Phone: (619) 660-4422
Come by and visit the Outreach office in Room I-120.
Jessica Murguia grew up in a single-family household of modest means, and couldn't afford to enroll at a four-year college or university upon graduating from Valhalla High School. “I’m a first- generation college student, and I didn’t really have anyone to turn to regarding the college application process or the financial aid process, but I always knew from a young age that I wanted to go to college,” said the Student Success Coordinator in the High School and Community Relations (Outreach) Department.
Cuyamaca College was a logical choice. It was close to home. It was affordable. And it was chock-full of supportive services aimed at promoting student success. Between classes, she worked in various areas on campus, including Counseling, Disability Support Program & Services, and Student Affairs. She became a full-time Student Services Specialist in 2013, became Acting Student Success Coordinator in 2014, and was named Interim Student Success Coordinator in 2015. Along the way she has earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in postsecondary educational leadership from San Diego State University.
Jessica oversees Cuyamaca’s Outreach staff, including student ambassadors, works to strengthen partnerships with local high schools, and promotes Cuyamaca College’s programs and services in the larger community.
Vanna Putrus has been working at Cuyamaca since 2012.
“I graduated from Valhalla High School in 2009 and I truly enjoyed school and learning,” said Vanna. “However, I knew I wasn't ready to go to a university because I had many different ideas of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided to attend Cuyamaca to complete my GE requirements and save money so I could later transfer to San Diego State University with a specific major in mind.”
At SDSU, Vanna began to pursue an interior design degree, but later changed course and opted instead to major in sociology. A first generation college student, Vanna graduated from SDSU in December 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in art/art history. On deck is a master’s degree in counseling with a concentration in licensed professional clinical counseling.
“All in all, I am eager to see what the future holds, and it all started at Cuyamaca College!”
Jessica Davis knows all about the impact that a Cuyamaca College education can provide. Jessica transferred from the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to San Diego State University in 2008, where she earned both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree (with distinction) in philosophy.
“In my master’s thesis I argued for the need for philosophy in high schools – something that I had longed for as a struggling high school student – for I believe that teens are of a special age in which critical inquiry and self-reflection should be nurtured,” said Jessica.
She is now completing her Ph.D. in philosophy and education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She’s now back in her hometown of San Diego to write her dissertation, the final component of her Ph.D., while also working as a tutor and online instructor.
Said Jessica: “I am excited to be a part of Cuyamaca so that I can encourage students to begin their academic journeys here, for I can personally testify to the amazing pathways that community colleges can open!”
Jordan AhMu - El Cajon Valley High School graduate - has lived in the region her entire life and is now attending UC San Diego, where she is majoring in mathematics.
“I have been working in Outreach for a little over a year now, and I have enjoyed getting to meet new people, experience new things, and most importantly, help students succeed in applying and attending Grossmont and Cuyamaca College,” said Jordan.
Cuyamaca College helped turn student ambassador Amy Nieves’s life around. Nieves said she was hoping to enroll in a beauty college after graduating from Monte Vista High School in 2014, but her plans later changed and she was left unsure what to do.
“It was then that I remembered that sometime within the previous months, student ambassadors from Cuyamaca College came to speak to one of my senior classes and talked to us about how one of Cuyamaca's main priorities is to help their students succeed in reaching their educational goals and guiding them into how to transfer to a four-year university if they wished to,” Amy said. “Since I am the first person in my family to go to college, I felt like even though I didn't have a plan at that moment, I still needed to pursue higher education in order to meet my goals and succeed. I believed it was my duty to go to college in order to be able to help my mom in the future, and so I began to take my general education classes still not knowing what major I wanted to study. It wasn't until I received a very high grade in my biology class at Cuyamaca that I realized I really enjoyed science and decided I wanted to major in something regarding health.”
She’s now on track to earn an associate degree in biological sciences: pre-allied health en route to becoming a dental hygienist.
Ricky Jimenez, Jr. is a Student Ambassador who has been at Cuyamaca College for three years. His story is similar to many of the college’s nearly 9,000 students.
“Like many graduating high school students, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career or life,” he said. “Through my mother’s business I was able to meet with a Cuyamaca counselor and she showed me all the programs and opportunities Cuyamaca had to offer. With that I decided I wanted to become an accountant. I am planning to achieve an associate degree for transfer and hopefully get admitted to SDSU.”
Jorge Guzman graduated from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in 2013 and is now studying art at Cuyamaca College. Besides honing his skills drawing and painting, Jorge loves to run and is part of the Cuyamaca Cross Country team.
“I plan on further developing my skills by competing and studying art education at Humboldt State University,” said Jorge.
James Miller graduated from Monte Vista High School in 2015 and promptly enrolled at Cuyamaca College, where he now serves as a Student Ambassador.
“In high school, I was always indecisive on how to approach things and I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “Initially, I thought nursing school was a good option for me since my mom was a nurse herself but that all changed when I received a campus tour at Cuyamaca. During my visit, my whole perception of the college, what I thought I wanted to do, and my aspirations changed as I was introduced to the amazing layout of the campus. I quickly changed my major to landscape design because I realized that I would like to have this effect on other people, based upon the setting. After I get my degree, I'm hoping to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona to further my education in landscape architecture, so I can create settings that are impactful, just as Cuyamaca’s were to me.”
Ben Lawson hails from Liverpool, England, and graduated from Ormskirk High School in 2009. He enrolled at Cuyamaca College shortly after moving to the United States.
“Like many students graduating from high school, I was unsure of my options in terms of further education, and what possible career path I may wish to pursue,” he said. “After extensive research with regards to various colleges, I decided to select Cuyamaca College because I believed that this school was the most economically viable option, and at the center of a great local yet diverse community.”
Ben is on track to earn an associate degree in real estate and plans to transfer to San Diego State University.
Kenya Avilez notes that Cuyamaca College wasn’t the Valhalla High School graduate’s first choice. “I originally planned to go to a four-year university and prepped by taking AP classes, got involved extracurricular activities, and even took the ACT.”
But after being accepted to Sonoma State University, Kenya’s parents came to the conclusion that the expense was too high. “I was sad that I didn’t get to go to a four-year university but I don’t regret it at all,” she said. “I ended up loving Cuyamaca because I love how small the campus is and how friendly the environment is.”
Now a student ambassador, Kenya is planning to transfer to San Diego State University in fall of 2017 and major in business administration before earning a master’s degree and becoming a healthcare administrator.
“I wouldn’t have discovered the field I wanted to go into if it wasn’t for the great educational programs Cuyamaca has to offer and hopefully, you will feel the same way too!”
Kevin Brown’s academic journey has been anything but traditional. A graduate of Valhalla High School in 2012 and with no real plans for the future, he enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but left after a semester, returned home and attended Cuyamaca for a semester before moving on to Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Now he’s at San Diego State University, where he is on track to graduate in the spring of 2017 with a degree in political science and a minor in economics. The La Mesa resident hopes to join the Peace Corps after earning his degree before embarking on a career in international affairs.
“I joined the Cuyamaca Outreach department because I think all individuals are capable of being successful academically, so long as they are faced in the right direction and made aware of their resources,” Kevin said.
Phone: (619) 660-4422