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.
Growing up, I learned that being educated and having knowledge is something that no one can really take from you.
Attending Hartnell College after high school made me realize there is still so much to learn. My first semester taught me a lot already, and that made me even more hungry for education. This inspiration is why I’m leaning towards becoming a teacher when I finish college.
I want to show other students that there is a lot more to grasp from the world that they think.
My first semester of college taught me how time consuming each class is. The professors do not care if we have tons of assignments from other classes. They just care about their class.
Full time students, on the other hand won’t have time to focus on working a job. I was lucky enough to get help from financial aid, but when you do the math, the books alone are super expensive.
I live 35 miles away from the main campus, and transportation can be expensive.
That is why, when the opportunity for a CHISPA scholarship came around, I tried my hardest to take advantage of it. Thank you for the scholarship.
Carlos Garcia (Hartnell)
Major Area of Study: Criminal Law
Thank you for your generosity in funding the CHISPA Private Fund Scholarship. I am very honored to be the recipient of this award.
I concluded my time at Hartnell College with a GPA of 3.2. I have transferred to California State University Sacramento to work toward a career in criminal investigation.
My parents did not have the opportunity to earn a high level of education. They have always worked so hard as parents to try and give us everything necessary to continue our education. They have taught me to work hard for a successful future.
I have seen the struggles my parents have gone through, and I know getting an education would change a lot of things. I want to have a job that I enjoy and to be able to have a consistent income that would help me go through tough situations.
While attending school, I have helped my community by participating in city events such as parades and festivals. I have coached the boys’ soccer team at Chalone Peaks Middle School in King City. I have also helped my local catholic church when in need during catechism classes.
Receiving this Scholarship motivates me to strive for more challenges, concluding with the completion of my bachelor’s degree. I look forward giving back to the community when I begin my career. I thank you for your confidence and willingness to help me achieve my goals.
Ana Alfaro (Hartnell)
Major Area of Study: Computer Science
I want to further my education by attending Hartnell College, creating a solid foundation for my career. I am very eager to achieve financial independence from my family.
I would like to major in computer science. Ultimately, my goal is to work as a computer programmer or a cybersecurity analyst.
My school and supporting programs have always motivated me to attend college. This year, I started to take AP Computer Science in high school to venture into the major. This class has helped me understand a portion of what is to come with the career.
The Migrant Education Program inspired me to continue my education. During my freshman year, the Migrant Program granted me the opportunity to attend beginner coding classes. We were taught code in different languages such as Script and Python. We also went on a field trip to Google and Microsoft. Participating in this Migrant Education program also helped me decide my major by granting me first-hand experience.
Being a first-generation college student, I have always been inspired to achieve the goals my parents could not dream about.
Coming from a low-income family has limited the financial opportunities I have. My older brother is a full-time student at CSUMB. He is dependent on my parents to pay for his tuition and general cost.
As a result, money is tight in my household. My parents cannot afford tuition for me at many universities or colleges with the cost of my brother’s education.
This scholarship will help me get the financial burden off my family and myself. This will help me focus on my studies instead of finding ways to pay for my education.
Gerardo Ramos (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study: Environmental Science
As a first-generation student applying to college, I had no one to guide me through the process. My parents’ highest level of education is the equivalent of high school in Mexico. They had no idea how the American system worked.
Counselors offered little support because my school’s resources were limited. Nevertheless, I tasked myself with the challenge of finding other resources that could help me with my college applications.
Applying to programs such as Gear Up and ETS proved to be pivotal. These programs guided and supported both my academics and college applications, thereby helping me get accepted into college.
Living away from my family has become particularly challenging for my as we are very close. Sometimes I find myself missing them and feeling the need to see them. Nevertheless, knowing that I am making them proud by pursuing a higher education keeps me going.
My financial situation has been a challenge for the past three years. My financial aid does not entirely cover all my student fees.
The CHISPA Scholarship helps cover thing like books. I know that by continuing to work hard in school, I will be able to overcome this financial struggle.
This past year has been full of new and rewarding experiences but has also had its challenges. One of my biggest challenges was being able to balance all my schoolwork with school activities.
Particularly I struggled with ENVS 332 (Intro to GIS/GPS) and ENVS 350 (Quantitative Field Methods). ENVS 332 was difficult for me. I learned how to use ArcGIS, which is a complex program used to analyze and visualize data through maps. I invested a lot of time, effort, and asked many questions to ensure that I understood the course material.
Similarly, ENVS 350 was also challenging because we learned how to use R studio. Using R studio, we analyzed data we collected in the field and performed statistical analysis.
