Norco Grad Stories 2017
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Norco Grad Stories 2017


Associate in Sociology; Social & Behavioral Studies, Communication Media & Languages; Humanities, Philosophy and Arts

Transfer school: University of California, Berkley

Isla Covarrubias learned the value of hard work at the age of five. She recalls her father taking her and her brother out to the fields in Mexico to pick fruit to stock the produce store her dad owned in their town. She was born in Orange County and at the age of two she moved with her father to Jalisco, Mexico. She returned to Orange County at the age of 11.

Later, Covarrubias started a family with her husband and moved to Michigan, but had to move back to California three years ago to escape from her abusive husband. She left her job, a home and a middle class lifestyle. She packed the essentials and with her three young children moved to Corona with her mother.

“I was embarrassed to ask for help and knew the only way to achieve personal success was to attend college. I found my way to Norco College through the CalWORKs program and am so glad I decided to pursue my education.”

She felt unsure of herself because she did not know the English language fluently and was shy to ask for help. For years, her husband told her that she was not good enough and she started to believe it. Covarrubias recalls how challenging it was for her to commit to school while raising three children, but she continued to push through.

“There were times I wanted to quit because I did not think I was meant for school. Thankfully, my counselors would talk me out of it and here I am setting a good example for my children. I want them to be proud of their mom.”

Covarrubias was dedicated to her studies and sought help from peers, mentors and professors to ensure she maintained good grades. She joined clubs, participated in special programs including EOPS/CARE, CalWORKs, SSS, Puente and the Honor’s program. Covarrubias co-founded the Norco Mustang Parent Organization. She serves as an advocate through organizations like the Hispanas Organization for Political Equality (HOPE) and has taken an active role by speaking to Assembly members at the state capitol. Recently, she was selected to receive the 2017 CalWORKs scholarship. In late March, she attended the CalWORKs Association Conference where she spoke to an audience of over 300 people about her struggles and success.

On June 8, Covarrubias will be graduating as a student of distinction from Norco College with four associate degrees. She was accepted to eight universities and committed to a full ride at UC Berkeley. She will be pursuing a degree in Sociology and hopes to become a college counselor. She and her family plan to relocate to Berkeley during the summer to begin her classes in fall.


Associate in Kinesiology; Math & Science; Social & Behavioral Studies

US Navy veteran

Transfer school: California State, San Bernardino

Joining the Navy is a family affair according to Calvin Klein Gloria. His two brothers and sister all proudly served.

Gloria was born in the Philippines and at the age of five, he moved to the United States. He grew up in Ontario, CA and graduated from Colony High School. He knew he wanted to go to college, but his parents did not understand the need for higher education. Gloria was on his own and decided to enroll in the Navy to follow his siblings' footsteps. He knew that receiving an education through the Navy would be attainable. After two deployments and four years, his time was up. During this time he also married his high school sweetheart.

Once he came back home, he found out about Norco College and enrolled in summer school in June 2015.

“I went to other schools, but did not feel a connection. Once I set foot on Norco College I was greeted with a warm welcome by College staff. I felt appreciated and was hooked because I knew I found the right fit.”

Gloria was an aviation mechanic for the Navy, but decided to change his focus to kinesiology. He was fascinated by the body and fitness - something he does regularly to keep his mental sanity.

“I firmly believe that I was put on this earth to help others. I enjoy connecting with people and being able to make a difference.”

At the age of 25, Gloria will graduate with a 3.9 GPA and three associate degrees. He will be transferring to California State, San Bernardino to pursue a bachelor’s in Kinesiology. He hopes to further his education and obtain a doctorate in Physical Therapy. He is interested in working with veterans and the gerontology population.

“Norco College exceeded my expectations and pushed me to be where I am today. The Veterans Club is a brotherhood that motivates and inspires me every day.”

During his time at Norco College, Gloria worked at the Veterans office and serves as treasurer of the Veterans Club. He credits Professors Mills, Russell and Betancourt for teaching him to never give up and to pursue what he loves. He admires their passion for their fields and keeps him motivated to do the same.


Associate in Social & Behavioral Sciences; Communications Media & Languages; Humanities, Philosophy and Arts

Transfer school: Humboldt State University

Luis Enrique Velazco Miranda was born in Durango, Mexico. He moved to the US with his family at the age of five. He recalls enrolling in elementary school and failing first grade because he did not speak English.

He learned the language and later attended Centennial High School where he took honors and AP classes.

“I felt like I did not belong in these classes. Everyone would look at me strange because I did not fit the honors look.”

Velazco Miranda remembers one of his teachers surprisingly telling him that he was smart, didn’t look like it, but he was smart. That gave him motivation to continue his education.

He applied to four universities, but was not accepted. He decided to enroll at Norco College not knowing that his life goals would go through a series of changes. He was a first-generation college student and became part of the PUENTE program, joined ASNC and eventually became vice president of student campus and organizations.

“My education at Norco College is valuable. It is the foundation of who I am today. My impossibilities became possibilities at this campus and I will forever be grateful.”

Just when he thought everything was coming together, Velazco Miranda hit a slump his second year of college. He became disengaged and dropped out for three months. It was his time to reflect and figure out his next step. He came back to college full force and became the RCCD student trustee. He also changed his math major to history because he realized he was intrigued by pre-colonial and Civil War history.

“I took a French class and then had an epiphany of a career in history. I spoke to Professor Hitchcock and she encouraged me to follow my heart.”

On June 8, Velazco Miranda will graduate with three associate degrees and will transfer to Humboldt State University. He plans on becoming a high school history teacher in the areas of Rubidoux or Mira Loma.


Associate degree in Social & Behavioral Sciences

Transfer school: University of California, Santa Cruz

School was never an easy chore for Giovanna Mireles. At the early age of six, she was diagnosed with ADHD.

“I hated going to school because I struggled. I could not focus and felt like I was always in trouble.”

She recalls having to repeat second grade and feeling embarrassed. Her mother did not want to give her medication and instead turned to behavioral therapy. Mireles said the therapy was a good option, but it still did not help her with retention and focus, which made school so much harder.

Mireles continued to push through and enrolled in college after high school. She ended up at Norco College in fall 2014. Unfortunately, her studies were suffering and was put on academic probation. In fall 2015, everything changed for the better, she joined PUENTE and her grade point average started to increase. She also participated in special programs including Student Support Services (SSS).

“Because of PUENTE and SSS, I made it to the dean’s list and started to believe in myself again. I encourage students not to lose hope and take advantage of the programs and resources available.”

Mireles credits David Payan and Hortencia Cuevas, her PUENTE and SSS counselors for pushing her to get involved and never giving up on her.

Currently, Mireles is working for the college library and will serve as a student mentor for Summer Advantage program.

On June 8, she will graduate with a Social & Behavioral Sciences degree and will transfer to UC Santa Cruz. She plans on earning a bachelor’s in psychology and becoming a college counselor. Mireles wants to give back to the system that helped her succeed when the odds were against her.