During Merced College’s Commencement ceremonies on May 23-24, we’ll celebrate hundreds of graduates who are joining the Blue Devil alumni family. In this article, we spotlight a special group: graduates who are children of Merced College faculty and classified professionals.

Today we feature five of these graduates, exploring how their unique connections to the college have shaped their educational journeys. We’ll share even more of these new “family within a family” members on our social media channels in the coming days.

Congratulations, Blue Devils!

Maclain Oh
Fire Academy, AS Plant Science

While attending the Merced College fire academy, Maclain Oh spent three four-hour weeknights and eight hours every Saturday doing coursework and physical training while working full time at Maas Energy Works.

“I had no days to sleep in,” said Oh, who also earned his structure, hazmat and wildland certifications this semester.

For Oh, one of four academy class captains, it felt like a months-long sprint wearing 90 pounds of fire-fighting gear.

“There has been a big learning curve, but I got into it quickly,” said Oh, crediting Chief Donald Roe for his help. “I feel great knowing I can help the public. Yeah, I love all of it.”

Oh, who moonlights playing guitar for locals 21 Nights and the Rob Tracey Band, chose firefighting over agriculture because he craved more physical exertion and competition. In that way, he is so like his father Nick Oh, who passed away in June.

“My dad was so competitive,” Oh said. “It’s sad that I don’t get to tell him what’s going on, but thinking of him is still a great motivator. I don’t know if he’s up there or something, if he knows what I’m doing. I hope so.”

Oh’s two sisters also graduated from Merced College. Having their mother, ag business Professor Kim Donaher-Oh, nearby was a great perk.

“I didn’t stress because Mom knows how it works,” Oh said. “I am proud to be part of the Merced College family. Once I finish, I’ll feel it even more.”

Alexander Albano
AA-T History

After Merced College graduation, Alex Albano will travel the unknown to Army National Guard basic training in Missouri in July.

“I have wanted to leave Merced and experience things outside of here,” said Albano, who will train as a military police officer. “But I didn’t want to scare my mom. I didn’t want to worry her. Our compromise was for me to get a degree before joining the military.”

It’s a unique path for the son of Merced College Deans Valerie and John Albano. The 20-year-old has been a fixture on campus since he was in diapers.

“Merced College was an easy sell, but I wasn’t sure how I’d experience it as a student,” Albano said. “It wasn’t like high school where people race home afterwards. But I’ve met smart people who were serious about education. And it has been awesome knowing professors without meeting them through my parents.”

Albano gives shout-outs to English Professor Kathleen Diaz, for teaching him formal writing and speaking, and Political Science Professor Dean Caivano, for his quality.

“Professor Caivano might be the best teacher I’ve ever had,” Albano said. “What was cool was seeing him get all the facts in and remain completely unbiased on a topic. I respected that.”

Albano will leave home feeling grateful.

“I’m proud to join the Merced College family,” Albano said. “I’m happy I stuck it out for two years. I met a bunch of cool people. Now I’m moving on to the next thing.”

Cole Martin
AA-T English (Honors)

As a Merced College student ambassador, Cole Martin gives campus tours and sells the college’s mission.

Here’s his elevator speech to prospective students: “We have so much to offer. We have blue-collar pathways to actual careers and the building blocks for your academics. We can be extremely helpful in getting you to any university you want to attend. Everything is streamlined for you. I believe in it. I really do.”

Martin, whose mother is Director of Admissions and Records Jeanette Martin, has been using his talents for the cause since he started lifeguarding and teaching swimming and diving with College for Kids at the Bob Pollitt Aquatic Center in 2021.

Martin is also a competitive powerlifter. He placed fifth at the recent International Powerlifting World Championships. “Yeah, it’s something I’ll do until I’m broken,” he said.

He landed at the college originally because his first try at UC Merced didn’t go well.

“People at the UC are mostly from somewhere else,” Martin said. “You can go to Merced College with people you know. Since my mom is also there, I had motivation and the information I needed to do well.”

Martin, 20, is now back at UC Merced studying Literatures in English, while also finishing up his final Merced College classes for an AS-T in Mathematics. He’s going to enlist in the U.S. Air Force after he finishes his BA next year.

Next up is walking across a stage.

“I’m looking forward to celebrating a milestone,” Martin said. “I’m going into my senior year (at UC Merced) and feeling a little burnt out. I’m hoping graduation will reignite the flame.”

Alma Renteria
AS-T Biology, AS-T Chemistry

Alma Renteria will already know campus when she transfers to UC Santa Barbara to study biochemistry this fall.

The transfer will complete an about-face for Renteria, who nearly finished an Italian Studies degree at UCSB several years ago. But, at that time, she realized something was off when people would ask, “Italian studies? Oh, you’re Italian?”

They’d question the young Latina. She’d question herself.

Renteria, 24, found new inspiration watching her paternal twin aunts and maternal grandmother. All three are dedicated, caring RNs at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. Renteria started wanting a career in health care.

Father Enrique Renteria, the Puente Program counselor at Merced College, and mother Alma encouraged their eldest daughter to reset and complete her science prerequisites back home.

“My parents reassured me that losing time should be the least of my worries,” Renteria said. “They reminded me that learning is never a waste of time.”

Renteria is hyper-focused on completing her bachelor’s degree since UCSB enthusiastically welcomed her back.

“I feel like I have been chasing that one forever,” she said. “But I’ll be happy with my next path. I will run towards it.”

Merced College was a soft place to land.

“Everyone around me was graduating and I was like, ‘What am I doing?!’” Renteria said. “No one at the college judged me. My brother graduated from there. My sister and dad were there. I felt safe. It was an oasis I could run to while I got my life back on track.”

Viviana Renteria
AA-T History (MC), AA Liberal Arts (FCC), High School diploma

Alma’s sister, Viviana Renteria, is transferring to UC Irvine to pursue a BA in Chicano-Latino Studies and follow her father into community college counseling. Or she could become a university ethnic studies professor. Or maybe she’ll teach elementary school.

“It’ll be something in education,” she said.

Don’t fret about this 18-year-old dreaming multiple dreams. She is an ace multitasker. She has been excelling in dual enrollment as a student at Design Science High School in Fresno, at Fresno City College and at Merced College since 2020.

Yes, the DSHS valedictorian has three cap-and-gown sets ready for her graduations from Design Science on May 21, Fresno City on May 22 and Merced College on May 24.

Renteria is passionate about education thanks to her father Enrique Sr., a Merced College counselor, and her mother Alma, a “committed, super energetic, very caring” transitional kindergarten teacher.

Her sister is another role model, as is her brother Enrique Jr. He did dual enrollment, studied at Merced College and will graduate with a BA in Chicanx-Latinx Studies from UC Berkeley this month.

Even though Renteria spent a lot of time in Fresno—Design Science is on the FCC campus—she often visited Merced College for tutoring and studying in the library.

“I felt very connected to all of it,” Renteria said. “Merced College isn’t just for getting an education. It’s a place for family.”