Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rotary Club donates $7,000 to Cuyamaca College as a parting gift

The Rancho San Diego/Spring Valley Rotary Club has gone out with a bang. The service organization, which disbanded this summer after 49 years because of declining membership, has donated more than $35,000 in its bank account to an array of nonprofits and educational groups, including more than $7,000 to Cuyamaca College.
“We’ve always been here to support the community, and we felt that this was the best use of the money we had,” said Rusty Burkett, who served as the Rancho San Diego/Spring Valley Rotary Club’s last president. “We’re honored to have been able to help.”

Cuyamaca College was the biggest winner.

Cuyamaca College’s Unlimited Potential! (also known as UP!), which supports former foster youth and others who have face great financial uncertainty, received $1,670. The Cuyamaca College Give the Dream program, which provides students small emergency grants to help them deal with unforeseen hardships, received $2,670. The Cuyamaca College President’s Fund, used to support college events and programs, received $2,670.

Donations were made through the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges.

“We are thankful for the generous gift from the Rancho San Diego/Spring Valley Rotary Club, a gift that will help increase access for many more students at Cuyamaca College,” said Cuyamaca College President Mark Zacovic.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fall semester begins August 18 at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges

Fall semester begins Aug. 18 for more than 25,000 students at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges with additional class offerings and instructors at the two East County colleges.

Grossmont College is offering 1,605 class sections, compared to 1,548 last fall and Cuyamaca College, 694, up from 679 in 2013. Students still have the opportunity to register for fall classes, with the colleges continuing online registration through Aug. 15. Schedules and registration links are available on each college’s website, and

“We are looking forward to a great year as we continue our mission of advancing the learning and success of our students,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. About 17,000 students are expected at Grossmont College this fall, while about 8,500 students will be attending Cuyamaca College.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cuyamaca College coach Lyle Barton: Vaulting to recognition

Lyle Barton
Lyle Barton has a simple answer when asked why he became a track and field coach more than two decades ago. “I was a former athlete and I never had any coaching to help me get to that next level,” he said. “That always bothered me. I always felt that if I would ever get the chance, I’d jump at the opportunity.”

Good thing. Barton, who has been Cuyamaca College’s pole vault and decathlon coach the past 14 years, was recently selected as the 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year for Men’s Track and Field by the California Community College Cross Country and Track Coaches Association.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by your peers,” Barton said. “It really means a lot to me.”

Barton has found success everywhere he’s coached, which includes West Hills, Grossmont, El Capitan, and El Cajon high schools and Cuyamaca College. One of the first athletes he coached at Cuyamaca, Brian McLaughlin, still holds the school record with a vault of 16 feet, 10 and ¾ inches and later had a successful run at UCLA. At El Capitan High School, Barton led the boys’ and girls’ pole vault teams to the CIF Division 2 championships two consecutive years each.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

See the light: New energy-saving lighting project completed

Installing new lights
A $2.1 million lighting upgrade at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges – the first project completed under the college district’s Proposition V construction bond program – is being hailed for dramatically improving visibility and greater energy savings. 

Energy-efficient LED lights coupled with advanced technology control panels mean better lighting for parking lots and exterior walkways at a fraction of the energy consumed by older, halogen lights. In addition, more than 8,000 fluorescent lights were replaced with 25-watt, energy-efficient bulbs in most of the buildings and classrooms at both campuses. These efforts translate into a significant cost-savings over the life of the project, district officials say.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Designer sew thankful to create costumes at Grossmont College

Esther Skandunas
From theater costumes to figurine outfits, costume designer Esther Skandunas loves to sew thanks to her mother, who started teaching her when she was 5 years old.

“She made most of my clothes when I was little, and I loved to watch her take a piece of fabric and turn it into something I could wear,” Skandunas said. “As I grew, that interest stayed with me.”

Now, the La Mesa resident designs costumes for Grossmont College theatrical productions in addition to her work as a freelance costume fabricator and professional tailor.

