Bubbly and Bags in the Vineyard raises funds for Gavilan College Communication Studies programby Jan Janes on Aug 6, 2021
Gavilan College Communication Studies program hosted Bubbly and Bags at Besson Family Vineyards, raising funds for student scholarships and professional seminars.
Communication Studies program chair Denise Besson, who has taught at Gavilan for nearly 25 years, jumped at this first post-pandemic chance to hold a public event in an outdoor setting. She collaborated with Kimberly Benjamin, Senior Financial Aid Specialist, and Esmeralda Owen, Communication Studies instructor, to produce a fund raising event benefitting the program’s students.
The ticket cap of 36 was quickly reached, then doubled, as the community expressed interest in attending. The event included bubbly at a boutique vineyard, donated by Besson Family Vineyards, and a silent auction of 26 new and gently used name-brand handbags.
As arrivals flowed into the winery, Kimberly Benjamin, along with Holly Strother and Connie Phillips, greeted them. Guests received their silent auction bid numbers and instructions. They could also donate directly to the Communication Studies program.
Denise Besson, center, with family friends Veena and Sai Gundavelli (left) and her parents George and Martha Besson (right), welcomed guests as they entered the vineyard. The Besson family has produced wine grapes for area wineries since 1925. Denise Besson recently repositioned the family business to bottle the grapes under the family name, Besson Family Vineyards.
Guests came for the bubbly and to bid on the bags. More than 25 new and gently used name brand, high-fashion handbags were donated to the silent auction. For three hours, bidders sipped, socialized and checked their bid standings on their favorite bags.
The Communication Studies program offers a transfer degree to CSU/UC, an AA, and two certificates. Since she began teaching at Gavilan College, Besson’s quest has been to build the best program in the state. She serves as the faculty representative on the Gavilan College Education Foundation. Funds raised during the event will support students in the program.
Crystal Zamora, second from right, invited friends and family to join her at Bubbly and Bags to celebrate her birthday, saying, “We’re here for the music and the fundraising!”
Local musicians Nolen Ugalde, on guitar, and Stefan Mercer, vocalist, were invited by family friends James Fahey and Denise Besson to perform at the fundraiser, and the connection is all in the family, all in the community.
Ugalde and Mercer attended different area high schools, and they connected through music. They credit now retired music instructor Phillip Robb, the director of the music programs at both Gilroy and Christopher High Schools. “He made it cool, even for athletes, to be involved with music,” said Ugalde.
Both musicians performed in choirs at more than 50 concerts together, touring in Europe. Preparing for the event, they pitched songs to each other, exploring what would impact people. The Bubbly and Bags audience sang along and danced. “Now we know what we are each capable of,” said Mercer.
Communication Studies instructor Kelly Alviso chatted with former student Brendan Koppelmaa. He was one of three graduates from the program to speak to the gathering about his studies. A recent Gavilan College graduate, he will transfer to San Jose State University in the fall. “I know I want to work with people, but haven’t decided on what,” he said. Using his communications degree, possible avenues include business, sports, religion and science.
Bubbly was in ample supply. Communications instructor Veronica Andrade, with friends Jennifer Osterholt, Yesel Von Rudon and Maggie Deleon, chose to add the full complement of Besson wines to the party.
Gavilan alumna Michele Castro shared her journey through the Communication Studies program and the support she received from teachers. “The faculty worked their magic on me,” she said. “Interpersonal communication teaches that conversations within the family are the most challenging. Intercultural communications reminds me of my love exploring different cultures. Public speaking reveals the power of storytelling and bringing light to silenced voices.” A recent graduate of UC Berkeley, Castro will begin studies in the MSW program at California State University Monterey Bay this fall, with a focus on equity and social justice. A third graduate, Jordan Evanger, also spoke about the power of communication studies in her career.
The event brought people together after more than a year of distance and online instruction. From left to right, instructor Kelly Alviso, Vice President of Academic Affairs Denee Pescarmona, new AHSS and STEM Dean Danny Hoey, instructor Donna Cowan, Superintendent/President Kathleen Rose, event host Denise Besson, and event co-producer and instructor Esmeralda Owen.
In the final minutes of the silent auction, guests checked on their favorites and upped their bids. All proceeds from the event benefit the students in the Communication Studies program. Each year the program bestows four $500 scholarships to Communication Studies students. Each spring the program invites a panel of alumni back to campus to talk about career opportunities.
Renee Mercer, pleased with her new designer handbag.
Communication Studies classes still have some openings for Fall 2021. Check out all the classes and register!