GoGirl! Grant Recipients
Tiana is a single mother of three. As a young mother, she attempted to continue her education after graduating from high school, but found it very difficult to focus on school when she knew she needed to work to provide for her family. Fast forward to 2016 and Tiana recognized the value of furthering her education. That fall she applied to College of the Desert as a full-time student. While enrolled as a full-time student and working full-time as a legal secretary, Tiana has discovered a passion to help people, especially in regard to labor laws. She graduates COD with an AA in Justice in Summer 2019 and plans to transfer to CSUSB to continue her studies. Her ultimate goal is to become a legal translator for the court and will continue to move forward until she reaches her goal.
Adriana was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico. Upon graduation from high school, she chose to come the United States in search of a better life. While working full-time in hospitality, she was also studying English and general education courses at College of the Desert. She knew that in order to move forward in her career, education was a must. She is now attending CSUSB full-time and working full-time at a local country club as an accounting assistant. Her desire is to enhance her experience and education in the accounting field. Her goal is to graduate with a BA degree, concentrating on accounting, in 2021.
Nicole Aslan was raised in Indio; one of four children. There was a point in Nicole’s life that her mom decided to go back to school to become a Registered Dental Assistant. Her mom commuted to Rosemead every day and graduated. Witnessing what her mom did while raising four kids and going to school inspired Nicole. Because of her mom’s accomplishments, Nicole always knew she could to anything if she worked hard. Nicole was recently accepted to California State University San Bernardino-Palm Desert. She is pursuing her degree in Liberal Studies. She has a passion for helping others and knows she will love being a teacher. She chose this career because she believes we live in a world where children need to be inspired and supported. As a teacher, she wants to make sure her students believe in themselves. After completing her education, Nicole wants to teach at one of the schools she attended as a child. She knows it’s important to give back to the community that helped her become the person she is today.
She’s excited to become a part of the Girlfriend Factor program and feels being supportive of each other is a powerful thing. She wants to teach her daughter that she can be whatever she wants to be and to be an inspiration to her daughter just like her mom was to her.
Michele Barfuss was born and raised in Palm Springs and loves the Coachella Valley. She is the first in her family to earn a college degree. She has studied at College of the Desert, California State University San Bernardino and has also obtained her real estate license. Working with new home buyers reach their goal of becoming ‘homeowners’ for the first time has given her a great feeling of accomplishment. It was through helping her clients navigate the unchartered waters of real estate transactions that she came to realize what her true calling is. She is now a second-year law student at California Desert Trial Academy. Her goal is to graduate in three years, take and pass the California General Bar Exam and remain in the Coachella valley and practice real estate law. CDTA has a limited means legal clinic, La Reina Legal Clinic, where she can do pro-bono work for indigent clients. She hopes to participate in this program and continue to give back to those that call the Coachella Valley ‘home’ and to make a difference in her community.
Laura Calhoun was born and raised in the Coachella Valley. She graduated high school from Desert Chapel Christian in Palm Springs and also played basketball. At that point she didn’t have a true career path. It was her mom that sparked her interest in the medical field. Her mom was an amazing nurse and with that inspiration she decided to attend Kaplan College as a medical assistant in hopes of getting a steady job. That was five years ago. Having a young daughter has further inspired her to obtain her Associate of Nursing degree and her Registered Nursing license. Two years ago she completed her prerequisites for the Registered Nursing Program. Now Laura is enrolled in the College of the Desert’s Nursing program. Her goal is to secure an adequate income for her daughter’s future by striving for higher education. As Laura says; “Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it”.
Paola CresslerWe were first introduced to Paola Cressler in 2012 when she was attending College of the Desert as a GoGirl! recipient. Married and with a young daughter, Paola worked full time while going to school. Now fast forward to 2018. After graduating from Cal State San Bernardino and substitute teaching in her own classroom for three years, it’s time to complete her teaching credentials and Masters program so she can continue to teach here in the Coachella Valley. Her students are the high school children she had dreamed of working with. Many are the children of migrant workers who haven’t been encouraged to pursue a college education and perhaps might find themselves following in the steps of their parents as field workers. As a field worker once herself, she remembers her teachers pushing her to continue her college education. Today, she sits in front of her classroom and encourages her students to do the same. She continues to look forward to taking the time to sit down with students and help them realize education doesn’t end at high school. It is only the beginning of an amazing journey
Bonnie FalkowskiDealing with the legal system to overcome personal issues has fueled Bonnie Falkowski’s passion for the law and inspired her to return to school to become a lawyer. She is a full time student at COD working toward an Associate Degree in Administration of Justice. Ultimately working towards her law degree. 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.