At the college, Skandunas teaches students to sew and serves as the in-house costume designer for theatrical productions. This summer, the department hosts its first-ever conservatory, featuring local high school and college students in acting and technical roles in The Three Musketeers, as directed by La Mesa resident and Grossmont College instructor Beth Duggan.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Grossmont College alum transforms his life through education

Jerry Flores
Jerry Flores is living proof that the transformative power of education permeates Grossmont College.

Flores, who turns 29 in August, says he was hardly interested getting good grades as a kid. A solid educational grounding?  Not even an afterthought. “I failed almost every class in high school,” Flores said.

But after enrolling in a continuation school with smaller classrooms and dedicated teachers, the idea of securing a degree suddenly interested him. Flores eventually moved to La Mesa to be with his future wife and opted to attend Grossmont College.

It was among the best moves Flores has made. “Everybody was so nice, everybody was so professional. It was a perfect fit.”

After excelling at Grossmont College and earning an associate degree, Flores transferred to San Diego State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology before getting a Ph.D. in the subject at UC Santa Barbara. The University of Washington, Tacoma, just hired him as an assistant professor, and he will be teaching courses there this fall in the school’s Department of Social Work. He also will spend much of the coming year furthering his research on incarcerated youth via the University of California Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

Grossmont College, Flores said, played a critical role in his turnaround. He was a student at the El Cajon campus from 2004-06.

“Grossmont just had the most caring, compassionate instructors,” Flores said. “Professors like Dr. Carlos Contreras in the history department were always willing to sit down and talk with me. His mentorship and the mentorship of other professors was key when I was transforming my life. My success has come through a combination of hard work and opportunity, and Grossmont really gave me an opportunity.”

It was an opportunity that just a few years earlier had never crossed his mind.

“I grew up in a predominantly working class Mexican enclave in Pasadena, California. Schooling was not seen as a viable source of opportunity or empowerment,” Flores said in a recent speech to a group of education officials. “We had few academic role models in my neighborhood and little social capital. I always expected myself to join the ranks of automotive repair workers like my father, and no adult ever challenged my conception.”

Carlos Contreras, an associate professor of history at Grossmont College who remains close to Flores, said his former student serves as an inspiration.

“He is a testament to the power of education,” Contreras said. “He is showing us that through education, whether it is in the secondary system, whether it is in the community college system, whether it is in the university system, or whether it is in the jail system, that it is through education that we can begin to chip away at social and economic injustice.”

Flores’ background has inspired him in his research. He wrote his master’s thesis on the teaching practices of instructors at juvenile detention centers in San Diego County. His doctoral dissertation analyzed the experiences of incarcerated Latinas in a juvenile detention facility and community school in California. He has already secured a book contract from University of California press to turn this research into a book.

“I’m interested in the transformative effect of education because of the effect that education had on me. I would not be where I am today without Grossmont College and the second at success they awarded me,” said Flores, a Ford Foundation Fellow.

He hopes his experiences can continue to inspire other students from all backgrounds to pursue a higher education.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Student of note: Dedication pays off for Grossmont College student Riyam Mansoor

Riyam Mansoor
Grossmont College student Riyam Mansoor knew she eventually would be coming to America after leaving Iraq with her family for Turkey in 2008. Too young to work and unable to attend school, “I just stayed at home and watched a lot of English-speaking shows, listened to a lot of American songs and I tried to write only in English in my journal,” Mansoor said. “I wanted to be ready.”

 Her dedication has paid off. Mansoor served in the spring as president of the Grossmont College EOPS Club, vice president of the Inter Club Council and chair of a student government election committee. In June, Mansoor graduated with an associate of arts degree in University Studies: Social & Behavioral Sciences, racking up a 3.94 GPA along the way. She has been accepted to UC San Diego and plans to study political science at the La Jolla campus en route to a career in international humanitarian law.

Mansoor’s accomplishments earned her recent recognition as a Student of Note, a designation bestowed upon those who have overcome a plethora of challenges to reach their educational goals.