GoGirl! Grant Recipients

Maria Aguilar

Maria Aguilar

Maria is the first generation in her family to attend college. Married with one daughter, she attended California State University San Bernardino full time in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Maria applied to Brandman University to earn her teaching credential.  Maria desires to become a teacher and work in Coachella Valley. Being the first member of her family to attend college, it is her desire to demonstrate to her daughter that goals can be obtained with hard work and dedication. Maria feels very strongly about giving back and helping others in her community.

Marisela Arellano-Cabrera

Marisela Arellano-Cabrera

A first generation Mexican-American, Marisela was born and raised in Coachella Valley. After graduating from high school, Marisela did not have a chosen career path. After working for an internist physician, she became passionate about patient care and human anatomy.  She decided to go back to school and pursue a career as a registered nurse. She has worked hard at completing her prerequisite courses at the community college and is now attending CSUSB-Palm Desert. Her goal is to finish the nursing program and receive her bachelors’ degree to obtain a position as a Registered Nurse. She credits her determination to her father and has a deep respect for him and all the obstacles he has overcome.

Kimberly Belken

Kimberly Belken

Kim is attending California Nursing Education Institute and one day hopes to be a hospice nurse.  After years of moving and an unsettled childhood, she found love and stability from her grandmother’s care.  Now, watching how well her grandmother is being cared for in a nursing facility, it has planted a seed and a direction for how she can give back.

Breanne Brewer

Breanne Brewer

After some bumps in the road, Breanne has returned to school to obtain a degree in nursing. A single mother of four, Breanne is a full time student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the West Coast Ultra Sound Institute. Desiring to remain in the medical field, but with higher skills to better support her family, she is pursing nursing through an accelerated program. Breanne currently works as a Medical Assistant for a local doctor.

Ling-Ting Bycott

Ling-Ting Bycott

Although Ling-Ting has a degree in history from Taiwan, job opportunities were limited when she moved to the United States, mainly due to English being her second language. A single mother of one, she knew she had to get a new education to improve her living conditions. Ling-Ting returned to school and is a full time student at College of the Desert in pursuit of an Associate of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education with a long term goal of obtaining a Bachelor of Science in teaching. She works many small jobs to support herself and her daughter as well as interning at the College of the Desert McCarty Child Development and Training Center.

Guendi "Wendy" Castaneira

Guendi "Wendy" Castaneira

Homeless at the age of 18, Guendi has had to overcome many roadblocks before gaining the confidence she could do well in school.  With the encouragement from her mother-in-law, she returned to school and realized she was smart and now maintains a GPA of 3.7. She is in her second year of nursing school. Guendi is married with three children and both she and her husband are attending college while working part time to make ends meet. A grant from the Girlfriend Factor will enable her to complete her educational goal of becoming a nurse. Her career goal is to work in a fast paced environment where she can help people in need of medical assistance.

Beatriz Cervantes

Beatriz Cervantes

Beatriz was one of six children raised by her farm laboring mother.  Wanting to build a better future, she enrolled at Milan Institute to become a massage therapist.   She feels the work will enable her not only to have a stable income but flexible hours to spend time with her children as they grow. She says that one day, out of the norm, she turned on the radio and heard our Go Girl Grant advertising and felt the message was directed right toward her.

Bonnie Falkowski

Bonnie Falkowski

Dealing with the legal system to overcome personal issues has fueled Bonnie’s passion for the law and inspired her to return to school to become a lawyer. She is a full time student at Santa Barbara Business College working toward an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies. Once she completes her studies she hopes to work for a law firm and continue her studies to become a lawyer.  Her ultimate goal is to be an advocate for children and to eventually change laws with regard to child abuse. Bonnie is a single mother of an adopted daughter. In their free time they volunteer at a rescue mission for the homeless.

Alma Felix

Alma Felix

Alma came to the United States from Mexico when she was six years old.  At the age of 22, she applied to become a Citizen of the United States. Working as a veterinarian assistant, she was saving money to go back to school, but upon giving birth to her son, she has found the role of mother, caregiver and provider to be more taxing than she ever imagined.  However, her supportive family is helping with caring for her son while she attends California Nurses Educational Institute to obtain her LVN license.  Her long term goal is to become a registered nurse to work with children with cancer.

Martha Gutierrez Ricardo

Martha Gutierrez Ricardo

At the age of 23, Martha arrived here from Cuba.  While there she had developed an interest in writing, the performing arts and languages.  It wasn’t until she came to America that she began to embraced our capitalist system and refocused her goals.   She is now enrolled at COD and would like to get a degree in Business Administration. Her goal is to help others analyze their economic problems to benefit themselves and their community.  She has, however, never forgotten her love of music and often performs Opera for various charity events.

