The virtual event explored a year of student success amid the challenges of the COVID-19 health crisis, while honoring supporters and highlighting the new Cybersecurity program.

SAN MARCOS — The Palomar College Foundation hosted its third annual Community Showcase, entitled “Exploring the Possibilities,” on Wednesday, Jan. 27 in a virtual event that featured a variety of college leaders telling the story of student success in a challenging year.

“No one could have imagined the impact of 2020, and what challenges it would bring to our students, employees, and the region,” Interim Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Kahn said during the presentation. “What happened in our district in 2020 was extraordinary.”

Dr. Kahn praised the Foundation and its supporters in the community “who worked to remove the barriers that so many of our students faced as they pursued their education remotely. On behalf of more than 2,100 Palomar College students and their families who received assistance from the Foundation, thank you. Truly, you all inspire me.”

Stacy Rungaitis, Executive Director of the Foundation, said in kicking off the event that the past year, and its remarkable challenges, has presented unique opportunities to support thousands of students.

“We know that education changes everything, so to be able to be part of the solution for our students to stay in school was beyond humbling,” said Rungaitis. “That’s really what our mission is all about—removing barriers to education for our students.”

She also thanked the Foundation’s supporters—many of whom logged into Zoom for Wednesday’s Report to the Community.

“Just in 2020, the Foundation through our emergency grant program, we gave 50 times the amount we typically give annually—and that’s because we have so much donor support,” she said.

In his address, Dr. Kahn addressed a variety of developments from the past year at Palomar College, including the COVID-19 health crisis; monthly food distributions on campus; a new Military Leadership (MIL) Apprenticeship program at Camp Pendleton; the new Antiracism Framework; the fiscal health of the college; and more.

“Our focus on student success and steadfast approach to protecting the health and safety of our students and employees remains second to none,” said Dr. Kahn. “We responded almost immediately to the call of Governor Newsom and Chancellor Eloy Ortiz to continue to serve the need in our region for educated and well-qualified first responders and health care workers. Our fire and police academies both graduated classes of individuals who will save lives and protect the health and safety of many.”

Also during the event, Pete Rogers, Chair of the Palomar College Foundation Board of Directors, paid tribute to John Masson, the former Foundation board chair and Escondido city council member who died on March 2, 2020 at the age of 55.

“John was a proud graduate of Palomar College, president of Masson Associates, the long-serving chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and the college’s Alumnus of the Year in 2019,” Rogers said.

Later this year, Masson will be honored with the Comet Award, and on Wednesday, Rogers announced a new $10,000 scholarship endowment in Masson’s name.

“John was one of the smartest, most student-centered and community-minded people I’ve ever met. He was so proud of Palomar College—he always said he got his start in life from Palomar, and he never stopped giving back,” said Rungaitis. “For that, we want to pay tribute to him and honor his legacy through this scholarship.”

Individuals who are interested in supporting the endowment can contribute through the Palomar College Foundation President’s Associates.

Foundation board member and Chair-Elect Scotty Lombardi of Hunter Industries also spoke, presenting two student success stories that unfolded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the event closed with a presentation on the college’s new Cybersecurity program by Assistant Professor Dr. David Meske.