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259 Stories And Counting.

Bert Bitanga

#239 Bert Bitanga, Transfer to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Staff
(Tenured fulltime faculty)

The starting point of my career that has come full circle began on the College of the Desert campus in 1985. The experience of being a student here was a pivotal point in my life. I enrolled in many interesting courses where I met caring and inspirational faculty who sparked my interest in someday becoming a teacher.

Upon transferring from COD, I pursued a major in Architecture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and graduated in 1992. I immediately returned to the Coachella Valley and secured a position at a local architectural firm. After a decade of practicing architecture, I was given the opportunity to teach a drafting course at COD as an adjunct faculty. Eventually, the full time position became available and I decided, just as an exercise in the interview process, to apply. I was surprised yet thrilled to receive the telephone call from the president of the college to offer me the position. I had returned to the College of the Desert with the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of students. Little did I know that I would be the one who would be greater impacted.

After thirteen years as a tenured faculty member, I feel blessed to be a part of the COD family where the passion for student learning and student success is realized everyday. The experience of sharing my knowledge is the most rewarding and joyful feeling and I believe that I’ve learned just as much from the students as they have learned from me.

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Jack Steptoe

#238 Jack Steptoe
(Head Football Coach)

I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. During high school I participated in track and played basketball and football. In the mid-70s I attended Los Angeles Valley College (a community college). In 1974 I played wide receiver for them. I had no visions of grandeur about being a star college player or playing in the NFL. I wanted an education and just hoped that my hard work on the field and my diligence in the classroom would eventually lead to a scholarship.

When we defeated Fresno City College I was awarded the game’s Most Valuable Player and was also named to the All Conference Team after receiving 38 passes and scoring nine touchdowns that year. That season unlocked a multitude of opportunities for me.

After the 1975 season, I accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Utah. I was Rookie of the Year and made All Conference in 1976 and 1977 as a receiver and punt returner.

My career in the NFL as a receiver began in 1978 when I was drafted by the Chicago Bears. I also played for the San Francisco 49ers, the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles, and lastly with the San Diego Chargers in 1980. In addition, I also played for the Canadian League and the USFL expansion team before retiring in 1984.

My parents moved here to the Desert in 1983. In 1984 I began my coaching career as assistant football coach at College of the Desert when John Marmon was the head coach. I have coached in the desert for more than 25 years for both COD and Palm Desert High School, playing a role on the Palm Desert High 2005 team that finished


In addition, I earned an AA degree in Management and Supervision at College of the Desert in 2002.

I returned to COD in 2006 as the Assistant Football Coach. In 2014 I became COD’s Head Football Coach. Just recently I had the honor of being inducted into the California Community Colleges Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

I work to develop my players both athletically and academically, so as to prepare these young men to transfer on to four-year colleges. I tell them that it is what they have between their two ears; that knowledge is the most important thing. I also try to build their character and integrity and that it is important how you represent yourself and to try to be as diplomatic as possible. I want these kids to know that they can have dreams if they set goals and work hard to achieve them. I hope they can see the value of playing junior college football and how it can unlock future opportunities for them, just as it did for me.

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#237 Brianna Uhlhorn , Class of 2000, 2006
(Associate Degree Liberal Arts Early Childhood Education and Psychology Adjunct Instructor )

I grew up here in the Coachella Valley so I can easily relate to how College of the Desert has impacted people in so many different ways. In fact, I have memories as a young child of helping run my parents snow cone business at the COD Alumni Street Fair. Flash forward to a High School career fair on campus where I spoke with a representative from the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) for Early Childhood Education (ECE) and my ECE career begins. College of the Desert was a natural choice after High School.

I received a Teacher Certificate in ECE and began working in the field. Many twists, turns and detours later I returned to College of the Desert as an adult student. This time, I continued my education to the Master’s Level. My path has come full circle, today I teach the students who are in the same program that I once completed. I am honored to say that I once sat where they have and I can speak from the heart when I tell students they can finish their education and make an impact. I am proud to be the first in my family to graduate from college and I hope I can inspire my students to go above and beyond. Thank you COD!

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Phillip Carillo

#236 Phillip Carillo
(Former student)

I was born in Indio and grew up in La Quinta and then moved to Coachella at age 22. I never put much thought into college; but, I knew I had to go on to college as my father said I would get lazy if I didn’t. So, I chose College of the Desert (COD) because it was local. I enrolled in the fall of 2008, just after graduating from high school. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I just took general education courses. I studied Art when I first enrolled and then moved to Business, Liberal Arts and Journalism. I kind of wanted to do it all.

Taking classes at COD opened doors to many job opportunities. Being able to put College of the Desert on my résumé, enabled me to get a job working with Marshalls, Super Target, Hort Tech Landscape, Desert Grand Champions, and the Chop House. COD gave me the knowledge, and I was able to use everything I learned, to get a better job and advance my career. After working in high school at a skate shop for $6.75/hr. in 2006 I was then able to move to retail and landscaping and finally to running and managing my own business/website. Currently I am involved in media marketing and am the C.E.O. and Executive Producer of CV Productions, a company that I started. I would love to pursue a career in video/photo editing and media marketing.

COD gave me the tools, education, and confidence to succeed in life, helping me to build my future.I believe that with a higher education you are given more opportunities in the field of study in which you would like to have a career. It also builds your confidence to overcome future obstacles.

My family has everything to do with where I am today. Without my parents I don’t think I would be the person I am today. They have helped and pushed me so much and I am thankful to still have them in my life.

I also appreciate all of the help I received from my instructors. The knowledge I gained has helped me to achieve the position I am holding today. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the education I received at COD.

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Dr. Ken Childers

#234 Dr. Ken Childers, Class of 1965, Transfer to Santa Ana College

Ken Childers was born in Berkeley, California but was raised at military bases around the globe. He attended thirteen different schools before completing high school with no clear plans or career path in mind. While spending the summer following graduation in the desert, Ken decided to kill some time by taking a class at College of the Desert (COD), the new community college that had just opened down the street from his grandparent’s house in Palm Desert. That summer session turned into full time enrollment in the very first freshman class at COD in the fall of 1963. While at the College, Ken served as student body Vice President, an activity he thoroughly enjoyed and which provided connection to important support from faculty mentors. He credits Dr. Whitaker, COD Chemistry professor, for awakening his love for science that has lasted a lifetime and helped set his career path in motion.

After completing two years at College of the Desert, Ken transferred to Santa Ana College and then University of California Irvine to complete his undergraduate degree. Following graduation from dental school at St. Louis University, he served in the Navy for two and half years, including a year in Vietnam with 1st Marine Air Wing " the same unit in which his father served. When his military service ended, Dr. Childers opened his dental practice in Piedmont, California and has been there ever since.

And it all started at College of the Desert. Dr. Childers underscores the importance of counseling and career resources at the College that help students learn about and select a career path for which they are well suited and will enjoy. Without that critical support, students may spend years drifting from job to job without ever knowing or realizing their true potential.

“After all these years, I still look back and know that College of the Desert changed my life,” Dr. Childers stresses. “It turned out to be the critical first step that shaped my future.”

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