It took two years after serving in Iraq for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to take over Elliot McKenzie's life. But the former Marine is determined to not let it keep him from graduating from Mt. San Antonio College on June 10. "I went into the Marines because I wanted a big challenge," said Elliot, 31, who was a Marine from 2003 to 2008 and later served in Army Reserves. It turned out to be a challenge much different than he had imagined. Deployed in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005 as an infantryman in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Elliot saw and experienced many terrible things. "I killed people, I know that. My company commander was killed, and 16 of my fellow Marines were killed," he said. He saw a friend's leg blown off, was involved in six firefights, and had a car bomb explode 100 feet away from him, leaving him with traumatic brain injury. He escaped combat with his life, and his PTSD remained dormant for two years. But eventually it came to the surface and manifested itself as rage. "Basically, I had anger issues," he said. He would snap at people for no apparent reason, punch holes in walls, and fight with his siblings. "I was always close to going off," he said. "It took very little to get me angry." It got to a point his mother bought him a punching bag. Elliot, a resident of Pomona, attempted to resume a normal life. In 2010, he enrolled at Mt. SAC with the intention of majoring in communication. He struggled through three years, switching his major several times. "I was passing only half of my classes, and my PTSD made it hard to focus," he said. Eventually, unable to concentrate on his studies, he dropped out of college. "It was affecting my life. I couldn't function. Sometimes, I would just stay home in bed the whole day," he said. He sought help from the Veterans Center in Corona, and through counseling and therapy, he discovered what was triggering his PTSD. He was also diagnosed with depression. "The important thing is I got the help needed, and I figured out how to manage my PTSD," he said. "Once you get a grip on what triggers your PTSD, you can live life normally again." After two years of counseling and therapy, he returned to college with added motivation and direction. It was in therapy where he realized his direction. "Before I was taking a lot of classes, but I didn't know what I wanted out of all of it," he said. "But by the time I came back to school, I knew what I wanted to do." Elliot re-enrolled as behavioral science major at Mt. SAC, and he made the dean's list his first semester back. He also took advantage of the services offered through college's Veterans Resource Center, which provides support and community for student veterans. "The way Mt. SAC treats veterans is far beyond anything I would have expected," he said. The Veterans Resource Center offers a wide range of services, including assistance with Veterans Administration benefits, counseling, and financial aid. In the fall, he looks forward to transferring to Cal State Dominguez Hills to earn his bachelor's in behavioral science and eventually becoming part of the FBI's behavioral science unit, using his military background and degree. But for now, graduating with his associate's degree in behavioral science is solely occupying his world, and when Elliot McKenzie walks at Mt. SAC's 70th commencement in a few weeks, it will mean so much more to him than just a degree. "It means I've come over the hill," he said. "From where I was before to now, it's like night and day."
