First-Generation College Student is Headed from Santa Paula to UC Berkeley

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This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2019.

Mauricio Gonzalez's father earns a living picking crops and his mom cleaning hotel rooms. It's hard work that's paying off as they prepare to watch their son graduate from Santa Paula High School and enroll at one of the nation's top universities.

When Mauricio heads to UC Berkeley this fall, he'll be the first in his family to go to college. He says his parents' struggle is a driving force behind his achievements. "They brought us here hoping we would live a better life than they ever did in Mexico," he says. "That basically keeps me going in hopes that one day I'll be able to accomplish that goal for them – so that's my main motivation."

Mauricio is ranked in the top three in his senior class, having challenged himself with advance placement courses while participating in sports and extracurricular activities. In addition to being on the wrestling team and running track and field, he joined a variety of community service clubs.

As a member of Santa Paula High School's Human Services Academy, Mauricio had the opportunity to work with preschoolers at the same elementary school he once attended. "It was really fun interacting with the students, especially since they were still beginning to learn how to behave in a classroom setting and exploring the world around them," he says. "We got to teach a couple of lesson plans and be almost like a second teacher."

Mauricio also interned at two different medical clinics, which aligns with his career goal of becoming a dermatologist. He's aware of the sacrifices his family will continue to make as he pursues his degree. "It's going to be a big transition, especially considering that my parents will be helping me out with some financial aid," he says. "That's going to take a toll on them for a while, at least until I get out, and then my brother is next."

Having experienced the challenges of life as an immigrant, the recent increase in anti-immigration rhetoric at the national level hasn't been an easy thing for Mauricio to experience. "This country was founded by immigrants," he says. "And frankly, I think it's good that we have diversity here." But he isn't letting the negativity distract him as he begins his college career and continues to write his own immigrant success story.


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