2020 Honors Program Graduates

Congratulations to All the Honor's Program Graduates!

Honors Awards and Scholarships

Honors Faculty Awards (for transferring students)

  • Emma Gilmartin
  • Gavann Freiberg

President's Scholarship (for incoming high school student)

  • Elajae Lee

Ashleigh Ayers

It was a pleasure to have Ashleigh as a student in my math class. Her work was always neat and thorough. She was always pleasant, polite and respectful to me even long after the class was over. She pays attention to detail and has a "stick to it" attitude when it comes to her academic work and goals. —Steve Rogers, Professor of Mathematics

In a refreshing way, Ashleigh is a loud student who projects her infectious personality and ability with cheerful confidence. She is hardworking and persistent, almost to a fault, as she tends to over commits. But she works well under pressure, and with her doggedly hardworking streak, she always delivers. Every time I saw her, she is always studying and working on her assignments in the library at late hours, or getting involved in numerous extra-curricular activities. Ashleigh is intellectually curious with a relentless approach to learning, and one who, with her success, showed that hard work does pay. —Guck Ooi, Professor of Biology

Amir Chaudhry

My experience as an honors student was amazing as it helped me grow and use unique ways to learn and explore just beyond subjects. Every teacher I have come across in this program has been so caring, helpful, and passionate. They go out of their way to know you personally and teach you things by making creative assignments to challenge and train your mind to do hard work. Being in the Honors program made my overall experience really fun and enriching while teaching me a lot about myself and I feel more equipped to take on life now.

My major is Computer Science.

Do not mistake Amir Chaudry's small build and soft voice for passivity. She is a bold and competitive young woman with the drive and determination to succeed. And if my experience with her is indication I have faith that she will indeed succeed in college and in whatever career she discerns is best for her talents. Like her cousin Arsh, she has a compelling and likable personality. However, her ability to use that personality to challenge and push people toward her position without making them defensive is both truly impressive and a critical virtue in a political world. Thank you for being such a joy to work with. —Matthew Jones, Professor of History & Political Science

Amir Chaudhry

Amir is like an iceberg; what you see at the tip is a quiet and unassuming student, but beneath lies the bulk of her abilities and intelligence. She is extremely hardworking, has taken a variety of science classes, and excelling in all of them. Deservedly so, she is the Science Dept Outstanding Student of the Year. Not only is Amir an outstanding student, she finds time to help others, as embedded tutor for Biology, and in extra-curricular activities. She is polite, helpful, always eager, and together with her considerable abilities and determinations will see her in good stead in her future undertakings. Her successes are well earned. —Guck Ooi, Professor of Biology

Arsh Chaudhry

Farewell to all the great faculty, staff, and students that I have had the pleasure of meeting over my years at Cerro Coso. It has been a great ride and I thank everyone who was a part of helping me get to where I am today. From my counselors to teachers to friends I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And a great thank you to my amazing family who have shown nothing but love and support, I love you all so much. This has been a memorable experience and helped me grow in so many ways I thought to be not possible. Thank you for pushing me and helping me find my own path in life. I wish everyone nothing but the best I love you all.

Computer Science.

Arsh Chaudhry has many strengths: an excellent work ethic, high intelligence, creativity, a strong interest and love of science, a desire to help others and a polite and courteous nature. Arsh is among the most well-rounded and reliable high performing student I have worked with. Arsh's kind nature is evident in his concern for his fellow classmates. I know he will go on to make an outstanding surgeon. His confidence, intelligence, and calming demeanor will serve him well in his endeavors. Arsh is outstanding! —Claudia Sellers, Professor of Biology

Arsh Chaudhry

Arsh Chaudry is a very likable, soft-spoken intellect. When he decided to care about his education his intellectual curiosity and depth emerged through a somewhat quieter but quite present and compelling personality. Either he does a really effective job at faking genuine respect and humility when learning from others, be they professors or authors, or he is indeed a genuinely thoughtful intellect and true student at heart. I suspect it is the latter. It was truly an honor being your instructor, Arsh. You are kind of person I would enjoy discussing ideas with in general, not just as a student. —Matthew Jones, Professor of History & Political Science

