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no greater odds


No Greater Odds Extended Trailer

No Greater Odds is a powerful documentary that follows the inspirational stories of five community college students at the College of Southern Nevada. Barbara, Carlos, Jaklin, Monique and Tyrone each struggle with complicated family issues, financial difficulties and other personal obstacles as they seek to better their lives and futures through higher education.

Each of their stories is unique – and yet, theirs are the stories of millions of students who enroll in community colleges around the nation every year. There, they too can find strength, support – and ultimately, success– as a result of the care and concern of the faculty, staff and administration at their institution.

Told from the perspective of the students, their families, and the faculty, staff and administrators who guided and inspired them along the way, this documentary underscores the important relationship between a college and its community. For learners and leaders alike, it is a reminder of how important community college is in the context of higher education.

No Greater Odds challenges misconceptions, ignites passion for higher education and inspires audiences to understand how community colleges lead the way with passion, purpose and a charge to educate future generations of our nation. By sharing these stories of struggle and triumph, college students will understand that the way their story ends depends on how it begins – because for them, there are No Greater Odds.


According to Lumina Foundation, 60% of jobs will require some kind of degree or certificate by the year 2025. Of those 8 million students, community colleges will be expected to educate 5 million of them. Now, more than ever, it is up to community colleges to share their story.

No Greater Odds is changing both the position and perception of the community college, shedding light on the incredible impact that their people and programs have on their students.

This film – shared in colleges, at conferences and film festivals, and with community and political leaders – is changing the landscape of higher education in a time when the nation is looking to the future of affordable and accessible higher education for college students.

No Greater Odds is more than a documentary. It is a catalyst for change…for our nation, for ourselves, and for our students.


The idea to create No Greater Odds was the result of an adjunct faculty conference held at the College of Southern Nevada that highlighted how faculty and staff had directly impacted the lives of students at the college. The keynote presentation for the conference consisted of a panel of five community college students. The amazing student stories that emerged during that conference were so powerful that the conference keynote presentation organizers, James McCoy and Charlene Gibson, decided that this was a story that needed to be told to a broader audience—a worldwide audience. By bringing in students and faculty from across their community college, the creation of No Greater Odds became a college-wide labor of love. The entire production was completed by current and past film students from the College of Southern Nevada as well as faculty and staff from the college. No Greater Odds was created to highlight what community colleges are, who they serve and the impact that they have on millions of people across the nation.

No Greater Odds Film & Discussion Portfolio

Film - Behind the Scenes


Learn more about screenings, the students and making of No Greater Odds here as you go behind the scenes of this groundbreaking documentary.


Join us for one of our upcoming screenings as we travel the country sharing the story of No Greater Odds. We will be appearing at film festivals and conferences around the nation and invite you to become part of the No Greater Odds family. Please Contact Us to inquire about scheduling a screening or speaking opportunity near you.

Republican National Convention – Cuyahoga Community College
July 20th, 11:30 a.m. – Cleveland, OH

Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring Executive Director of Achieves Krissy DeAlejandro, Rural Community College Alliance President Randy Smith, Jaklin Guyumjyan, a CSN alumna featured in “No Greater Odds,” and CSN Communications & Government Affairs Director Michael Flores. Special thanks to Innovative Educators for their sponsorship, and Civic Nation and College Promise for coordinating this event.

Democratic National Convention – Community College of Philadelphia
July 25th, 2 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA

Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring American Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Richter, White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer, President Donald Generals, Community College of Philadelphia, Monique Makhlouf, a CSN alumna featured in “No Greater Odds,” and CSN Communications & Government Affairs Director Michael Flores. Special thanks to Innovative Educators for their sponsorship, and Civic Nation and College Promise for coordinating this event.


Picture of Barbara Ayarza

Barbara Ayarza has lived a life filled with challenges. From failed marriages, to health concerns, to being a single mother of six children, she felt like she never deserved a chance at education. After being accepted at the College of Southern Nevada, yet another challenge emerges that makes her realize that she won’t be able to go to college after all – but she attends the orientation day anyway, knowing that she can’t stay but wanting just for one day to have felt like a college student. Who she ends up meeting on that day ultimately changes her college journey – and her life.

