Riverside City College student Tiffany Vang won the print industry’s equivalent of the Triple Crown when she won a gold medal in Graphics Communications at the Skills USA competition in Kentucky, completing a sweep of the regional, state and national competitions in that category.
Skills USA is the largest demonstration career annual competition in the nation. Over 300,000 high school and college-level students participate in the regional, state and national competitions each year. Vang’s win in the national competition gave RCC its ninth gold medal in as many years. RCC is the only California school that is PrintED approved. PrintED is a national accredited program, based on industry standards, administered by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF). In all, seven RCC students competed in the national competition — Tyler Tom-Hoon and Mason Rosenquist competed in 3D animation; Javier Ochoa and Scott Turner competed in digital cinema; Don Welton competed in photography; Kristina LoVerso competed in advertising design; and Vang, the only member to medal, in graphics communications.
A single-mother of two, Vang, 41, emigrated from Vietnam six years ago. After her marriage ended, she enrolled in college with the hope of being able to provide for her two young children.
“I could not find a job because of my poor English and my unaccredited degrees from a poor and backward country,” Vang said. “I decided to go back to school in 2013 when my youngest son turned one. I lived in an abusive marriage at that time, so I had huge obstacles to overcome. In 2014 I went to a domestic violence shelter with my children. My ex-husband looked for me at school, so I had to quit classes and almost gave up my schooling.”
Vang credits the support of her instructors for helping her continue attending classes at RCC and eventually transfer to California Baptist University, where she’ll finish her bachelor’s degree online. Her desire is to own her own apparel design and merchandise business.
“I am especially grateful to Joan Rovan. She and her mother gave me daily emotional support so that I could free my mind to focus on my schooling,” Vang said. “And I am deeply grateful to Richard Finner (professor emeritus). He was a good role model and helped me learn the dedication and love of our career. The most important thing he did was to make me trust my own abilities. Patrick Scullin, assistant professor, Applied Digital Media, provided me with so much support through the regional, state and national tournaments.
“No matter how hard I tried, I completely lacked confidence in myself. I felt my English was poor to communicate and understand lectures. I was unsure about my knowledge and kept wondering if it is good enough compared with other students.”
Ultimately, Vang excelled above all others. When they announced her as the national winner, Vang said she felt numb.
“Frankly, I felt unbelievable to win such a big competition,” said Vang, who took home a MacBook Pro, a $300 gift card, and scholarships and grants that covered the cost of her trip to the competition. "I am proud to study at one of the best graphic schools in the nation."