Subber Dhillon

To put it simply, Subber Dhillon is amazing. She challenges herself, always seeking to improve anything she attempts. I am not sure I have seen anyone work as hard as Subber. I can tell her something is wonderful and impressive, and she will continue to improve it. She has had to overcome more than most students and her accomplishments are even more impressive because of these challenges, but, more than that, she is impressive. Her intelligence, enthusiasm, work ethic, sense of humor, and level-headedness will take her far. —Christine Swiridoff, Professor of English

Subber Dhillon is an intelligent hardworking student. Subber is also one of the kindest most empathetic people I have had the pleasure to encounter. Even though she was very busy as a science major she still found time to be one of the most active and effective Student Government Presidents Cerro Coso has had. She is a dedicated student who does not shy away from a tough assignment. Subber is honest and has an outstanding sense of humor. Her positive attitude and strong work ethic will enable her to accomplish any goal she sets her mind to. —Claudia Sellers, Professor of Biology

Gavann Freiberg

Thank you to all of my inspiring teachers and great friends. College wouldn't have been the same without you, and I'm grateful for my experience.

UC Irvine and English.

I have known Gavann Freiberg for many years, but it wasn't until I was in English classes with her that I fully realized how fabulously smart, inquisitive, and creative she is. Class discussions were always better when she was there. Her papers were brilliant. She works hard, both as a student and a Phi Theta Kappa officer. She's the full package. She doesn't just get accepted to top schools; she does it as a UC Regent Scholar, receiving the most prestigious award a transfer student can receive. —Christine Swiridoff, Professor of English

Gavann Freiberg

Gavann Freiberg is a very original and sophisticated thinker who makes incisive comments and writes really interesting and compelling essays. She was an absolute stand out in my Shakespeare and World Lit. classes, both of which were comprised of some of the brightest students at the college. —Cliff Davis, Professor of English

Torin Fuller

Torin has a deep understanding of math and an ability to quickly learn and use mathematical skills. He often had the highest score in the class on exams. I am sure he will go far in whatever field he pursues. —Steve Rogers, Professor of Mathematics

Torin Fuller is frustratingly, sometimes infuriatingly, intelligent. I suspect that is a sentiment I share with his mother. He picks up concepts and genuine knowledge too damn quickly and not just in a utilitarian manner of only temporarily in order to pass an exam, but in terms of actual understanding. I suspect this is because he is actually engaged and interested in learning, and because he enjoys being able to take absolutely no notes in a class and still easily pass assessments. Either way, I appreciated him in every class he took with me and I wish he was sticking around to take another. —Matthew Jones, Professor of History & Political Science

Emma Gilmartin

I want to say thank you to all of my professors in the honors program for encouraging me to become more involved in my education. If it wasn't for them, I never would have considered taking on new projects like the HTCC presentation at UC Irvine or leading service projects through PTK. My experience in Cerro Coso's honors program opened my eyes to what I can accomplish inside and outside of the classroom, and I am grateful for the connections I have made.

I am transferring to CSU Fullerton to major in Graphic Design.

Emma Gilmartin is a ferociously creative and articulate student with great ideas and breathtaking facility in a variety of subjects, most conspicuously, of course, in art. Her HTTC presentation of her self-portraits was fascinating and impressive. I really wish I could have had Emma in more than just one class. —Cliff Davis, Professor of English

Emma Gilmartin

I have had the pleasure of having Emma join the Student Support and Success Program (SSSP) committee which I co-chair this past year. Emma has provided a fresh and compelling student voice to the committee and is confident, poised, intelligent, and warm. I've been impressed with the opportunities she has taken advantage of as a student at Cerro Coso (and I'm sure I don't know of them all!). She has been involved in the creation of the Tumbleweed Talks student voice podcast and she has also done a tremendous amount of interesting and crucial work as student worker for the Institutional Research office. Everything I've mentioned here are things Emma has participated in outside her academics, which are exceptional. She is the kind of student who fully engages with her studies and with the opportunities afforded her. —Julie Cornett, SSSP co-chair and librarian/professor

