Octavio Romero arrived in the United States from Mexico at the age of 12, the fifth son of parents who had never attended high school. Although he knew little English when he started Egan Junior High School, Octavio demonstrated quite early that he had what it takes to be a successful student. He had always loved math and had a strong work ethic. He explains that he was motivated to succeed academically.
“I always did my homework as soon as I got home from school,” he said.
At Los Altos High, Octavio earned a 3.8 grade-point average. Although accepted by all of the UCs and CSUs to which he applied, he decided to attend Foothill College, knowing that doing so would make a college education far more affordable.
Octavio’s first introduction to MVLA Community Scholars came through Michael Smith, his AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher, who encouraged him to apply for a Community Scholars scholarship. Octavio is grateful that the money he received from that scholarship allowed him to pay his school fees without having to get a full-time job that would have prevented him from concentrating on his studies.
In the fall, thousands of excited students walk onto college campuses for the first time, eager, happy, and filled with anticipation. However, some, especially first-generation-to-college students, often feel anxious. While other students are walking purposefully around, filing out paperwork and looking as if they know exactly what they need to do and what to expect, these other students can feel like they have just landed on a foreign planet.
MVLA Scholar, Octavio Romero, was first in his family to go to college, and graduated from San Jose State University in December 2013 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He remembers, “The first day (of college)….I felt frightened, almost overwhelmed…I felt so out of place.” Luckily, Octavio had been paired with a mentor to whom he could turn for reassurance and who, according to Octavio, “Was there for everything and anything that I needed.” Another student, Maritza Arreola, is also grateful to the MVLA Community Scholars program for its mentors: “Thanks to this stability in a complicated time of transition, I transferred to Mills College… successfully earning my BA in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies this past May (2014).”
Challenges for first-generation-to-college low-income students arise early, asserts a board member of MVLA Community Scholars. Many of these young adults learned English while attending high school, and/or worked to help support their families. Yet, their fine grades get them into good colleges. One mentor observes, “The dedication and work ethic of our Scholars is truly inspirational. They figure out 95% of issues on their own, but it helps to talk to someone else who has walked a similar path. That’s where we mentors can offer support. And, we’re pretty good cheerleaders for our Scholars during their college journey!”
This fall, MVLA Community Scholars is very proud to be helping 24 new Scholars with annually renewable scholarships and college mentors; and although college will certainly challenge them, they have the motivation and intellect to succeed, and we promise to be there…whenever they need us.
To learn more, donate or to volunteer visit www.mvlacommunityscholars.org
MVLA Community Scholars is a program of the Los Altos Community Foundation
Save the Date!
LACF’s Annual Foundation Brunch!
Sunday, October 26 11:00 am
Los Altos Golf & Country Club
All are welcome!
Comes visit the Glass Pumpkin Patch Los Altos.
Los Altos Community Foundation is sponsoring the Glass Pumpkin Patch Los Altos September 13-14 10 am – 5 pm at Lincoln Park, Los Altos.
Benefiting the non-profit GreenTown Los Altos
The patch features work from Walker & Bowes and San Jose Glass Artists.
For more information go to greentownlosaltos.com
Come out and find your perfect Pumpkin.