June 2008

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 2008

Nursing Graduate Turns Tragedy into Triumph

WALNUT, Calif.—Losing a baby might just be one of the hardest things there is to endure in life. But for Sharlene Moya of West Covina, her tragedy inspired her to pursue a career in nursing at Mt. San Antonio College.

On June 13, Sharlene will be one of more than 2,000 students who will graduate with degrees or certificates from Mt. SAC. Yet it wasn’t an easy road for the 26-year-old.

On June 28, 2006, Sharlene gave birth to Nathan Anthony Garica. During her pregnancy, her son was diagnosed with gastroschisis, a birth defect that causes the fetal bowel to extend freely in the amniotic fluid space through a small opening in the abdomen. Nathan had surgery to repair the defect, but four weeks after being born, he died at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

“I held my son for four hours before he died,” Sharlene recalls. After he died, she told the nurses she would be pursuing a career in the field. “I want to be here and help other babies.”

Determined not to give in to the grief, Sharlene enrolled at Mt. SAC, taking courses that would propel her toward her goal of becoming a nurse. Following graduation this week with an associate degree in General Education, Sharlene will continue her studies at California State University, Long Beach and earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“Going to school helped me hold onto something,” she says, noting that the memory of her son kept her motivated. “I felt like I could do something meaningful that will help others.”

Sharlene hopes to return to Children’s Hospital of Orange County – where she spent so many precious hours with her son – as an employee in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“I think I can relate to everyone there,” she says.


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Student Transforms Life to Become College Graduate

WALNUT, Calif.—On Friday, Monserrat Toro will be one of more than 2,000 students who will graduate with degrees or certificates from Mt. San Antonio College.

Monserrat, 21, is an honors student and was named a Student of Distinction. In April, she found out she was accepted to University of California at Berkeley. “It’s a dream come true,” she says. “I never thought I could go to Berkeley. I’m looking forward to being a student there.”

It’s all quite an accomplishment for the Pomona resident, who just four years ago was battling physical abuse at home and later, homelessness in her native New York.

While working at a department store, Monserrat became determined that employment behind the fragrance counter was not her end goal. “I said to myself, ‘This is not going to be my life.’”

A high school friend named Apolinar Gonzales encouraged her to pursue college and the two moved from New York to California after discovering Mt. SAC on the Internet. Initially, Monserrat enrolled in the air traffic control program but later switched to English. Her ultimate goal is to become a lawyer – like the one who helped her become emancipated from her parents and finish high school.

“She helped me so much during a time when I needed help,” Monserrat says. “She inspired me. She believed in me and helped me see I had the potential to be whatever I wanted to be.”

Monserrat, who credits her friend Apolinar and counselors at Mt. SAC for her success, urges others to follow their dreams even when the odds are against them.

“I know how people feel when they think it’s too hard,” she says. “No, it’s not. I want them to aspire for more. I want them to know you are going to get somewhere if you do.”

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Fashion Student Starts Own Clothing Line

WALNUT, Calif.—It all started off as a joke: Derik Hirozawa’s parents teased him about his seemingly incurable habit of shopping and suggested that he should just make his own jeans.

Derik, a student at Mt. San Antonio College currently enrolled in the Fashion Design program, took the joke seriously and taught himself to sew.

Today, he has his own line of jeans called Clutch Couture. He is currently working to have them sold in small boutiques around the Beverly Hills and West Hollywood area, along with some stores in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Derik and his business partner, longtime friend Frank Wu, this year produced a first run of 358 pairs of jeans with three fits for women and two for men each available in two different washes. The jeans are made from are made from 100% organic cotton grown in the United States, then hand-woven and hand-dyed in Okayama, Japan on short looms with a self-edge which gives the jeans its unique character

“When we initially started Clutch Couture, Frank and I dedicated a lot of time studying the different premium denim lines that were being sold in stores,” says Derik, a Silicon Valley native who now lives in Montebello. “We noticed that although some jeans would have an interesting or unique detail, they would also still be lacking in some other design aspect. For example the fade of the jeans might be amazing but then the quality of fabric wouldn't be up to par.”

Derik says Clutch Couture aims to incorporate the positive aspects of fashion found in various cultures. “The inspiration for this denim line is ‘jeans at their best,’ ” he says.

Derik’s fashion design professor, Maria Davis, said she has never had a student with such an entrepreneurial spirit.

“Most of my students are happy to have a good portfolio so they can get a job,” she says. “He didn't want a job. He wanted a clothing line!”

For more information on Clutch Couture, visit www.clutchcouture.com

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Student Bucks Family Odds to Attend Military College

WALNUT, Calif.—The odds didn’t look good for Estevan Llantada: The La Puente High School student saw his father and all the men in his family go to prison. And he could have easily been next.

