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Scholarship Recipients

Below are recipients of CHISPA scholarships, along with their stories. Not only are their stories inspiring, but their desire to give back to the community is also heartwarming.

2018 Recipients

Melody Sanchez (Hartnell) 
Major Area of Study: Computer Engineering, Robotics

Summer research while I have been in school has given me an opportunity to clarify my career goals. Prior to research experience, I wished to combine my love of Star Trek with science. I considered a career as an astrophysicist because I admire the ability to use logic and theory to make sense of the celestial.

However, one of my internship advisers urged me to consider engineering as a major. She noted that, as an extrovert, I might prefer hands-on research.

Initially, I felt heartbroken to add more time to my transfer date. My heart mended when I began tinkering!

I’m interested in working with human-computer vision, 3D mapping, smart textiles, and biofeedback. I plan to transfer to San Jose State in Spring to major in Computer Engineering.

I aspire to have a career developing devices both for consumers and for research.

I would like to focus on developing beautiful products that serve as a solution to problems, and I aim to expand my artistic and social views with my work.

I have executed a handful of robotics projects outside of school. I develop projects all year ’round, because I feel that it is important to develop an intuition with my work. By producing more projects, I have been able to reaffirm what it is that I was to do with my life: that is to be an inventor of the future.

One of my future projects will be to make a wearable that will act as a line of defense by incorporating into a jacket smart textiles, computer vision, self-actuated material, and biofeedback. Society of Women Engineers – SWEHartnell MESA Program San Jose State University

See Melody’s speech at the CHISPA Annual Celebration event on January 31st, 2019 here.

 

Moises Gomez (Hartnell) 
Major Area of Study: Agribusiness and Communication
CHISPA Property: Fontes Lane

My father never believed in furthering his education. Not because he didn’t think it was important, but rather because he believed that putting food on the table was more important. My father wasn’t sent to schools as a child. He emigrated from Mexico in the late 1980’s and worked in the fields here in Monterey County.

My father developed lymphoma in 2000. He is on disability, which is not enough income to sustain a family. My mother took it upon herself to get a GED certificate in order to get a job that required less manual labor. She was my inspiration that, regardless of your financial struggles, school is possible.

My father took me to the fields when I was young, regardless of the day of the week or climate conditions. Over time, I gained interest in the agricultural field, but decided I was unwilling to work as a modern-day slave, with no benefits, no overtime, and no time off.

After high school, I worked two full-time jobs for two years, and I then decided to go to college to escape a life spent at minimum wage.

Currently, I work full-time as a Merchandiser Supervisor for Coca-Cola, and I go to Hartnell College full-time as well.

I know I need a college education to help myself and my family, and the people around me. Agribusiness is my career objective.

My scholarship will allow me to reduce my work hours and to focus on school, while helping my family with bills.

 

Joel Rosas (CSUMB) 
Major Area of Study: Japanese Language and Culture

I want to thank you for making the CHISPA Scholarship possible.  I will be a first year student at CSUMB this coming fall, majoring in Japanese Language and Culture.

My parents came to the United States from Mexico for a better future, but this has been easier said than done.  My family has little money, and, as a first-generation student, my family could not advise me about the education system.

In order to help support my family, I worked in the fields whenever I had a school break as well as throughout the summer.  Field labor is very strenuous.  Working ten hours a day for minimum wage was not what I would call the ideal first job.  But, it did teach me the value of money and what it takes to support others with what you earn.

Thanks to this scholarship, I will be able to stress less about financial problems that affect my family and focus on my education.

With leadership experience from my high school clubs and determination learned by working in harsh conditions, I will use the CHISPA scholarship to help me become successful in my four years of college.

My family and I appreciate your help.

 

Maricella Gomez (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study: Agribusiness
CHISPA Property: Fontes Lane

When I received the email from CSUMB that I had been awarded the CHISPA scholarship I was ecstatic and honored.  Thank you for making this scholarship possible!

I am a senior at CUSMB majoring in agribusiness, with an expected graduation in Spring 2019.

I am a member of the Agribusiness Club, advised by Dr. Fausti.  Through the club, I am exposed to career and educational opportunities in the agriculture industry.

I am currently working for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and I hope to pursue an MBA after several years of work experience.

Last year, I took a course called Ethics in Action. I did service learning at the Central Coast Citizenship Project, where I provided immigration, naturalization, literacy, English language and new voter education, integrated with leadership in social justice campaigns.  I appreciated being able to help my community directly.

My family and I have struggled financially our whole lives, due to my father’s health problems, but the CHISPA scholarship makes it possible for me to concentrate more fully on my courses.  Again, thank you for your support of my education and career goals.

 

Norvella Gomez (Hartnell)
Major Area of Study: Agribusiness and Communication, with a minor in Animal Science
CHISPA Property: Villa Santa Clara

Story coming soon.

 

 

 

Jorge Diaz Sanchez (Hartnell)
Major Area of Study: Nursing
CHISPA Property: Mountain View Townhomes

Story coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Antonio de Jesus Gonzales Fuentes (San Jose State University)
Major Area of Study: Mechanical Engineering
CHISPA Property: Loma El Paraiso

Story coming soon.

 

 

 

2017 Recipients

Sarah Mondragon (CSUMB) 
Major Area of Study: Cinematic Arts and Technology with a minor in Music
CHISPA Property:  Harden Ranch Apartments

I commute to CSUMB from Salinas, where I live with my mother, my sister, and my grandmother. My mother works overnight with minimal pay, and I help around the house to keep this family together. If my future career as a filmmaker becomes a success, I will pay my mother back for all her hard work that she has given me to achieve my dream.

