Rosa Peredia is a very hardworking and focused individual who commits wholeheartedly to each endeavor she undertakes. She is a World Languages: Spanish for Native speakers major and plans a career in supporting those affected by the criminal justice system. During her time at Mendocino College, she pursued and secured an internship at the local courthouse allowing her the opportunity to understand her career choice in practice. Rosa is extremely intelligent and resourceful. She has been able to successfully navigate obstacles while making the most out of her coursework. After only two semesters in college, Rosa became eligible to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honor society; not an easy feat for a first generation college student. In addition, Rosa’s commitment to her family is a testament to her compassion and sense of loyalty. She is helping guide her younger sister through high school and setting a positive example. First generation college students often need to provide financial support for their families, despite their full time status in college. Rosa does this without complaint or hesitation. Today, Rosa is a student mentor, helping other CAMP students successfully navigate their first year of college. It is this work ethic that lead to her acceptance at three universities for transfer; she will be attending CSU Bernardino in the Fall of 2016.
Caitlin Lazaro was raised in a single parent household with her brother and sister. Her mother was disabled and unable to work, which left welfare as the only source of income for her family. As a result of her socio economic status growing up, she did not have access to many opportunities and had a difficult time maintaining friendships with peers because her family moved around a lot.
“As a child, school was like a safe haven,” says Lazaro, “I had been very gifted academically, and excelled in nearly every subject. Despite this, I experienced some significant hardships and trauma throughout my childhood, which led to a teenage pregnancy and problems with addiction in my early adult years. For many years after graduating high school, I struggled with maintaining living on my own, while raising a child.”
Eventually Lazaro managed to gain some stability, and resumed school in the spring of 2018. When she first began at Mendocino College, she did not know what profession she wanted to pursue as a career, but knew that she wanted to study music due to its significant influence throughout her life. “I often depended on music to get me through difficult times and through difficult emotional upheavals, so when I had written a research essay on the benefits and applications of Music Therapy for English 200 in Spring semester of 2018, it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in Music Therapy,” said Lazaro.
In the spring of 2021, Lazaro obtained an Associate’s Degree for Transfer (AAT) in Psychology from Mendocino College. She plans to finish her AAT in Music at Mendocino College and then hopes to transfer to a 4-year university, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy and Composition. “Ultimately, it is my dream to study abroad in Europe for my Masters and Doctoral degrees in these fields so that I may someday be able to assist others in their healing processes through the application of musical therapeutic interventions,” says Lazaro.
“I am incredibly grateful to my spouse, who has been my primary source of support and encouragement throughout my time as a student at Mendocino College, as well as our four amazing children,” says Lazaro. “With the help of my family and the wonderful staff at Mendocino College, I have gained a sense of stability and self-confidence I never knew as a child. It is truly to them that I owe my accomplishments and overall success.”
Kalli Walkinghawk was a theater/dance student at Mendocino College who was accepted into San Francisco State’s Fine Arts bachelor’s degree program. She also recently landed a role as an extra in the HBO special Sharp Objects. “My experience here at Mendocino College has been really great so far…I think all the teachers here at Mendocino College want to see me succeed.”
Kalli was born in Santa Rosa and is originally from Marin County near San Francisco. She and her two siblings were raised by her mother, who was single and struggled financially most of their childhood. Kalli is inspired by her mother and her ability to always keep moving forward regardless of the hardships she faces. She describes her mother as a kind and giving woman who “gives, gives, gives, and that’s all she does…she just loves her kids to death”.
Kalli has struggled to continue her education due to financial hardships, which is why she was so thrilled to win a scholarship from San Francisco State College of Liberal and Creative Arts for $1,000 as well as a scholarship from Mendocino College. The honors will relieve some of her financial stress and allow her to focus more on her education.
Kalli describes herself as a “very goofy, creative, girl who likes to make bird calls, I’m kind of shy and quiet and silly”. Kalli loves swimming, dance, IN-N-OUT burgers, and shakes, especially mint chocolate chip shakes! “Give me a burger and a milkshake and let me eat it outdoors”, she says, “and I will be a happy girl!” Staying fit and active is very important to Kalli and she finds that exercise is a good stress relief for her. She was even featured in a Gymboree book as a child. Kalli acknowledges dance and nature for keeping her balanced.