Warif Kastoun

"Apply to the honors program" they said, "It will be fun" they said. But It really was. I'm beyond thankful for my three-years journey at Cerro Coso and for the unforgettable memories I made. I'm also very happy that I listened to professor Guck and decided to complete the honors program because It made me believe in myself when I doubted my ability to do it. I'm more ready now to face the challenges I will have in the next two years.

I'm transferring to UCSB to major in chemistry.

Warif Kastoun was a pleasure to have in my physics courses. Warif exemplifies the qualities of quiet creativity, talent, and determination. Warif's strong internal motivation and natural intellectual abilities will continue to carry Warif far in life. —Scott Cameron, Professor of Physical Science

Warif Kastoun

Warif Kastoun is an intelligent, hardworking, and kind individual. She has a keen sense of humor and an infectious laugh. Warif is very polite and respectful of others. She interacts very well with a wide variety of students. Warif's academic abilities and strong drive will enable her achieve any academic goal she sets her mind on. —Claudia Sellers, Professor of Biology

Ryan McKinney

I was fortunate enough to have Ryan in my Music Appreciation Honors course back in Fall 2018. Some of you may not know that Ryan actually plays both violin and guitar. I think he keeps the violin playing on the down-low because we all know that playing the violin isn't nearly as cool as playing guitar (in my very biased opinion). Ryan wrote a brilliant honors paper on "The History of the Violin." As Ryan discusses in his paper, the violin dates back to the Middle Ages, but eventually became one of the most important instruments within the symphony orchestra. This would be a good time to remind Ryan that he agreed to call me first if he ever happened upon a Stradivarius at a garage sale. Ryan is currently majoring in math and science, but after reading his music analysis paper on "2 Cellos," he might want to consider majoring in English. In describing Bach's "Double Violin Concerto in D Minor," Ryan wrote, "As with concertos, the second movement slows the tempo down with a calm, almost pastoral melody merged with curious undertones within the harmony. Because of the flowing melodic theme and lethargic building of dynamics, the song paints an image of a cloudy night, the moon becoming exposed as the nighttime sky is slowly illuminated." Wow! Such poetry! There is definitely some poetic prose running through the veins of this family. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if one of his parents was an English teacher. Regardless of what path you pursue, I do hope that you will continue to play music as music provides essential nutrients for both mind and soul. Congratulations to everyone who completed the honors program! —Tom Foggia, Professor of Music

Ryan McKinney was consistently a professional, capable, and focused individual in my physics courses. Despite just starting his college career, Ryan demonstrated the calm and gentlemanly demeanor of a middle-aged professional. Ryan's scholarly abilities, and overall equanimity, will allow him to achieve his future educational, career, and life goals. —Scott Cameron, Professor of Physical Science

Zulema Nuno

It is with utmost pleasure and privilege that I get to write you this congratulatory statement for not only graduating from Cerro Coso but graduating as an Honors Program graduate. Your grades and your cumulative GPA speak for themselves! It is your personal qualities in your educational journey that I want you to remember and that I want to highlight.

Others in your shoes would have easily taken a break from school or flat out quit school. Not you! All that you have experienced, coped with, and ways in which you "make it work" as a student, parent, friend to others, co-worker and a human being truly makes you an exceptional and remarkable individual. Your perseverance, grit, dedication, adaptability, resilience, sense of humor and work ethic makes you who you are. You have impressed me with your passion to continue for yourself and your children, no matter what.