I started my CSUMB Capstone film thesis in the fall of 2017. I will produce a narrative drama about the women in my family: women who have struggled as single moms, women who faced bad-relationships, women with learning disabilities.  My goal is to direct, write and produce my capstone. As a music minor, I intend to design the sound and compose a song.

Another project that I hope to complete after I graduate is to make a documentary about my best friend and my family who immigrated from Mexico and the struggles they faced. It will give me the opportunity to learn more about my family’s stories and my friend’s backstory.

After I graduate from CSUMB, I want to be a music teacher for young children.  If my part-time job works well, I want to expand afterwards in the film industry as a filmmaker and an actress. I want to write films about famous icons from Salinas.

Two CSUMB clubs made me more successful and extroverted.

The first organization is called TRiO SSS (Student Support Services).  It was difficult for me to do well in school while working of film productions and performing on stage. Without help and encouragement from this club and from my mentor, I would be completely lost from society.

The second organization is National Society of Leadership and Success. This is a program where students with good grades gain leadership skills.  Motivational speakers help us learn how to be successful in school and in the future

I am involved in a project where I am co-producing my friend’s capstone for Spring of
201. Producing is a challenge, especially when it comes to budgeting and organizing the film’s website.  I wanted to learn to produce a short film, because I want to experience the set-backs and the challenges of submitting films to film festivals. Is it going to be hard? Yes. But will I continue to achieve it? Absolutely.

See Sarah’s speech at the CHISPA Annual Celebration event on February 1st, 2018 here.

 

Daniela Escamilla (CSUMB) 
Major Area of Study: Global Studies Major
CHISPA Property:  Harden Ranch Apartments

“Echale ganas, mija!”  This phrase is just three insignificant little words, but, to me they are what drive me to accomplish what I’ve accomplished so far, and they motivate me to keep striving for more.

The phrase “echale ganas” means to give it your all in all that you do. My father told me and my siblings this constantly.  Whether it was before a big exam or a soccer final, it had the same sense of motivation for me.

It has now turned into a kind of mentality – the way I have chosen to live my life.

I, like 50,000 other college students in the United States, am undocumented.  Being undocumented never held me back from accomplishing or striving for the goals that I had set for myself at a very young age. I am a firm believer that actions are a lot stronger than words, so I plan to accomplish great things in life, not just for myself but for my family, community and anyone who looks up to me.

I’ve placed this responsibility to lead by example upon myself. Being the first in my entire family to attend college gives me enormous pride and a sense of responsibility to succeed.

My parents came to the United States when I was a year old, aspiring for a better life than they had in Mexico.  Their life here has not been easy – they work physically demanding jobs: agricultural work, restaurant kitchen occupations, and car washing services. As demanding or unstable some of their jobs have been, they always made sure my sisters and I had a roof over our head and food on the table.

The years and sacrifices my parents made cannot go unnoticed or unrewarded. I will do what I can to succeed to prove that all their sacrifices were not in vain. As the oldest sibling, I feel a great sense of responsibility to clear the path towards an education for my younger sisters.

I have been working since I was a sophomore in high school because I realized that, as an undocumented student from a low income family, the odds were against me.

I wanted to make sure that money wouldn’t be a barrier in getting a college degree. As supportive as my parent are about my education, they are not able support me financially. I have placed the responsibility of funding my college education on myself, so as a student, I juggle waitressing, tutoring elementary students, and my academic responsibilities.

There have been times when I have doubted myself and others time where I have wondered whether all my hard work and sacrifices would all pay off in the end.

Now more than ever, I question my fate under a Trump presidency. What will happen if, at any given time, I am stripped from my DACA status?   DACA allows certain undocumented students such as myself, who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and a work permit.

Without my DACA status, I would no longer be able to work legally in the country and could be at a risk of deportation. Losing my job would mean I would no longer be able to fund my college education.

The fear of what could possibly happen is a constant burden on my mind, but this fear is something I constantly try to overlook in an attempt to not let it fog up my vision of my overall goals.

As a future educator, I aim to not only teach but inspire, I want to be a positive role model in a community that tends to have more negative reflections than positive.

Being a part of California Mini-Corps allows me to provide academic aide to migrant students in my community to ensure they are successful in the classroom and in their future academic careers.  It has given me an opportunity to grow as a future bilingual educator as well as to become better human being in general.

Salinas is a community of people who are willing to work to be successful. I see that same drive in my students every day. Their resilience inspires and motivates to me to continue my journey regardless of the obstacles thrown my way.

One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been working with migrant students. I see myself in my students and I hope they can see themselves in me.

It is very important for me to make my students realize that education is a tool that breaks down barriers and to understand that an education is truly valuable because it can never be taken from them.

I let them know that it won’t be easy, because nothing is ever just handed to you, but, if you work hard and are determined to succeed you will succeed. Nomas echale ganas! (Just give it your all!).

See Daniela’s speech at the CHISPA Annual Celebration event on February 1st, 2018 here.

 

Julieta Villagomez (CSUMB) 
Major Area of Study: Masters in Education
CHISPA Property:  Moro Cojo Subdivision

I am preparing to become an elementary school teacher because I want my profession to be one in which I can be a productive member of society, where I can share my knowledge and passion, about the value of books, writing, numbers, and history.

I anticipate receiving my masters in teaching and teaching credential from Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) by the Spring of 2019.

My motivation resides in children’s wholehearted desire to learn and to be taught. I am honored to have the privilege of teaching them.

Having grown up in this area, I very much understand that many of us come from immigrant households, where making money is more important than happiness, due to financial need.  For this reason, many choose to discontinue their pursuit of higher education. I for one would like to be a part of breaking that pattern.