It was difficult to learn the many codes necessary for programing the statistical models. I found myself incredibly frustrated when they did not work or resulted in errors. However, I did not let this stop me. I asked both my professor and peers for help whenever I was confused. My efforts paid off when I earned an -A in both courses.
In fact, one of my greatest achievements this past year is obtaining an internship that involves doing GIS work.
Being involved on campus has been an important part of my college journey. The first organization that I joined at CSUMB was Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA). I became officer as a freshman because I am passionate for what the organization stands for.
MeChA advocates for the rights of the Latinx people and fight for their presence in higher education institutions. More recently we have also become more inclusive as an organization and work to advocate for all students at CSUMB.
We host Raza Day, which is a leadership conference for local high school students. Officers and faculty work together to develop workshops for the conference that revolve around college admission, college life, financial aid, and Latinx Culture.
Through the conference, we hope to encourage students of Latinx background to pursue higher education and embrace their roots by giving them the tools necessary.
Last year CSUMB housing put in place an $800 fee for those staying on campus over winter break. Some residential advisors (RAs) tried to protest and stand up for their residents, but they were silenced. As an organization, we thought that this situation was unjust and decided to support the RAs and their residents.
With the support of the Service-Learning Institute, we organized a rally in front of the housing office so we as students could voice our opinions. Our joint efforts paid off a few days later when housing waived the winter fee. Being part of MEChA has been an amazing opportunity to bring social justice not only for my community but also for the rest of the students at CSUMB.
This past semester I decided to join the Nu Alpha Kappa (NAK) fraternity chapter at CSUMB. I knew that joining NAK would provide a support system here on campus, networking opportunities, professional development skills, and many volunteering opportunities.
I wanted to make the most out of this new opportunity, which is why I decided to run for chapter secretary. Being secretary requires me to have good organization and time management skills. I make the agendas for meetings, send the minutes, and manage the email. I reach out to other officers and collect any reports that they have. It is important that I create and submit the agenda in a timely manner to have a successful and productive meeting.
Aside from gaining professional development, being part of NAK has also given me many opportunities to volunteer with the community. One of the most memorable experiences was preparing Thanksgiving meals to give out to the homeless in Salinas. We took the meals we had prepared to Chinatown and offered a plate to everyone we could.
It was heartwarming being able to bring them some joy during the holidays and see the excitement in their eyes when we gave them food. Moreover, another memorable experience was volunteering at the Salinas shopping tour. As a volunteer, I got the opportunity to take a kid from a low-income community to go buy clothes for the holidays.
Alexis was really excited picking out his new clothes. He was so excited that he put on the sweater I bought him right after we paid. Such experiences in which I am able to help and learn from the community have been my favorite part of joining Greek life.
During my sophomore year, I was a math and science tutor for students from Seaside High School. This gave me and insight as to what the field of teaching requires.
It always made me happy when I could help my students better understand what they were learning, especially those who have a language barrier.
This year I worked as an intern at the Watershed Environments and Ecology lab, doing ArcGIS work. We collect GIS data online and in the field and then analyze and use the data to build maps and online applications for Cal Fire.
The maps and applications we build display road conditions and resources necessary for firefighters to be prepared in the case of a fire.
After graduating from CSUMB, I would like to do research involving conservation and obtain my master’s and PhD degrees. After completing graduate school, I would like to teach at a university and reach students who like me share a passion for science and the environment.
My last year here at CSUMB will a time in which I will grow as an individual and develop more skills that will help me in my future career. The CHISPA scholarship is be a great resource which will help me in unfolding as a student and reaching my goals.
Xabier Espinoza (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study: Kinesiology / Sports Medicine
I am 18 years old, and I have completed my first year at California State University, Monterey Bay. I am the oldest of three children and the first person in my family to attend a four- year university. I graduated from King City High School last year and participated in the EOP summer bridge program at CSUMB.
My current aspiration is to inspire my younger siblings to achieve higher education, whether by way of a university, community, or a vocational route. We are a low-income family and unfortunately, my desire to attend school is a financial hardship for my family. This CHISPA scholarship is a great financial help to fund my college experience at California State University, Monterey Bay.
Academically, I performed well in high school, receiving mostly A’s and B’s
As a transition into college, I attended the summer bridge program through EOP and was quite successful. I started the semester off with a 4.0 GPA. It is very important for you to know that I have a learning disability. I first had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in elementary school which later changed to a 504 plan.
As a college student, I receive help from Student Disability Resources on campus. I attend tutoring services from the CLC between classes, along with studying on my own. My accommodations have helped me with note-taking, tests, quizzes, and writing my essays. It has also helped me to improve and maintain my grades.
