Oxnard College Alumni Move Ventura County Forward

Dr Oscar Cobian

Community college degrees are among the nation’s finest traditions. Graduates of community colleges in Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura come from all walks of life and represent immigrant, military, middle-class, and working-class families. Many are looking for new opportunities; others are chasing their dreams for the first time.

Last month, I joined hundreds of families in celebrating Oxnard College’s class of 2022, which includes 1,070 graduates who have earned more than 2,300 certificates or diplomas.

In my commencement speech, I encouraged our graduates to channel their talents to make a positive impact and help others. Fortunately, they don’t have to look far for a plan. For decades, countless community college graduates have helped make Ventura County a stronger, more vibrant community.

Allow me to introduce three former students of Oxnard College who are doing just that.

Gabe Teran (Class of 2002) is a member of the Oxnard City Council and a longtime health and prevention specialist for the Ventura County Office of Education. Raised primarily by his grandparents, Gabe looked up to his grandfather, who worked in Oxnard’s farm fields and in a packing plant before serving in the military and later starting his own trucking business.

Among the first members of his family to attend college, Gabe majored in addictive disorder studies at Oxnard College, hoping to help struggling families like his own. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Governors University, Gabe worked as an addiction treatment counselor, helping young people overcome addiction.

Today, he runs substance abuse prevention and mental health awareness programs for schools in Ventura County. Gabe was also elected to Oxnard Town Council in 2021, where he advocates for the resources families need to move forward.

“Each generation works hard so that the next generation has the opportunity to go a little further,” says Gabe. “I am honored to continue advancing my family’s accomplishments and legacy, and I hope my daughters will go even further.”

Many proud Oxnard College graduates complete our nationally recognized fire and public safety programs. A graduate of the Class of 1993, Chuck Scherrei oversees emergency operations for the Ventura County Fire Department as Deputy Chief of Operations.

A second-generation firefighter, Chuck grew up in Thousand Oaks. After enrolling in an EMT course at Oxnard College, he began taking fire technology classes in the evenings. After graduating, Chuck transferred to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before launching his nearly two-decade firefighting career here.

“Firefighting is a calling for me,” says Chuck. “It takes a toll on your mind and body, but it’s such an honor to be there for someone when they’re in need. There’s no greater joy than helping someone when they are in pain, scared, hurt or sick We do our best to make things a little bit better for people when they desperately need help.

Then there is Vanessa Calderón-García (class of 1995). Today, Vanessa works as an assistant principal at Channel Islands High School, serving working families in South Oxnard.

Originally from Mexico, she grew up in a family of farm workers and was raised by a single mother. After immigrating to the United States, Vanessa eventually enrolled in Oxnard College to boost her English skills.

“As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know the process of going to college,” Vanessa says. “Thanks to Oxnard College, I was able to qualify for transfer to California Lutheran University.”

Vanessa then taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at her alma mater, Hueneme High, before moving to the main office of Oxnard Union High School District (OUHSD), where she designed programs to help learners from ‘English. His efforts ultimately earned the OUHSD the distinguished California State Seal of Biliteracy.

Vanessa continues her work at Channel Islands High School, focusing on “helping students believe they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.”

Gabe, Chuck and Vanessa represent decades of service to our county, but they are not alone.

For decades, Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura Community Colleges have nurtured generations of professionals who have gone on to serve our community. Some make it their life’s call; others pursue it in their spare time.

From hospitals to firelines and classrooms to clinics, block by block, community college graduates are driving Ventura County forward.

Dr. Oscar Cobian is the interim president of Oxnard College.

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