Meet Gabriela Vargas, a freshman at Modesto Junior College majoring in Business Administration and 2016 Stanislaus Community Foundation scholarship recipient.
Q: Did you always have a desire to go to college?
Gabriela: When I was younger I didn’t really think college was for me. I didn’t really know anyone from my same type of background who was going to college. I had a cousin who was going but his family was considered wealthy so I thought that only the rich kids got to go to college. To me, my family’s economic status made college impossible.
I didn’t really get the desire to go to college until my sophomore year in high school when the college counselor started going into our classroom and talking about SATs, ACTs and college representatives visited our high school, but especially when she began telling us about financial aid and scholarships that were available. When I first heard about scholarships and how we didn’t need to pay them back I thought, “Wow, maybe college isn’t impossible.” I remember coming home and telling my mom how there were all types of financial aid out there, not only from the state but also from different people who gave out scholarships. I told her that I was thinking maybe I did want to go to college after all.
Q: Did your parents work as you were growing up? Did they convey a desire for you to go to college?
Gabriela: My dad worked in construction and my mom worked for a couple of years at McDonald’s, but stopped working after my younger brother was born which was when I was about five years old. She did, however, start selling cosmetics shortly after. She didn’t make a lot of money, but it helped our family when the recession hit in 2008 and my dad became unemployed. He would occasionally find small construction jobs, but it was really tough with all the competition for those types of jobs. It was also around that time that my mom decided to find a job with a more stable income and began working in canneries or picking crops.
My mom was the one who would talk to me the most about what I thought I would want to do after high school, even when I was still in elementary school. She would see that I had somewhat of a skill in hairstyling, so she would encourage me to go to beauty school. She would tell me even a short career would be good for me, that I didn’t need to be a doctor or anything fancy if I didn’t want to. She always told me to find something that I liked and not to pursue a career that I didn’t really have an interest in, because I would just end up in debt and with a degree that I wouldn’t use.
Q: What kind of college and financial aid guidance did you get in school?
Gabriela: During high school, teachers and counselors made a big point in reminding us how important it was to pass each and every one of our classes. The college counselor would tell us weeks in advance when college representatives would be visiting our school, she would send out emails with reminders, and she would email a monthly newsletter with important deadlines or things we needed to do to be college ready – not only during our senior year but during all four years. She was also very helpful in setting up various FAFSA workshops to help us fill out the application and even getting MJC to send representatives out to our school and do the whole registration and orientation process during school hours.
Q: What are your aspirations for college and after college?
Gabriela: I want to be a successful student with at least at a 3.5 GPA. I know it might sound ambitious especially since it’s my first semester, but if I don’t, I know I’ll regret not putting more effort into my education. I know that colleges have programs so that students can study in different parts of the world and I think it’d be a really great experience if I could study a semester abroad. Besides Business Administration, I also want to major in Theater Stagecraft, so after college or even during one of the summers while I’m a student, I want to do an internship with a theater company, specifically with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
After college, I want to work with a theater company or at an office in the Central Valley. I know most of the business-related jobs are in the Silicon Valley cities but I want to stay around this area for at least a few years. However my dream is to work as a stage designer for a theater company.