I graduated from CSUMB with a degree in Communications. I pursued two concentrations, Creative writing and Chicano Studies. With this major I was able to rediscover my roots and delve into the past from a Chicano’s perspective. I was taught of the power of expression via writing.  I decided that writing was what I wanted to do – that is, until I began fulfilling my Service Learning requirement.

I chose to work in  the after-school program Community Partnership for Youth (CPY) in Salinas., where I was responsible for engaging a group of 15 first-third grade children in creative writing  a couple of times a week.

I absolutely loved working with these kids, guiding their thought process, correcting their grammar and helping them express themselves.  It was incredible to read the stories the kids created, to observe the world through their lenses. I was struck by the awe in the kids eyes upon learning I spoke Spanish like they did. I could not help but notice how easily kids look up to the adults around them, observe their every move, and strive to imitate, to become more like that person they admire. Nothing would make me happier than to live my life in such a way that I can make of my life an example worthy of imitation. If anything, working with children helps me to be the best version of myself that I can be.

I later decided I wanted a working taste of the school setting, and I soon found myself working in a Kindergarten/ First grade integrated classroom.

For the first couple of months I helped with various classroom assignments. Then, the Response to Intervention (RTI) program was set into motion, allowing for students to receive more individualized attention in small leveled groups.

I rotated between three classrooms. With all three groups I implemented guided reading lessons that strengthened skills pertaining to literacy, basic letter sounds, letter recognition, and reading and writing practice.

By the end of that school year, I was astounded by how much the kids had improved. Knowing that the time I spent with them had helped them grow and develop skills that will be beneficial to them throughout their lives made me feel important, productive, and happy. I enjoyed the job so much that I often forgot I was paid to be there.

I have been blessed with different work opportunities that have enabled me to work with children and gain experience that have strengthened me as an educator.

Nothing would make me happier than to know that I am making a difference in the lives of the children of my community, kids like myself who come from immigrant households and hard working parents, but may lack support to pursue a career that makes them happy.

See Julieta’s speech at the CHISPA Annual Celebration event on February 1st, 2018 here.

 

Magali Alvarez (Cabrillo College) 
Major Area of Study: Radiologic Technology
CHISPA Property:  Sea Garden Apartments

As a first-generation college student, I have come to realize that a college education is something to be very thankful for. My educational journey has been a long one, but I see graduating as the way to thank my parents for everything they have sacrificed for me and my family.

My educational goals have remained consistent since I graduated High School in 2010. I have always been determined to enter the healthcare/medical field. My goal is to become an X-ray tech, a respiratory therapist or a nurse.

Cabrillo College has some fantastic programs, including Radiologic Technology and Nursing.  I am currently on the waitlist for the Radiology program and I will apply to the nursing program too. The downfall about these great programs is that they are impacted and the wait can last a few years. For the Radiology program I have been on the waitlist for nearly 3 years.

That’s a long time to wait, but I have not lost hope, and I am applying to other Radiology programs this fall. While I wait to be admitted into the program, I have signed up to do some job shadowing hours in the Radiology Department at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, and I am about to start volunteering at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital where they placed me in Diagnostic Imaging.

A challenge that I think is common for many single mothers is balancing being a mom and school. My son is getting older and is more aware of the time I have to leave for work/school.

Although it is difficult, I feel fortunate to have the support of my family and friends who care for him while I am away.

Thanks to their support, I received 5 A’s in 7 classes I took in 2016. It has given me the motivation I need, and I know that my son will be proud of me someday when I walk on that stage with my degree.

 

Miguel Gomez (Hartnell College) 
Major Area of Study: Agriculture Production
CHISPA Property:  Fontes Lane

When I was a young boy, my father would wake me up at four in the morning on a Sunday.

I would accompany him to his job in the fields, where he had worked since he migrated from Mexico at the age of 17 in search of the American dream.

I rode the tractor with him.  My hands were cold, my boots full of mud, my stomach starting to growl when lunchtime came around. Then, I could fill my stomach with food, quench my thirst, and get some rest.

With these lessons, my dad began to teach me the importance of hard work and the value of everything in this world, even the most tiny and simple things.

I still remember what he used to tell me almost every day, “A pencil weighs less than a shovel, but you should also know how to use the shovel.”

My father taught me the essence of hard work and how we can better ourselves with our hard work.  Along with these lessons and his advice, I do value the hard work, but I focus on my education in hopes not having to suffer through this again!  My college education will help me and my family and will allow me to contribute great things to society in my trajectory.

Growing up in Salinas, I have seen the violence that destroys our youth.  But, Salinas also has given me great things:  my back yard is agriculture fields which inspired me to become an Agricultural Pest Control Advisor (PCA) and to receive my Associates in Agriculture Production.

I would like to give back to my community in whatever ways possible  – to make a difference in the world, for the better.  In addition, I want to make my parents feel proud of their son, so they know that all the sacrifice they have made wasn’t in vain.

I consider myself a leader, and I would like to lead by example and show my peers that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. With this mindset and with complete determination and hard work, there’s nothing you cannot accomplish.

My father was diagnosed Lymphoma in 2000 and will be on disability for life. With the financial help he receives, it’s barely enough to survive and pay bills. As the oldest son, it’s my responsibility to help support the family.

This responsibility includes working full-time at a seed coating company to ensure my siblings can be successful at home and in school. I would like to provide for my brother and sister so they can also continue their education and pursue professional careers.

My work is giving me experience and basic knowledge for the career path I have chosen to pursue.  My CHISPA scholarship will allow me to decrease my hours at work and to focus 100% on my schooling, while also being able to help support my family.  I am doing all this mainly for my family, but also building a future for myself.

