News - 05/2/2014

MiraCosta College to Hold Commencement Ceremony May 20

A record 500 of MiraCosta College’s 1,697 graduates will celebrate at the college’s 79th commencement ceremony, to be held Tuesday, May 20, at 5 p.m. in front of the Administration Building on the Oceanside Campus at 1 Barnard Drive. Graduate Richard Huizar, who is highlighted below, will deliver this year’s commencement address. Admission is free, and parking permits are not required.

Among those securing their diplomas is the following trio of graduates who took unique paths to reach their destinations. They are:

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Alina O’Tool: Talk about an odyssey. Born under Communist rule in Poland, Alina O’Tool witnessed the rise of the Solidarity movement, the country’s first free elections and its transition to democracy. Then she moved to Germany and married an American before she and her husband spent stints in Switzerland, India and England prior to moving to North County.

Her life really changed when the 40-year-old mother of two enrolled at MiraCosta College two years ago.

“When I went to my first class, I was so scared. I said to myself, `I want to go back home.’ But the professors helped me so much, the people were so supportive. They gave me confidence. I learned that if you do the work, they will not let you fail.”

O’Tool will transfer to a University of California campus in the fall with a 4.0 grade point average. Plans include studying human development and earning a Ph.D.

She says she turned to MiraCosta College with one goal in mind: improve her English. “The only English I knew was from talking to my husband,” O’Tool said. “I couldn’t help my children with their homework. I was working at a Target, and I said this was not what I wanted to do with my life.”

She soon opted to seek an associate of arts degree.

“If you work hard and you believe in yourself, and if you have people around you who are supporting you and believe in you, you can do anything,” O’Tool said.

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Richard Huizar: After concluding that he couldn’t afford to attend San Diego State University, commencement speaker Richard Huizar turned to MiraCosta College instead.

It’s one of the best moves he has made in his young life. The 19-year-old is graduating with an associate degree in applied mathematics as an Honors Scholar with a 3.9 GPA. He also is on the President’s List, scored a perfect 800 on the SAT subject tests in math and physics, and plans to earn a Ph.D.

“MiraCosta College was my educational destiny,” Huizar said. “It is an amazing place with a positive environment and excellent faculty and staff. It gave me an opportunity to transfer to a great four-year program and showed that I can do anything I wanted.”

Huizar has financed much of his education by working three jobs. One is tutoring in EOPS/CalWorks program helping underprivileged and underrepresented students in lower-level mathematics courses.

“Some of these people have failed these classes before and are about to give up, so it’s great to see them succeed,” Huizar said.

Huizar is the first in his family to graduate from college. “I want to show my younger family that higher education and their dreams are possible; a matter of course, not something out of reach for us.”

Huizar is eyeing a career in engineering, but says he hasn’t focused on a particular area yet. “I’m going to miss MiraCosta,” Huizar said. “It’s my home away from home. I’m there all the time.”

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Alex Klimek: Marine Corps veteran Alex Klimek found himself at MiraCosta College.

Klimek, who grew up in Champaign, Ill., first came to Oceanside in 2001 when he enlisted in the service and was stationed at Camp Pendleton. When he left the Marines a few years later, Klimek held a series of jobs that ranged from customer service representative at a Carlsbad auto dealership to auditor at two North County hotels.

A few years ago, Klimek decided to give MiraCosta College a try. “I didn’t really have any direction in my career and I really couldn’t stay in just one industry.” It was while he was at MiraCosta that Klimek learned of an opening at Genentech, which manufactures medicines to treat a variety of illnesses. Klimek soon secured a job supporting quality control analysts by preparing glassware and equipment for testing. Eager to learn more about the biotech industry, Klimek’s focus at MiraCosta quickly turned to biotech.

“It was a whole new industry for me,” Klimek said. “I wanted to learn everything I could.”

Though Klimek is earning his degree in May, he plans to remain at MiraCosta College for additional courses before transferring to UC San Diego.

“MiraCosta is a great school,” he said. “It has invaluable resources, the admissions office is very helpful, the book loan program has been great and they have an excellent tutoring program both in person and online.”

Dr. Francisco Rodriguez will speak at the ceremony, as well as Associated Student Government President Harmony Hodges and others. 

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