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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Three Musketeers production features high school and college students

The Three Musketeers cast
The clang of swords in a staged fight, period costumes and sets, and a classic tale of heroism, treachery, close escapes and honor will be presented in The Three Musketeers, on stage July 24 – 26, 30, 31, in the Stagehouse Theatre at Grossmont College, 8800 Grossmont College Drive in El Cajon.

 Presented as part of the first-ever Theatre Arts Department summer conservatory, the production features local high school and college students in acting and technical roles.

“All students participating in the program take college credit courses specific to their responsibility in the production of the show,” said Beth Duggan, director and theatre arts instructor. “Technical theater students receive specialized instruction in scenic construction, costume fabrication and lighting design, while acting students receive coaching in stage combat and period movement.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Student success profile: Sheila Vanmourik-Manosh overcame challenges en route to success

Sheila Vanmourik-Manosh

Grossmont College student Sheila Vanmourik-Manosh has dealt with more than her share of challenges. She is the single mother of a 21-year-old daughter who suffers from multiple sclerosis. A 13-year-old daughter was hospitalized for several weeks in the spring. Vanmourik-Manosh also cared for her mother last year following heart surgery and her father who lives with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vanmourik-Manosh herself is challenged by a learning disability that makes it difficult to remember lessons taught in class. Yet despite the setbacks, the La Mesa resident has earned more than one associate degree at Grossmont College and plans to earn one more before transferring to San Diego State University.

She’s looking to secure a bachelor’s degree in accounting and perhaps open her own business.

Her perseverence recently led to her being named a Grossmont College Student of Note, an honor bestowed on students who have overcome a plethora of challenges to reach their educational goals.

She credits Grossmont College, and its Disabled Students Programs and Services, with playing a critical role in her success.

“Grossmont is a really, really good school,” Vanmourik-Manosh said. “The faculty here really knows how to teach and the DSPS program is really wonderful.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Grossmont, Cuyamaca College grads join in alumni association kickoff celebration

 The ink barely dry on their diplomas and certificates, hundreds of new graduates of Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges joined together for a recent networking party and Padres game to throw the opening pitch for a new alumni association.

Some 350 graduates and guests feted their recent accomplishment by joining in Grad Fest hosted July 1 by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges to launch the new organization. The association, created for the colleges’ alum to stay connected to East County’s only public institutions of higher education, will be led by an alumni council made up by the grads who will decide future activities and events.

The networking party at the Fox Sports Grill with raffles, noshing and job-hunting advice from the East County Career Center was followed by a march across a pedestrian bridge to Petco Park to watch the San Diego Padres beat the Cincinnati Reds. Raffle prizes included John Legend and Lorde concert tickets, courtesy of event partner California Coast Credit Union, and a getaway retreat from another partner, Sycuan Golf and Tennis Resort.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Foundation's music video raises over $91,000 for Give the Dream

A shot from the Give the Dream video. See the video at
It’s music to the ears of the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, which has tallied more than $91,000 in donations from its Give the Dream music video fundraising campaign that ended last week.

The funds raised via social media by viewers of the foundation’s music video featuring faces and organizations on and off the campuses will go toward a program that issues emergency grants to students of Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.

“We are ecstatic over the strong support shown for the students and the wonderful programs and offerings of our East County community colleges,” said John Valencia, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District associate vice chancellor of Advancement and Communications and Foundation CEO. “This was an entirely new area for us, so we are thrilled by the outcome reflecting thousands of views of the music video posted just six weeks ago. “

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Student success profile: Carin French finds inspiration at Grossmont College

Carin French

Carin French didn’t need to look far for inspiration when she was laid off from a well-paying management job in 2010. She looked toward Grossmont College.

“I have a strong attachment to Grossmont College because my mother came here when we were kids,” French recalled. “She was in her 30s and my dad was playing guitar in a rock band, so we weren’t exactly rich. My mom decided to get a degree, learn a profession and find job. I remember the rainbow of parking stickers on the back of our Volkswagen bus as she’d pull out of the driveway on her way to school. It was very inspiring.”

That inspiration has fueled French since she enrolled at Grossmont College as an unemployed 45-year-old in 2010. The Jamul resident will be heading to San Diego State University in the fall with a 3.53 GPA and an associate degree in University Studies: Social & Behavioral Sciences. Her accomplishments have earned her recognition as a Student of Note, an honor reserved for those who have overcome a plethora of challenges to reach their educational goals.

French is determined to earn a master’s degree, and perhaps a Ph.D., in child development or a related field and work as a child or family therapist.

She would be following in her mother’s footsteps. In fact, her mother secured bachelor’s and master’s degrees after leaving SDSU, and later taught child development at Grossmont College.

French enrolled in one of her classes.

“It was amazing,” French said. “I saw her in a way that I had never seen her before.”
It wasn’t French’s first time at Grossmont. She first enrolled at Grossmont College upon graduating from Santee’s Santana High School in 1987. “I was too busy partying,” quipped French. “I majored in beach and boys.”

She ended up dropping out and going to work in myriad jobs. But she worked hard and was a manager at a company that sold indoor doors when she was laid off due to downsizing at the firm.

That’s when French decided to give Grossmont College another try. “I really wanted a job where I could help people in a more meaningful way,” she said. “I saw what my mom had done, and I decided I was going to give it a shot.”

French said she is honored to have been recognized as a Student of Note, but feels a bit undeserving. “A lot of the other students who were recognized had to overcome a lot more challenges than I did,” she said. “We’re talking single parents, disabled residents, refugees. My life looks like a picnic compared to what they went through.”

She remains grateful to Grossmont College nonetheless. “It really is a great college. But no matter where you go, you’re education is only going to be as good as the effort you put into it.”