When Mt. San Antonio College graduate Jacqueline Yu talks, people listen. Not only will the 18-year-old Walnut resident be among the youngest graduates at Mt. SAC's 70th commencement on June 10, she is also recognized as the nation's top community college speaker. "When they called my name as the top speaker, I couldn't believe it at first," said Jacqueline, who won first place overall and the Bovero Top Speaker Award as the outstanding speaker at the 2016 Phi Rho Pi National Tournament in April. She won the tournament by taking gold medals in informative speaking, after dinner speaking, and communication analysis. She added a silver medal in the impromptu speaking competition for good measure. "It was a surreal experience, but at the same time, it was really the greatest honor," she said. Jacqueline, who was also named a 2016 Mt. SAC Student of Distinction, competed against 500 other students from 64 community colleges across the nation. At one point in the tournament, she was the only female competitor in a room with all male competitors and judges as she gave a speech about feminism. Her other speech topics included gender fluidity and Japanese culture. With each topic, she found a passion and purpose to give a voice to those who are voiceless. "She is very talented and very motivated, and ended up winning the most points of any individual this year at the tournament," said Mt. SAC Communication Professor and forensics coach Danny Cantrell. Last year, she qualified for the national tournament, but didn't make it to the final round. It would have been very easy for her to get discouraged and maybe even quit the speech team. "But Jacqueline wanted come back to the tournament again this year to prove to herself that she could do it, and she ended up winning it all," said Cantrell. "Winning the Bovero Top Speaker Award is a huge accomplishment. It's a very rare event to have one of your students win this award." One of the lines from her tournament speeches dealt with being so young that no one would take her seriously, which seems ironic since she usually is the youngest in her classes and does everything at an accelerated pace. Jacqueline graduated from Walnut High School at age 15 and started at Mt. SAC at age 16. Already, she had been doing modeling and acting since she was 14. She appeared on the Disney Channel, and her work includes multiple short films, television shows, commercials, print modeling, and local music videos. "I graduated early from high school because it was a negative experience for me, where I felt restricted from self expression and growth as an individual," she said. Once she started classes at Mt. SAC, Jacqueline tried a little of everything. She took classes in criminology, interior design, and theater. "At first, I was hesitant to disclose my age in college," she said. "I was worried that my peers would look down on me or not take me seriously." The reality of the situation was very different from what she expected. Instead, she would end up being asked to help students much older than her with their school work. "Mt. SAC was very welcoming," she said. Then things started to snowball. She joined the honors club, the interior design club, the student newspaper, and founded the performing arts club. She was elected president of the Phi Theta Kappa honors society. Then she took a speech class. "When I first started in speech, I didn't think I was really a very good speaker," she said. "I used to get so nervous before giving a speech." Eventually she was recruited and asked to join the forensics team. "It was at that point I realized the importance of my education," she said. "Joining the speech team changed my perspective, changed my life." Now, she still hasn't broken up with the acting bug. In fact, after she graduates, she plans to carry a double major in communication and acting at either UCLA or UC Berkeley, where she has already been accepted. But her long-range goal is to be a communication professor and a speech coach. "In a sense, being a speech professor is a way for me to give back for all that I have received," she said. When she's not busy on campus, she also finds time to volunteer. In the community, she dedicates time as a youth leader for her church, teacher's aide for dance, volunteer for soup kitchens, and assistant at animal shelters. So when Jacqueline Yu walks at commencement in a few weeks, she will do so knowing that age doesn't make a difference. "Mt. SAC has shaped who I am and has given me confidence to know that I am capable in overcoming any obstacles," she said.
Mt. San Antonio College honors student Kristin Ho is one of only 75 community college students selected from a pool of over 2,000 applicants across the nation to receive the 2016 Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship. Ho's selection marks the fourth time in the last 10 years that Mt. SAC students have been named for this prestigious scholarship. A Pomona resident, Ho, 24, was awarded a scholarship valued at up to $40,000 annually, which she will use to continue her education next fall. She will transfer to Mount Holyoke College majoring in art history and philosophy. Ho will graduate from Mt. SAC this June with a degree in art history and a 3.64 GPA. "Kristin has worked hard both academically and as a student leader on campus," said Mt. SAC Student Services Vice President Audrey Yamagata-Noji. "It's a very prestigious honor to be selected for this scholarship. Kristin is very deserving and represents the best that community colleges have to offer." Ho was instrumental in founding the Roosevelt Institute at Mt. SAC, which promotes progressive policy ideas and leadership. At the college, she has been fundamental in inspiring her fellow student to become engaged in policy research and analysis at local, national, and international levels. 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. It is the largest private scholarship in the nation for community college transfer students. Recipients are eligible for graduate school scholarships as well. Every year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation selects high-achieving, low-income students from community colleges for scholarships that provide funding for tuition, room and board, fees and books. Since 2000 it has awarded about $147 million in scholarships to more than 2,000 students and $90 million in grants to organizations that serve outstanding low-income students.
