Norco Grad Stories 2013
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Norco Grad Stories 2013
Taylor Armstrong Technology plays a major role in Taylor Armstrong’s life and provides his lifeline to academic success. Taylor started using a computer to write when he was very young because he was born with cerebral palsy, which affected his lower extremities and fine motor skills. His experiences with and reliance on technology convinced him to pursue a career in business with a focus on cyber security so he can help protect the digital information infrastructure that individuals, businesses and governments rely on. “I want to help other people and give them the same exciting opportunities that I had,” Taylor said. Taylor was unfocused and floundering during his first three years at Norco College. Then, he joined the TRiO program for low-income and first-generation students and got the direction he needed to get on track, stay on track and transfer to a four-year college. “When I stand back and look at it, if you have a strong enough reason to pursue a particular field or degree and you have a plan and you see it as being possible, you can do just about anything,” Taylor said. He is graduating with an associate’s degree in Business Administration and will continue his studies at Cal State San Bernardino.
Graciela Arzola Graciela Arzola first stepped onto the Norco College campus 10 years after graduating from high school. Her children encouraged her to go to college and the Puente program with its “Yes, you can” motto sustained her and helped her overcome the self-doubt that haunted her. “Once I got into the Puente program, I had professors telling me that I could make my dreams come true,” said Graciela, a single parent whose rheumatoid arthritis causes severe chronic pain and limits the mobility in one of her hands. “They taught me how to take the ‘ifs’ out of my life. It’s ‘when’, not ‘if’.” Graciela will graduate this week with AA degrees in Social Behavioral Studies, Humanities, and Communication Studies. She has been accepted into the competitive Social Work program at Cal State San Bernardino. She hopes to draw from her own personal experiences to help others. Ultimately, she would like to start her own non-profit organization to help teenage mothers who are victims of domestic violence and she dreams of opening a safe house for homeless teenage mothers.
Misael Castillo Misael Castillo, 22, is pursuing a law enforcement career after growing up in a crime-plagued neighborhood. “I want to make a difference in my community,” Misael said. This week, he will graduate from Norco College with degrees in Communications, Social and Behavioral Studies and Humanities, Philosophy and Art. Misael will study Criminal Justice at Cal State San Bernardino beginning in the fall. The campus’ convenient location means he can continue volunteering with the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department’s Citizens on Patrol program where he goes on patrol with deputies and helps out with community events. Misael credits the Puente program for much of his success. He especially appreciates Puente Counselor Zina Chacon, who he says always made time for him no matter how busy she was. “Puente opened many doors and taught me that anything is possible,” Misael said. “I have to say, every effort I have made has been worth it, and every minute I have volunteered has made a difference in me and has taught me a lesson.”
Kevin DiBella Kevin Di Bella took a 10-year detour after graduating from high school to pursue a career as an audio engineer in the music industry. But after hitting the ceiling as far as upward mobility, he quit his job at a recording studio, moved back home with his parents and enrolled at Norco College to become an electrical engineer. “The more I weighed my options, the more I was certain that a college degree was the best way for me to ensure I would have the necessary skills for a competitive workplace,” Kevin said. Even though college was more challenging than he expected, Kevin excelled. He has been accepted to seven universities and received multiple scholarship offers. He chose UC San Diego. “It is a great feeling to be successful in an academic environment where everyone is encouraging and hard work is recognized and rewarded -- which does not always happen in the real world,” Kevin said. While at Norco College, Kevin was involved in the Honors Program and the TRiO program for low-income, first-generation students. Kevin credits his Student Support Services counselor Ladylyn Dominguez with helping him research his major, check out various colleges and get in touch with the right people. “She has been an amazing help,” Kevin said.
Liseth Espinoza Twenty-year-old Liseth Espinoza joined the Marine Corps Reserves right out of high school. She survived boot camp and combat training. “It was a challenge but I wanted to do it,” Liseth said. “I wanted to do something bigger than myself.” She then took on another challenge. With her parents’ encouragement, she became the first in her family to go to college. In the Norco College Puente program Liseth found the same kind of support that she had experienced in the military, especially from English Professor David Mills and Puente Counselor Zina Chacon. Both encouraged her to study hard and to transfer to a four-year university. “I wouldn't be where I am now without the help of all my loved ones and teachers,” she said. Liseth graduates this week with an associate’s degree in Social Behavioral Studies. She will attend Cal State Fullerton in the fall with financial help from the GI Bill and plans to study communicative disorders. Her goal is to become a speech therapist and to work with elementary school children. Liseth’s perseverance and dedication have not gone unnoticed. She recently received a Certificate of Achievement from the Norco College Veterans Services Office.
Zachariah Hammers Zachariah Hammers will transfer to La Sierra University in the fall after two years at Norco College, thanks in large part to the Community Scholars Program. Students who successfully complete the program are guaranteed admission to one of three private colleges: La Sierra University, Cal Baptist University or the University of Redlands. “The Community Scholars Program has been life changing,” Zachariah said. “I hope someday I am able to give back to the Community Scholars Program in some way.” Community Scholars receive $7,000 in scholarships spread over four years, counseling, and priority registration to ensure they complete their Norco College studies in two years. “A lot of my friends don’t have scholarship opportunities and they are really struggling to get classes right now, Zachariah said. He plans to major in psychology and minor in anthropology, a field he was intrigued by after taking a class from Professor Alexis Gray. “Her teaching style is very encouraging, very interesting, and something I really got attached to,” Zachariah said.
Anthony Lombardo Last spring, Anthony Lombardo used his position as vice president of Finance for the Associated Students of Norco College to fund a series of scholarships for students transferring to four-year universities. “I recognized that a lot of students were facing financial difficulty because of the economy so with the help of my advisor and the ASNC we were able to give out about 19 scholarships at $1,000 apiece,” Anthony said. His good deed was repaid this year when Anthony was one of 76 community college students nationwide to win the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which he will use to attend UC Berkeley in the fall. Anthony is graduating with associate’s degrees in: Social and Behavioral Sciences; Humanities, Philosophy and Art, and Communication, Media and Languages. Initially, his major was architecture but after being involved with ASNC and getting a taste of politics, Anthony switched his major to political science. Don’t be looking for him on the statewide ballot any time soon though. Anthony wants to get a law degree and practice a few years before he runs for political office.
William Woerz III William Woerz III was a student at Norco College in 2001 when terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City. The attack compelled William to postpone his education and to enlist in the U.S. Army. He chose Topographic Surveyor as his Military Occupational Specialty so he could build on the drafting skills he had already acquired at Norco College. After an honorable discharge due to a back injury sustained during a 2003 tour in Iraq, William started working for architectural and engineering firms. He soon realized that he needed to finish his education if he was going to advance in his chosen career. William, who is 35 and married with two children, returned to Norco College where he became the go-to person for younger students who sought him out for advice. “Being the wise old owl and coming back to college proved to them deep down that as a parent, a returning student and a veteran, if I can do it, anybody can do it,” William said. Today, William is graduating with associate’s degrees in Architecture, Humanities, Philosophy & Arts, and Social & Behavioral Sciences, all with Great Distinction. Last quarter, he enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona where he is pursuing a degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a minor in Historic Preservation, an interest he developed growing up in Riverside and through his world travels.