 

Louis Romero (Hartnell College) 
Major Area of Study: AA in Engineering
CHISPA Property:  Walnut Place Townhomes

I am a 29 year old husband, father of three, former president of Hartnell ‘s math club, member of the Hartnell Student Success Committee, employed as a Supplemental Instruction Leader, and an intern at IBM Research in San Jose

I am committed to achieving success, but getting there has been a struggle.  After being in the military, I struggled with re-entry into the civilian life because of a lack of financial resources.  I had difficulty finding housing, assisting with my first child’s disabilities, I and lacked employable civilian skills.

Commuting to and from school was also difficult. I struggled with the costs of fuel, school supplies, acquiring food, and paying for rent and utilities. Due to my precarious financial situation, I would enroll in a full load of courses and end up withdrawing from most of them to find work, so that I could provide for my family.

At one point in my academic endeavors, I became homeless and lived out of my car while my wife and kids lived out of a room in her parent’s house because of the increasing price of our rent.  CHISPA helped us with our living situation by giving us priority housing and by providing us with affordable housing.  This has allowed for our situation to stabilize, so I could achieve academic excellence and grow to support my family.

Since then, I have commuted each day from Greenfield and I have earned a stellar GPA.  During the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters, I was cross enrolled at CSU Monterey Bay, while maintaining full-time status at Hartnell, and earned a 4.0 semester GPA on both campuses.

In addition to achieving academic excellence, I have participated in Hartnell’s STEM internship program for two summers. The most notable internship I completed, which required working with big data, earned me a spot to present my research at the 2015 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference in Washington, DC.

At the end of fall 2017, I will be awarded associate degrees in mathematics and physics.  I will be then pursuing computer science at a four-year university with an intended transfer of fall 2018.

My aspirations are to be a researcher and teacher.  I dream of contributing to a deeper understanding of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning using my computer science, math, physics and chemistry skills as a researcher.  I would also like to have a positive impact in the community through teaching as an instructor at a community college or a professor at a CSU or a UC.

I continue to thrive in school because I decided to embrace my struggle and strive for a better future, while doing something I am passionate about, so that I may earn a career in something I enjoy.  Thanks to the aid of CHISPA, I can now focus on my studies rather than worrying about finances, so I can make my dreams a reality and pull my family out of poverty.

You can also read more about Louis in a story by Cristian Ponce at The Californian, “Hartnell student goes from sleeping in car to Ivy League internships.

 

2016 Recipients

Cinthia Estrada (CSUMB) Cinthia Estrada (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study: Business Administration with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship
Goal:  Own my own business in Monterey County

My name is Cinthia Estrada.  I am a senior at Cal State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) studying Business Administration with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship. I am a full-time student and plan on graduating in December 2016.

My passion for business began during my childhood years.  The candy store was far from where I lived.  Every time I wanted to buy a candy, I would have to wait to go to town.

I started buying candy in bulk and selling to the other children in CHISPA’s apartment complex where I lived (and where I continue to live!)

I learned that if certain resources are limited, the best option is to do something about it yourself. At the beginning, I used word of mouth to advertise.  Later I used flyers and the business took off quite rapidly. I was able to maximize profits while minimizing cost.

I learned that, no matter how big or small your business is, as long as you have passion and desire to continue, you are bound to do something great and wonderful.

After graduating from Greenfield High School, I attended Hartnell Community College, where I attained an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration and Psychology.

During my time at Hartnell, I was president of a club named Women’s Education Leadership Initiative (WELI) where I was part of a selected group of students who were dedicated to support other women to be successful in school and work. As president of WELI, I was in charge of meetings, fundraisers and communication with the club members.  I learned valuable skills such as how to manage time, how to communicate effectively with others and how to network.

I began my undergraduate studies at CSUMB in Fall 2014, and I immediately fell in love with the business aspect of Entrepreneurship.  I chose this major because I plan to own my own business in Monterey County.

I commute to CSUMB by bus from Greenfield two days a week.  I have a one-year-old daughter. My mother works as a field worker to make ends meet and save for winter when the season is over to be able to pay the bills and rent.

It is not easy taking care of my daughter being a full-time student, but I am optimistic that the sacrifice will lead to great things.  My personal goal is to give my family a better life without worrying about money and where their next meal will come from.

I am the first in my family to go to a university which is my biggest accomplishment. CSUMB is preparing me for the future with exceptional instructors and remarkable resources that will help me in the business sector.

The CHISPA scholarship will allow me to purchase books and materials and will allow me to concentrate fully on my last semester at CSUMB and to graduate in December.

 

Kenneth Garcia (Hartnell College) Kenneth Garcia (Hartnell College)
Major Area of Study:  Kinesiology
Goal:  Transferring to Cal Poly

When I was in elementary school, I often struggled to do well in school. I attended every Saturday class and summer class so I wouldn’t fall behind. My junior year of high school was the turning point.  I began to show the results of all the time I used just to keep up with the rest of the students.

At that point, I noticed that people around me would say how difficult the classes were, yet they were the same people who showed not one bit of effort to achieve a good grade.  They seemed to believe that those of us who had good grades were simply smarter than them, and, for that reason, we had an advantage over them.

In fact, I believed that most of us who overcome our difficulties in class did so because of what we did during our first years of school.  So, in my junior year of high school, I started to go to my little brother’s elementary school and began tutoring students there.  I continued tutoring students after I started attending Hartnell College last year.

In Hartnell, I joined a program called Trio which helps first generation students.  I am the first in my family to go to college.   I took a class in the summer immediately after graduating high school so I could get accustomed to the changes I would face in college.  I would like to get my math and English classes finished quickly, so I won’t struggle with them!