Picture of Barbara Ayarza

Carlos Holguin faces family hardships that culminate with the realization that a semester before graduation, he is pursuing a degree that doesn’t align with his passion, which is music. With the encouragement of an instructor, he decides to change his path right before graduation. When an unfortunate turn of events leave his future career hanging in the balance, the help that comes from unexpected sources ensures Carlos can still make his dreams come true.

Picture of Barbara Ayarza

Jaklin Guyumjyan had one birthday wish as a child – to move to the United States from Armenia with her family to have a better life. They arrive to the United States full of hope on September 10th, 2001. What happens the next morning not only changes the course of her family, but also that of the entire nation around her – leaving her to struggle to find both her place and her future with a family whose culture is very different from everyone else around her.


Monique Makhlouf began working at the age of fifteen after her mother broke her back while on the way to see Monique in her first play. Working multiple jobs to try to take care of her mother and save enough for school, she struggles to make ends meet. Foreclosure, family health issues, and missed school all threaten to derail Monique’s future after graduation…until a conversation – and a visit from faculty and administration at her job – ultimately change the direction of her life.


Tyrone Foster, a sexual assault victim also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II, walked out of a college classroom one day and never looked back – breaking a promise to his mother that he would be the first in his family to graduate from college. Twelve years later, he decided to go back to school to become a victim advocate and motivational speaker. While facing the challenges of working full-time and battling a mental disorder, his life would be changed – by six words written on a piece of paper.


Picture of Barbara Ayarza

John C. Aliano is the Producer and one of the Cinematographers for the documentary No Greater Odds.  He is an experienced filmmaker, instructor and Program Director for the College of Southern Nevada’s Videography & Film Program.  He is the founder and producer of the annual CSN Short Film Showcase, a compilation of the highest quality CSN student films in a competitive festival.  His students have won numerous awards, including five Student Production Emmy Awards in 2015.  John has been nominated twice for Emmy Awards and won an Emmy Award for Location Lighting.  In 2014, he was honored with the Faculty of the Year award at CSN.

Patrick Wirtz

With a background in academia, urban planning, and photography, director Patrick Wirtz entered filmmaking four years ago at the College of Southern Nevada. While working in production on studio films, television commercials, and a feature documentary, Patrick has directed several short films and has produced for other rising directors many shorts which are currently screening at film festivals around the country.No Greater Odds is his first major project as director.  He is grateful for this experience to use the filmmaker’s craft to tell an important story of equal access to education and the opportunities it inspires in individuals.

Picture of Barbara AyarzaJames R. McCoy is the Co-Creator and Executive Producer of the acclaimed documentary No Greater Odds and currently serves as the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at the College of Southern Nevada.  Since joining the institution in 2003, he has served as the Associate Vice President for Academic Success, as Chair and Lead Faculty for the Department of Communication, and is a tenured Communication Professor.  James has also taught at several community colleges in California where he taught several different communication courses. Prior to working in academia, he worked in radio broadcasting as a radio morning show host and radio station program director. A highly sought after keynote speaker and presenter, James often talks about the important work that community colleges do in the United States. James is excited to share No Greater Odds with the world!

Charlene S. Gibson is Co-Creator and Associate Producer of No Greater Odds. She currently works as an instructor in the Department of Communication and serves as Faculty Leader for Achieving the Dream at the College of Southern Nevada. Known as an incredibly passionate, dynamic, and engaging instructor, Charlene challenges her students – known as #TeamGibson – to find their passion and reach their fullest potential through excellent public speaking that opens doors and changes lives. Charlene also shares her passions for public speaking and excellent teaching as a motivational speaker and trainer. Frequently asked to speak to students and train faculty and corporate clients, her inspirational specialties include the art of creating community in the classroom, fostering student engagement and success, creative teaching methods, customer service, relationship building, and of course, No Greater Odds. Additionally, Charlene loves sharing her stories of teaching and working overseas in Japan, Germany and the Netherlands while traveling all over Asia and Europe, which she did for eight years before joining the College of Southern Nevada.