During his first semester at La Puente, he had a 1.33 GPA, and he was hanging around the wrong crowd. But, with some intervention from his mother and his participation in the Upward Bound Program at Mt. SAC, things have since turned around dramatically. Now a senior, he recently scored a total of 1580 on the SAT and has significantly upped his GPA to over a 3.0. And all that hard work has paid off, because next fall he will enter The Citadel, the prestigious military college in Charleston, S.C.

Llantada will be the first in his family to graduate from high school this month and go on to college. He is also the first La Puente High School graduate to be accepted to The Citadel. “My father dropped out of high school, and I am determined to be an example for my little brother and sister as well as my cousins,” Llantada says.

Juan Carlos Astorga, Mt. SAC’s Upward Bound Program director, says Llantada’s success is deeply connected to his participation in the program as well as his mother's active involvement in his academics.

“He has been 100 percent committed to the program since he joined,” Astorga says. “Llantada has a drive and a determination to be successful and to be the best person he can be.”

Llantada, who is seeking to escape the negative influences in his life, said he looks forward to the rigor, rules, and discipline he will encounter as a student at The Citadel.

But big challenges remain. Chief among is the financial hurdle. Llantada cannot fully afford the $37,000 tuition it costs annually to attend The Citadel. While he was offered about $7,000 in financial assistance, his family does not qualify for certain loans or federal assistance. He is faced with the daunting task of coming up with the remaining $30,000. Llantada and others in his life are earnestly working toward finding the needed funds.

“His mom is doing everything humanly possible to see if she can come up with some money,” Astorga said. “It would be amazingly wonderful if there was a way that our community could help Llantada fulfill his dream.”

Donations are being sought from the community and business organizations to help Llantada. To offer assistance and obtain more information, contact Juan Carlos Astorga at Mt. SAC: (909) 594-5611, ext. 5634.

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Program Helps Student Bridge Gap from High School to College

WALNUT, Calif.— Michael Ngo came to Mt. SAC 10 years ago unsure of how his future would play out. His father, a furniture store owner, had been killed a few years earlier in South Los Angeles and the family moved to the San Gabriel Valley to escape the violence. He didn’t speak English well and was anxious about entering college.

Now, thanks to the Summer Bridge Program at Mt. SAC, Michael has a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton and currently works as an ESL counselor helping Mt. SAC students accomplish their goals.

Michael is just one of hundreds of students who have made the sometimes intimidating transition from high school to college as part of the Summer Bridge Program. The program recently marked 10 years of success and will welcome its largest class ever – 350 students – on Saturday.

According to Patricia Maestro, the program’s coordinator for the past eight years, the first class started with 88 students. This year, more than 900 applications were received and students had to be turned away.

“The word is out,” Maestro said, explaining the program’s popularity. “Our alumni are going back to their communities and telling high school students that they need to participate in this program.”

The program targets at-risk students who come from low-income homes and score below college level in English and math. Those students who are second-language learners and the first in their family to attend college are the type of candidates the program seeks. Once in the program, Bridge students are enrolled in "linked" or "clustered" classes that are taught in a cooperative environment with instructors. They also receive personalized support from the program staff, counselors, financial aid advisors, transfer and advising specialists.

“Students who enter the program often feel anxious, afraid, unsure about their purpose or reason for being in college,” Maestro said “It is inspiring to watch them change into students with a purpose, drive and motivation to follow their dreams.”

# # # TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 2008

Mt. SAC to Offer Child Care Food Program

WALNUT, Calif.—For the 14th consecutive year, the Child Development Center at Mt. San Antonio College is offering a free and reduced-cost Child Care Food Program to all children who attend the center.

Through this federally funded program, the center serves nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks to approximately 200 children from birth through age 5.

For more information, call the Mt. SAC Child Development Center at (909) 594-5611, ext. 4920.

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Solis to Address Class of 2008 at 62nd Commencement

WALNUT, Calif.—Congresswoman Hilda Solis, who has broken barriers and experienced several firsts for Latinas, will give the commencement address to the nearly 2,000 graduates of Mt. San Antonio College’s Class of 2008 on Friday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Hilmer Lodge Stadium.

“We expect to enjoy a wonderful and inspiring celebration of academic excellence and achievement,” said Mt. SAC President John S. Nixon.

First elected to Congress in 2000, Solis is currently serving her fourth term in Congress, representing the 32nd Congressional District. She is the first Latina to serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and also serves as the Co-Vice Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Her priorities in Congress include expanding access to affordable health care, protecting the environment, and improving the lives of working families.

Solis also made history in 1994 when she was the first Latina elected to the California State Senate. She was first elected to public office in the 1980s as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees and later served in the State Assembly from 1992 to 1994. In addition, she worked in the Carter Administration’s White House Office of Hispanic Affairs and was appointed as a management analyst with the Office of Management and Budget.