Mt. SAC Fashion Design student Abbir Malik recently won the Fashion Star award at the Textile Association of Los Angeles' annual fashion design competition. Along with the award, Malik received $2,250 in scholarships and a free training session worth $500. She entered the dress and sportswear competitions at the event, designed to promote the careers of graduating community college students. Malik will graduate from Mt. SAC this June with a degree in Fashion Design and Technologies and plans to transfer this fall to Parsons School of Design in New York City. Her goal is to become a creative director. Also at the competition, Mt. SAC alumna Lidia Mendoza, a 2013 graduate, competed in the evening dress category.
The 68th Annual Mt. SAC Student Art Exhibition will open Thursday, May 12, and runs through Thursday, June 2, in the college Art Gallery. This exhibit is free and open to the public. The annual show is a juried event and features the best original work by Mt. SAC art, photography, and animation students. A special opening reception with entertainment and refreshments will be held Thursday, May 12, from 4 to 6 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Evening hours are held on Tuesdays from 5 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call the Art Gallery at (909) 274-4328.
Mt. San Antonio College students Jacqueline Yu and Hung Pham are two of the 93 community college students throughout the state recently selected for the 2016 All-California Academic teams, chosen by Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international community college honor society. These students represent some of the best of the 2.8 million students enrolled in California's community college system. Yu and Pham, both students in Mt. SAC's Honors Program, received medallions during the Community College League of California's awards ceremony held recently at the Sacramento Convention Center. Selection for the academic teams is based on grades, leadership, and community service. Yu, 18, is a communication major and carries a 4.0 GPA. She was selected for the All-California Academic First Team. A Walnut resident, she is the president of the PTK chapter at Mt. SAC, is a member of the speech team, and recently received the Bovero Top Speaker Award as the outstanding speaker in a national speech competition. At Mt. SAC, she also has worked on the student newspaper, assists the student government as a tour guide, and helped found the campus Performing Arts Club. She will be honored as one of Mt. SAC's Students of Distinction this year. In the community, she volunteers as a youth leader for Rowland Heights Community Christian Church, Azusa Pacific Lighthouse, and Lucky Puppy Rescue in Hollywood. She plans to transfer to UC Berkeley or Bradley University in Illinois as a double major in communication and acting. She wants eventually to become a communication professor. Pham, 20, is a mechanical engineering major and carries a 4.0 GPA. He was selected for the All-California Academic First Team. A Chino resident, he is a student government transfer committee representative, is a member of the Math and Engineering Club, and is a member of the Vietnamese Association of Students on campus. He also will be honored as one of Mt. SAC's Students of Distinction this year. He plans to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona as a mechanical engineering major and plans to become an engineer. There are 31 first-team, 31 second-team, and 31 third-team winners.
Big Changes to Campus ATMs and Student Refunds Students will notice some important changes happening to campus ATMs as well as the process we use to distribute refunds. This is a reminder following up on communication students have received from Higher One already. Campus ATMs are changing beginning May 4 The good news is students will have access to the AllPoint Network beginning on May 4, which provides surcharge-free access to 55,000 ATMs at 7-Eleven, Target, CVS, Costco, Walgreens, and many other convenient locations. The bad news is our six campus ATMs need to transition to the AllPoint network. They will be down from May 4 for several weeks. Just visit this website to find a local ATM in the interim: www.allpointnetwork.com. Students refunds are going from Higher One to Bank Mobile Later this June, the company we use to provide student refunds is changing names from Higher One to BankMobile. This should not affect current students who can continue to use their Higher One cards. However, students will notice that messages -- including that familiar green envelope -- are coming from BankMobile. In addition, a number of fees will be eliminated, including the PIN fee, NSF fee, out-of-network ATM balance inquiry, teller withdrawal fee, and personal check order. Questions? If you have any questions, call the campus Bursar's Office at (909) 274-4960.
