I started at the Culinary Institute of America as a first venture in post high school education and became a student of Chef Beno in the senior year of my education in New Haven, CT. Culinary school prepared me for positions preparing food for 2,000 diners nightly, preparing dishes table side before an amazed public, and providing BBQ grill work on the beach in Coronado, CA at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. One great accomplishment was laughing at the "look of bewilderment" on the GM's face when I produced the love birds on a heart basket ice carving for a wedding reception at the exclusive Meadow Club in Fairfax, CA.
I arrived at College of the Desert with a Chef degree and a BS degree from a university. At the time, the College was offering a new program in Golf Management and I knew that this would further my career. Since the selection process was focused on potential students highly skilled in golf, which I was not, I was not initially selected as a candidate for the program. Using my power of persistence, I kept trying and was ultimately admitted into the program. Graduation day saw only five of us receive our degrees at the ceremony. When a nightly news reporter for the local TV station asked me what it felt like to graduate from COD I informed her that I had just received my third advanced degree; it was powerful, and I was excited about the future. I am so proud of myself for this accomplishment.
My next gigantic accomplishment was having the honor of serving President and Mrs. Ford and the Prime Minister of Japan with sitting President George Bush, Sr. during an official White House sponsored luncheon. I was the Dining Room Manager of the Club at Morningside at the time. I still possess a photo obtained from the Presidential Library taken at this historic event.
College of the Desert inspired filmmaker James Salisbury to pursue his passion for story-telling. A self-described Army brat, Salisbury was born in the Philippines, and grew up in Long Island, eventually settling in Twentynine Palms, where his father was stationed. As a young man, he struggled with school, eventually enrolling at College of the Desert in 1983 with no clear career goal in mind. At COD, the classes he took opened his mind and changed his life. Literature classes inspired James to read the classics, where he was introduced to the power of storytelling. Media classes helped James follow his passion to pursue his first documentary film.
“Professor Bill Seacrest was there for me and guided me through the film making process from start to finish,” James explained. Working part-time as a camera man at a local television studio, James edited his film at night and on weekends at the station. After two years at the College, he applied to the prestigious California Institute of the Arts and was accepted. His application was the documentary he completed at College of the Desert.
After graduating from the Film Program at Cal Arts, he worked in Los Angeles making feature films before returning to the desert to lead the creative department at a local television station. In 1998, he started his own business distributing films overseas and producing ads for local businesses.
Today, Salisbury continues at the helm of Mercury Film and TV, still aiming his camera at people, allowing them to express themselves and share their stories. In the hands of this talented documentary film director and producer, personal stories become art.
“College of the Desert was in the right place at the right time for me,” said Salisbury.
Since high school, I have dreamed of being an Athletic Trainer. I've always wanted to train for the highest level of Professional Sports. College of the Desert gave me that shot, working with then Head Athletic Trainer Dave Anderson. As a student trainer I was assigned the school’s Football Team, winners of the California Bowl in 1994,as well as the Men’s Basketball and Women’s Softball Teams. I was given the opportunity to do an internship as a trainer with the 1994 and 1995 Palm Springs Suns Baseball Club, members of the Western Baseball League with Coaches Bill Sudakis (former Dodger), Steve Garvey (Former Dodger), Lee Lacey (Former Dodger) and John Verhoeven (Former Anaheim Angels). I traveled with the team all over California, Oregon, Washington State and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Later that same year, I assisted with NFL players during the NFL Fastest Man Competition and assisted the Los Angeles Lakers Pre-Season Camps which were held on the COD Campus. It was my second year at COD when Dave Anderson encouraged me to apply for an internship with the MLB Atlanta Braves. I didn’t get that internship. The letter from the Club President stated that I had too much professional experience, as the internship was for student athletic trainers trying to pursue the professional experience I had already gained. I was a little disappointed; however, Dave told me to take it as a compliment.
