Honored Alumni Awards 2018 and 2019
Attended Cuesta: 1972-1979
After attending Cuesta College, Denise Dvorak attended Western State University, where she earned a BA and JD. During her 30 years of service to the San Bernardino County DA's Office, she fought for justice in cases of child abuse, domestic violence and animal cruelty. Judge Dvorak 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. She is currently a judge in the Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino.
Attended Cuesta: 1992-1995
Far Shariat made a short film for a video art class at Cuesta College that helped him gain admission to UCLA as a transfer student. He began his career as an intern for film producer Andrew Lazar and eventually oversaw the development and production of films for Lazar’s production company for 10 years. 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. After Life completed its run, Shariat and Ravich returned to NBC with the series Crisis in 2014.
Attended Cuesta: 2005-2008
Lauren 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 classes at King City High School.
Attended Cuesta: 1980-1982
After Cuesta College, Rick Mayfield graduated with a degree in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara then served in the Peace Corps in Belize. Back in the states, he secured a teaching job at 9th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. He followed that with three years teaching in Namibia. When he returned to San Luis Obispo, he taught second grade at Pacheco Elementary. After earning a master’s degree at Cal Poly, he returned to Pacheco as principal. Today, he is the Director of Learning and Achievement for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Attended Cuesta: 1994 - 1997
Maria Spaeth is a first generation Mexican-American Latina, born in Sacramento. 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.