The Mt. SAC Forensics Team took second place overall at the 2016 Phi Rho Pi National Tournament held recently in Costa Mesa, with students winning five gold medals, seven silver medals, and 12 bronze medals. More than 500 students from 64 colleges throughout the nation competed. Mt. SAC's Jacqueline Yu won first place overall and the Bovero Top Speaker Award as the outstanding speaker at the national competition, winning gold medals in informative speaking, after dinner speaking, and communication analysis, and a silver medal in the impromptu speaking competition. Joey Fontana won a gold medal in informative speaking and a silver medal in persuasive speaking. Sarina Wang won a gold medal in informative speaking and a bronze medal in debate. Azzaam Siddiqi won a silver medal in impromptu speaking and a bronze medal in informative speaking. Christopher Robles won silver in poetry interpretation and bronze in programmed oral interpretation. Amy Jajieh won silver in persuasive speaking and bronze in dramatic interpretation. Matthew Rodriguez won silver in persuasive speaking, and bronze as part of a parliamentary debate team. Tiffany Pla won silver in extemporaneous speaking, a bronze in persuasive speaking, and a bronze as part of a parliamentary debate team. Matthew Dowling won bronze in extemporaneous speaking and bronze as part of a parliamentary debate team. Anthony Flores won bronze in the prose competition. Kai Vibar won bronze in programmed oral interpretation and bronze as part of a duo interpretation team. And Alexandria Romero won bronze in dramatic interpretation and bronze as part of a duo interpretation team. Shantel Engle won a bronze as part of a parliamentary debate team, and Erin Preston also competed at the event. The team is coached by faculty members Roxan Arntson, Danny Cantrell, and Roger Willis-Raymondo. Since 1994, Mt. SAC has won nine community college national titles and has placed among the top 10 in university-level competition four times.
Mt. SAC health career students won a total of 14 medals, including seven gold medals and seven silver medals, at the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) state leadership conference held April 6-10 in Anaheim. More than 2,500 students competed at the state competition. Yessenia Campos, Sierra Gomez, Keili Hiniker, and La Tonya McDaniel won gold medals in the creative problem solving competition. Eduardo Guzman, Maria Jauregui, and Jose Montiel-Flores won gold medals in the biomedical debate competition. Remington Cole, Sue Mass, Sandra Medina, and Felicia Ngo, took silver medals in creative problem solving. Rebecca Cruz, Kirk Loualhati, and Joe Sanchez won silver medals in the biomedical debate competition. All 14 Mt. SAC students will advance to the national HOSA competition to be held June 22-25 in Nashville, Tenn. HOSA, established in 1976 by the U.S. Department of Education, is the national organization for secondary and post-secondary health career students. The organization provides students in 40 states with skills, leadership development, and career development.
Mt. San Antonio College will hold a ribbon cutting for its new $12.7-million food services facility, the Mountie Café (building 8), on Wednesday, April 13, at 4 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. "The new facility presents a more student-oriented approach to food service. It can accommodate more students and staff and offers everyone more choices than before," said Administrative Services Vice President Michael Gregoryk. The new 13,500-square-foot facility will seat approximately 90 people for interior dining and over 200 for outside dining on the east, west, and south terraces. It replaces the former Campus Café. The new building houses several new food stations, including room for a deli, a pizza location, a grill station, Asian cuisine, and a coffee shop as well as self-serve cold display cases. College officials will make brief presentations at the ribbon cutting. The center was funded by Mt. SAC's Measure RR, the college's $353-million facilities bond that was passed by voters in 2008. ###
FROM THE PRESIDENT: What we can learn from the bomb hoax Yesterday, we had a scare on campus. We are thankful it turned out to be a hoax, but we learned some important points, including things we ALL need to do to prepare for emergencies. WHAT HAPPENED In case you haven't heard the news, on Thursday, March 24, 2016, we learned from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department that they found a note at Walnut High School threatening that blasts would go off at 2:45 p.m. at the high school as well as at Mt. SAC. We learned about the note at approximately 10:30 a.m. As a precaution, we decided to evacuate the campus at 11:30 a.m. and sent out an emergency alert asking the campus community to calmly leave campus and that