Planting the Seed: The Impact of Scholarships

August 17, 2016

As a kid, Danny Mauricio only saw his father a few minutes a day as he left their south Modesto home to go to work. From temp jobs to janitorial and warehouse work, Danny’s father worked as many as 12 hours a day to support his wife and five children so their mother could focus on raising them.

“He told us, ‘I don’t think you want to be just like me, having to work a couple of jobs, barely seeing your kids,’” Danny recalls. “My parents said to definitely get an education and a career where you don’t have to be breaking your back.”

Danny took that to heart. As he secretly struggled with depression from fourth through eighth grade, studying served as his outlet. He excelled in school, so no one even realized the inner turmoil he battled.

At the end of eighth grade, things started to look up. He was promised two scholarships – one from a Stanislaus Community Foundation fund – as long as he graduated from high school and enrolled in a college or university.

“Receiving the scholarships made me realize, ‘Here’s the seed, just water it. Let it grow,’” Danny said. “I don’t know if life would’ve turned out the same if it weren’t for that small seed that grew and blossomed.”

That seed blossomed thanks to college and career preparation classes, like Advancement via Individual Determination, also known as AVID, and TRiO classes throughout his four years at Downey High School in Modesto. Programs like these expose students – most of whom are the first in their families to go to college – to financial aid and scholarship opportunities, college field trips, and tools to complete college applications and personal statements.

Those resources, combined with the scholarships, empowered Danny to pursue a four-year university. In April of 2014, he got his acceptance package from UC Merced.

“I was excited because I really wanted to get into a UC,” Danny said.

With tuition, books, supplies and living expenses, going to UC Merced would cost him a total of $27,000. Thanks to federal and state grants, plus various scholarships, Danny had all his expenses covered for his first year without having to get a job.

“The money lasted exactly till the last day of school, but it got me through,” said Danny. “I felt a sense of relief because my parents aren’t necessarily financially stable. It’s the least I can do for my parents. They don’t have to stress about me trying to succeed further in life.”

Through Stanislaus Futures, low-income students, like Danny, who attend seven pilot high schools will receive college advising and can apply for scholarships ranging $1,000 to $3,000. Scholarship recipients will be tracked throughout their college career.

As a junior at UC Merced now, Danny hasn’t forgotten about the kids in south Modesto. He volunteers with students from his former middle school and hopes to empower them to pursue college themselves.

“I tell them, ‘School is what opens doors and helps you get out of the situation you’re in.’ I let them know I’m a college student and I went through my own patches in life, but school is what pulled me out. I would like to provide them that sense of hope and let them know their future is what they determine. The world might seem like it’s out to get you and you might trip and fall once in awhile, but stand your ground and continue moving forward.”