June 2020 | Volume 1, Issue 11
Middle College Celebrates 20th Graduating Class
At just 17 years of age, Giselle Martinez has seen the highs and lows of life.
Martinez, who recently earned her high school diploma from Rancho Verde High School, is one of 60 students from the Middle College High School who comprise the 20th graduating class. The 60 MCHS students this year earned 151 degrees, with 27 graduating with Great Distinction and another 23 with Distinction.
MCHS was established in 1999 by the three educational organizations through a special grant from the California Community College Chancellor's Office. MCHS students complete their last two years of high school at Moreno Valley College while enrolled in high school and college courses. MCHS students enroll in college courses which satisfy high school graduation requirements, courses that are transferable, or classes that can be applied towards an associate degree.
This year, MCHS had 60 students on track to earn one or more associate degrees by the end of either spring or summer, which was about 79 percent of the students in the program. Twenty students who were 17 years of age graduated this spring or at the end of the summer term.
Martinez, who will leave MVC with four degrees, will be transferring to the University of California, Riverside in order to study biochemistry, which was not her first choice of study.
"I was excited that I got accepted but hesitated as well," she said. "I ended up changing my career plans. I decided to take the risk and change my major from biology. Something tells me I'm going to really enjoy biochemistry."
The fact that Martinez, who is graduating with Great Distinction, is looking forward is a success in itself. Six years ago, she lost her father, Oscar. And, then her mother, Maribel, was deported. She and her younger brother, Daniel (13 years of age), have been living with Eneida Vejar, an aunt.
"The only physical support system I have had is my older brother (Oscar, 21)," she said. "He has done so much for me and I want to make him proud. It was a struggle, but I knew I had to keep moving forward not only for myself but for my family."
To overcome her struggles, Martinez applied for the MCHS program. She says being accepted changed her life.
"There were difficult times because I had to balance both college and high school classes, but I knew it wasn't impossible," Martinez said. "The biggest challenge I faced in the program wasn't the college classes but understanding the difference between a short-term and long-term goal.
"The short-term goal would be wanting to experience my high school years. I would see numerous old friends back at high school having fun and participating in several events. The long-term goal was visualizing my future and how much the program will benefit me. The Middle College program allowed me time to get a feel for college classes and a chance to see what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Bond Discovers a Career While Seeking Independence
For Ashley Bond independence came at a cost.
"I lived a privileged life," Bond said of her upper-middle class lifestyle provided by her parents. She attended military school and after graduation enrolled at La Sierra University.
Eventually, she decided to forge a life on her own. She got a job at a chain restaurant in order to supplement her college scholarship. However, shortly after starting her new life she learned she was pregnant. She dropped out of the university and married – all a year out of high school.
"(Ultimately), we were overwhelmed with stressors from communication to parenting styles," she said. "We had limited finances and increasing debt."
It became too much and she and her husband separated. Bond found herself in an apartment she couldn't afford and alone with a 10-month-old daughter. She was nearing eviction when she returned to live with her parents.
She made her way to Moreno Valley College but found herself lost.
"I didn't know what questions to ask," Bond said. "I sought counseling and was provided an educational plan, but not much else."
Again, she was lost.
But a referral to CalWORKs proved to be the difference in Bond's re-emergence into college life. Her home life was a different story, however. Bond said, she and her husband reconciled, but it didn't last.
"We are still trying to improve our communication while apart and working toward living together as a family in the future," said Bond, who now has two children.
In the meantime, Bond, who earned a degree in Social & Behavioral Sciences, will transfer to Brandman University to complete her studies in social work, and plans to further her education with a master's degree in Social Work. She credits CalWORKs in helping her learn new skills, especially how to communicate effectively. She says, she is working on self-growth so she can be a positive influence when it comes to communicating with her husband.
"The CalWORKs program always goes above and beyond," Bond said. "The guidance I received from Ms. Terrie (Hawthorne, Workforce Preparation counselor/coordinator) helped me develop an educational and career pathway plan that was right."
Robinson Leaves Her Mark
Cuevas Pursues a Passion for Science
A "B" turned Luis Cuevas into an "A" student and a Chancellor's Scholar.
A one-time future scientist, Cuevas completed his transfer requirements this year after earning his associates degree last year. A TRIO Scholar in the ACES Student Support Services Program, he says it was a "B" in James Namakata's MAT-35 class that got his attention.
"It really knocked me off my feet and humbled me," he said. "It was way harder than any math class I took before that. I thought I knew what to expect."
After staring at that "B," Cuevas decided he wanted to earn straight A's. He never saw another "B." Cuevas says, he took advantage of tutoring and got involved with The Academic Counseling and Educational Support (ACES) program, clubs and other campus learning opportunities. ACES offer targeted services for program participants, including academic counseling, tutoring, mentoring, career and skill development, field experiences, and other services to empower students to graduate and transfer from MVC to four-year institutions.
Since his time in middle school, Cuevas knew he enjoyed science classes, but he was unsure what exactly a scientist did. In fact, he wasn't even a good student. But he knew science was interesting and fun. Despite a passion for science, Cuevas struggled in high school. Therefore, college wasn't on his radar. Neither of his parents had attended college, but his sister did. He planned on just working the rest of his life until he saw his older sister enroll at Moreno Valley College. Observing her, Cuevas thought that a college education might be a possibility for him.
Cuevas said that he never considered himself to be smart. However, shortly after starting classes he realized the value of knowledge and enjoyed seeking it.
"The idea is probably the most impactful," he said.
He began immersing himself in the college atmosphere. He stared getting involved as a volunteer tutor. That turned Cuevas into being a tutor with Tutorial Services and Supplemental Instruction. He even served a stint as a tutor for ACES. He says, he found inspiration in his professors.
"I looked for opportunities to learn," Cuevas said. "I would go to professors' office hours even if they weren't my professors. I'd literally pop in for a visit in everyone's office hours just for fun. I can think of at least 10 inspirational professors."
Soon, Cuevas, who will enroll in the University of California, Irvine this fall as a Chancellor's Scholar, found his passion for learning. And, ultimately, a career. He says, he appreciates the education he received at MVC due to the level of interaction he had with his professors.
"I want to help others get excited about learning," said Cuevas, who plans on becoming a college professor. "I love the feeling of showing someone what they are worth even when they don't see it themselves. We are all very capable. I have so much energy and enthusiasm towards education now. It's hard not to! The universe is so intricately designed."
Moreno Valley College
16130 Lasselle St., Moreno Valley, CA 92551