classes and services were closed until at least 4:30 p.m. Local law enforcement agencies assisted us throughout the incident including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol, Cal Poly Pomona police and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. We are grateful our community partners were incredibly responsive. Campus officials followed emergency procedures to clear buildings. There were approximately 12,000 on our 420-acre campus at the time, so it was no easy task. All buildings were cleared and deemed safe by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at about 3:15 p.m. Classes that started at 4:30 p.m. and later continued as usual. WHAT WE LEARNED I'm immensely proud of how the campus handled the challenge. Students, faculty and staff calmly left the buildings, many of which were evacuated within minutes. Our community was vigilant but respectful. While some people chose to evacuate by walking off campus, others chose to take cars. Being in a valley, our campus has only two major streets to get vehicles off campus. With pedestrians crossing streets and vehicles lining up to leave the parking lots, this caused gridlock in some areas. We are constantly improving our emergency procedures and are already analyzing yesterday's events to find improvements. This includes working with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the City of Walnut on improving traffic flow. HOW TO PREPARE The campus community was notified through the Emergency Notification System, which can send messages through calls, text messages and email. The alerts were also posted to the campus website, Facebook and Twitter. While our communications worked, at this point, only about 11,500 people have signed up to receive alerts from our Emergency Notification System. You are cheating yourself of critical information if you have not signed up. Do it today by logging into the portal. If you're not sure what to do in different types of emergencies, take the time today to review our emergency procedures at http://mtsac.edu/risk/emergencyprep.html. HOW TO SHARE IDEAS If you have ideas and suggestions on how to improve our emergency procedures, make sure you share them with us by contacting Melonee Cruse, our emergency services manager at (909) 274-5567 or email email@example.com . In conclusion, I want to thank you all for your patience yesterday. It was a challenging time, but as Mounties you came together and made the most of the situation. Have a wonderful weekend. You have earned it! Bill Scroggins President & CEO Mt. San Antonio College
The Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery will present a painting exhibition, "Dreams of Chaos," which runs Mar. 17 through Apr. 14, at the Art Gallery. This exhibit is free and open to the public. "Dreams of Chaos" features the abstract painting of German artist Kubo and Claremont-based artist Tom Herberg. The exhibit displays the worldviews of these two painters as they give form to abstraction. A special opening reception will be held Thursday, Mar. 17, 4 to 6 p.m., in the Art Gallery, building 1B. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday nights, 5 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call the Art Gallery at (909) 274-4328. ###
Mt. San Antonio College will hold a ribbon cutting and an open house for its new $13.6-million Student Success Center, building 9E, on Wednesday, March 9, at 4 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. "The Student Success Center brings together critical programs and support services that address the unique needs of our student to help them succeed and reach their goals in college," said Mt. SAC Student Services Vice President Audrey Yamagata-Noji. Located right next to the college's Student Services Center, the new facility affords 22,800 square feet for classrooms, study labs, offices, and a computer lab. It houses the Bridge Program, two TRiO Programs (ACES and Upward Bound), the Veterans Resource Center, the Accessible Technology Center for Disabled Student Programs and Services, and a Student Health Center satellite office. The majority of these programs have been housed in portable buildings and now have permanent facilities in which to provide counseling, advising, instruction, and learning support services. College officials will make brief presentations at the ribbon cutting, and tours of the new facility will be available. The center was funded by Mt. SAC's Measure RR, the college's $353-million facilities bond that was passed by voters in 2008. ###