Kalli attended the San Francisco Ballet School for four years, but due to the high cost of living, she and her family moved to Lake County when she was sixteen. She continued taking dance classes at Kelseyville High School and in the summer of 2012, after her junior year, she attended a summer intensive, two-week program in Valencia called California State Summer School for the Arts. “This experience taught me how valuable dance is to me. I found that I was yearning for that same type of training that I received when attending San Francisco Ballet School.”
Kalli credits her Mendocino College fellow classmates, instructors, and counselors as her supporters that inspired her and instilled in her the desire to never give up on her dreams. She is very proud of her good grades and for the fact that she has made it this far in her education. In the future, after obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Kalli hopes to earn a Masters of Fine Arts Degree and pursue a career in teaching dance, specifically ballet, so that she can share her passion through teaching.
Kalli’s favorite quote is by Alonzo King, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul”. She describes dance as, “important to society and our culture…a way of communicating a story…there’s a lot you can portray”. Her advice for other students is, “When you think you want to give up, don’t give up…your hard work will be rewarded…as for aspiring dancers, practice every single day, keep practicing”.
Jose Gallegos Ruiz is an outstanding student who finished his first year at Mendocino College with a 4.0. He is proud of his hard work and is grateful for the support of his parents and the Mendocino College staff who helped him along the way.
Jose was born in Jalisco, Mexico. His father lived in Ukiah, CA for over 20 years before Jose and the rest of his family joined him in the U.S. to seek better opportunities in education. During his first year in College, Jose was forced to overcome feelings about his sense of belonging. Many people he knew, including his parents, had no more than a fifth-grade education. For Jose, it was very challenging to step out of his comfort zone and find the tools and support he needed to progress. One of the biggest challenges for Jose was learning to speak English. He spoke zero English when he first arrived to the U.S. as a freshman in High School and in the beginning, had to have classmates translate lectures for him. He didn't have many friends and often felt very alone.
Jose began his educational career at Mendocino College in the fall of 2016 and originally planned to major in Spanish. After taking a few classes in Mexican/American history, he decided to add a second major in Chicano Studies to his educational plan. He is part of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and during his first year, Jose says the program provided him the assistance, guidance, and academic support that helped him succeed and get him to where he is today. He feels fortunate to be one of the seven interns selected to spend the summer of 2017 in Washington DC where he worked at the Office of Migrant Education in the U.S Department of Education. He was part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) National Association and was able to attend briefings and hearings on Capitol Hill. Jose is now a CAMP/ FYI student mentor in the Mendocino College Dreamer Center and loves being able to give back to the program that offered him so much during his first year. Jose praises the friendly and helpful Mendocino College EOPS team, counselors, and financial aid employees, and highly recommends their support to students, especially those in their first-year of college.
Watching his parents work so hard to provide for him and his two siblings was what inspired Jose to attend college. Their hard work continues to motivate him every day and keeps him moving forward with his educational goals. When Jose shares his educational successes with his parents he says he can see happiness in their eyes because they know their hard work is paying off. He laughingly admits that after one class he can go home feeling worn-out and drained, while his work from dawn until dusk and never seem to get tired.
Jose plans to graduate from Mendocino College in the spring of 2018 with an associates degree in both Spanish for Native Speakers and Ethnic Studies. He hopes to double major in the two disciplines at UC Davis to complete his bachelor’s degree. After completing his undergraduate degree, Jose says he may pursue a Master's in Education Policies or Spanish. He would like to eventually work in the field of education, because he believes that education is the key to success.
Every day on campus creates a new memory for Jose. He says he doesn't really understand why some students dislike school, "There is always something new. You never know who you are going to talk to or where that will lead in another five years. You never know if the person you will talk to today will end up being your boss or if you will end up being his boss. It could be where you meet your future wife or your future husband. You just never know. College is a unique experience and students should take advantage of that. Try to make as many memories as possible." He encourages others to work hard, never give up, and always ask for help.