At the moment, I have a 4.0 GPA. I plan to reach my goal of majoring in kinesiology, getting my associates degree and transferring to Cal Poly so I can finish my education.

I appreciate receiving a CHISPA scholarship because I am one of triplets.  All three of us are attending Hartnell College.
Norma Rojas (Hartnell College) Norma Rojas (Hartnell College)
Major Area of Study:  Administration of Justice
Goal:  Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice

There is nothing I would love to accomplish more in this world than to make my parents proud by attending college as a first generation student and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, also known as Administration of Justice.   I am currently in my second year at Hartnell College.

My father is the sole provider for our family, working in agricultural labor, while my mother is a stay- at-home mother raising my three younger sisters. I hope that, through my education, I become a role model for my siblings and for everyone who is a first generation college student!

Currently, I ride the MST bus two days a week from King City to Salinas to attend Hartnell. In addition to attending college, I work 32 hours a week at Safeway in King City.

I will apply the CHISPA scholarship toward the cost of a laptop computer, which will be very helpful to me.

 

2015 Recipients

Jorge Diaz (Hartnell College) Jorge Diaz (CCRC Scholar 2015) facebook
Major Area of Study:  Registered Nursing Program
Goal:  Nurse Practitioner

Jorge received a scholarship from California Community Reinvestment Corporation (CCRC).  This scholarship is available to students in CHISPA’s Mountainview Townhomes Apartment Building.

My name is Jorge Diaz, I’m 21 years old, I’m currently a first semester RN student, and I am as happy as can be. I’m extremely excited because with every passing day my dream career stops being a dream and starts becoming a reality.

I’ve been working diligently at Hartnell College for three and a half years now, and I can assure you I’ve grown as an individual. I come from a low-income agricultural family that has faced and overcome numerous obstacles, and college was my obstacle to overcome. Growing up in a less privileged community has not only offered financial and academic challenges; but more importantly, made me realize the value of a college education. As the oldest child in my family, attending college has always been my intent, simply because I lead by example. Also, being the first in the family to attend college, my family is behind me every single step of the way.

Both of my parents were forced to drop out of grade school back in Mexico due to the hardships they faced. I’ve learned to take a negative situation and look at the positive side of things – you can say I am a “glass half full” type of person. My parents’ lack of education is what lit the fire underneath me, and that fire keeps me moving forward.

My ultimate goal in life is to become a nurse practitioner. There are hundreds of reasons why I chose this career, but the main reason for this is an uncle of mine who keeps fighting the odds. My uncle became ill about five years ago and hasn’t been able to walk ever since. His will power is a true inspiration, and reflects the amazing group of individuals who care for him. I love helping people, and feel that helping people when they are at their all time low is a very fulfilling career choice. Knowing that I can impact somebody’s life just enough to prolong their lives a little will give me the gratification I need to be at peace with myself – knowing I’m being the best I can be.

 

Vanesa Vazquez (CSUMB) Vanesa Vazquez
Major Areas of Study:  Global Studies/Nonprofit Management

I came from a small town in Mexico hoping to have a better future in America. My family always struggled to make ends meet, but we managed to make a life in a new place. Together we have gone through hardships but have managed to stay close. My background has formed the person who I am now.

My family has always supported me in my decision to attend a university. My goal is to work in the humanitarian sector and help those less fortunate. I want to work for the charity Shelter Box to help distribute aid. I also hope to one day start a network of food kitchens.

I believe that no one should have to go hungry. We all have to work together to end hunger and suffering. I hope my education will allow me to achieve this goal.

 

Sarah Mondragon (CSUMB) Sarah Mondragon
Major Areas of Study:  Cinematic Arts/Music

I have lived in CHISPA housing ever since I was four years old. I felt safe, and I enjoyed going to the free guitar classes after school.

What I really want to say to the students in the future and in my community of Salinas is to not give up hope, do not let anyone ruin your dreams – make it happen!

I faced a lot of challenges attending school without any guidance from others, until I received help from TRIO SSS. TRIO helped me so much with my homework, and I received guidance from my mentor. I couldn’t have done it without them.

After I graduate from CSUMB, I hope to become a filmmaker and a musician. I want to make a film about what my family and what they have been through when they immigrated to California: how it was hard to find a job, live in poverty, and what my mother went through to raise me on her own. I want to be the first Mexican-American woman from Salinas to win an Oscar!

I want to create a music and acting program for children living in Salinas – a program like the Guitars Not Guns program that teaches in the CHISPA apartments, but my version. I want children to join my arts program and leave with great talent in their hands.

 

Maria Tejeda-Camacho (CSUMB) Maria Tejeda-Camacho
Major Area of Study:  Computer Science

I am currently a freshman majoring in computer science.

My father had a kidney failure in 2002, and he hasn’t been able to work. The only person that has been working to sustain the family is my mother.

My parents are the reason why I want to continue with my education. I want to show them that all their sacrifices were worth it and that I took advantage of all these great opportunities I’ve had throughout my school journey.

My parents have always told my siblings and me that they would never want us to work in the fields like they had to. I have the fortune to have both of my parents with me, and I also have the fortune to have such supportive parents like this.

In the future I would like to do something with robotics or Artificial Intelligence. My goal would be to work at Google or at Microsoft. However, I also would love to work for the government one day.

Some people might say that my dreams are too big and that I won’t be able to achieve them. My response to that is “Querer es Poder,” meaning, if you want to, you can do it.