For the 18th year, Mt. San Antonio College will have the only stage in the world where you can see stars such as the Eagles, Backstreet Boys, Janis Joplin, Garth Brooks, and David Bowie together in one show as the Mt. SAC Faculty Association sponsors its annual scholarship fundraiser, "Puttin' on the Hits." Show times are Friday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m., in the Clarke Theater. Mt. SAC professors, managers, staff, and students in authentic costumes will impersonate famous celebrities and lip sync their hit tunes. The program showcases several styles of music, including country, swing, R & B, hip-hop, and rock 'n' roll. Last year, the Faculty Association provided over $15,000 for student scholarships. Over its history, "Puttin' on the Hits" has raised more than $125,000 for scholarships. Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $10 for students with student ID and children under 12. For tickets and more information, call the Performing Art Box Office at (909) 274-2050. Tickets may also be purchased online at http://tickets.mtsac.edu. ###
The Mt. San Antonio College Forensics Team recently won back-to-back tournaments, winning a total of 34 awards at the two tournaments. The Mt. SAC team won the community college sweepstakes at the "Close to the Coast" tournament at Orange Coast College with students taking home 15 awards. Top competitors at the tournament include Jacqueline Yu (Walnut) who won the communication analysis and informative speaking events, and Sarina Wang (Hacienda Heights) who won the impromptu competition and took third in communication analysis. Mt. SAC also won the overall sweepstakes at the "Winter at the Beach" tournament held at Cal State Long Beach, winning 19 awards. Notable competitors were Jacqueline Yu who won the communication analysis and informative speaking events, Matthew Rodriguez (Rio Rancho, NM) who won the persuasive speaking competition, and Anthony Flores (Baldwin Park) and Chris Robles (La Puente) who won the duo event. The Mt. SAC Forensics Team will go on to compete at the state championships in March and the Phi Rho Pi Community College National Championship held in Costa Mesa in April. ###
With more than 1,200 attendees expected, Mt. San Antonio College will offer free financial aid assistance to area high school seniors and their parents during its annual "Cash for College" fair on Saturday, Feb. 20. The event kicks off with opening presentations by Senator Ed Hernandez and other local legislators starting at 9 a.m. in Mt. SAC's Sophia B. Clarke Theater. "This event is all about helping students fill out the necessary financial aid forms by the March 2 deadline so that they don't miss out on thousands of dollars that may be available to them," said Mt. SAC Financial Aid Director Chau Dao. Cash for College provides hands-on assistance to college-bound students and their parents in completing and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms for the 2015-16 academic year. The event also helps students maximize their financial aid prospects by meeting the March 2 priority financial aid filing deadline. Assistance with the California Dream Act application will also be available. Filing applications early is recommended. Parents and students must bring a copy of students' Social Security cards or permanent resident cards, and a 2015 federal 1040 tax return and W-2. If 2015 information is not available, a 2014 tax return may be used along with 2014 W-2 forms. The workshop information and assistance can be used to apply to any college, not just Mt. SAC. Information and application forms will also be available for Admissions, Extended Opportunity and Programs Services, and other Mt. SAC student support services. For more information or to make a reservation, call the Mt. SAC Financial Aid Office at (909) 274- 4457, email for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org, or make a reservation online at http://www.mtsac.edu/financialaid/cashfair.html. ###
A suspicious package spotted in front of the Music Recital Hall promoted a response by local law enforcement on Tuesday, December 1, 2015. The suspicious package -- a ceramic container wrapped in tape -- was found shortly before 7 a.m. Public Safety officers called in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Other responding agencies included the Los Angeles County Fire Department, a bomb squad and hazmat unit. In an abundance of caution, the college evacuated the Theater, Music, 1A, 1B, 1C, 6 and Campus Cafe and canceled classes that started before 9 a.m. in those buildings. The campus was notified through Emergency Alerts, which sends text, email and phone messages to people who opt-in to receive the messages. To sign up for Emergency Alerts, log into the Portal and look for the Campus Emergency Notification System box to sign up. By 8:45 a.m., the bomb squad determined the package was not a threat. Classes resumed in the affected areas shortly afterward. While the suspicious package turned out to be harmless, the college encourages its community to continue to report any suspicious activity by calling Public Safety at (909) 274-4555.