At the 62nd commencement, the college will also honor Dr. Gloria Morrow as Alumna of the Year. Morrow, who started at Mt. SAC in 1989 as a 39-year-old mother of three, is a licensed clinical psychologist and currently the diversity consultant with Harvey Mudd College. She has served as a faculty member at Cal State Fullerton and La Verne University, and has a private practice in which she specializes in treating those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and grief and loss issues.

She is author of several books related to her clinical experience, including Too Broken to be Fixed? A Spiritual Guide to Inner Healing. Together with her husband, she is also co-pastor of the victory Community Church in Upland and co-publisher of two weekly newspapers, the Inland Valley News and the Rialto Renaissance.

This year, a record number of graduation petitions — 2,827 — were processed. In addition to Mt. SAC graduates receiving their Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, 23 candidates will be awarded Bachelor of Science degrees in Aviation Management through Mt. SAC’s long-standing partnership with Southern Illinois University.


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Mt. SAC to Award Degree to Grad Posthumously

David Briggs will be among the hundreds of graduates who participate in Mt. San Antonio College’s 62nd commencement ceremony on Friday, June 13. But the diploma David picks up won’t have his name on it––instead, the diploma is for his brother Joshua, who died last fall.

“Joshua had already been making some plans for graduation last year,” said his mother, Judith Lillard. “It was a very big deal for him, and he was really looking forward to it.”

A Radio and Television Broadcasting major, Joshua would have been 26 at time of his graduation. He was 7 when he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Later, the disease affected his legs, and he needed to use a wheelchair.

“Joshua was always very positive,” his mother said. “He always talked about when I walk again, not if I walk again, and about how we’d have to donate his wheelchair to someone.”

He took special education classes in high school and had several operations, including a spinal fusion operation in which steel rods were put in his back. By the time he began at Mt. SAC in fall 2001, Joshua had developed cognitive learning disabilities associated with the disease, and he struggled in some classes.

“Joshua had the same hopes and dreams that everybody has,” said his mother. “But he was so determined he would hang in there until he would pass.”

With help from Mt. SAC’s Disabled Student Programs & Services and classroom aides, Joshua made progress in his studies.

“This is a person who came in with obvious challenges, but he did not let anything stop him and his enthusiasm rubbed off on others,” said Mt. SAC Radio and Television Broadcasting Professor Tammy Trujillo. “He was one of those guys who, if you give him five minutes, you’d end up liking him.”

Around the Broadcasting Department and around campus, Joshua was a fixture in his powered chair, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

“Mt. SAC was his focal point,” Lillard said. “The college offered him more than an education––it offered him a sense of independence.”

Then, just as Joshua was finishing up his studies, the disease that would destroy all of his muscles and plague him for 18 years claimed his life on Oct. 1, 2007 -- his brother David’s birthday.

“The fact that this happened on his birthday had a big impact on David,” said Lillard.

The decision to walk in Mt. SAC’s graduation ceremony and pick up Joshua’s degree was David’s way of completing his brother’s dream and honoring his memory. A memorial scholarship was also established in Joshua’s name this year and will be given to a deserving Mt. SAC student involved in the campus Disabled Student Programs and Services.

“Joshua really was an inspiration to a lot of people,” said Lillard. “His attitude, even with the problems he was facing, inspired others to tackle obstacles they thought were insurmountable.”


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MONDAY, JUNE 02, 2008

Mt. SAC Honors Student Awarded $30,000 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

WALNUT, Calif.—Mt. San Antonio College honors student Kiran Alvi has been selected among the 46 community college students across the nation to receive the 2008 Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship. Alvi’s selection marks the second time in two years Mt. SAC students have been named for this prestigious scholarship.

“Having two students chosen for the scholarship in consecutive years speaks to the caliber of students we have here at the college,” said Mt. SAC Financial Aid Director Susan Jones.

A Chino Hills resident, Alvi, 19, was awarded a scholarship valued at up to $30,000 annually, which she will use to continue her education next fall. She hopes to transfer to USC as a journalism major. Alvi will graduate from Mt. SAC in June with honors and a 4.0 GPA.

“It’s really an overwhelming honor to have been selected,” said Alvi. “It also means, of course, that I can now attend any university I want without worrying about financial considerations.”

She served as president of Mt. SAC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international community college honors society. She also served as managing editor for the student newspaper, The Mountaineer, and was a member of the college’s forensics team. Alvi was recently named a Student of Distinction and as one of Mt. SAC’s Inspiring Women. She also won several other campus scholarships this spring, including the Sophia B. Clarke Journalism Scholarship, Dexter MacBride Leadership Scholarship, and the Pepsi Presidential Leadership Scholarship.

The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program was designed to help community college students with exceptional promise and demonstrated financial need make the transition to four-year colleges and universities.

Every year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation selects approximately 50 high-achieving, low-income students from community colleges for scholarships that provide funding for tuition, room and board, fees and books.

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