Leonardo Rodriguez is the 2021/22 Mendocino College Student Trustee and was also elected to serve at the state level simultaneously as the student trustee for the California Community College League Board. Rodriguez is a first generation college student and a dreamer who was born in Mexico and migrated to the United States when he was five years old. He is currently working on three majors at Mendocino College: political science, history, and social science. He plans to transfer to Sacramento State University to pursue his bachelor’s degree in political science and will then go on to obtain his master’s degree. Rodriguez plans to do internships in Sacramento so he can meet legislators and work with the community to learn about the problems people in society face.
Rodriguez graduated from Kelseyville High School with a 2.0 gpa and it wasn’t until he began attending Mendocino College that he started to see his true academic potential. He began in the First Year Institute program in Fall 2019 under the guidance of Director Monica Flores.
“Going to Mendocino College allowed me to dream, and to dispel this idea that my [socio-economic] status was a limiting factor to my success. Within the FYI program, under the leadership of Monica Flores, I began believing in myself. I created friends and connections that gave me perspective and inspiration,” said Rodriguez. He adds that having a mentor like Monica Flores, helped show him that people just like himself can grow to become effective leaders.
Rodriguez says his academic success was derailed a bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the help of the Mendocino College staff, especially his counselors Meztli Avina and Brenda Estrada, he made a comeback. He earned a 3.8 gpa and President's List recognition in the Spring of 2021.
Rodriguez says Mendocino College classes sparked curiosity for him, which in turn created an interest to learn. “With curiosity and an interest to learn, I have been able to establish discipline which is necessary for success. This discipline has crossed over into my newest accomplishments, and the opportunities given to me.”
He says the classes that inspired the most curiosity for him were English Composition with Professor Davis and Economics with Professor Lam-Hansard. “If I had not taken English, I would not have established the ability to think of the world critically and to use writing as an extension of my voice or learned that I actually really enjoy philosophy. Economics was easily my favorite class, Professor Lam-Hansard allows lessons to be relevant. If I had not taken these two classes, I would have never realized that though the world is unjust, we have the ability to speak truth to power, and create the future we want to see. The class that is most important to my journey is environmental science with Professor Cardimona. I took it three times before I passed it, but when I finally took the advice I was being given, used the discipline I had been taught, and realized the class was extremely interesting, I grew as a student and aced the class.”
Abigail Au’s journey at Mendocino College began in 2014. Now, almost four years later she is finding herself with opportunities and experiences she never thought possible.
In her Sophomore year of high school Abigail could barely keep a D in her Algebra II class, so her mom suggested that she start taking classes at the college to earn extra credits. After her first semester, she discovered that the college was a much more effective study environment than high school for her, so she continued taking a few college courses each semester while continuing high school.
By her Junior year of high school, she had started to gain the confidence she needed to excel in school. She was earning much better grades and began developing a whole new social life on the college campus. In talking with her peers and professors, she started to learn about the many support programs and services Mendocino College offered. After discovering MESA and the Learning Center, Abigail decided to dedicate a lot more time towards Mendocino College, so she transitioned to being a full-time college student and part-time high school student. She began to get involved with campus clubs and met people who inevitably played a big role in her academic life. Within one semester, she was being recruited as a Phi Theta Kappa member and got her first job as an English tutor in the Learning Center where she met Janet Daugherty, the Learning Center Coordinator. Janet and the Learning Center broke down barriers to success for Abigail. Having a job on campus and having Janet’s support helped her stay focused and on campus, which made it easier for her to focus on school.
In her first semester in MESA, Abigail met Dr. Amanda Xu, the program director. She says she considers Amanda a role model and that her guidance and encouragement led her to do many things that will shape her life forever. Joining MESA allowed her to part take in several different trips and provided many scholarship opportunities. With the MESA program, she experienced white water rafting for the first time and successfully created a STEM project for a NASA fellowship. Abigail says, “Because of the motivation and confidence I have gained, I can now proudly say that I am the Vice President of MESA, I am the Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa, and I am surpassing all the expectations I have had for myself as a tutor and as a student."