Position: Manager, Southwest Santa Rosa Center
B.S. Physical Education from Sacramento State University
M.A. Counseling Psychology from University of San Francisco
1. How did you decide to attend your college/university?
In high school, I was heavily involved in the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program. This program provided a strong foundation to pursue majors in engineering or science. Thanks to MESA, I declared my major as an electrical engineer. Sacramento State has one of the best engineering programs in the region, so I decided to attend this college with the intent to obtain an engineering degree.
2. How did you afford college/university?
In my experience this was very challenging. I was undocumented when I was admitted to Sacramento State in the mid-1990s. I did not qualify for any federal or state financial aid. My parents did not have the financial stability to help me with my education, but they did assist me with whatever they were able to afford. The parents, of who I consider my best friend, were kind enough to help me financially throughout my undergraduate degree. When I was a sophomore in college, I was awarded an athletic scholarship for my impressive performances in cross country. Halfway through my junior year, I became a U.S. Permanent Resident, and I was able to qualify for federal and state financial aid grants. Between the grants I was awarded, and the aforementioned help I received from my parents, my best friend parents and athletic scholarship, I was able to pay for all my educational expenses for my undergraduate degree.
For my graduate degree, I took out student loans to pay for the entire cost. By this time, I had already been working at SRJC for 11 years. I was able to sustain additional costs such as personal necessities, transportation and books.
3. What was unique about the college/university you attended?
One major factor that was unique about Sacramento State was getting admitted with my undocumented status. All the colleges that had expressed interest in recruiting me expressed no more interest once they figured out I was undocumented. Besides this roadblock, another unique part about Sacramento State was all the programs available for first generation college students. I was involved in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), Science Enrichment Equity (SEE) Program, Mathematics Engineering Program (MEP) and the Human Performance Lab. All these programs allowed me to find my identity as a college student, and they provided a pathway for my academic success. As I reflect back to this moment in my life, I was fortunate to attend Sacramento State because I became a very successful student-athlete with the help of all of these programs.
4. Did you have any experiences transferring?
No, I do not have any experience transferring. However, in order to maintain my athletic eligibility with NCAA Division I rules and regulations, I had to take summer school classes. In such instances, I returned home and took classes here at Santa Rosa Junior College, and I spent one summer in South Lake Tahoe enrolled at South Lake Tahoe Community College. My only experience was transferring my units back to Sacramento State from these community colleges to stay eligible to compete.
5. What kinds of jobs did you get after graduation?
Being a first college generation graduate from a low socioeconomic family, I did not have the luxury to explore my true calling for sports medicine/physical therapy. I started to apply for different positions, and eventually I ended up working as a Health Educator for some of the local community health centers in the region and the Public Health Department with the County of Sonoma.
Two years after I graduated from Sacramento State, I was hired as a Financial Aid Technician here at SRJC. It was this position that cemented my desire to pursue a career in education. My dreams of working in the medical field became secondary at this time.
6. How did you discover you current position?
This is a great question. I started in health services, where I developed many skills that allowed to understand the demographics of our county, which then enabled me to understand them regionally, across the state and nation. Moreover, the seven years I spent in financial aid aided me to gain a keen understanding on the inequities in our community. From these experiences, I discovered I had a skill set to coordinate, implement, develop and manage educational programs. When the opportunity came, I applied for a specialist position, this position was reclassified to a coordinator’s position and finally converted into a management position. In essence, I did not discover this position. The position kept evolving with my increased responsibility with the college.
7. What do you love about your field?
This comes in two segments. The first one was my desire to educate youth about the benefits of being a student-athlete. This was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue a career in education. While in high school, I noticed there was many athletes from underserved communities competing at state championships. When I started competing in college, I did not witness the same participation. It was during my junior year in college that I developed a strong desire to educate student-athletes from underprivileged communities about the benefits of education.
The second part came when I started working here at SRJC. I was asked to do outreach to a wider audience besides student athletes. It was from this experience that I developed a sense of helping adult English language learners. Today, what I love about education is the joy of seeing students succeed and becoming good citizens in our communities.
8. Do you have any tips for transfer-bound students?
Learn the requirements to transfer to the school of your dreams. Apply yourself to your studies. Participate in extracurricular activities. Network. Attend conferences. Visit the college you would like to attend. All of these tips will help you have an easier time transferring, applying for scholarships and developing processional relationships that are vitally important after graduation.