My community service experience in high school was phenomenal. I earned over 170 community service hours within my junior and senior years. I helped the Mustang Bench, our high school booster club, with their fireworks booth each summer. I assisted with helping our local middle school color-run event, worked the concession stands at our high school basketball games and helped the Mustang Bench serve food at their annual golf tournament.
During my senior year, I filmed our Varsity football home and away games. Due to the amount of community service hours I completed, I received the King City High School Community Service Award.
I have participated in many activities during high school including different sports, leadership, and yearbook club. I have played football, wrestling, and track and field. I played football for four years, from my eighth-grade year to my junior year of high school. Then, I filmed games during my senior year because of the love I have for the sport.
I participated in track and field for three seasons from my sophomore year to my senior year. It is a sport that I grew to love. Within track and field, I had the role of a captain, was viewed as a leader, and had the responsibility for taking charge of the team.
I also took a leadership class for two years in my junior and senior years. Participating in the in the yearbook publication, taught me about procrastination and meeting deadlines.
A personal was obtaining the 3.5 Honor Roll both in middle and high school. This would always make my mother happy.
Another personal achievement was earning the Coach’s Award in my 2018 season of Track and Field and being named Captain during my second year. I was also awarded the Pacific Coast Athletic League Richard Chamberlin All-Sportsmanship Team during my last season of track.
Outside of athletics I participated in Boy Scouts and achieved the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class. I was on my way to earning the rank of Star, Life, and had aspirations to reach the Eagle Scout rank, but my time in Scouts ended early due to complications with my health, especially trying to recover from my knee surgery.
As a CSUMB student, I am majoring in Kinesiology and would like to pursue a career in the medical field or sports medicine. I would like to take the Exercise Science route for a career as a Physical Therapist or a Coach.
I want to help my hometown by working at a rehabilitation center, hospital, or become a coach at King City High School. I would love the opportunity to give back to my community and inform the athletes of the ways to improve their athletic abilities while avoiding injuries.
There have been many obstacles that I have overcome in my eighteen years of life, including the loss of our home and sports injuries. During my eighth-grade year, my family lost our home and all of our belongings in a house fire in King City. While we lost all of our tangible things, pictures, clothes, school papers, and awards, thankfully no one was harmed.
Through the loss, our family still had each other. Although my younger siblings and I were terrified, and my parents tried to stay strong for us, we grew stronger as a unit and learned a valuable life lesson; it taught me to be happy with what we have and take nothing for granted.
Wendy Hernandez (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study: Psychology, with a minor in Justice Studies
Being a first-generation student in my family there has been a lot of expectations of me. My parents worked so hard their entire lives so my sisters and I would not have to suffer financially.
Yet, obstacles continue to grow as we can barely make ends meet. This has put a lot of pressure for me economically. It has been a struggle to finish my undergraduate studies because at the time that I was finishing up school my younger sister was entering college.
My parents had to find ways to pay for both of our schools. In the end, it was inevitable, and I had to take out loans. Throughout my undergraduate years, I worked part-time while going to school full time.
The fear of being in debt almost stopped me from finishing my degree. Nevertheless, the loans were a big help in paying for school. The little that my parents had leftover went towards the food and school supplies I needed.
Now that I have completed my bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Justice Studies, I want to pursue my Masters and to obtain my license as a clinical social worker .I intend to go back to my community and put my new knowledge and skills into practice.
Because both of my younger sisters will be working on their undergraduate degrees while I am in graduate school, I wondered if graduate school was worthwhile, considering all the debt that I would accrue and the minimal financial help I would receive.
My parents encouraged me to apply regardless of the financial obstacles because higher education would open more opportunities as well as knowledge in the field that I am passionate about.
My interest in Psychology and Social Work grew, but it was not until I started working at my current job at Cherish Too, where I supervise visits between parents and their children who have been put into foster care, that I knew what path to take. Social work was the combination of what I had studied and a career that was both challenging and rewarding.
I have been certified in QPR which is a suicide prevention class and a Mental Health Aid class. I became connected to my community through my job. It gives me a great sense of joy knowing that I have impacted my clients in some way.
I keep learning every day about my community, a place I grew up in, about all of the services that are provided for those in need.
I enjoy being exposed to different places where I can learn something new. Through my job, of supervising visits between parents and their children, I saw that the children struggled to be heard so I decided to volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to better understand the system. Being a CASA has been a rewarding experience for the past two years.
Through school, I have become involved with the Master of Social Work Student Association. The student association has a lot of good ideas about collaborating with other professions. This is something that is of interest to me so I can gain experience with people from other fields.
