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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Madera campus became the “mouse that roared”

May 20, 2015

Madera Campus Relay for LifeThe newest SJVC campus in Madera may still be in its infancy, but it flexed some serious muscle when 32 students and faculty strapped on their running shoes to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Although most of the event’s 52 teams averaged about 15 members, SJVC’s team grew quickly as word got around that “Team Miss Ragadio” would honor Amanda Ragadio, Medical program instructor and cancer survivor.

“We’re still pretty little, but very close,” says Amanda of the ever-growing campus. She planned to participate in Relay for Life this year with her mom, also a cancer survivor. “This is the first year her and I could do this together, and when I expressed this to our students, they were pretty much on board.”

Amanda had no idea that such a huge wave of support was building to carry her name at this event. Over 80 students and faculty on campus participated in fundraising and supported Team Miss Ragadio on the big day.

The 24-hour Relay was held at the Town and Country Park in Madera from Sat., May 2nd at 9:00 AM to Sun., May 3 at 9:00 AM.

Teams ran and walked the track, while friends, family and supporters cheered them on, visited vendor and service booths and participated in ongoing contests, while DJs played music and threw spotlights across the crowd. SJVC had two booths: One where visitors could have their blood pressure and glucose checked, and another for face painting and raffle sign-up.

It was a great opportunity for students to interact with the community, while introducing visitors to the college. “I really wanted them to get out of the classroom and get that one-on-one patient interaction before externship,” says Amanda. “They were really amped about it.”

SJVC booths also provided brochures and “interest” cards that could be filled out if someone wanted to find out more about the college. “There were a lot of people interested in SJVC programs,” says Amanda.

SJVC students and attendees participated in games such as musical chairs, limbo and visited face-painting and food booths. The DJ called themed relays that included a tutu race, beard race and mustache race with paper beards and fuzzy mustaches available for those who were not naturally equipped.

“There were a lot of people out there having a good ‘ole time,” says Priscilla Valdez, Medical Assisting program student, who jumped into the tutu and beard races. But, the serious side of this event was never far from thought.

“Amanda is one of our teachers,” says Priscilla. “We put our team together to support her and show her we’re here for her.”

It was just before Halloween in 2013 when Amanda’s annual PAP exam indicated abnormalities. Biopsies, oncology visits, subsequent surgeries and chemotherapy left her without a right ovary, but cancer free. Check-ups every two months keep her on track to good health.

Few families have not been touched by some form of cancer. Medical Office Administration student Eric Castillo shared that his best friend, Heather, lost her sister, Jennifer almost two years ago. He bought a luminary bag with Jennifer’s name on it that was placed with other candle-lit bags around the track that night to memorialize others who had lost their lives to cancer.

“It was a good way to honor her memory, and Heather was really happy about that,” says Eric. “We lit them all up, and they were really pretty.”

From the opening ceremony until the last lap was run, it was both spirited and touching to all in attendance; none more so than Amanda Ragadio.

“For me it started out really well,” she says. “The opening ceremony, the first lap, my first event; it all acknowledged everything I did go through and others had gone through. But, seeing everyone with shirts with my name on it was really an emotional time for me.”

It would seem that this little campus in Madera has a big, strong heart.