Share Your Story with Us
Our alumni are the foundation of this college and its rich traditions. It is important to reflect on our history and reconnect with alumni to strengthen community ties. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to share your favorite Norco College story
In the spring of 2013, Anthony Lombardo used his position as vice president of Finance for the Associated Students of Norco College to fund a series of scholarships for students transferring to four-year universities.
“I recognized that a lot of students were facing financial difficulty because of the economy so with the help of my advisor and the ASNC we were able to give out about 19 scholarships at $1,000 apiece,” Anthony said.
His good deed was repaid this year when Anthony was one of 76 community college students nationwide to win the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which he will use to attend UC Berkeley in the fall.
Anthony is graduating with associate’s degrees in: Social and Behavioral Sciences; Humanities, Philosophy and Art, and Communication, Media and Languages.
Initially, his major was architecture but after being involved with ASNC and getting a taste of politics, Anthony switched his major to political science.
Don’t be looking for him on the statewide ballot any time soon though. Anthony wants to get a law degree and practice a few years before he runs for political office.
Norco College Alumni
Class of 2013
Graciela Arzola first stepped onto the Norco College campus 10 years after graduating from high school.
Her children encouraged her to go to college and the Puente program with its “Yes, you can” motto sustained her and helped her overcome the self-doubt that haunted her.
“Once I got into the Puente program, I had professors telling me that I could make my dreams come true,” said Graciela, a single parent whose rheumatoid arthritis causes severe chronic pain and limits the mobility in one of her hands. “They taught me how to take the ‘ifs’ out of my life. It’s ‘when’, not ‘if’.”
Graciela will graduate this week with AA degrees in Social Behavioral Studies, Humanities, and Communication Studies. She has been accepted into the competitive Social Work program at Cal State, San Bernardino.
She hopes to draw from her own personal experiences to help others. Ultimately, she would like to start her own non-profit organization to help teenage mothers, who are victims of domestic violence, and she dreams of opening a safe house for homeless teenage mothers.
Norco College Alumni
Class of 2013
Julianna Kilpatrick had a good life, holding down an executive position with Viacom in product placement.
And then it hit.
Not the recession - cancer.
Kilpatrick, 39, beat the cancer, but lost her career.
“The doctors told me I couldn’t continue in my present career due to the workload,” Kilpatrick said. Attempting to salvage her future, she began re-examining her life, reviewing her goals coming out of high school in 1990.
“I wanted to get into sports medicine. At that time, it was impossible for women to have a career in the field, but now women have broken into the sports industry as reporters, athletic trainers, and sports medicine (professionals). I felt my dream could be achieved now.”
With renewed passion, Kilpatrick, a single mother at the time, dove right in, enrolling at Norco College 21 years after graduating from high school. She and her classmates will celebrate their accomplishments at the commencement ceremony on June 12.
For Kilpatrick the journey has been intimidating, yet fulfilling.
“I’d tell single mothers to just do it (return to school),” she said. “The sooner you start, the sooner you are on the journey to a better life. It's incredibly intimidating to risk failure, wonder how out of place you will feel sitting in a classroom, and if you have the ability to handle the schoolwork. I had the same fears. By engaging and becoming involved on campus I found the inspiration to continue on when times got tough.”
Kilpatrick will leave Norco College with a 4.0 grade point average and two associate of arts degrees. She will continue her education at the University of Texas, working toward a degree in Pre-Med Exercise Science, ATEP (Athletic Training Exercise Program), before beginning the Physician's Assistant in Sports Medicine program.
“It was a lot of hard work,” she said on maintaining a 4.0 GPA. “Essentially it's about time management and organization. I created study buddies/groups in each class, used an application called iStudies Pro, inputting important dates with alerts. I also used study groups before major tests. Sharing information with others is a great way to find mastery in a subject.”
Kilpatrick also leaned heavily on her family, including children Brenna and Jack, and boyfriend, Robert Tollett, who attends Norco College. Together they created a workflow chart for daily chores and cooking, giving Kilpatrick time to study. She also credited the staff of Norco College, saying the College is like “family.”
She says she’ll cherish one thing above all else – knowledge.