I stopped attending COD for a while; however, the passion was still there. I would drop in every once awhile and help here and there in the training room (which was located under the football stadium). Dave convinced me to re-enroll in school and so I did, where I was once again helping the Football and Men’s Basketball Teams. Once again, complications arose and I dropped out of school.
As the saying goes, the third time's a charm. In 2012, I decided it was time to finish what I started all those years ago. It was no easy task to continue school as well as work and raise a family. In August 2013, I was brought on to the SoCal Coyotes, a non-profit Sports Leadership program based out of Palm Spring’s, CA, as an Assistant Athletic Trainer under my High School Athletic Trainer Mike McBride. I am still with the team today and loving every minute of it.
Although I am still a student, I can see how College of the Desert has steered my life in the right direction. When I first stepped foot on the campus, I felt so hopeless as I was already a single mom and didn't know how I could possibly go to school with small children. I never dreamed there would be a "daycare" I could trust and afford. Well, at COD there is a gem called the McCarthy Child Development Center. I was so relieved the moment I walked in and looked around. I didn't feel like I was in a classroom or daycare, it was like a second home for the children. The toddlers can explore everything and be comfortable just like at home. They were nurtured by loving teachers and assistants. They were served healthy food made from scratch and with loving hands; not processed cafeteria food. Everything about the Center left me feeling at ease.
I met with a counselor, who helped me figure out a plan to accomplish my goals of earning an accounting certificate. Everywhere on campus I went, people were there to help me. As a single mom with limited resources, I found so many doors opening rather than closing. I qualified for grants for child care, books and even money to help pay the bills. With COD's versatile schedule and online courses I was able to arrange my schedule to fit mine and my children's needs.
I have hit some major bumps in the road. My youngest son was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a fatal disease. It caused me to have to take a break in my studies to get a grip with the complicated care regiment that now rules our life. I thought for sure this was the end of my ability to get care for my son and the end of my education. But once again, Diane Russom at the McCarthy Child Development Center has opened up yet another door for me! My son came back to the center as a four year old for preschool. Tiffany, the amazing chef at the Center, prepares my son his own meals based on his strict diet. His unbelievably reliable teacher, Miss Claudia, administers him several medications a day with the efficiency of a nurse! And the children are all supportive in all of his extra needs without poking fun at him, because it has all been handled so perfectly. The Center also hired me as a student worker in the office where I am learning and earning and preparing myself for the years to follow.
I have one semester left at COD until my goals have all been accomplished. Because of my opportunity to work in an office in addition to having some amazing teachers like Rizzo, Hall, George, Johnson and Leushner I have learned so much. Thank you COD!
While Elva Aceves’ grandparents always taught her that higher education was the road to independence, Elva never dreamed she would also find a career that would change her life.
Growing up, education was a priority for Elva. Her grandparents were farm workers. They wanted more for Elva and encouraged her to focus on education as the path to a better life.
When Elva graduated from Coachella Valley High School she enrolled at University of California, San Diego to pursue Pre-med. But it wasn’t long before the financial pressures grew to be too much to handle. Elva returned home to work and re-evaluate her options.
Grateful for the sacrifices made by her family, Elva knew she owed it to them to go back to school. She enrolled in the College of the Desert nursing program, determined to make something of herself. It was a constant struggle to stay focused with competition for attention from work and other outside forces. And then she met Miss Abby.
College of the Desert nursing instructor Abigail Bravo helped Elva focus. “As a working nurse, Miss Abby was tough, but I made a real connection with her,” Elva explains. “When I struggled, she was there for me as a mentor, making it seem possible and worthwhile to continue.”
Work experience in local hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities also helped open Elva’s eyes to the possibilities for the wide variety of roles today’s nurses can play. Following her graduation from the nursing program in May 2009, Elva went to work as a telemetry nurse at JFK Memorial Hospital. Before long, she progressed to her current position as Clinical Informatics Manager, guiding implementation and support of the electronic health record in all areas of the hospital.
“If you stay with it, an education brings you opportunities you didn’t dream existed,” Elva says. “Thanks to Miss Abby and COD.”