Sadie Hammad

Sadie Hammad

Sadie is married and has two children.  Because she needs to work and devote a significant amount of time to a special needs child, she attends College of the Desert part-time working toward a Certificate in Accounting.  Upon completion of her studies, she plans to work in accounting for either a hospital or in the school district. Her motivation to return to school is centered on demonstrating to her children that once you start something, no matter how hard it gets, you can finish it.

Nicole Hernandez

Nicole Hernandez

Nicole is the first generation in her family to attend college. A single mother of two, she has been pursuing her college degree for several years, but has not given up on her goal to work in the public health sector.  Attending California State University San Bernardino, she plans to complete her Bachelor of Science degree by the Fall of 2017. After this accomplishment she will continue her studies and work on a Master’s program to be completed by the Fall of 2019. Nicole is very dedicated and is proud she had achieved every goal she has set for herself.

Suzi Lacek

Suzi Lacek

Suzi comes from a local pioneering family going back to 1902 and has lived in the valley all of her life.  She lost her father at the young age of 12, and her mother worked hard to care for her and her four older brothers. She is currently enrolled at Somatherapy Institute where she has achieved a perfect score from all her classes.  She loves massage and wants to help people feel better and relieve their pain.  She is thankful that the medical community is newly recognizing massage therapy as treatments for patients with depression, those taking cancer fighting drugs and babies born addicted to drugs.  She will graduate in January.

Alejandra Lara

Alejandra Lara

Alejandra is a mother of four and did not graduate from high school.  Determined to improve her life, she received her GED from College of the Desert and continued her studies online, receiving her Associate of Science from Kaplan College.  Thanks to the support and encouragement from family and friends, she is a full time student at Santa Barbara Business College working toward a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.  She wants to have a career in Law Enforcement to work for the probation/parole department.  Santa Barbara Business College has a great intern program, and Alejandra is excited to have the opportunity to prove why she wants to work in the law enforcement field.

Soleil Loayza

Soleil Loayza

Soleil was born in Peru and came to the United States when she was 13 years old.  She started working at the age of 15 to support her family.  After graduating high school, she worked two different jobs while becoming fluent in English.  She is now married and the mother of two. For the past six years she has been working toward her goal of becoming a registered nurse, first attending classes at COD then transferring to CSUSB.  She will accomplish her goal June 1018.

Cassandra Lowhorn

Cassandra Lowhorn

Cassie has been accepted into the RN program at COD.  Her journey to get there was a somewhat rebellious, yet soul searching one.  At a very young age her parents divorced and not too many years later she became her mother’s caretaker while she suffered through the ravages of cancer.  The rest of her teenage years were dark until her father intervened.  Today, she is grateful for those years as they help her to remember she was meant to be a compassionate and caring nurse.

Jennifer Muñoz

Jennifer Muñoz

Correcting a poor decision she made as a young person, Jennifer earned her GED so she could pursue a career in nursing. Her passion to become a nurse and work in pediatrics stems from her early childhood experience when her younger sister became very ill and had to go through several operations to remove tumors from her brain and spine.  The support and concern demonstrated by the medical staff given to her and her family at the time of her sister’s ordeal now motivates her to reach her educational goal of becoming a nurse. Married with two daughters she attends California University San Bernardino in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Judith Munoz

Judith Munoz

Born in Palm Springs from immigrant parents, Judith was instilled with the ethics of hard work and determination to succeed in life. She worked to put herself through college first earning an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from the College of the Desert, then commuting for two years to San Bernardino to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. Being the first member of her family to obtain a college degree, she set out on a path doing something she loved working as a Wellness Instructor at the Betty Ford Rehabilitation Center.  When her father became ill in 2013, she spent many hours at the hospital and became inspired by the work of the nurses, seeing a new opportunity for a future career.  Now a mother of a young daughter, Judith is committed to obtaining her BSN degree followed by an MSN degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

Dawn Nepusz

Dawn Nepusz

Dawn has a young daughter and realizes how difficult it is to be single and raising a child. Wanting to improve her financial earning capability and to demonstrate to her daughter the importance of an education, Dawn has returned to school to earn a degree in nursing. Dawn has been accepted to California State University San Bernardino for her Bachelors of Science in the nursing program. Once she receives her BSN, she plans to get a masters in nursing to become a Nurse Practitioner. College means a great deal to Dawn, but the main reason is her daughter sees how hard Dawn works, and in turn inspires her daughter do well in school also.

