Among 800 walking Friday include stories of educational triumph, overcoming struggles
CHULA VISTA, CA. – Southwestern College celebrates its 56th Commencement Ceremony Friday at DeVore Stadium. On the field among the 800 graduates will be four sibling duos, two couples, a senior citizen, 18 veterans and two mother-daughter duos.
Celebrating with the graduates will be three community members being granted Honorary Degrees—Ron and Reina Bolles for their contributions to the fine arts in South County and Christine Moore for her contributions to the economic development and civic and social services of South County.
For some of the graduates, Southwestern College was the natural next step after high school on the way to a four-year university or their workforce goals. But for many, Southwestern College offered a second chance at education and improving their lives.
For two mother-daughter duos, Southwestern College was a family affair when they enrolled together.
Jamie and Vicki Guerrero
In early 2012, Vicki Guerrero got a call from Castle Park High School. They told her that her daughter, Jamie, hadn’t been to school in months and that “she’s the worst student ever.”
“They called me and said, ‘she’s out of here,’” Vicki said. “I couldn’t believe it. How could they just kick her out with zero warning?”
So Vicki and Jamie went to sign Jamie up for a high school diploma program for delinquent students through the South Region Community School, a program of the San Diego County Office of Education. There Jamie was able to receive her diploma and said she found a quality education with good teachers and staff members who encouraged her to sign up for classes at Southwestern College.
Her mother Vicki was a little skeptical given Jamie’s tumultuous history getting through high school, so she told herself, “I’m signing up for Southwestern College, too.”
“I did it just to keep an eye on her,” Vicki said. “I said ‘I’ll take one class with you,’ just to make sure she’s alright and that it wasn’t going to be too much for her. Then one class led to another, then I had an education plan. She went her way with her courses and I went my way with mine.”
Vicki and Jamie started off taking a few general education courses together, but soon developed their own paths and now, years later, both will walk the same stage at Southwestern College’s 56th Annual Commencement Ceremony. Jamie will be receiving her associate degree in child development with an emphasis in teaching and Vicki will be receiving a certificate in business management.
Throughout this experience, Vicki and Jamie have grown closer. Not only as a mother and daughter, but as friends and fellow students looking for a better future through education. They credit each other for lifting themselves up during difficult times and as motivation to keep going.
“It’s been a privilege to be able to share education with my daughter,” Vicki said. “We can do whatever we want now. We can be better than what we were.”
Christina and Natalee Nordfelt
On May 26, 2017, mother and daughter duo Christina and Natalee Nordfelt will walk across the stage together at Southwestern College’s Commencement Ceremony. It’s the inevitable end to their journey that began years before with them taking their first college class together.
Daughter Natalee began taking summer classes at Southwestern College as a junior in high school. Her first class, a difficult five-unit Italian 120 course, also happened to be the first class she and her mother, Christina, took together.
“You really don’t know what you’re getting into,” Christina recalls telling Natalee about the class. “We spent the whole summer studying. She learned her lesson the hard way right at the beginning.”
It was wake-up call for Natalee.
“It was a nightmare,” she said.
But they persevered, and after a summer full of homework, they got through the class with no problems.
While at Southwestern College the duo used each other as their own support group, recommending professors they liked or getting together for study sessions. This support network helped them succeed and get them to where they are today.
“I’m proud that she is graduating,” Natalee said of her mother. “Some people wouldn’t bother going back to get a degree if they have a lot of work and life experience. That degree helps you succeed in your career and it’s good that she is doing that.”