 

Eduardo Garcia (Hartnell College) Eduardo Garcia
Major Areas of Study:  Administration of Justice/Law Enforcement

I was born in King City, and I was raised in Greenfield. Both of my parents are proud fieldworkers. I graduated from Greenfield High School in 2014, and I am majoring in Administration of Justice. After graduation, I want to be a police officer.

As a person I am a confident person when it comes to just about everything, and I like to help others.

I like being a leader, and help people who don’t really know what to do, I usually give them advice. It doesn’t matter what they are going through, I have advice for everything they throw at me. I see teamwork as a very important trait that most people should have or develop. This is why I want to be a police officer. I will help my community in the future.

 

Pedro Ortega (Hartnell College) Pedro Ortega
Major Areas of Study:  Biology/Chemistry

The creation of your world is processed through neurotransmissions that are sent from all of your five senses to your brain, then collected in your mind to create your perspective of life. What we see, hear, and feel is unique in each individual’s life.

I do not know who I am, but I can and will create someone who I will look back on and be proud to look back at.

There is no life of mine that is already written out, only an empty book that will soon be filled with my writings that represent my life story.

Figuring out my life story just by looking at the stars is not going to get me anywhere. What can be achieved is unlimited in life just as the stars. There are only a few things that I can focus my attention to in life, but what I make use of those things is what creates that good feeling in life: that feeling of purpose.

 

Gabriela Garcia (Hartnell College) 
Major Areas of Study:  Administration of Justice/Law Enforcement
Anticipated Graduation: 2016

When I was about seven years old, my dad left the house at six in the morning when he was attacked on the driveway. The bad people who injured him took his wallet and our car. I realized from that time that there was too much violence in our neighborhood.

Law Enforcement has been my dream since a little girl. I’m capable of doing an outstanding job in this career.

My family says I have the good attitude for this field and that I’m also smart enough to get to where I want to be. My mother is unable to work due to her cancer medications while my father tries to support my other 4 siblings.

My mother told me, “If I was able to fight cancer you should be able to fight for what you want”.

She meant that I can go through any struggles or any obstacle to achieve the career of my dreams.

 

Samantha Calderon (CSUMB) 
Major Area of Study:  Communications

Every morning at 5:00 AM, I hear my father start the engine of his car. It is the beginning of his 11-hour shift at Fresh Express. By the time my dad is coming home, my mom is headed to Earthbound Farms; she is on her way to work in a cooler under several layers of clothes for her 12-hour shift. I see myself living a different future.

My parents migrated from Mexico to provide us with a better life. They did their part for my older sister, older brother, and for me; but now, I am fulfilling my duty. I am a first-generation college student.

I have always been a bit different, to say the least. I live with a disability unfamiliar to most. I was born with Congenital Cataracts, the clouding of the pupils. I have undergone several surgeries starting at two months of age to repair my eyesight, which still underperforms. Most children played pretend pirate, I was actually a pirate! I had to strut around school wearing an eyepatch interchangeably between both eyes. My doctors said I would have to attend a special needs school, but I proved them wrong.

The bullying I faced taught me to assimilate with “normal” people. I got called out for staring at the floor a lot, not making eye contact, among several other things people naturally do. As a result, I trained myself to do such. People do not take my disability seriously because they assume I am just another girl with glasses – even though mine are bifocals. Though it affects my life to this day, my disability does not define me.

I was dubbed a “nerd” in elementary school, having been the kid in GATE classes. Come middle school, I chose the wrong path. I wanted to fit in and let myself slip up academically and socially – I managed a 1.7 GPA in 7th grade. By 8th grade, I cleaned up my act; unfortunately, I could not see the board in my math class, and the teacher refused to sit me in the front. I was told that I would never excel in math or go to college, and I fell into low self-esteem because of bullying.

I attended Alisal High School. I did not want to go there at first, but Alisal was the best decision I have made. I earned Student of the Month and did community service for the Monterey County Food Bank, Return of the Natives, Dorothy’s Kitchen, Steinbeck Library, LULAC, and Easter Eggstravaganzas. I grew confident and joined the school’s Drama Club, earning the Lifetime Drama Honors Society award. In between, I was enrolled in GATE and AP classes. I am fluent in Japanese, as I have taken five Japanese classes, won 2nd place at the county’s Japanese Speech Contest, and am a member of the Japanese National Honors Society. I also am fluent in Spanish. I graduated within the top 60 of my class out of 500. Today, I am on the Dean’s List at CSUMB- and I started at 17.

I have been told I will not be able to drive because of my disability, so I commute by bus to CSUMB every day – which I do not mind because I do my homework on board.

I aspire to work in the media or in some form of public relations. In essence, I want to lend my voice to those who do not have one.

 

2014 Recipients

Cinthia Estrada (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study:  Business
Anticipated Graduation:  Fall 2015Cinthia-Estrada-1210x1145

Cinthia completed Associate Transfer Degrees in Psychology and Business Administration from Hartnell College.  She is now a business major at CSUMB.

Cinthia has managed to schedule all her college classes on two days per week. On the other days, she helps her family at home in Greenfield. Cinthia is the first person in her family to attend college.

“My short-term goals are graduating with honors and seeking a job in something business related. My long-term goal is to own my own business, which will help support my family. The CHISPA scholarship helped me to purchase fall 2014 books and materials.”

 

 

Mirel T. Mejia (CSUMB)  Mirel-Mejia-1210x1145web
Major Area of Study:  Liberal Studies
Anticipated Graduation:  2016

When I was in junior high school, my mother suffered a stroke.  As a single parent, she needed me to help her, so, when I was fifteen, I enrolled in the Boronda Independent Studies school instead of in my neighborhood high school.

At this alternative high school program, I was able to customize a schedule that permitted me to go to work to help support my mother and myself.

