year contract was up and it was time for me to get out of active duty, I realized that even with all my various trainings and certifications, I knew nothing about civilian life.
The transition from military to civilian life was hard for me. Finding a decent job was difficult. I didn’t have enough formal education to actually land a job in anything that I would consider career worthy.
After a few months, another employee and fellow veteran clued me in to College of the Desert, and the resources that were available to me with the Montgomery G.I. Bill that I had opted into during basic training, all those years ago. I went straight to COD the next day and went right to the Veterans Affairs Office. Ms. Prince told me about the Public Safety Academy Basic Peace Officer Training program. I decided right there that I wanted to make a career in Law Enforcement.
The PSA gives me a place where I can put my military training and experience to use in a manner that is also preparing me for a career in a field that I’m very interested in. The Veterans Affairs office helps keep me up to speed with all that I need to do to receive the maximum benefits that I’m entitled to. My family and I are extremely grateful for all that COD has done for us.
After graduating from COD, I moved to the SF Bay area and worked in the restaurant industry as a manager and consultant. I served in the U.S. Navy for two years during
Vietnam and afterwards earned my BS and MBA at CSU,Hayward. I began teaching business courses at COD in 1974. While working at COD, I also earned my Juris Doctor from the University of La Verne College of Law. My service at COD included division chair of several departments and Dean before retiring in 2007. I had the honor of coordinating the $346M bond campaign (Measure B) in 2004 and serving as the interim Executive Director of the COD Foundation during my last year at COD. I will always appreciate the wonderful life that attending, working and playing at COD provided for me and my family. Additionally, my wife, Pamela, and my son, Rick, Jr. are COD graduates.
I was serving two years in the Marine Active Reserves program, when a friend told me about the COD Public Safety Academy. I signed up right away. Before that, I had been stationed at Camp Pendleton, working in supply upkeep for the U.S. Marine Corps. My four year enlistment included tours to Iraq and Kuwait.
I felt that by becoming a police officer, I can ensure my children will grow up in a safe environment. I grew up in Indio, so I feel like I’m also keeping the place where I was raised secure.
Financial aid and veteran benefits have helped make costs to go to the Public Safety Academy affordable. It helps that COD is close to home and offers classes in the evenings. That way, I can work full-time during the day. At work, or at school, I’m never far from the children or my wife, Olivia.
I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. My parents were very proud of me when I joined the military. Now they’re doubly proud because I’ll be the first in my family to graduate with a college degree.
I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received from Veterans Affairs and COD.
Contractors used to call me for painting jobs. I worked at Starbucks, too. I enrolled in the Public Safety Academy at College of the Desert because I wanted more for myself and my family. Now, I’m in my third year at COD seeking to become a Firefighter Paramedic. I’ve always looked up to the firefighters, and what they contribute to us all. I too want to help people and save lives.
Fire Captain, Dela Cruz, at COD has been a great inspiration to me. He taught me, “If you want it, go get it.” He’d say, “Learn the material, so you will be successful.” I followed Captain Dela Cruz’ advice, and was very proud to get a scholarship from the Fire Academy for improved work, high grades and test scores. Earning a scholarship made me proud and helped me to continue to study hard.
Having a college degree is important to me. I look forward to accomplishing my goals and contributing to my community.
My dad, grandfather and great uncle were all firefighters. I wanted to be one, too. As a kid, my two younger brothers and I practically grew up in a firehouse. It was second nature, for us all, to pick firefighting for a lifelong career.
As soon as I graduated from Ramona High School, I took numerous fire tests until I was hired by the Borrego Springs Fire Protection District when I was 19. At the time, I put college on the back-burner to work full-time. But in 1993, when I trained to become a paramedic, that all changed for me. I realized I needed a college degree, if I wanted to advance and move up the ranks.
I’d gone to a couple of community colleges in the Riverside and San Diego region before that, but it was COD’s Public Safety Academy that really inspired me. I got my A.S. in Fire Technology there in 2007.
Today, I’m the Fire Chief of Palm Springs Fire Department. It’s been an amazing run. After decades of service, I’ve never grown weary of helping people in times of need and I haven’t stopped learning.
Every day I wake up, wanting to help my fellow man. It’s been a lifelong journey that I’m proud of.