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258 Stories And Counting.

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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Stella Baker

#25 Stella Baker, Student, Staff
(Adjunct librarian/student learning digital design skills)

I’m a writer and a librarian. I’ve got academic degrees and certifications and all the “stuff” that says I’ve achieved my education and success. Therefore, I’m beyond what COD has to offer. Right?


Because of huge changes in publishing caused by eBooks, it’s a whole new world for writers now. I decided to jump into this new world. lLast summer, I became my own publisher. I had to hire a graphic artist for the cover and book formatters for the interior of the electronic and paperback editions; not inexpensive, but necessary to produce a professional product.

As a small business with limited capital, I can’t keep doing that. I need to cut production costs without cutting the quality of my product. As a life-long library person and reader, I had a natural “feel” for covers and also for computer text, but I didn’t have the specific skills to do what had to be done.

Until now.

I’m auditing a PhotoShop class. Because I’m focusing on book cover skills, and receiving excellent help from the instructor who understands my goal, it’s been a great way to meet my business needs. Next semester I plan to audit another class to learn the skills for internal book formatting.

COD has given me an affordable way to pick up the specific skills I need to chase my dream. Thank goodness, because dreams don’t stop after the first degree and neither should one’s education.

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Thomas Lopez

#24 Thomas Lopez, Student
(Art, Emphasis in Graphic Design)

As the first in my family to complete high school or go to college, there is a lot of pressure on my shoulders to succeed. Prior to my academic pursuit in the fall of 2009, I was quickly going down the wrong path, and had more than my share of major legal problems. But my luck was about to change.

I had run into a fellow Navy veteran who told me to come down and check out College of the Desert, and that I could use my G.I. benefits to go to school. When I came through the door I didn’t know what to expect and signed up for a certificate in Digital Design and Production. After completing my first semester and making the Dean’s List I realized that higher education could be my calling. Since then, I have maintained a good GPA and have been on the Dean’s List every semester.

As I excelled in my studies and began doing quite well, I decided to change my goals and go for an associate’s degree. Over the next few semesters, I continued to do well and became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society of which I am now currently the President.

With just two more semesters remaining here at COD, I have almost completed all of the necessary courses to transfer to a four year institution and pursue a bachelor’s degree and eventually a master’s degree. The one thing I am proud of more than anything else is the impression that I have made upon my children. They eagerly look forward to college and want to do good academically as their father has.

The choice to return to school has not only benefited me, but my family as well. Thank you to COD for “Opening the Door” and changing my life!

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