During my high school years, I worked 20 hours each week at the North Ridge Mall in Salinas, and I attended school and studied the rest of the time.

I appreciated the individual attention and encouragement provided to me by the teachers at Boronda Independent Studies.  I learned how much influence talented teachers can have over the lives of students facing difficult circumstances.

I also appreciated the after school programs offered by CHISPA in the resident center in my apartment building which kept me busy when I was younger.

I am the first in my family to attend university.  I am currently a junior, and my dream is to become an elementary school teacher, and to teach locally.

With the scholarship I was awarded, I will be able to buy my books as well as pay for transportation, and buy my required materials for school.

I will be less stressed about money for school this year and more focused on the important things such as my education.

 

Juliana Gonzalez  (Hartnell College)Juliana-Gonzalez-1210x1145web
Major Area of Study:  Biology
Anticipated Graduation: 2016

“I grew up with the mindset that only the wealthy could attend college. Then, I watched my three older brothers go off to colleges and earn scholarships in order to pay for classes and books.

I soon realized that it is not only the wealthy who can attend college. College is also available to those who are willing to work hard to make it there.

I am proud to say that I am now the fourth child in my family to attend college.

As a freshman at Hartnell College, I am studying biology. I hope to graduate with an Associates of Science degree and to transfer to UC Berkeley or UC San Diego in 2016, where I plan to major in physiology and neuroscience. My long term goal is to earn a master’s degree, a medical degree, and to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon.

My parents helped my three siblings as much as they could with their college expenses, and when I was in high school, I worked 20-26 hours per week at the King City McDonalds.

Now, I am taking five classes this semester at Hartnell College, and I am maintaining grades of As and Bs.  I prefer not to risk my grades by taking another part time job while I am at school, so my scholarship has been helpful.”

 

Juan Ochoa (Hartnell College) Juan-Ochoa-1210x1144Web
Major Area of Study: Accounting
Anticipated Graduation Date:  Fall 2014

“I am the second oldest of three boys and one baby girl. I am the first of my family to attend a Community College. I promised my grandmother who passed away in November last year that I would receive a degree.

I will apply to San Jose State in the fall of 2014. I plan to achieve my B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting.  In my last three semesters I have finished a semester with a 4.0 GPA and I have been on both the President’s and Dean’s list.

I have worked SoMoCo Labor Supply to help supplement my family income and pay for my schooling.  I have to help my family pay for rent, food, gas and utilities while also paying for school

I volunteer to help tutor and mentor young students at Chalone Peaks Middle School in King City, CA.   I love being able to give back to the community and having a positive impact on these young students.  This is something I wish was done for me when I was attending middle school.

When I graduate, I look forward to helping the next student in line requesting a scholarship.  Community service helps every city between Salinas and King City to become better communities.”

 

Estee Lynette Perez (Hartnell College)
Major Area of Study:  Registered Nursing Program

As I fulfill my dream of becoming a Registered Nurse, my children will have a better understanding of what it looks like to truly seek out your passion and pursue the education needed in order to properly practice your passion. I am excited and determined to pursue my passion and take my skill set to the Registered Nursing level.

My vision as a Registered Nurse is to provide competent, compassionate, ethical, and culturally sensitive care. With my experience being a patient and having family members as patients, I have a clear understanding of the necessity for my vision. I want to care for people the way I would want people to care for me or my family members by listening, comforting, and relaying information sensitively yet truthfully so patients can make informed decisions.

Once I have established myself in a Registered Nurse position, my goal is to continue to become educated in the field. I plan on pursuing a BSN degree.

I had to leave my full time administrative assistant position in order to allow time to attend the Hartnell College RN program. I am willing to make the sacrifices needed in order to pursue a life in service to those in need.

I’ve learned you must be willing to let go of what you are and what you have for who you are to become.

2013 Recipients

 

Image of 2013 Scholarship Recipients

Yajaira Medrano (CSUMB)
Major Areas of Study: Collaborative Health and Human Services
Goal: Work towards social justice for immigrant families

Anticipated Graduation Date: Spring 2015

Thank you for making this scholarship possible. My name is Yajaira Medrano and I am a junior majoring in Collaborative Health and Human Services at California State University, Monterey Bay. I was born and raised in a single mother household in East Salinas. Growing up, I witnessed many inequalities towards immigrants which affected my family in numerous ways.

Despite facing a lack of financial and moral support, I have pursued my goal of obtaining a college degree within the health and human service field. I expect to graduate in the spring of 2015 and aspire to come back to my community and work towards social justice for immigrant families.

Anabel Ruelas (CSUMB)
Major Areas of Study: Collaborative Health and Human Services with a concentration in Social Work
Goal: Guidance Counselor

Anticipated Graduation Date: Fall 2016

I was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and my family and I came to Salinas when I was 9. It was a struggle adjusting to the new environment especially learning a new language. Even though it wasn’t easy, my teacher helped me so much by encouraging me to read and ever since then I’ve loved reading. There was still a bit of a struggle through middle school and high school but by investing more time in studying, it became easier to understand the material.

After graduating high school I attended Hartnell Community College. I graduated from Hartnell in 2010 with an Associate’s Degree in General Studies-Social & Behavioral Science Emphasis. After Hartnell I attended Central Coast College where I received a diploma in Computer Office Administration. It was a great learning experience; however, I realized my heart was not in that career field.

I then enrolled in California State University Monterey Bay. I began classes in August 2013 and it was challenging since at the time I was also working full time. My major is Collaborative Health and Human Services with a concentration in Social Work.

If everything goes well I’ll be graduating in the fall of 2016. My goal is to become a guidance counselor and work here in the community. I am excited and looking forward to the future. It will be hard at times, but I am willing to put all the time and hard work in order to accomplish my goals.

