Cuesta College is set to honor eight individuals on April 13 at the 2018 Foundation Awards Luncheon. Four Cuesta College alumni will be recognized, along with four volunteers who have served the college and community selflessly in various ways. The event will take place from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., on the college’s San Luis Obispo Campus in building 5400, room 5401. Tickets to attend are $20 per person; RSVP by March 30 by calling the Cuesta College Foundation Office at (805) 546-3279 or visiting

2018 Honored Alumni

Now in its 30th year, the Honored Alumni awards were established in 1989 to recognize outstanding professional achievements and service of former Cuesta College students. Since that time, more than 50 Cougars have received this prestigious honor.More information on Cuesta College’s Honored Alumni program is available online.

Heidi Harmon | City of San Luis Obispo Mayor | Attended Cuesta: 1988-1998

Heidi Harmon* graduated with a degree in early childhood education from Cuesta College, followed by a BA in liberal studies from Cal Poly. For many years, Mayor Harmon worked as an early childhood educator in SLO. She became more and more involved in the community, and eventually became the director of the climate advocacy group SLO 350 and a point person with Protect SLO - Stop Oil Trains. In 2016, Harmon was elected mayor of San Luis Obispo City on the platform of being a reform-minded leader, passionate about keeping the voice and concern of local residents at the forefront of everything she does.

“Getting the broad education I received at Cuesta is in many ways the perfect academic background for being a mayor,” said Mayor Harmon. “Mayors are so many different things to so many different people. Everything from government to psychology to my creative art skills have come in handy as a mayor.”

*pictured above, far left

Tom O’Malley | City of Atascadero Mayor | Attended Cuesta: 1968-1970

A third-generation resident of Atascadero, it seems only fitting that Tom O’Malley*, prolifically involved in the community and local government, would one day become the city’s mayor. Serving in the role since 2012, the Cuesta graduate has spent decades in public service. He is a current member of the Atascadero City Schools Committee, Atascadero Tourism Business Improvement District Board, Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, and more. In addition, O’Malley owns and operates the Portola Inn in Atascadero and is a retired Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He studied business at Pepperdine University and then graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UCSB, and earned a Master’s Degree in Education specializing in counseling and guidance from Cal Poly. While at Cuesta, Mayor O’Malley was the Student Body President and Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society president.

“My experience at Cuesta College taught me the value of professional relationships,” said Mayor O’Malley. “Community colleges are like small towns. Both are part of an extended family that supports its members throughout life and nurtures the lives and happiness of us all.”

*pictured above, second from left

Maria Spaeth | Grover Beach Elementary School 2nd Grade Teacher | Attended Cuesta: 1994-1997

Maria Spaeth* is a first generation Mexican-American Latina, born in Sacramento. When she was three-years-old, Spaeth’s family relocated to Mexico. Returning at age 15, her family became farm workers in Paso Robles. Unable to speak English, Spaeth nonetheless enrolled at Paso Robles High School and then, in 1994, at Cuesta College. After graduating with Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts and then double-majoring at Sonoma State University in Spanish and Latin American History, Spaeth launched her teaching career in Los Angeles with a passion to serve underrepresented. In 2007, Spaeth was named Teacher of the Year by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Currently a 2nd grade teacher at Grover Beach Elementary School, Spaeth works with many low-income, Spanish-speaking students, and encourages them to follow their dreams, just as she did.

“As an English learner, Cuesta helped me be courageous and take risks,” said Spaeth. “I learned that if I wanted to make my dreams come true, I needed to take risks, participate, and ask for help if needed it. What I learned at Cuesta has helped me be the elementary school teacher I am now.”

*pictured above, second from right

Dr. Sarah Ashley | University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Emergency Physician | Attended Cuesta: 2001-2003

The youngest Cuesta College Honored Alumni Award recipient ever, Dr. Sarah Ashley* accomplished incredible things since graduating from Cuesta in 2003 at the age of 14-years-old. In 2008, Dr. Ashley earned a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz and then a Medical Doctorate Degree from U.C. Davis in 2014. Now working in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Dr. Ashley is a Global Health and Leadership Fellow. In 2015, Dr. Ashley enlisted in the United States Army Reserve and became a battalion surgeon with the US Army Reserve, 450th Civil Affairs Battalion. Dr. Ashley is also a third generation Cuesta College graduate. The Templeton native has deep roots in San Luis Obispo County, and credits Cuesta College for her ability to branch out.

“Cuesta was really the place where I started to transition from being a kid to becoming an adult,” said Dr. Ashley. “It gave me an early appreciation for people in our community who work, raise children, attend school and contribute to their community all at the same time, which shapes the way I appreciate and understand my patients and community now.”

*pictured above, far right

2018 Volunteer Award Recipients

Howard Carroll | Dr. Frank Martinez Superintendent/President’s Award

First awarded in 2001, this award recognizes the accomplishments of a community volunteer who has contributed time and talent generously, working in partnership with Cuesta faculty or staff, resulting in an achievement that might not have happened otherwise.

Longtime friend of the late Harold J. Miossi, Howard Carroll today serves as the Miossi Trust executor. In that role, Carroll has been instrumental in supporting various areas of Cuesta College. A lifelong resident of San Luis Obispo County, Miossi was passionate about many things, including art and education. Today, the college benefits from Miossi’s financial support - and Carroll’s strategic advanced estate planning prowess - in many ways. In 2014, the Foundation received a $250,000 grant to enhance the role of the college’s art gallery for both the students and the community. Today, the Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery is making a name for itself locally and beyond, hosting exhibits from artists all around the globe. The Trust is also the lead sponsor of the annual College Night event, bringing representatives from 55 universities and colleges across the country onto the San Luis Obispo Campus to speak with local high school students and their parents about how to make informed decisions about college. And last year, the Trust pledged $1 million toward the fundraising effort to extend the Cuesta College Promise Scholarship to include a second year of fee-free education. The donation is the largest single gift to the campaign thus far.

Kailey Schwabenland | John Schaub Student Volunteer Award

First awarded in 2001, this award recognizes a student whose community volunteer work best exemplifies the high standards established by the college’s first dean of students, whose trailblazing work in creating programs for student success has helped thousands of students achieve their goals.

Kailey Schwabenland volunteered many hours of her time in order to launch a Spanish Club at Cuesta College. Thanks to her efforts, students and community members now have a forum to celebrate and appreciate the Spanish language, Spanish-speaking cultures, language learning, and the traditions of the Spanish-speaking world. The club provides both Spanish-language learners and native Spanish speakers a sense of community on campus, and is an inclusive space for students and community members from a wide variety of backgrounds. Schwabenland is also an embedded tutor at Cuesta, helping other students study for the course Anthropology 201.

Stan and Janice House | Betty Nielsen Volunteer of the Year Award

First awarded in 1995, this award is given in memory of Cuesta College Trustee Betty Nielsen, considered the epitome of volunteerism. She served the community and the college selflessly for many years as an exemplary volunteer in several capacities. 

Stan and Janice House have volunteered on the Cuesta College Athletics Booster Club for many years, which is instrumental to the success and vitality of the college’s Athletics Department. The House’s have played key roles in various fundraisers, including the launch of “Don’t Cook Tonight.” Stan helped launched the monthly fundraiser, which has raised nearly $20,000 over the years for the Athletic Department by way of selling locally prepared BBQ chicken and ribs. Janice assists with the ticket sales, orchestrating the monthly event and volunteer staff. Stan has also served as the vice president of the Athletic Booster Club Board. Janice is a former Cuesta College employee and retired from the college as the director of information technology.