Honored Alumni Awards 2022 and 2023
Evan Norton, Psy.D.
Attended Cuesta: 2009 - 2012
Dr. Evan Norton is a licensed clinical forensic psychologist practicing in Texas. He is the Senior Director of Integrated Treatment and Intervention for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. He oversees mental health and case management services for over 700 youth in the state justice system. Dr. Norton is recognized as an expert in violent offending, risk assessment, and trauma-informed treatment programming. He has presented nationally and internationally on topics such as psychopathy and psychometrics. Dr. Norton graduated from Cuesta College in 2012 as a decorated swimmer and water polo player. He received his bachelor’s degree from Concordia University, Irvine, and completed a master’s and doctoral degree in Clinical-Forensic Psychology at Alliant International University, San Diego.
Mark Adam Watkins ’91
Attended Cuesta: 1989 - 1991
Mark Adam Watkins started in the Cuesta College music program in 1989, performing as a pianist with the Vocal and Instrumental Jazz ensemble. He earned a Piano Performance degree from Cal State University Long Beach and was selected as one of five international composers to study at the Henry Mancini Institute’s inaugural year. Mark’s career as a composer has spanned many genres, including film, television, and musical theatre. He has worked with renowned pop singers, such as Beyoncé, Lou Rawls, Al Jarreau, Debby Harry, Lisa Loeb, Brian Setzer, Jack Sheldon, Bernadette Peters, Rachel York, and chamber groups like the Quadre horn quartet in San Francisco. Mark has also composed for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach for 11 seasons. He credits his mentors at Cuesta College for inspiring him to pursue a music career.
Caren Ray Russom
Attended Cuesta: 1986-1988
Caren Ray Russom is a Central Coast resident and a dedicated public servant. She graduated from Arroyo Grande High School and continued her education at Cuesta College, where she excelled in water polo and earned All-American honors for swimming. Caren later obtained a bachelor’s degree in History from UCLA and a master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from Cal Poly. She has over 20 years of experience in education and has been active in public service since 2005, serving as a Planning Commissioner for Arroyo Grande, City Council member, County Supervisor, and Mayor. She credits Cuesta College for providing her with the tools and opportunities necessary for her professional success and service in the public eye.
Karl Wittstrom is the co-owner and operations manager of Margarita Vineyard and Ancient Peaks Winery and the proprietor of a 37-acre vineyard in Paso Robles. He played on the Men’s Basketball team while attending Cuesta College from 1970-1975. His twin daughters Amanda and Heidi also played basketball at Cuesta and are proud alums. With his extensive experience and leadership in the agricultural industry, Karl inspires current and future Cuesta College students. He is actively involved in various agricultural organizations, including serving as a former director of the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, a California Cattlemen’s Association member, and a member of the California Farm Bureau.
Attended Cuesta: 1990 - 1992
Following his journey through significant health obstacles during his senior year
of high school, Rob's path led him to Cuesta College. Rob claims he did not know people
moved away to attend community college. When he discovered Cuesta College and San
Luis Obispo, he saw an opportunity to get the college experience he thought he had
lost due to health issues. Rob says that living in San Luis Obispo, with access to
hiking trails, beaches, and other outdoor activities, made it possible to recover
more swiftly and stay healthy. He didn't just enjoy living in San Luis Obispo for
the outdoors; he loved the experience Cuesta offered. Majoring in Administrative Justice,
Rob earned his associate degree and began working for Capistrano Unified School District
as a job developer and coach for students with disabilities. After receiving his bachelor's
degree from Cal State Fullerton followed by his intern credential he was hired as
an Educational Specialist at Dana Hills High School. In addition to his work as an
educator Rob is an active member of service groups and nonprofits focusing on creating
inclusive experiences for students with special needs. A proud alumnus, Rob has a
Cuesta banner hanging in his office at Dana Hills High School to represent Cuesta's
impact on his educational trajectory.
Attended Cuesta: 2004 - 2012
Nestor received two degrees while at Cuesta College. The first, an AA in General Studies followed by an AA in Transfer Studies. He then attended and worked at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Comparative Ethnic Studies in 2011, then with honors with a Masters of Public Policy in 2016. Nestor also holds a master's in legal studies from the University of Arizona. His area of expertise is in policy development and implementation, emphasizing intersectional policy and social justice. His interests are based on his diverse personal background. His own deep-rooted cultural experiences and affinity to learn from other cultures and know their languages have granted him a tremendous worldwide lens for inclusion, respect, and change. Nestor continues to work on increasing inclusion and enhancing welcoming and diverse settings while seeking to create consensus and decision-making on strategies that comfort and support disenfranchised communities while striving to instill justice.