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.

“I think the alumni association is a great idea,” said Andrey Artamonov, a graduate of Grossmont College’s nursing program who just received word that he had gotten a nursing position in the intensive-care unit at Alvarado Hospital. “It will foster a lot of communication and I think it’s a way for us to keep contact, which is always a difficult thing once you leave a place.”

The graduates got the word about Grad Fest during commencement ceremonies last month, where bags of Cracker Jacks were handed out with invitation notes attached.

“Alumni associations are certainly nothing new at the four-year institutions, but this is relatively new territory for community colleges,” said John Valencia, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District associate vice chancellor of Advancement and Communications and Foundation CEO. “We want to replicate the success that the universities have had creating stronger allegiances to alma maters that lead to greater donor support.”

The graduates, who posed for photos holding up portable whiteboards with messages of support, are grateful for the education they’ve received from the colleges.

“I (heart) Grossmont Nursing,” reads the message from Molly Quillin-McEwan, who just graduated from Grossmont College’s nursing program and is set to continue her training at San Diego State University in the fall with an eye toward working in a hospital’s intensive-care unit.

“The alumni association will generate money and interest in college programs, so for that, the alumni association would be great,” said Quillin-McEwan, who ultimately wants to acquire a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and return to Grossmont College to teach.

Cuyamaca College graduate Shelane Paraiso, 45, whose “I (heart) Cuyamaca” whiteboard message included the notation, “I was not the oldest student on campus!,” said she wasn’t sure how she would fit in with others on campus.

“I thought I’d be one of the older people and I wasn’t. I didn’t feel out of place,” said Paraiso, who received her degree in math and science and will next begin classes in Grossmont College’s respiratory therapy program.

Anjanette Maraya-Ramey, the foundation’s alumni and donor relations coordinator, said participation in Grad Fest exceeded expectations. Surveys distributed at Grad Fest included an opportunity to participate in the alumni council and, so far, more than a dozen have indicated interest.

“We want this very much to be an alumni-driven group,” she said, adding that the next steps include following up with event attendees and sending out an inaugural alumni newsletter. “The council will be the steering committee shaping the future direction of the alumni association.”

For more information about joining the alumni association, go to