Community college graduations are among the nation’s finest traditions. Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura community colleges’ graduates come from all walks of life, representing immigrant, military, and middle and working-class families. Many are seeking new opportunities; others are pursuing their dreams for the first time.
Last month, I joined hundreds of families to celebrate Oxnard College’s graduating class of 2022, which includes 1,070 graduates who earned more than 2,300 certificates or degrees.
In my commencement address, I encouraged our graduates to channel their talents into making a positive impact and helping others. Fortunately, they don’t have to look far for a blueprint. For decades, countless community college graduates have gone on to make Ventura County a stronger and more vibrant community.
Let me introduce you to three Oxnard College alumni doing just that.
Gabe Teran (class of 2002) is an Oxnard City Council member and longtime health and prevention specialist for the Ventura County Office of Education. Raised primarily by his grandparents, Gabe admired his grandfather, who worked in Oxnard’s agricultural fields and a packing house before serving in the Army and later starting his own truck hauling business.
Among the first in his family to attend college, Gabe majored in addictive disorders 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 a substance use treatment counselor, helping young people overcome addiction.
Today, he manages substance abuse prevention and mental health awareness programming for Ventura County schools. Gabe was also elected to the Oxnard City Council in 2021, where he advocates for the resources families need to get ahead.
“Each generation works hard so that the succeeding generation has opportunities to go just a little bit 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 come through our nationally renowned fire and public safety programs. A graduate of the class of 1993, Chuck Scherrei oversees the Ventura County Fire Department’s emergency operations as the assistant chief of operations.
A second-generation firefighter, Chuck grew up in Thousand Oaks. After enrolling in an EMT class at Oxnard College, he began taking fire technology classes in the evenings. Following graduation, Chuck transferred to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before launching his nearly two-decade firefighting career here.
“To me, firefighting is a calling,” says Chuck. “It takes a toll on your mind and body, but it is such an honor to be there for someone when they are in need. There is no greater joy than helping someone when they are hurting, scared, injured or sick. We try our best just to make things a little better for people when they are in desperate need of help.”
Then there’s Vanessa Calderón-García (class of 1995). Today, Vanessa works as an assistant principal at Channel Islands High School, serving the working families of South Oxnard.
Originally from Mexico, she grew up in a family of farmworkers and was raised by a single mom. After immigrating to the United States, Vanessa eventually enrolled at Oxnard College to strengthen her English skills.
“As a first-generation student, I didn’t know the process of attending a university,” says Vanessa. “Thanks to Oxnard College, I was able to complete the requirements for transferring to California Lutheran University.”
Vanessa went on to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) at her alma mater, Hueneme High, before moving to the Oxnard Union High School District’s (OUHSD) main office, where she designed programs to support English learners. Her efforts ultimately brought OUHSD the distinguished California State Seal of Biliteracy.
Vanessa continues her work at Channel Islands High School, focusing on “helping students believe they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”
Gabe, Chuck and Vanessa represent decades of service to our county but they aren’t alone.
For decades, Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura community colleges have educated generations of professionals who have gone on to serve our community. Some make it their life’s calling; others pursue it in their personal 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 acting president of Oxnard College.