I am proud that that I recently became an ambassador for Title IX/DHR for CSUMB. As an ambassador, I will be involved in spreading awareness of what Title IX is and how it protects students from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. I am also proud that for the first time I will study abroad – in Norway.
I have not had the privilege of going to another country due to money. I decided that the class I will take during my time in Norway will be beneficial because I will be learning about the Nordic model of social welfare across Scandinavia. I hope to gain knowledge on how Nordic countries define the profession of social work and view the nature of social problems as well as meeting peoples’ needs.
My strong work ethic and determination comes from the hard work of my parents and my sisters. I learned that you have to work hard for what you want in life especially coming from a low-income family.
As the oldest, I witnessed the obstacles my family had to go through but, thanks to this, it made me resilient in the face of the challenges I had to face. From a young age, I have always helped my parents by working.
These side jobs have helped pay the bills and pay for our school supplies. For a couple of years, we sold things at the flea market. Eventually, we stopped going because my parents were getting older and it was getting tough on them. Going to the flea market made me admire the sacrifices my parents did for my sisters and me to have a better life. With the help of financial assistance like the CHISPA scholarship, I hope to alleviate my worries about money so I can focus all of my energy in learning new material/skill sets in the States or abroad.
With any masters’ program, it will be hard, but I am determined to overcome obstacles that come my way. As a first-generation student, I want to show my sisters that, even against all the odds there is still a way to achieve higher education. Pursuing my masters has been a dream and I intend to make that a reality.
For some reason, I find it very difficult and strange to talk about the things I have accomplished and the things I have achieved in my life so far. Whenever I reflect on my accomplishments, I find it very difficult to not think about my parents. But the truth is that anything I succeed in is not just my accomplishment, it is our accomplishment. I mention my parents whenever I talk about my personal and academic achievements because in order to get a better sense of who I am it is important to mention where I come from and what drives and inspires me.
My parents came to the United States as young parents with the intent to provide a better life for their children. The years and sacrifices my parents made cannot go unnoticed or unrewarded. For that reason, I have worked and will continue to do what I can to succeed to prove that all their sacrifices were not in vain. As the oldest sibling in my family, I feel a great sense of responsibility to clear the path towards education for my younger sisters.
Like 50,000 other college students in the United States, I 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 .
My parents have always supported and motivated me in my academic career, being the first in my entire family to attend college gives me enormous pride and a sense of responsibility to succeed.
Their life in the United States has not been easy, having to work physically demanding jobs such as agricultural work, restaurant kitchen occupations, or even car washing services. As demanding or unstable some of their jobs have been throughout my life, they always made sure my sisters and I had a roof over our head and food on the table.
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, particularly under a Trump presidency. Questions such as what will happen if at any given time I am stripped from my DACA status, which is an executive order started by the Obama administration in 2012 which 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 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. This fear is something I try to overlook in an attempt to not let it fog up my vision of my overall goals.
However, as much as I try to deviate my thought from the matter, I have come realize that it is a legitimate fear, and my future and the future of thousands of students like me could face obstacles in the near future.
Until recently, I hesitated to share my story, mostly because of fear. Then, I realized the importance of being able to tell my story. I understand the significance it would have to others who are in a similar situation such as many of the students I serve.
In May 2018, I graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) I am currently in the School Psychology Masters Program at CSUMB. Graduating from college was one of our greatest accomplishments. I say our because I definitely did not do it alone. My family’s support and encouragement are what allowed me to continue when all the odds were against me and I felt discouraged. Now that I have embarked on a new journey to obtain my master’s degree, I know that I have a strong support system and we will accomplish this new journey together.
I have always had a love for education for as long as I remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I always felt that for the type of person I am it is the best way I could help my community. While I attended Hartnell College during my undergrad years I heard of California Mini-Corps and knew I had to be a part of it. California Mini-Corps is a statewide program designed to provide direct instructional services for migrant students grades k-12. Mini-Corps allowed me to work with students with a migrant background and serve as a positive role model.
I understand the significance of having someone to look up that you are able to identify with because I was in their position at one time.
In many of the schools I worked in I served as a connection between parent and teacher because of language barriers. This made me realized how that disconnect between parents and teachers impacts a student’s education. In some cases, the parents seem to distance themselves from the school community. I understand this because I grew up with parents that did not always feel comfortable being around school functions or activities because many of my teachers only spoke English and my parents only spoke Spanish. Being able to help my students’ parents become more involved in their kids’ academic life has helped me realize the importance of communication between parents and the whole education community.
Throughout my experience with Mini-Corps, I have encountered various situations where I felt like I was unable to help one of my students because the problem was no longer in my control or expertise. I felt helpless, and I felt as if I was letting these kids down. Not just any kids, kids that looked up to me and confided in me.
