Three employees of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District have a good reason to celebrate this season as they are lauded for their exemplary work as classified professionals.
At the Dec. 13 Governing Board meeting, the three will be named the 2019 winners of the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award. The jobs of the winners – Tenille Venard at Grossmont College, Jane Lytle from Cuyamaca College and Della Elliott from District Services, -- are varied, representing the broad range of tasks performed by non-instructional staff.
In recognition of classified professionals’ critical role, one member of each college and District Services is chosen each year for the honor and is presented with a trophy and a $250 gift certificate.
“What these three classified professionals have in common is their unwavering commitment to excellence in their service to students and their campus communities,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “Our classified professionals are fundamental to our institution. They are the first faces that students see when they arrive at the campuses and it is often their guidance that students seek to navigate the twists and turns of their educational journeys.”
At Grossmont College, every student set to graduate must first be assessed by evaluation advisors like Tenille Venard in the Admissions and Records office. With a calm demeanor and patience that comes from being the mother of a teenager and a 3-year-old, Venard guides students to make sure they’ve met all the requirements to obtain their diploma or to qualify for university transfer.
In a recent career highlight, Venard went to Los Angeles to accept a Champion of Higher Education award on Grossmont College’s behalf after the campus was lauded for the second year in a row by the Campaign for College Opportunity for its work dramatically increasing the number of students earning an Associate Degree for Transfer, which guarantees transfer to the California State University system.During the 2018-19 academic year, Grossmont College awarded 1,117 ADTs compared to 1,049 the year before, an increase of about 6.5%.
“Grossmont’s ADT success is very much a team effort, involving counseling, the articulation office, Transfer Center and evaluations,” Venard said.
Venard’s team approach is an asset praised by Counseling Department Chair James Canady, who nominated her for the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award along with Aaron Stark, dean of Admissions and Records and Financial Aid.“She is sensitive to team dynamics and works hard to build a positive team environment for all,” Starck said. likes to say she grew up in the Admissions and Records Office, where she worked summers while still in high school. Her mother, Wendy Woodward retired in 2019 after 32 years, also in the admissions office.
Venard began at Admissions and Records in 2001 as an hourly worker, helping students at the counter and over the phone. Within months, she moved up fulltime as an assistant in the transcripts and verification department. She was promoted to her current post in 2008.
“I love it here,” she said. “I feel very blessed to be an evaluations advisor. I wouldn’t be where I am without those who have mentored me along the way.”
As a District communications writer and former newspaper reporter, Della Elliott has profiled hundreds of people, but when the tables turn and she is the focus of a piece, she finds herself a bit tongue-tied.
She describes the situation as disconcerting, but she is grateful for being selected as the District Services recipient of the Chancellor/Classified Senate award.
“What a surprise and truly an honor to be recognized among scores of colleagues who work every day with such commitment to helping students succeed,” Elliott said.
Elliott has earned numerous writing awards from the Community College Public Relations Organization, which represents California community college marketers, and the National Conference for Marketing and Public Relations, the national community college marketing organization. Her support of the college district and colleagues is apparent from her work with Classified Senate, which represents the classified staff in non-union matters and works to ensure their voices are heard in governance matters.“Della is a talented writer whose press releases and work with reporters have resulted in extensive media coverage for the district, which builds goodwill in the community and gets out the word about the many great things happening at our college district,” said Anne Krueger, communications and public information director for the college district.Born in Tokyo, where her father, a U.S. Air Force sergeant, met her mother, Elliott spent her formative years in Japan before moving to Southern California, majoring in journalism at San Diego State University. Elliott said from the time she was in grade school, she wanted to be a writer chronicling other people’s lives.
“One of my first bylines was in the Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for the U.S. military, which picked up a feature I had written when I was 13 about a gunny and competitive weightlifter at a Marine Corps base in Japan,” Elliott said.
After college, she was hired at The Daily Californian in El Cajon, and rose to managing editor before the paper sold in 1999. Elliott was hired at the district in 2000 as a writer in the communications office.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work for this wonderful college district,” said Elliott, who has a grown son living in San Diego. “My favorite pieces are the profiles I write about our exceptional students, many of whom overcome great obstacles to thrive at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.”
Adaptability is a strong suit for Jane Lytle, administrative assistant in Cuyamaca College’s Department of Institutional Effectiveness, Success and Equity.
Working at a job as varied as the department name suggests, Lytle is described by Senior Dean Brianna Hays as always positive and willing to take on any task with drive, commitment and a willingness to learn.
From orienting new employees to helping with major events such as convocation, Lytle’s employment at Cuyamaca College since 2007 has provided an institutional memory that’s proven invaluable.
“In many ways, Jane is the face of our office and many campus events,” Hays said, praising her strong organizational and interpersonal skills. “Over the past year, Jane has further honed her skills to support the college’s accreditation reaffirmation efforts.”
The native of Avon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, came to San Diego in the mid-‘80s. The mother of two grown children and grandmother of five worked in the ‘80s as a preschool teacher and has attended Cuyamaca, Grossmont and Mesa colleges for continuing education credits.
Lytle worked from 2007-2016 as a senior clerical assistant and as interim administrative assistant in both the vice president’s and president’s offices. She has been at her current post since 2016.
“The people, and especially my co-workers are just wonderful,” said Lytle, who spends much of her spare time with her grandchildren and serving in the children’s ministry at Shadow Mountain Community Church. “Many of my coworkers I consider to be my friends and they have come alongside me when I needed help and support, just like family members would.”
Her co-workers put on a surprise party with cake and roses to announce Lytle’s selection as Cuyamaca College’s recipient of the Chancellor/Classified Senate award.
“I am extremely humbled and grateful, especially since I’m quite sure that there were other amazing and very deserving classified employees who were nominated, too,” she said.