As a single mother, it has been a juggling act for April Franco to balance school, work and the care taking of her two young sons. But, through adversity, she has succeeded in completing all of her nursing school prerequisites and has been accepted at both College of the Desert and CSUSB! She’s chosen to attend CSUSB and earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. April has always found the human body fascinating and wondered how she could have an impact on healing and helping others. Her passion is to help assist in diagnosing illness, but more importantly, she hopes to come up with solutions for the preventative aspect of nursing. She feels that there are so many things that we could be doing as humans to create healthier living that could contribute to less illness and disease. Her goal upon receiving her BS in Nursing is to work in a hospital, either in the ER or a trauma unit. Her long-term goal is to obtain her credentials as a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant. At the end of each semester, after receiving A’s, she knows her hard work and dedication will enable her to complete her goals.
As a single mother of two, Deborah Greenman knew it would be beneficial to attend college; not only did it provide her with an unconventional schedule, it allowed her to optimize the time she had with her children and allowed her to stay active in their education while providing them with the time for extracurricular activities. At this point, Deborah was 40 years of age. After struggling with school during her youth, she has realized she is a good student who has excelled in her classes. She’s discovered a joy for learning that she had not anticipated or experienced before. She attended San Bernardino Valley College and upon moving to the desert is continuing her education at College of the Desert. She is working towards a Business Associate degree with an
emphasis in management and finance as well as a Liberal Arts Associate’s degree with an emphasis in Arts, Humanities and Communications. In the future, Deborah’s goal is to work for a company that provides outreach and services to the Coachella Valley.
Makeyli Marroquin was eight years old when her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico to provide her family with a better future. It wasn’t until two years later that she and her two younger brothers were able to join their parents in the United States. She learned English and when she was able to, she started working after school at a gas station in Thermal to earn an income and continue her education and attend college. She enrolled at College of the Desert in 2012 and continued to work part-time to pay for her expenses. After a car accident prevented her from staying in school, she found herself working at a gas station once again and knew she wanted more. In 2016 she registered for the Administrative Office Professional course at the School of Career Education. As a result, she was hired by Spotlight 29 Casino as their Community Affairs Administrator. While working for the casino, the Tribe offered her the opportunity to work for their nonprofit organizations. She has also become the primary contact for the Board Members and the Tribal and Casinos Health Benefits Assistant and she loves it! She is currently enrolled at College of the Desert and plans on obtaining her General Business Degree in order to become a more valuable asset in her current position.
She has always been motivated by the phrase; “Get yourself educated”. Looking at all of the great opportunities she now has, she has realized that she needs to follow her passion of exploring and learning more each day.
In 2012 Tanya Martinez received her Associate’s degree in Business Administration. Her goal was to become a manager in a retail company. However, she discovered she didn’t have the passion for retail management and began searching for what would make her happy. In 2016 Tanya began taking classes in order to apply for the nursing program at College of the Desert. Earning A’s and B’s, she gained more confidence and realized she does have what it takes to become a nurse. She became friends with her classmates and became even more excited about her future. After completing her first semester at College of the Desert in the nursing program, Tanya has realized even more that nursing is her passion and that she could wake up every morning proud of her career and accomplishments. She has immersed herself in her program and plans on gaining as much knowledge from her fellow students and instructors so she can take that knowledge into her practice.
Helping patients has made her extremely happy and fulfilled, which is what she’s been wanting
her whole life.
As a child, Anastasia Midkiff was ambitious in all her endeavors and it followed her into adulthood. She is a licensed Esthetician and worked diligently to move up in her field. She expanded her knowledge and added certifications under her license. Although a successful Esthetician, she knew she needed more financial stability and insurance for her family. At this point she went to trade school to obtain her Phlebotomy license. She was then hired at a local hospital in an entry level lab position. Once again, her ambitions kicked in. Finding her passion in this field, she came to the conclusion that if she wants a better life for her son, she needs to lead by example. Her path has taken her back to the College of the Desert where she is studying to become a Medical Lab Technician. An MLT is a technician that works alongside a Clinical Laboratory Scientist and runs tests on blood and body fluid specimens.
She is bound and determined and will not fail. She wants to prove to both she and her son that she can and will do better for them.
Irene Morales is a first generation college student. Her parents were migrant seasonal farm workers. When she looks for motivation, she envisions her father. He has always been driven and hungry for success and she wants to be just as motivated as he is. Irene is determined to obtain her AA in Psychology and is on track to begin her courses at CSUSB in Palm Desert. Her goal is to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
With seven years of experience working with students at College of the Desert, she truly enjoys being a person of resource to the community. She has collaborated with directors and staff to help develop informational events for the community. She can envision herself continuing to help others. That would be her dream come true.
