Cuesta College’s North County Ambassadors helped make the holidays a little brighter for more than a dozen student-parent families who received gift baskets at a Dec. 10 reception held at the North County Campus.

The recipients — head of households with up to four children in each family — are re-entry students at Cuesta’s North County Campus. The students include several veterans with children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. Most students also work part-time.

“We’ve done this for five years, and it just gets better every year,” said Betsy Hardie who coordinated the effort with fellow Ambassador Dee Lacey. “Ten Ambassadors helped this year. We helped 15 families with a big tub of wonderful gifts. The counselors work with the students and gave us their children’s names, sizes, favorite colors, favorite toys — real shopping tips so that we can fill out the lists.”

Cuesta staffers Julianne Jackson and Diane Limon of the EOPS/CARE program, Karen Andrews, who oversees the veterans program, and Hunter Perry of the college’s CalWORKS program helped select students.

The Ambassadors shopped for individual families and the gifts were wrapped by the college’s Latino/Latina Leadership Network Club.

Student recipients were thankful for the gifts and overjoyed by the show of support.

“I’m very excited, very blessed to have a family like Cuesta to help us,” said Jennifer Pereira, 25, of Templeton who has been studying early childhood education since 2011. “I’m a mom of a daughter who’s 5-years-old.”

Marcellaine Watson, 42, of Paso Robles, said she felt blessed to receive gifts that are for her two granddaughters, ages 4 and 3.

“Times are tough right now and this just made my year,” said Watcon, an addiction studies major who participated in the program last year. “I just feel very appreciative to the school and, of course, to the Ambassadors and all the donors who donated their time, money and everything to give us this.”

Sociology major Lisa Howland, 42, also of Paso, was also very grateful.

“I continue to be amazed at how wonderful human beings really are,” said the mother of a teen-age boy and a 6-year-old daughter. “I’m very, very thankful, and it makes me want to give more after all that I’ve been given.”

The Cuesta College Foundation launched the Ambassador Program in 1999 as a way to connect board members and community members with specific interests to the college. More than 40 people from across the county serve as ambassadors.

For many years, the college’s staff and faculty sponsored a gift basket program for students at the San Luis Obispo Campus. Hardie, who in May received the Foundation’s Betty Nielsen volunteer award, named for longtime community activist and education supporter in San Luis Obispo County, helped re-launch the program in 2009.

“I think the fact that we get to meet the students is wonderful,” said Hardie of Paso Robles. “We can hear what their career goals are, how they are doing in school, what their children are doing. It just gives us great joy that we’re able to help them along that road to success.”

Lauren Milbourne / (805) 546-3108 / / Posted: 12/17/13