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255 Stories And Counting.

#65 Kevin Vest, Class of 1990
(A.S. Electronics Technology, now Capt. Palm Desert Police Dept.)

My college experience started with COD while in the USMC stationed in Twentynine Palms back in 1987. Little did I know that it would lead to a new career in law enforcement that combined my interest in technology and the criminal justice system.

After completing my AS degree in Electronics Technology at COD, I continued my education and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration of Criminal Justice from National University and transferred to Cal State San Bernardino for a Master’s degree in Public Administration in 1992. I believe that education is a life-long endeavor and earned a certificate in Crime and Intelligence Analysis from UC Riverside in 2011. To this day, I am still taking courses at community colleges because I love merging modern technology into law enforcement.

My life has come full circle now since I have returned to the place where I started college so long ago. It seems like just yesterday I was enrolling at COD for the first time.

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Oscar  Fonseca

#64 Oscar Fonseca, Class of 2002, Staff
(I received a Liberal Arts, Associates Degree in 2002. I am currently the Upward Bound counselor in the main campus, serving the west valley high schools since May 2009. )

My educational journey began in 1989 at the age of seven, when my parents decided to move to the Coachella Valley. My Father, an accomplished upholsterer, and my Mother, a seamstress, decided to raise my sister, Laura, and me in the desert. We moved to the City of La Quinta in 1992 where my parents still have their home.

In 1999, I graduated from La Quinta High School and was accepted to CSU, San Bernardino, Long Beach State and UC Riverside. My Father, being the smart man that he is, had a conversation with me, and as a family we decided that I would attend College of the Desert (COD). I attended COD because of the cost of attendance and so that I would be closer to my family. Little did I know that my Father also knew that every student takes approximately two years of general education, and COD had the better price per unit, I believe it was $13.51 per unit at that time.

On August 19, 1999, I walked on the campus of College of the Desert as a student. I was scared, confused and lost but I also understood that my educational journey was starting in a place that would give me a chance to succeed. Like many student’s I began my college experience taking remedial courses like Eng. 50, Eng. 55 and Reading 50. My journey seemed long and difficult, but when you have professors like Linda Morante, Richard Rawnsley and Gary Bergstrom, I understood that this world had people that cared for students like me.

I was also introduced to the ACES program and people like Adell Bynum, Khanh Hoang and Adrian Gonzales who took me under their wings and became true mentors of my educational journey. These six individuals are the back bone of my educational success.

In 2002, I graduated from COD with my A.A. degree in Liberal Studies. I then transferred to California State University, Fresno and graduated with my B.A. degree in Liberal Studies in 2004. I continued my education at the same institution and received a M.S. degree in Counseling and Student Services in 2008.

The main reasons why I returned to COD was to serve my community. I want my students to see that a local kid, who graduated from La Quinta High School, attended COD, left the desert for eight years and after completing his Master’s degree has returned to make a difference in his community. I want to be an example of persistence and drive.

I feel that getting an education at College of the Desert has given me the ability to inspire others to say “If he can do it, then I can do it TOO.”

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#63 Mario Guevara, Student
(I am studying Business/Accounting)

I have attempted to get my degree since my early teens. It has not been easy. Coming from a migrant family with barely enough to pay the bills has made this journey a very long one. I have been at COD since 2008 as a veteran of the U.S Army who has been paying for my tuition thanks to an injury that I acquired on duty. COD took me in and Donni (Veteran Affairs) has helped me through the whole process. She has always been there for us as veterans and has supported us.

I don't know how I'm going to complete my classes this year as I have been having transportation problems and had to cancel my last semester. But, I am hoping to finish online classes which will enable me to find a full-time job and continue finishing my degree.

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Russell Artuso

#62 Russell Artuso, Student
(Music and Art)

I always wanted to learn to play the piano and read music, but then life got in the way. I didn't even know what a middle C was. Private lessons weren't an option.

My youngest was getting ready for college and suggested I take some courses at COD to fill the void my children made when they all left home. I decided to take a piano course at COD. I was petrified. I hadn't stepped into a class room in over 30 years. I thought I was going t be the "old man" in class but to my surprise, there were students older than me !!!

After that first semester I was hooked...I started taking every music class I could. I learned the piano and how to read music as well as on my way to learning guitar. The teachers at COD are patient and the students have been a great help. I am so glad I found you COD!

A message for you "older" folks out there: This is a very pleasant way to self-fulfillment and sure beats sitting around a bar telling "war" stories.

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Carol Lasquade

#61 Carol Lasquade, Staff
(EOPS/CARE & CalWORKs Coordinator)

I never aspired to be a millionaire. I prefer open spaces over cramped places. Yet, as Coordinator of EOPS/CARE & CalWORKs, statistics are my thing. I like to gauge the probability for success by the non-traditional and re-entry students we motivate at COD.

It’s incredible, really, when you count the numbers: 2,836 student assists since 2005. Of that group, 981 students achieved Dean’s List and Honor Roll status; 421 received their A.A. degrees. Another 235 went on to four-year universities.

Knowing the faces and stories behind those numbers makes me feel so blessed. It’s very humbling and it motivates me, too. I want to give back to them what I’ve been given.

I was a single-parent who married my high school sweetheart, and at 25, moved back into my parents’ home when things didn’t work out. My son, Matt, was three when I began my educational journey. A pamphlet from Northern Essex Community College arrived in the mail, and Mom said, “Why don’t you go to college?” I had nothing to lose; so, I enrolled. In 1981, I obtained an A.S. degree in Deafness Communication from NECC and was one of 40 women on welfare to be awarded with a full scholarship from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to attend Smith College. I went from having nothing to getting a B.A. in Psychology from Smith; then, a Master’s of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College.

I moved to California in 1988, and worked for many years in the TRIO programs, like Upward Bound. I created a book in collaboration with Cal State Monterey Bay to empower single parents on CalWORKs to get college degrees. I came to COD after my husband, Dr. Doug MacIntire, became a COD faculty member in the Physics Department in 2002. I signed on as an adjunct counselor, and fell in love with the college.

All things conspire to inspire. And that held true for me: I went from being the first in my family to get a degree, to having a son who was first to start college out of high school. Today, he’s a teacher; a Dad. I’m really proud of him. And when I see a steady stream of students come to us with their hopes and dreams, I am rewarded when they are empowered to continue on, even when obstacles block their paths.

I think that’s the key to what education does. It transforms lives, not just yours. It transforms the lives of all those around you.

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