After graduating from high school, Erika’s goal was to continue her education and to pursue a degree in either psychology or nursing. But, living on her own and with her entire family in Mexico, she realized she would need to drop her classes to save money while rethinking her future. She has always had a passion for helping others in time of need and knew she wants to make a difference and provide the best possible care while being an advocate for people in their most vulnerable time. With that in mind, more determined than ever, she re-enrolled in college and began her path in the College of the Desert nursing program.
With the support of The Girlfriend Factor, Erika knows she will be able to focus her energy into receiving her ADN degree and she’ll be one step closer to her ultimate goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.
From a young age, Michelle sought refuge at school. She felt connected to her peers and empowered to strive toward her goals. She finished high school, but could not sustain tuition and living expenses and community college and left school. Years later, after working as a mental health counselor, a Nurse Practitioner colleague encouraged her to explore a career in nursing. She now finds herself motivated, determined and inspired. She finds inspiration in her own journey and feels grateful for her experiences, as they will allow her to practice culturally sensitive care with future clients. In addition to earning straight A’s at CSUSB, she is involved in the nursing club as well as various other volunteer organizations. Her goal post-graduation is to work locally as an RN in a critical care unit.
Mariana Sanchez is currently working toward achieving her career goal of becoming a Registered Nurse. Her desires and dreams of becoming an RN brought her to the Coachella Valley from Barstow nearly six years ago. Mariana completed her Certified Nursing Assistant degree at College of the Desert as well as the prerequisites for the RN program at College of the Desert and is currently in the RN program there. These programs have confirmed her goal of becoming an RN. She feels she has the characteristics needed to become a great nurse. In her free time, Mariana likes to spend time with her dog, Furby. She enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and exercising. Exercising is not only an activity she does to keep up with a healthy lifestyle, it also helps relieve stress from her busy life.
She hopes to be able to make an impact in other people’s lives by being there for them mentally and physically so that they can achieve a healthy lifestyle. Her long-term career goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Isabel Torres is currently a student at California Desert Trial Academy in Indio. She is entering her third year of law school and completed her second year as one of the top students in her class. She is also employed full-time at Dolan Law Offices, where she is a Certified Law Clerk. In this capacity, she works closely with clients daily to ensure that their legal needs are met and guides clients through the legal process. She appreciates the beauty behind redemption, hope and second chances that legal professionals offer people. As a Hispanic woman from Coachella, a sanctuary city where the majority of residents are people of color who are economically disadvantaged, she feels a duty to give back to the community that helped shape her. She’s found that communication is key to bridging gaps that keeps us divided.
One of her goals is to become a tool for the community to enhance and better understand the law of the land. Since her youth, Isabel has had a thirst for justice. She strives one day to become a bridge that connects disconnected communities with her degree. She hopes to have a platform to represent the people of her community to make positive and progressive impacts. For these
reasons, she has been motivated to pursue a career in Immigration Law and Civil Rights Law.
Aimee Vasquez was born in the Coachella Valley to a young, loving, interracial couple. Two years later, her sister was born. Aimee was raised to love everyone and treat everyone with respect, but she was also exposed to strangers judging, whether kind hearted or not, why she and her sister didn’t resemble each other. It took her well into her teens to accept the fact that her family
was ‘different’ in the eyes of many of her peers. The preconception of the ‘ideal’ family is one factor that lead her to her passion of medicine. In medicine, you do not see color. She feels there are still racial and psychological inequalities that exist in medicine today and she wants to help change that stigma. Aimee’s mother was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disease and at an early age, her mother passed away. Aimee was angry about the stigma mental illness has in our society. Fueled with this urgency of change, she put all her efforts info finishing school. After weighing all her medical career options, she felt an immense passion for nursing. She is currently in the College of the Desert Nursing Program. Her long-term goal is to become a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
“My past will forever shape my future. My story will never be over. Becoming a nurse and helping people is just the beginning.” ~ Aimee
Kristina grew up in Palm Desert and attended both primary and secondary school here. She then completed her undergraduate program at Chapman University, while continuing on to her Elementary Education Credential Program at Brandman University. Although Kristina’s desire was always to become a teacher, she also felt she was missing out on something. She felt the need to push herself beyond what had become normal and comfortable. At that point, she moved to Seattle and pursued a career in insurance. After six wonderful years in Seattle, she returned to the Desert and has restarted her credential program with Brandman University. Teaching has always been her heart’s true desire. She believes that we live in a world where children are burdened with far more than they should and having a degree in education and student counseling will help her both in and out of the classroom. She wants to foster the best classroom and learning experiences that will follow her students throughout their entire academic career.