Christian Millan (Hartnell College)
Major Area of Study: Astronomy
Goal: Astrophysicist

Anticipated Graduation Date: Spring 2015

I am a first generation U.S. citizen. I am currently the only child out of my brother and sister going to school. Since I’ve been at Hartnell Community College from 2010, I have found my interest in astronomy, mathematics, and physics. In addition, I have been involved with many educational and academic support programs at Hartnell.

As a tutor, I instructed students in the Math Academy during summer and winter sessions. I will graduate in the spring of 2015 from Hartnell College with three minors in astronomy, mathematics, and physics. I will then transfer to a 4-year University and major in astronomy. My goal is to pursue my dream of becoming an outstanding astrophysicist.

I plan to conduct further research on the movement of galaxies and use computational simulations to understand the reaction of the universe and objects within it. I will be the first in my family to attend a university and knowing this inspires me to make a difference in my family’s heritage.

Javier Ortega (Hartnell College)
Major Area of Study: Biology/Chemistry
Goal: Medical School

Anticipated Graduation Date: Fall 2014
I am dedicated to my school work and set to reaching my goal. Succeeding at the University
level and getting into Medical School are what I strive to fulfill. I am currently attending Hartnell as a Biology/Chemistry major who will transfer out this fall of 2014. Because I am at school most of the time, my participation with Voluntary Clubs such as the Physics, MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), and SIMA (Students Interested in Medicine Association) as well as being an active STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) student, has been my duty as a student to help as best I can. However when I am not in school or are on break, I like to spend most of my time with friends hanging out in places all over the Bay Area going out to eat, visiting tourist sites, exploring unexpected areas or even do things such as compete with our local Hip-Hop Dance team at competitions all over California. It’s the little things that make up who I am.

 

Selene-Mendezweb

2011 Recipient

2011-2012 CHISPA Scholarship Recipient
Selene Mendez (CSUMB)

 

“America is full of life-changing opportunities!” Selene Mendez echoed her father’s powerful words while describing her journey to college. Selene was born in Mexico City, but moved to the United States at the age of seven with her family for those opportunities that her father had told her about. While Selene did not want to leave, she knew that her move would mean a brighter future and a better life. As she matured, Selene always pictured herself working as a lawyer.

“I knew that one day I was going to defend the rights of those people who suffered from racism and discrimination. Becoming a lawyer was going to be the solution.” However, when Selene’s aunt passed away, Selene observed her young cousin’s struggle to deal with the loss of his mother. “I knew he wasn’t the only one who needed help getting through an event like that. That’s when I realized that child psychology was my passion because it allowed me to work with children and help families. I was determined to help those in need.”

Selene applied this passion by volunteering at an elementary school when she was in high school. “I was able to interact with the children and talk to them about their opportunities.” In 2010, Selene enrolled at California State University, Monterey Bay. “I decided to major in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Sociology. I felt this directly correlated to what I wanted to do in the future.”

While at CSUMB, Selene began tutoring at Castroville Elementary School. “I was fulfilling my dream of working with children. What better way to start gaining experience than this? They were children who had gone through the same challenges that I had gone through.” She now assists in after-school programs at La Mesa Elementary and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, in Seaside. “I help the students with their homework, social enrichment and physical education. It’s exciting to see children progress through the grades and to be there with them each step of the way.”

Selene’s family lives in CHISPA’s Rancho Moro Cojo subdivision, but Selene now resides with her sister who also attended CSUMB. Selene is thankful for the scholarship she received from CHISPA. “I received the CHISPA scholarship twice, once in 2011, and again in 2012. They gave me the help I needed to continue my education at CSUMB. I realize that my father was right, America is full of life changing opportunities, and this was one of them.” Selene will graduate in Spring, 2014. She hopes to work for a local school district to gain the one-year work experience required by the CSUMB Masters in Social Work Program.

 

2010 Recipient

2010-2011 CHISPA Scholarship Recipient
Karina Ramirez (CSUMB)Karina-Ramirez

Karina Ramirez grew up in Greenfield with her mother and three siblings. Karina’s father, Luis Ramirez, passed away from a heart attack in 1995 when Karina was only six years old. “My mom was left to care for me and my three siblings,” remembers Karina. “We were all young, but I am extremely happy and proud to say that my mom stood strong.” “As I was growing up, my mom always reminded me of the importance of a college education.” She worked long hours in the fields, and she would tell me how hard the labor was.”

This inspired Karina to begin her college education early. “I wanted to get ahead, so I enrolled in college courses while I was still in high school. The main goal was to receive my degree in less time.” Once Karina completed two and a half years at Hartnell Community College, she transferred to California State University, Monterey Bay.

As a Collaborative Health and Human Services major, Karina concentrated in social work. After being hired at CHISPA part-time, Karina took the lead on the Neighborhood Watch program for CHISPA’s Vineyard Green Townhomes. Neighborhood Watch is an organized group of citizens within a community devoted to crime and vandalism prevention. “The property was new, and we wanted to keep it safe. I set up a meeting with the tenants, and I invited a police officer from the City of Greenfield to speak. He provided them with valuable information on how to watch for crime and the steps to take if there was a crime in action.”

Karina then set up two additional neighborhood watch programs at CHISPA’s Walnut Place Townhomes and Tyler Park Apartments. “I was told by the tenants that the neighborhood watch program made a difference in the community where they lived.” Karina lived in Walnut Place Townhomes while she was going to school, and she bought a CHISPA home in 2008. Karina worked full time at CHISPA as the Community Services Assistant from 2011 to 2013.