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Brett Baatrup

#30 Brett Baatrup, Student
(A double major in accounting and finance.)

I’ve had one career and am working on another as a double major in accounting and finance. I began attending COD in August 2010 and I’m on track to graduate in summer 2012.

Before I started at COD, I was in the Marine Corps stationed at 29 Palms. I did five years as a tanker. Wherever infantry goes we go with them as support. I’ve been to Iraq twice. I just finished my inactive reserve in June. I would consider joining back up. I miss it. I made great friends. But I do have good friends at COD, too.

It wasn’t until last year I really decided on my double major. Last year I took a finance class with Professor Cochran. He was a VP of a bank and a big trader. He really influenced me and I really enjoy my finance courses. I still really like accounting but want to do something with finance.

Thanks to COD and Professor Cochran, I’m looking forward to finishing up my college courses and getting out there to put my skills to work… again.

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Gilbert  Lopez

#29 Gilbert Lopez, Class of 2005
(Public Safety Academy)

I was making minimum wage out of high school and working two jobs. So when an opportunity came up in Code Enforcement for the City of Indio, I took it. It was there I was able to talk with reserve officers for various desert cities and I discovered I had an interest in law enforcement. So I put myself through the Public Safety Academy at College of the Desert. I graduated in spring of 2005 and was hired by the Indio Police Department.

I am the first in my family to attend college, so I see myself as a role model to the rest of my family, especially my children, nieces and nephews. My kids know they have to go to college, not maybe. I tell my kids that you can…it’s just a matter of wanting it and going for it.

Thanks to COD I think I’m a lifelong learner. I realize that life can change when you least expect it and I need to be prepared. If I could no longer work as a police officer I’d like to be a teacher, so I am working on getting my A.A. in Liberal Studies just to be a step ahead.

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Wilford Mervilus

#28 Wilford Mervilus, Student
(Ag. Science)

I am originally from Haiti. I came to the Coachella Valley in 2008 on a student visa. It has always been my dream to pursue my education in the U.S., specifically in California. I have family that lives in this area and it was better for me to move here with a support base.

In Haiti people do a lot for education, to get a degree. It’s not easy. When you have a chance to study in another country to improve yourself and reach your goal you take it. So here I am.

I have a Civil Engineering degree, but I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. When I finish with my masters I want to go back to Haiti and teach at a university. I would like to teach agriculture, plant science, and golf course management.

At COD I work in the nursery, take care of the plants and work as a student. I have a student visa and I’m in the process of becoming an American citizen. One day I will hold dual citizenship. Thanks to my family in the U.S. and College of the Desert, I’m still writing my COD story.

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Cheryl Guess

#27 Cheryl Guess, Student
(Clinical Psychology)

My husband and I moved to the Coachella Valley as part of the team constructing the Banning Correctional Facility in 1998. For 17 years I worked with my husband in our architecture firm as a project manager, overseeing contracts, preparing taxes, and running the office.

My life changed and I found myself at College of The Desert. I love being back in school and learning something every day. I’m older and in college again, but hey, better late than never. Without COD I couldn’t have started over. I’m lucky that I don’t have to work full-time thanks to a Pell Grant and BOG Waiver. I've got a couple of professors that really make you think. I hope to transfer and want to pursue my master’s in clinical psychology. I hope to return to the valley to open my own practice and do that until the day I die.

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#26 Joanne Padgham, Class of 1984, Transfer to CSUSB, Staff
(AA in Business Administration Chief Financial Officer for COD Foundation)

For me, COD is a family affair. Not only am I a graduate of COD, but all three of my children have earned their degrees from COD. My oldest daughter completed the nursing program at COD and now works for Desert Regional as a registered nurse. My son and youngest daughter both transferred to CSUSB after graduating from COD. My son recently earned his BA in Environmental Studies and my youngest daughter will graduate in December with her BA.

I graduated from COD in 1984, and after raising my family, I went back to school and earned a BS from CSUSB in accounting in 1999. I worked in local firms and earned my CPA license, and was lucky enough to come back to COD as an employee of the Foundation.

Through my annual membership in President's Circle, naming a room in the Capital Campaign, and supporting student scholarships, I am able to give back to the college that has given so much to me.

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