Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 1:00:00 AM
Contact: Della Elliott (619) 644-7690 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mexican consulate has awarded $1,000 scholarships to 15 Grossmont and Cuyamaca college students of Mexican descent, marking the East County college district’s first year of involvement in the program seeking to help elevate the educational level of Latinos in the United States.
Remedios Gomez Arnau, the consul general in San Diego, said at a ceremony Tuesday at the consulate that the Mexican government has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships since 2005 through its foreign ministry’s Institute for Mexicans Abroad program because it views supporting education as the best way for the two countries to work together to enhance the lives of Mexicans and family members living in the United States.
“I’m moved by listening to your stories and am convinced of the importance of supporting the educational efforts of these students,” she told the audience.
Two of the students who received the $500-per-semester scholarships – Alfredo Beltran Aguirre from Cuyamaca and Esau Cortez from Grossmont – spoke at the ceremony about their impoverished backgrounds and vowed to help others also dreaming of attending college.
Cortez, student body president at Grossmont with aspirations of a future in politics, credited his Mexican-born parents for instilling in him a sense of civic duty. Cortez plans to transfer from Grossmont College to San Diego State University to major in finance and become active in student government at the university level.
“My father grew up in Michoacan, Mexico, where he worked on a ranch and only had about a middle-school education due to his needing to help provide for his family,” Cortez said, adding that as the family patriarch, his father continues to work in construction, despite the physical toll it has taken. “My mother raised 27 foster children, adopting two who were born with drugs in their systems. I see the sacrifices they have made to make my life easier, along with opportunities they were never given in their own lives.
“This scholarship will help me in my goal to advocate for others. My parents have given their lives for others and I am prepared to do the same. I plan on giving up my youth and free time to make every environment I come in contact with better than I found it, to foster new opportunities for those who come after me.”
Born in a small town south of Mexico City, Aguirre still remembers the nights he went to sleep hungry because his parents didn’t have the money to buy food. At age 10, he moved with the family to the United States for a better future, but his early experiences in school left him embittered. Not only was he repeatedly kicked out of classes for speaking Spanish, he was always told by his teacher that he had no future except to work at a taco shop or in construction.
“At this elementary school, I spent half a year learning to hate, instead of learning math or English,” he said.
Noticing the change in their son, Aguirre’s parents moved him to another school, where he said he was the only Mexican child in his class, but had the help of a supportive teacher.
“My new teacher did not only teach me how to read and write English, but also taught me to have dreams and to follow them regardless of what anyone said,” said Aguirre, who was inspired to become an excellent student and to help others struggling with math or English because of a language barrier.
In middle school, he volunteered to help students in an English as a second language class develop an appreciation for math as the universal language. In high school, he volunteered to teach a class of 17 students at risk of failing and dropping out of school. A year later, he was called into the office, where he learned that all 17 had retaken and passed the California High School Exit Exam. By the time they had become seniors, they had gone from earning D’s and F’s to passing all their classes and becoming student leaders.
At Cuyamaca, Aguirre is a tutor in the college’s STEM Center and also continues tutoring high schoolers.
“That’s why I am wearing this blue vest marked ‘tutor’ – I wear it every day with pride,” said Aguirre, who plans to use his scholarship money for application fees to transfer to SDSU, UC San Diego or UC Riverside. He aspires to become a high school teacher, even though others have urged him to pursue better-paying jobs in engineering.
“Teaching is my passion, and money has never been my interest, because when I was little my grandfather used to tell me that if you’re really good at something and you do it, then somehow everything falls in place and you won’t ever need anything else,” he said.
John Valencia, the district’s associate vice chancellor of Advancement and Communications, thanked the consulate, describing the program as a superlative example of cooperation and reciprocity between the nations.
“With both Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges designated as Hispanic-serving institutions, or HSIs, by the federal government, we benefit greatly by the large grants we qualify to receive for academic purposes serving all ethnicities at our colleges,” Valencia said. “With at least 25 percent of our students identifying as Latino – the HSI threshold – it is imperative that resources are provided to ensure student success. The education they acquire at our colleges will greatly enhance their abilities to become successful, contributing members of society. The scholarships they have received today are greatly appreciated as a foundation block the students can build upon to further progress in their education.”
District and college administrators, along with Grossmont and Cuyamaca students pose with a placard representing a $15,000 check from the Mexican consulate to go toward scholarships for 15 students of Mexican heritage. From left: Grossmont College Financial Aid Director Michael Copenhaver; Cuyamaca College Financial Aid Supervisor Shirley Hughes; Cuyamaca College President Mark Zacovic; Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Associate Vice Chancellor John Valencia; Cuyamaca College student Cynthia Juarez; Cuyamaca College student Sandra Porfirio; Grossmont College student Esau Cortez, and Ernest Ewin, Executive Director of Development, Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges.
Below, Alfredo Beltran Aguirre from Cuyamaca College gives a television interview after Tuesday's scholarship presentation. At bottom: Grossmont College scholarship winner Esau Cortez tells the audience about his background and his plans for the future.