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256 Stories And Counting.

Elizabeth Romero

#175 Elizabeth Romero, Transfer to UC Riverside

Growing up in Thermal, I always knew I wanted to give back to my community. But it was my start at College of the Desert (COD) that helped define my career and path to public service. After graduating from Coachella Valley High School, I knew my hometown college was the perfect place to begin my higher education. After receiving the core academic building blocks at College of the Desert, I transferred to the University of California at Riverside and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Public Service. I recently completed a Masters of Politics, Economics and Business from Claremont Graduate University.

While at College of the Desert I began working with then Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor Roy Wilson as a Youth Coordinator. I was later promoted to Legislative Assistant, where I focused on health and human services and served as the liaison between the Supervisor’s office, county departments and the community, particularly the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Education is truly a passion of mine. As President of the Riverside County Board of Education, my goal is to improve educational opportunities for students and families. The Coachella Valley is my home, and I want to see doors opened for everyone in our Valley.

Life and career have now come full circle for me. At the age of fifteen I began working as a Youth Promotora with Planned Parenthood and recently returned as Director of Community and Government Relations at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Inc.

I am grateful to College of the Desert for opening the doors to higher education and a great career in public service.

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Tiffany Silva

#174 Tiffany Silva, Class of 1993, Transfer to California State University Los Angeles
(Computer Science, Foreign Languages, and General Studies)

I started my path at College of the Desert after taking time off after high school to save money for college. During the time off, I had my beautiful daughter. She became my reason for going back to school. I started out as a computer science major, planning on going to work in the computer field to help support my little family. I continued to take language classes as I loved to learn about foreign cultures. I decided to switch my goals and continue the language learning in order to teach high school French. Well, it ended up taking me four years to finish at College of the Desert. All this time, I rode the SunBus everyday for four hours with my little girl just to complete my degrees.

After receiving my AA in both Language Studies and General Studies, I transferred to UC Santa Cruz. I continued the Language Studies and received by BA in that field. I did switch my focus when going for the teaching credential as I fell in love with my daughter's kindergarten class. I returned to the COD campus to work with Cal State San Bernardino on my credential. I am now a first grade teacher and have been loving that for the past 18 years! Thank you, COD for setting me on my path!

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Aneta Cruz

#173 Aneta Cruz, Class of 2007
(Liberal Arts)

I often wonder what or who influences the path we choose to take in life and the decisions we make. Is it the obstacles that seem to occur so spontaneously and challenge us to be the best we can be? Or is it a multitude of people and their achievements we try to emulate? Perhaps there are as many answers as there are people in the world. For me, it was one singular moment that completely changed the direction of my journey.

In April 2007, only one month before graduating from COD, I thought I had my future planned out. With an acceptance letter from CSUSB in hand, I dreamed of joining the students of the Psychology Department and becoming…what exactly? Hmm. Not so planned out, after all. But it didn’t matter because that one single moment of clear lucidity which would change my destiny was about to happen. My epiphany came while I was reading William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” for my English Composition 1B. The story’s climax brought me to a state of complete awe and ushered in a flood of childhood memories. “I want to do that!” I remember saying to myself. “I want to paint with words, expand the limits of people’s imagination, make them live in different moments at the same time.” I have wanted to tell stories ever since I was a little girl growing up in the Czech Republic, with my nose constantly buried in a book. I admired the authors’ ability to portray an entire world within the four corners of a sheet of paper, and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to write.

COD’s English Composition 1B revived my love for literature, and the college’s wonderful counselors helped me with all the necessary paperwork to change my major from Psychology to English. After graduating from the College of the Desert, I went on to earn my BA in English Literature and MFA in Creative Writing. And finally, as I’d promised myself, I became a published author. My debut novel, Heartbreak Hotel, was released in September 2013 by Black Opal Books Publishing, and my second novel, The Guardian, will be out in early 2014 by the same publisher.

My dreams don’t end with writing books, however. I learned from my experiences at COD that it is necessary to dream, and to dream BIG. My next big dream is to return to COD and pay it forward by teaching English and guiding others on their path to success.

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Stephanie Bruce

#172 Stephanie Bruce, Transfer to Cal Pomona
(Culinary Program Graduate)

At age 23, I decided to enroll in College of the Desert’s (COD) culinary arts program after my parents retired in Palm Springs. I got all the basics at College of the Desert, which really helped me to excel when I transferred to Cal Pomona. And I have to say, my most memorable professors were right here at COD. The local culinary program is truly respected in this business, and it’s the most impressive part of my resume.

Following my education, I took a job with the Yucaipa/Calimesa School District and really developed a passion for providing nutritional lunches to kids. The challenge of balancing healthy foods that taste good for students of a variety of different ages and palates is very rewarding.

I joined Palm Springs Unified School District in July 2013 as Director of Nutrition Services where I oversee the planning, preparation and serving of an average 22,000 meals per day.

I’ll go out and sit at the lunch tables with second and third graders to get their feedback. They’re so honest, but what I love most is that nine times out of 10, what they have to say is really positive. It’s the best part of my day!

What I appreciated most about my time at the desert’s community college was how they encouraged students to be active participants in the community. Working with students, faculty, parents and local partners to promote healthy eating and active living for the next generation is one of the best parts of my job. Thanks, COD.

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Dodi Henry

#171 Dodi Henry, Class of 1978

When Dodi Henry emigrated from her home in Bosnia in 1974, she sought freedom and a new life. She attended Palm Springs High School before pursuing higher education at College of the Desert and never looked back. Although Dodi didn’t speak English when she came to America, she was determined to make friends, study hard and succeed. She played basketball at the College and concentrated on doing well in classes. In 1978, she was honored to be crowned homecoming queen at the college.“College of the Desert was a good start to a good life,” Dodi says. “I am still putting the skills I learned at the College to work today while operating my business.” Dodi and her husband Kevin currently own the legendary restaurant, The Nest, a popular hang-out that’s been part of the desert scene for decades. But it was a lot of hard work and experience that led to this extraordinary opportunity.

After modeling for a year after college, Dodi returned to the desert and was offered a job as hostess at The Nest. In 2003, she left to run Arnold Palmer’s restaurant for eight years and earned a stellar reputation for customer service and efficient operations.

It was that reputation which prompted the restaurant partners to approach Dodi and Kevin about bringing new life to The Nest in 2010. The couple accepted, and created a new look, an upgraded menu and a vibrant new spin on nightlife in the desert.

College of the Desert opened the door for Dodi to a lifetime career, a dream and a life she never thought was possible. Today, at the restaurant, Dodi makes sure her employees attending the college have a schedule that accommodates their academic studies.

“I found freedom in America,” Dodi says. “I found my path in life at College of the Desert.”

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