Cuesta College alumni and volunteers will be recognized for their selfless service to the College and the community. The 2019 Cuesta College Awards Luncheon on April 12 from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. on the San Luis Obispo Campus will honor seven selected individuals.

The awards ceremony is open to the public. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased online at or by calling the Cuesta College Foundation Office at (805) 546-3279. The deadline to purchase tickets has been extended to April 3. The luncheon will be in Building 5400 (room 5401) and parking is complimentary for attendees in Lot 2.

2019 Honored Alumni

The Honored Alumni awards were established in 1989 to recognize outstanding professional achievements and service of former Cuesta College students. More information on Cuesta College’s Honored Alumni program is available online.

The honorees are pictured above from left to right:
The Honorable Denise Dvorak | Superior Court Judge, San Bernardino County| Attended Cuesta 1972-1979 
Denise Trager Dvorak, a Paso Robles native, prepared for a career in the justice system at Cuesta College before attending Western State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Juris Doctor degree. During 30 years of service to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, Judge Dvorak fought for justice in cases of child abuse, domestic violence and animal cruelty. She served as the county’s Family Violence Unit Coordinator, created the first Child Abuse Investigation Manual, established the first Domestic Violence Death Review Team and helped form the Animal Cruelty Task Force. In 2016, Judge Dvorak was elected to a six-year term as a judge in the Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino. She and her husband Ross, a retired Sheriff’s captain, live in Southern California. Their 25-year-old son serves as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

Far Shariat| Film Producer | Attended Cuesta 1992-1995
A short film Shariat made for a film and video art class at Cuesta College helped him gain admission to UCLA as a transfer student the following year. He began his career as an intern for film producer Andrew Lazar who is known for such films as American Sniper and Bound. Shariat eventually oversaw the development and production of films for Lazar’s production company for ten years. His work as a writer-focused producer in film gave Shariat the opportunity to create pilots for television. With his collaborator Rand Ravich, Shariat produced several one-hour pilots before having a breakthrough in 2007 with the crime drama series Life starring Damian Lewis. During this time, Shariat also produced the independently financed I Love You Phillip Morris starring Jim Carrey. After Life completed its run, Shariat and Ravich returned to NBC with the series Crisis in 2014. Currently, he is in an overall deal with HBO where he and his partner are working with renowned author George R. R. Martin to develop a spinoff of his groundbreaking series Game of Thrones. Shariat lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Lauren Peterson| Agriculture Teacher, King City High School | Attended Cuesta 2005-2008
Born and raised in San Luis Obispo, Peterson always had an interest in agriculture. She turned that interest into a passion when she took an Agricultural Science class in high school and became an active member of Future Farmers of America (FFA). After high school, she enrolled at Cuesta College, then transferred to Cal Poly where she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Agricultural Education. Peterson launched her teaching career at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, and then Gonzales High School. For the past five years, she has taught Agriculture Biology, Agriculture Chemistry, Agriculture Earth Science, and Agriculture Mechanics at King City High School. She also coaches FFA teams that compete within the region, state, and nationally. As a teacher, Peterson motivates students to push past their insecurities, and to discover what truly inspires them. 

Rick Mayfield| Director of Learning & Achievement, San Luis Coastal Unified School District| Attended Cuesta 1980-1982
Rick Mayfield moved to San Luis Obispo after graduating from high school in 1979 with a dream of starting his own business. The business didn’t work out as planned, but he found a rewarding career in academia instead. After re-entering education at Cuesta College, Mayfield spent six months in South America learning Spanish. He graduated with a degree in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, then served in the Peace Corps in Belize. Back in the states, his Spanish language skills helped him secure a teaching job at 9th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. He followed that up with three years teaching in Namibia. When he returned to San Luis Obispo in 1996, he taught second grade at Pacheco Elementary, where he helped implement a two-way language immersion program. After earning a master’s degree in educational administration at Cal Poly, he eventually returned to Pacheco as principal where he advocated for English Learner students and dual-immersion education. Today, he is the Director of Learning and Achievement for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.

2019 Volunteer Award Recipients

Thom Schulz |Dr. Frank Martinez Superintendent / President’s Award
First presented 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.

Thom Schulz and his late wife Laura Coats have provided high-impact donations to advance their most heartfelt causes: education and cancer support. Their generous gifts have benefitted Cuesta College students starting with the initial campaign to start the North County Campus. They also funded a cancer research laboratory at UCLA and the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. The philosophy behind their philanthropic dedication is “to see first-hand where our donations and time are helping; we want to enjoy this journey of life to its fullest.” Since Laura’s passing in 2017, Schulz has continued the work they started together. As a tireless advocate for Cuesta College as a North County Campus Ambassador, he supports students in need by providing holiday gift baskets every year to CalWORKS, EOPS, and veteran students and their families. He also provided the capstone gift that launched the second-year Cuesta College Promise Scholarship in June of 2018.

Jasmin Wyatt | John Schaub Student Volunteer Award
First presented 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.

Jasmin Wyatt graduated from Atascadero High School and attends Cuesta College as a Promise Scholarship recipient studying political science. As the Clubs Director for the Associated Students of Cuesta College, she is a member of the Executive Cabinet of student government, and she represents the students of Cuesta College at state and national conferences. She is also a Student Ambassador for the Cuesta College Foundation, where she represents the college at a variety of events and outreach activities. Jasmin volunteers within the community for the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party and Literacy for Life. She is also a member of Alpha Gamma Sigma, the California Community College Scholastic Honor Society, where she is recognized for academic achievements and community service. In addition to her studies and volunteer work, Jasmin is employed at Kennedy Club Fitness in Atascadero.
Grigger Jones | Betty Nielsen Volunteer of the Year Award
First presented 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.

As a retired attorney, Robert “Grigger” Jones devotes his time and expertise to the Cuesta College Foundation as a member of the Board of Directors. Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a Juris Doctor degreefrom the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. In addition to 32 years of private practice in Atascadero, he has filled many community service roles, including past Chairman & President of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce and President of the Atascadero Rotary Club. He remains active in the community today serving as President of the Atascadero Mutual Water Company, Chairman of the North County Economic Foundation, and co-founder of Leadership North County.