This community opinion was contributed by former Gavilan College students Melinda Soares-Furtado and Joshua Sanchez. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
To the editor,
We are writing in support of Measure X for Gavilan College. As alumni, we know what Gavilan College means for a young person seeking opportunity and education. Measure X will give future students the chance we had, with updated facilities at the main campus and also closer to home.
I was 21 the first time someone encouraged me to go to college. It was during a personal training session and my client, who was in upper management at Intel said to me, “You’re too smart to spend the rest of your life in this gym.” I didn’t entirely believe her, but the prospect planted a newfound hope inside me. It was something I had secretly wanted. “Maybe I could go to college,” I thought to myself. I was born into a family of migrant dairy farmers. We value hard work and closeness above all else. My mom was encouraged to stop “wasting her time in school” in the 8th grade so she could help her parents with work on the dairy. People like us, I was told, didn’t go to college. “I mean, you’re a mother now, Melinda, you’re not a kid anymore.” I decided to take a few classes to see if I could handle the material. Plus, the Pell Grant would help offset the financial burden, so my parents couldn’t criticize the decision too harshly.
I was 24 the first time someone told me I should consider a career in science. At the top of a printout handed to me by the specialist at the Gavilan Career Center were the words “Scientist” and “Professor.” Really? Me? I decided I’d take some more STEM courses just to explore the option. The next two years were nothing short of life changing. I found a home at the Gavilan MESA Center where I became a tutor. I spent many afternoons working through problem sets with my peers. I found mentors in a number of instructors including Marlene Dwyer, Elena Dachkova, Leah Halper, and Christina Salvin. Ken Wagman was kind enough to let me bring my son to class when I couldn’t find a sitter. The MESA counselors guided me with my transfer application. It was with this foundation of unwaverable support that I was accepted with full scholarships to UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley. At UC Santa Cruz, I thrived, publishing work in an astrophysical journal as an undergraduate. Today, I am near completion of my Ph.D. at Princeton University in the Department of Astrophysical Science. I work on the detection of planets outside our solar system. In fact, I’ll be releasing a paper soon that unveils four new planets using satellite data and a special technique I’ve optimized. I take the gifts that Gavilan has generously provided me throughout every chapter of my development. Tomorrow night I will give a presentation to an audience of 800 on the search for life in space. I will see promise and potential in every face staring back at me because I know untapped talent is everywhere. Gavilan College taught me that.
Gavilan deserves the resources for quality facilities, laboratory equipment, and support staff because it is a place that nurtures untapped potential unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Gavilan literally changes lives. I don’t mean just the lives of the students that cross its doorways, but every exchange that student has from that chapter forward is enriched. Gavilan’s return on investment to the community is truly incalculable and I say that as a person who knows how to perform a calculation. Gavilan taught me that too.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit” – Greek proverb
Supporting Gavilan College by voting Yes on measure X will allow first generation college students like myself to pursue their dream careers and come back to serve the community. The funds are not a waste as the opposition to this measure would have you believe, it is in fact an investment in your community and our future.
I myself grew up in Hollister and was the only one in my group of friends to graduate from high school. I decided soon after to give Gavilan College a try before looking into military options. This was a profound and life changing experience as the education I received and life long mentors I met along the way had instilled confidence for me to pursue a health education and fuel a passion for research. While at Gavilan College I was able to successfully apply to research internships at UCSC and Princeton. After earning my associates degree I was able to transfer to UC Berkeley and graduate with a Bachelors of Science in microbiology while earning internships at Harvard Medical School, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and a two-year NIH Research scholarship. This would never have been possible without the foundation I had built at Gavilan College. Today I am only a few months away from graduating with my doctorate of dental medicine degree in May of 2019. I plan to come back to our community and serve as a health care provider locally and also help mentor the next generation of students. Supporting measure X means supporting the dreams of the children in your community and the future leaders and health care providers of tomorrow. Please vote Yes on measure X.
We are thankful for the community that made our education possible, by supporting programs and facilities at Gavilan College. Let's make sure all of our students have access to higher education, now and in the future, by supporting Measure X.
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