Zulema, I admire you and based on what you have shared with me, please know that I recognize how hard you have worked to maintain your grades, GPA and to graduate from Cerro Coso as an Honors Program graduate. It was an absolute honor working with and knowing you. Never forget, Sí Se Puede (yes you can) and that you are a living example of it! —René Mora, Associate Professor, Counseling

Lorin "Quinn" Smith

Lorin "Quinn" Smith enlivened the group dynamics in my physics courses. Quinn possesses a unique quality of jovial seriousness, which is a valuable asset to have in any group endeavor. Because life is largely a series of group endeavors, Quinn's talents, abilities, and personality will continue to provide valuable contributions wherever life takes him. —Scott Cameron, Professor of Physical Science

I was only fortunate enough to have Quinn Smith in one honors class during his time at Cerro Coso. It wasn't for lack of trying on my part that he only took one class with me, though. I try to pursue students who are genuinely passionate about being educated and not just about credential acquisition. Quinn is one of those students. Genuinely questioning and interested in understanding new things. He also comes across as a respectful and intelligent person. I strongly encourage him to continue pursuing a broad based education regardless of his career as he has the potential to become a true gentleman and scholar. —Matthew Jones, Professor of History & Political Science

Matthew Tidball

Hello fellow CC graduates, I don't think many other generations will be able to say that they graduated/transferred successfully, with honors, having endured both earthquakes and a pandemic. Yay us and good luck to you all on your future endeavors.

Transferring in Fall to San Diego State University as a General Business Major.

Matthew Tidball is a smart, incredibly hard-working, and generous student who's a natural leader and a real role model for his peers. An amicable guy and a model of cool determination, Matthew is a huge asset in any classroom. I've really enjoyed having this bright young man in three of my classes. —Cliff Davis, Professor of English

Matthew Tidball

Matt was an outstanding student in my Music Appreciation Honors course. He was one of only a handful of students I've had over the years who was brave enough (or crazy enough) to take on Beethoven's 9th for his music analysis paper. For those not familiar with Beethoven's work, the 9th Symphony was Beethoven's final symphony, and by far his lengthiest symphony, clocking in at just over an hour. Matt masterfully analyzed the four movements of this work citing such important concepts as sonata form, instrumentation, and dynamics (soft and loud, or as we say in Italian… piano and forte!). Matt also made a very astute observation when he cited the use of that very large choir standing behind the orchestra during the 4th movement, which is when we hear the famous "Ode to Joy" theme. Apparently, Matt was so moved by this section that he burst out in a vocal performance that could only be described as… an "Ode to Joy." As Matt stated in his paper, "Overall this finale was outstanding and made me want to become an opera singer." We look forward to seeing Matt in full Viking costume performing a scene from Wagner's opera, "Ride of the Valkyries." Matt also wrote a terrific honors paper titled, "The Role of Music in Child Development." While he makes a number of important points as to why learning music is so important during child development, I will summarize his findings by quoting one sentence from his paper: "it is clear that schools should implement music into their curriculum." Congratulations to everyone who completed the honors program! —Tom Foggia, Professor of Music

Abigail Voigt

Thank you to all my honors professors who spent so much valuable time pouring into my educational journey and sharing their own passions with us.

I will be taking a gap year and pursuing further education in 2021.

Abbygale [sic] Voigt ranks very high on the scale of students I am going to miss seeing in my class, and not just because her presence and personality are so precocious and difficult to ignore, but because she is such a passionate learner and clever intellect who can't help but challenge and be challenged. She is, I suspect, an existential philosopher at heart, seeking out the struggle in a passionate effort to understand and care about humanity just a little more honestly. I was privileged to serve her intellectual growth as a professor, in whatever limited way I was able, and privileged to call her a friend. —Matthew Jones, Professor of History & Political Science

Abigail Voigt

One of my absolutely favorite students in recent years, Abby Voigt is a super bright, funny, highly insightful young woman who's truly a joy to have in any class. Here's the thing: she's an awesome human being even more than just a stellar student. Far more important, my dog, Porter, loves her. —Cliff Davis, Professor of English