Margaret O’Hara

Margaret O’Hara

A mother of three young children, Margaret wants to improve their living situation so her family is not living paycheck to paycheck. Maggie is currently working on her prerequisites at COD, with the goal of becoming a dental hygienist.  Her aim is to transfer to Loma Linda University to complete their dental program.  She is the mother of three children and admits life is busy but is determined to succeed and give her children the life they deserve. The GoGirl! Grant will help pay for the cost of childcare while she attends school.

Jacqueline Ortiz

Jacqueline Ortiz

Since the age of 14, Jacqueline has always wanted to be a nurse.  She remembers how kind the nurses were and how good they made her grandmother feel when she was hospitalized.  Currently enrolled at CSUSB in the BSN program, she came highly recommended by her professors and is close to attaining her dream.  With three children at home, and both she and her husband in school, the GirlFriend Go Girl Grant is most valued and appreciated.

Gracy Perez

Gracy Perez

Gracy began working at the young age of 14 to assist her parents financially.  The idea of a college education was not a priority, especially after she married and started a family of her own.  When her husband lost his job, she realized she had to do something to improve her earning power.  After researching the different educational facility in Coachella Valley, she enrolled in Santa Barbara Business College and earned her associates degree in Medical Assisting.  She is now pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. “With perseverance, my dreams of being well educated has change the course of my future as well as my children’s future.”

Sharon Samano

Sharon Samano

Sharon has been employed at First Desert ObGyn office as a medical assistant and phlebotomist for nine years.  This has instilled in her the desire to pursue a dream of becoming a nurse.  She is now enrolled at COD with full encourage and support of the staff of First Desert.  She is the mother of three and wants to set a good example for her children as well as encourage their growth by modeling that education is the key to success.

Belle Segev

Belle Segev

Coming from an impoverished background, Belle set out on a journey to improve her life, leaving behind her family and native home of Israel moving to England for a brighter future. There, after many ups and downs, she found the support and training she needed to become successful working for a company in sales.  From this experience, Belle realized the importance of acceptance, support and guidance. Today she hopes to utilize her lessons in life to benefit others by becoming an occupational therapist specializing in children’s therapy. Belle has been a permanent resident in Coachella Valley for over 10 years. She attends California State University San Bernardino working on her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and will continue on to complete her graduate work in Occupational Therapy.

Yesenia Teran

Yesenia Teran

Married with two school aged children, returning to school was no small sacrifice for Yesenia. She had to start from scratch first earning a GED certificate then going on to receive an Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology.  Working as a Medical Scribe, Yesenia shadowed a doctor in the emergency room to document patient’s charts. Through her work at JFK Memorial Hospital, she has been exposed to many patients in crisis due to mental health issues and sees firsthand the disparities they face and the lack of proper health care and empathy.  Yesenia is determined to earn her degree in Psychology and Biology and then enter medical school. Her long term goal is to become a practicing psychiatrist in Coachella Valley and help develop an emergency department section designated for mental health patients during crisis.

Leigh Tomasko

Leigh Tomasko

Leigh realized upon losing her job and living on unemployment, she now had an opportunity to return to school and pursue a career she thought impossible to obtain in the past.  Upon earning her Associate of Science in Liberal Studies at the College of the Desert, she transferred to California State University San Bernardino to complete her studies necessary to become a teacher. She is interested in teaching math and science at the middle or high school level in Coachella Valley. A single mother of one daughter, Leigh is determined to make a better life for herself and her daughter.

Clara Velasco

Clara Velasco

Married, with twins and a baby, Clara still manages to be a full time student at California State University San Bernardino working toward her Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Although always interested in the medical field, it wasn’t until after the premature birth of her twins and the dedication the nurses provided to their care and survival that Clara knew she wanted to also give back by becoming a nurse.  Her advice to women wishing to return to school is to take the risk, because taking on challenges is what makes us stronger and independent.

Wendy Zamora

Wendy Zamora

Wendy is currently enrolled at California Nurses Educational Institute in the LVN program. Her goal is once she graduates with her LVN license she will continue with her education to become a registered nurse. This dream to become a nurse resulted from watching the care her daughter received at the NICU at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital when her daughter was born with a birth defect. A single mother of two children by age 18, Wendy has gone through some rough times, but her determination to succeed and be successful for her children’s future keeps her motivated and to not let obstacles interfere with her goals.