That is when I realized I wanted a career where I would be able to do more for these students, parents and the school community as a whole. I continued to work for Mini-Corps but I became more aware of all the different components of the education community. School psychology is a perfect fit for me because it allows me to work with students and their families to assure students receive the best available education and help parents feel empowered to advocate for their students.
The school psychology program at CSUMB was designed to train fully certified school psychologists who are trained to work with English language learners and Migrant students. I knew that this would program was the best option to help me become the school psychologist I want to be – one that can meet the needs of my students and help them succeed academically and in life.
This CHISPA scholarship allows me to obtain my master’s degree. I am more than willing to put in the work and passion to achieve this, however, funding my educational career has been difficult and the support would be more than appreciated and will not be taken for granted.
Attending college and now attending graduate school has definitely not been easy. There are many days when I doubted myself and wanted to quit. Despite the obstacles I have faced throughout this journey, I am so grateful and appreciative of all the opportunities and support I have had along my journey.
Alondra Catalan (CSUMB)
Major Area of Study: Psychology
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to break my family cycle of not reaching for higher education. Reaching higher education felt impossible for me, a young female immigrant from a low-income family, and with parents with no more than a 2nd-grade educational level.
However, I overcame many obstacles and continue to do so, in order to set a standard for future generations in my family.
As I grew up, my parents worked in agriculture and constantly migrated to make ends meet. Due to their constant migration, my parents were continuously absent, and I had to take on a parental role for my siblings.
The responsibilities handed to me at the age of eight caused a toll on my academics. As much as I tried to do well in school, it was hard to focus when I had bigger responsibilities waiting for me at home. Not only did I have to grow up quickly, but I had no social support and began to experience cultural confusion.
Being from another country with little to no support made it hard for me to understand where I belonged. It was not until I was placed in the Migrant Educational Program that I felt a part of the school and community. The Migrant Educational Program and other programs provided me with support, resources, and academic options.
Thanks to these programs, my academic counselors, and my EOP counselors, I received my bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Career and Life Planning at California State University, Chico.
Now, I feel that I have gathered the resources and tools to help Latinx students like myself also reach for higher education. By receiving my MS School Psychology degree, I hope to one day return to my community and empower families just like mine.
I now aim for opportunities that allow me to assist diverse groups and empower others by means of various channels, especially education. I have spoken to several school psychologists to better understand my responsibilities and better support students. The more I connect to practicing school psychologists, the better I will be able to support my students and community.
My goal is to be the best school psychologist that I can be, not only for my students, but parents, teachers, and administrators. It takes someone passionate about helping others and willing to take that extra step, so the voices of their students are heard.
My migrant counselor was a big part of my educational growth. I now strive to give that feeling of support back to all students, and not just migrant students. I have learned that every student has significant events in their lives, and every student deserves a counselor who is dedicated and passionate about their education.
I have always been a part of programs that help the community come together to aid others in need. I first volunteered as an Explorer at Salinas Valley State Prison. I enjoyed spending my time with the community and searching for ways to bring it together. Once I entered Hartnell College, I volunteered at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Dorothy’s Place.
While at Chico State, I joined organizations that supported children with disabilities, the homeless population, the elderly, and First-Generation college students.
At Chico, I was elected Vice President for my multicultural sorority, Upsilon Kappa Delta and the Multicultural Greek Council at Chico State.
As Vice President for Upsilon Kappa Delta, I was coordinated community events, connecting members to needed resources, and provided a safe and inclusive environment.
As Executive Vice President for the Multicultural Greek Council, I conducted meetings, assisted with expansion efforts, reviewed monthly reports, and coordinated yearly banquets.
Aside from school, volunteer work, and leadership positions, I also was an Academic Advising Intern within the Office of Academic Advising Programs at CSU, Chico. This gave me the opportunity to advocate on behalf of and work with a diverse population of students. This included First-Generation students, undocumented and AB 540 students, foster youth, veteran students, students facing academic probation or disqualification, and undeclared student population.
Through my experiences, I have gained leadership skills needed to be successful in the MS School Psychology program.
However, pursuing a master’s degree can cause financial hardships. The CHISPA scholarship will assist me in my endeavors and allow me to pursue my academic dreams.
Cristina Rico (CHISPA Scholarship administered by Community Foundation for Monterey County)
Major Area of Study: Psychology
Cristina Rico received the CHISPA scholarship held at the Community Foundation for Monterey County. She started at UC Santa Barbara this fall. She will major in psychology. After graduation, she intends to work for the organization Sold No More that fights to end child exploitation and eventually to pursue her PhD.
See more recipients from previous years.