First Upward Scholars student to earn a bachelor's degree
In December 2017, Moises Bautista graduated from Cal Poly with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering, he is the first Upward Scholars student to earn a four-year degree.
Moises came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 18 and attended Cañada College for seven years. It took him that long because he worked full-time, so he only had limited time to study. In addition, he knew very little math, so he had to start with the basics (pre-algebra) and work his way up to the advanced math he needed to transfer to an engineering program.
"At Cañada I learned about life," he says. "And Upward Scholars showed me that there are a lot of people in this community who want to help."
Food truck entrepreneur and Upward Scholars' resident chef
If you’ve attended an Upward Scholars event, there’s a good chance you’ve delighted in the cooking of chef extraordinaire Carmina Ortuño. But what you may not know is that Carmina, now a successful entrepreneur, was once an Upward Scholars student.
Carmina came here to escape violence in Mexico and knew no English when she arrived. She took ESL classes, first at Sequoia Adult School and then at Cañada College, to learn enough English to start her business. Upwards Scholars paid for her books and transportation to college.
Before coming to the United States, Carmina owned a small restaurant in Acapulco. Wanting to capitalize on her passion for cooking, she recently opened a food truck in San Jose specializing in traditional Mexican fare like chili verde, chicken tinga, and barbacoa.
Carmina had planned to return to school after her business got going, but success got in her way. “My goal was to take math and business classes,” Carmina says. “But now I have no time.”
If you’re interested in talking to Carmina about catering an event, with or without her food truck, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When kids are your passion…
Even though she was only 16 when she arrived in the U.S. from Mexico, Upward Scholars alum Viridiana Yengle didn't consider going to high school; rather, she went straight to work.
After a few years working minimum wage jobs, Viridiana got a job as a nanny. That's when she discovered that kids were her passion.
To act on that passion, Viridiana knew she needed to go back to school. She attended Cañada College for three years and, in May, became the first Upward Scholars student to receive an associate degree in Early Childhood Education.
During Viridiana's years at Cañada, Upward Scholars paid for her textbooks and parking pass and gave her a laptop. Her Upward Scholars tutor, a Stanford undergrad, helped her improve her writing. Upward Scholars also arranged for her to meet with two early childhood education professionals who advised her about her career. “Upward Scholars is part of my family now,” Viridiana says. “I'll remember you always.”
Civil engineer in the making
"When I came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2011, I couldn’t communicate in English. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have any experience in this country,” explains Upward Scholars alum Amado Flores.
Soon after arriving, Amado got a job in a restaurant that paid $8 an hour. He also enrolled in Sequoia Adult School and then transferred to Cañada College, graduating three years later with an associate degree in engineering. He's now enrolled in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in civil engineering.
Upward Scholars paid for Amado's books during his time at Cañada, along with the bus pass he needed before he could afford a car.
“What is amazing to me about this country is that there are people here who are willing to help people they don’t know, without judging them, without saying, ‘Oh, you are undocumented. Oh, you are Mexican. Oh, you are too old to go to school’.” Amado says, “Thanks to these people, I have been able to achieve what I didn’t believe I could achieve.”