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Columnist Olivia Garcia

A few columns back, I wrote about this group of students who spent the dog days of summer under the stubbornly hot sun rehearsing nonstop, practically into the evening hours, at Bakersfield College.

Their sizzling hard work paid off for Golden Empire Drum & Bugle Corps from Bakersfield College as it wrapped up its first year, one that set a record for them and a new bar for next year.

Tim Heasley, director of the Golden Empire Drum & Bugle Corps, said Golden Empire finished a strong competitive season this month with a performance at the So Cal Classic Open Class Championships. There, Golden Empire placed fourth with its highest score of the season and informally ranking eighth nationally in its division, Heasley said.

"This performance capped four consecutive weekends of touring Northern and Southern California, rehearsing the show, and competing with several other amazing drum corps from all over the state," Heasley said. "As a first year corps, we not only performed well competitively, but we successfully navigated the challenge of logistically moving the corps down the road safely and efficiently. Our members were served over 3,840 meals by our amazing volunteers, and our fleet logged over 8,000 combined miles. Everywhere we housed and practiced, we were met with hospitality and received compliments on how well we cared for the facilities while we were there."

Kudos to this group of standup performers.

New character

Today will mark a busy day for many students as they return back to elementary, junior high and high school. A small group of high school students will return with a new line of thinking and focus.

I am referring to the 21 teens who spent their summer preparing and training for the Devil Pups Youth Program of America, a 10-day program that took place in late July and early August at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton.

They joined hundreds of other youth throughout California and Nevada who participated in the program. My son, Diego, was one of the Kern County teens who participated as a Devil Pup. The name is derived from "devil dog," a well-known nickname for Marines, which was once used by enemy troops to describe the Marines they were fighting in World War I, said Dick Taylor, Kern County liaison representation for the local Devil Pups Inc.

Since completion of the program, Diego, a Highland senior, and other local teens have been talking nonstop about the experience with a new outlook on their future and refreshing perspectives on the values of integrity, dedication, teamwork and service to community.

Taylor said retired Marine Corps Col. Trace Deneke, the Devil Pups encampment commander, explained "that graduates learn they can accomplish much more in life than they ever felt possible."

He stated that character, commitment and perseverance are valuable traits the program seeks to instill into those who ultimately graduate from camp, in addition to learning how to overcome one's fear.

Aside from Diego, the other teens were Justin Alejo, Richard Bermudez, Alec Brown, Randlyn Bryant, Doug Buckley, Ricky Canez, Nathaniel Cardenas, Sharri Cazares, Bailey Fierro, Adam Hood, Anthony Hutchison, Samantha Kurczeski, Tristen O'Neal, Mason Parnell, Alyssa Pimental, Louis Rodriguez, Cesar Solis, Samuel Veliz, Chris Witten and Eddie Zazueta.

A special nod goes to teens Buckley and Diego, who were recognized at the graduation ceremony by Col. Christopher Williams, commanding officer at the Marine Corps School of Infantry.

Diego was recognized for graduating in the top 5 percent of his class in high physical fitness test scores. Buckley was honored with the Holland M. Smith Award as the highly coveted Company Honor Pup.

In addition, the Kern County Board of Supervisors recognized the Kern County Devil Pups group this month.

Applications and tryouts for next summer's Devil Pups camp will begin in March 2015. For information about Devil Pups or how to apply, visit devilpups.com or contact devilpupsbakersfield@hotmail.com.

Executive of the year

Congratulations to Jay Tamsi, president/CEO of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He was honored with the Chamber Executive of the Year Award by the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at its recent annual state conference in Orange County.

Tamsi said he was caught off-guard of the nominated award and was already heading off to Disneyland when someone told him that he needed to stay and attend the gala awards ceremony.

He was pleased with the recognition but credited many local business professionals who's he worked with for making him achieve success in the community.

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Bakersfield Californian. Send her tips at ogarcia@bakersfield.com.

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