Meet the 2024 CLASS McPhee Scholar: Justin Cody Verduzco

June 28, 2024


The College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences is pleased to announce the 2024 Julian A. McPhee Honor Award recipient and valedictorian, Justin Cody Verduzco. The first in his family to attend college, Justin Verduzco began his academic journey at Chaffey College where he earned two associate degrees. Upon transferring to Cal Poly Pomona, Justin adopted the “Learn by Doing” philosophy which led him into several opportunities including an internship with former State Senator, Connie M. Leyva. During this internship, Justin gained insight into constituent engagement, the state legislative process, and creative writing.  These experiences landed Justin a position with KVCR Public Media. Justin graduated with his bachelor's degree in political science with a 4.0 GPA. 

Learn more about Justin’s reflection on his CPP journey below!

Briefly describe journey to CPP:

What is interesting is that I was never expected to go to college. As mentioned before, I am the first in my immediate family to pursue higher education. My parents and my sister found great success without a college degree, and the same was expected of me. When I entered high school, my parents said there was no pressure to be an all-star student. It was about getting the diploma and moving into the workforce. The funny thing is, not having the pressure to meet anyone’s expectations in my studies gave me the motivation to apply my own pressure. I set the standard that I needed to do well in school. On my first day as a freshman in high school, I said I would get straight A’s all four years, and I did just that!

I remember my counselor asking multiple times my senior year why I was not going to college. He even set up a mandatory meeting with my parents, and from there, the idea of college sparked for me. I went to Chaffey College to see if this journey was meant for me. I was fortunate to have a positive experience and again achieved a cumulative 4.0 GPA by applying my own pressure. I then transferred to CPP with the mindset of completing the second half of my college journey with a 4.0, and I did just that!

Life can certainly take you in unexpected directions. I could not be happier at this moment that my 'yes' and my parents' 'yes' allowed me to be here at the finish line. Not to mention, as a Valedictorian!

Why did you choose to attend CPP?

I wanted to be a CPP Bronco the moment I fell in love with the college experience at Chaffey. I did my research and found that CPP was the only school that truly followed a hands-on approach to your major. The model of 'Learn by Doing' sparked my interest. I saw that in the Political Science program, a Senior Thesis was required to graduate, and that drew me in. The opportunity to take part in a comprehensive project that encapsulates your four or more years of studying and learning made me want to be a Bronco.

Which instructor influenced you the most and how so?

It is difficult to narrow it down to just one instructor because I have had four great instructors who have made my college experience even more enriching. However, if I had to choose just one, I would say Dr. Cuellar from the Political Science department had an incredible influence on my time at CPP. He is someone like me, a Latino who made it. He made sure that when he taught his lectures on Latino Politics, he affirmed that his lived experience as a Latino presented challenges to get to where he is today. His testimony inspires me to this day because, despite difficult circumstances, he stands today with a PhD and as a tenured professor. It inspires me deeply! During conversations, we would talk about being Latino and what that meant. He said that with success comes the responsibility of inspiring and giving back to those who were not able to be in our position. That means living life not only for ourselves, but for others. There is a great quote that I live by, which goes, 'This life cannot just be for me.'

What advice do you have for your peers graduating?

The biggest piece of advice that I can give to my fellow peers is to find an internship if you are having trouble finding work that aligns with what you studied. When you intern in your field, you can showcase your contributions and knowledge to the team. With hard work, that internship could lead to an opportunity there or another avenue. At the same time, make each moment count because you never know who is watching. That was the case for me. I interned for California State Senator Connie M. Leyva during my time as a CPP student. I showcased not only my skills and knowledge in politics but also my love for public service. It made a lasting impression that led to me working with her in a different capacity. She now serves as the Executive Director of KVCR Public Media. She recruited me back in December 2023 after I completed my degree requirements. She told me how approachable and hardworking I was back in the Senate, which made a great impression on her and her staff. I never knew she was observing all the little details of my work, but I am grateful that she and her team were, because now I am beginning my career path at KVCR.

What are your plans after CPP?

I see myself advancing in my career at KVCR Public Media. I would like to do social media full-time in a way that not only caters to what is happening with our station, but to also do on the field reporting of local stories in the Inland Empire. There is so much good that is happening in the Inland Empire and we do a great job at that! I hope to have a position that is catered toward finding what is happening in our communities and reporting that for our TV and Radio viewers and further the mission of KVCR.