Join us for one of our upcoming screenings as we travel the country sharing the story of No Greater Odds. We will be appearing at film festivals and conferences around the nation and invite you to become part of the No Greater Odds family.  Please Contact Us to inquire about scheduling a screening or speaking opportunity near you.


College Board–Accuplacer & CLEP Conference June 22, 2016 @ 4:45pm – Las Vegas, NV
Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring the cast and the producers
Special thanks to The College Board for sponsoring this screening and panel discussion.

The League Learning Summit June 12th @ 4:00pm – Paradise Valley, AZ
Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring the cast and the producers
Special thanks to The League for Innovation for being the exclusive sponsor for this screening and panel discussion.

Capitol Hill Tour June 8, 2016 – Library of Congress – Washington D.C.
Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring the whole cast, the director and the producers. Special thanks to Ellucian for sponsoring the film and Innovative Educators for sponsoring lodging for the Capitol Hill Tour and to Achieving the Dream for coordinating this screening.

Big Bend Community College June 3, 2016 – Moses Lake, WA
Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring selected cast and the producers

Achieving the Dream Conference: February 23-26, 2016 in Atlanta, GA
Screening sponsored in part by Ellucian

League for Innovation Conference:  March 20-23, 2016 in Chicago, IL

NISOD May 30, 2016 @ 1:30pm – Hilton Austin, TX
Screening of the film and panel discussion featuring the cast and the producers
Special thanks to Innovative Educators for being the exclusive sponsor for this screening and to NISOD for coordinating the event.



Library of Congress Screening – Las Vegas Review-Journal (6/7/16)

White House
Library of Congress Screening – College of Southern Nevada (6/7/16)

College Transition Publishing
No Greater Odds Webinar – College Transition Publishing (5/19/16)

League Learning Summit Logo
League Summit Screening – PRWeb (5/6/16)

Documentary Stirs Nation – Coyote Student News (11/2/15)

NGO Cast
Non-Traditional Student Struggles – Las Vegas Review-Journal (10/17/15)

DRI Logo
No Greater Odds Screening – Desert Research Institute (10/1/15)

No Greater Odds Podcast – KNPR (8/26/15)

No Greater Odds welcomes media inquiries. We provide screening and speaking opportunities for schools, conferences and more with the creators and students featured in our documentary. For more information, contact us here.

For a Media Press Kit, the No Greater Odds trailer, or to download a poster or logos, click here.

To book media interviews, screenings or speaking engagements, Contact Us.

To find out about upcoming screenings in your area, visit our film page below the cast and creator bios.

To stay updated on the latest No Greater Odds news, view or sign up for our newsletter here.


Whether you are a student, faculty, staff, administrator or community leader, there is a way for you to get involved in your local community college. Discover the resources for learning, leading or partnering with the No Greater Odds network here.




  • Set a goal to raise completion rates at your college, form a working group, and rally college stakeholders to support completion and make changes when needed using these resources.
  • Offer an internship or scholarship program through a community college to help students complete their education. Find your local community college here.
  • Contact your local community college and ask about their work to raise completion rates.
  • Let your community college know about the knowledge and skills needed for your workforce and partner with them to create new programs and certifications.
  • Volunteer to serve on an advisory committee, or talk to the press about the challenges businesses face in locating trained workers.


  • Contact Us to learn more about ways to contribute to the No Greater Odds movement through scholarships, endowments and sponsorships.

The No Greater Odds family would like to thank the following individuals, organizations and foundations for their generous contributions to our film and national tour:

csn-logo-largeellucian_blendLeague Logo
Achieving the DreamInnovative Educatorslogo_rebuild

Become a No Greater Odds partner and Contact Us to:

  • Sponsor a Screening
  • Develop a Corporate Partnership
  • Develop a Non-Profit Partnership