“The knowledge of myself and my abilities. The knowledge of academia and how all subjects combine, allowing me to grow, become educated. The knowledge of empowerment in achieving my goals despite those who said I could not, and pursuing those goals I have not yet reached.”
Norco College Alumni
Class of 2014
Stalin Soto hates the idea of leaving Norco College and his “academic family.”
“It was in 1995 when I would (first) meet Norco College,” Soto said. “There were three buildings at the time; it was a windy day, a tumbleweed rolled by as I stood at the top of the steps at the front of the campus. I looked beyond the empty field which now houses the Center for Student Success and thought ‘One day this place will be amazing and we will both do great things. I will be back.’”
Soto was just 14 years of age when he arrived in the United States, halfway through his sophomore year in high school. Faced with learning a new language after arriving from Ecuador, Soto struggled constantly with his English. He says his first day at Norco High set the tone.
“I was supposed to ride the school bus. I was directed to stand and wait for it on one side of a street several blocks away from my uncle’s house. I remember watching a group of kids at the opposite corner getting on a bus that arrived. As the bus pulled away, I remember watching them look at me in wonder and even laughing, I imagine because they realized that I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Soto walked back to the house but had no idea how to say he had missed the bus. “So in my meager translation from Spanish to English I came up with the most sensible one: ‘I lost the bus.’ In Spanish that sounds just fine, but meaning for meaning it has no congruence. My American aunt, whom didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, finally put it together.
“And so the year would unfold with me begging my mother, whom I didn’t have much of a relationship with since I had been raised by my paternal grandmother, to send me back to Ecuador where all my dreams of becoming an architect were deeply founded. Obviously that didn’t work, so I kept pushing on.”
It was a chance meeting in the fall of 2012 that eventually put Soto back in the classroom.
“My son was at Norco College taking the assessment test,” Soto said. “I was sitting outside when Maria Maness (academic evaluations specialist), whom I have known for many years, came to talk to me. She told me there was a cancellation and that I should take the open (assessment test) spot. I was not ready, but she had faith that I would do well, so I took her up on it. I qualified for English 1A and Math 52, which I was really excited about. I remember thinking now I had a starting point, and decided I can do this.”
He and the rest of the Norco College’s Class of 2014 will be celebrated on June 12 at the College’s annual commencement ceremony. Soto will be transferring to UC Riverside where he’ll study sociology after compiling a 3.84 grade point average.
To get through Norco College, Soto, who is 41 and the father to 23-year-old Porscha and 20-year-old Christopher, worked countless jobs. He’s worked in tutorial services at the UCR Extension Center as well as a driver and a babysitter for international students. He also makes custom furniture and works in construction when he can.
“To watch younger students miss out on the education opportunity they have to further increase their potential in life by getting a better education is tough,” Soto said. “Whether through laziness of their own or because of life’s challenges, it is painful to see them dropout instead of pressing forward. Time flies by with rocket engines, and there are no guarantees that later in life one will be able to catch up to the world that we live in, or with the dreams of yore.”
“My kids are now adults and they deserve to have a well-educated father. This is my most important reason to achieve this goal. However, once I acquire a Ph.D. in sociology I would like to return to teach at Norco College; prayerfully they’ll want me back.”
Norco College Alumni
Class of 2014
Technology plays a major role in Taylor Armstrong’s life and provides his lifeline to academic success.
Taylor started using a computer to write when he was very young because he was born with cerebral palsy, which affected his lower extremities and fine motor skills.
His experiences with and reliance on technology convinced him to pursue a career in business with a focus on cyber security so he can help protect the digital information infrastructure that individuals, businesses and governments rely on.
“I want to help other people and give them the same exciting opportunities that I had,” Taylor said.
Taylor was unfocused and floundering during his first three years at Norco College. Then, he joined the TriO program for low-income and first-generation students and got the direction he needed to get on track, stay on track and transfer to a four-year college.
“When I stand back and look at it, if you have a strong enough reason to pursue a particular field or degree and you have a plan and you see it as being possible, you can do just about anything,” Taylor said.
He is graduating with an associate’s degree in Business Administration and will continue his studies at Cal State San Bernardino.
Taylor ArmstrongNorco College Alumni