A big group of students and faculty members from the past and present came out to the “Keep the Pajaro Going” event hosted by the Parajo Valley Unified School District Scholarship Advisory Board on Saturday afternoon to recognize and acknowledge the financial struggles college students are faced with in these days of budget cuts and increased tuition fees.
Among those in the crowd was PVUSD superintendent Dorma Baker, assistant superintendent of secondary education for the PVUSD Murry Schekman, former Watsonville High School main and assistant principal Lorraine Sandoval-Vigil, MAIA president Ann Carlos, and the always kindhearted Rowland and Pat Rebele, who matched a $10,000 donation towards the MAIA foundation.
“We’re hoping that this is the seed and that it will spread,” said Sandoval-Vigil. “Because we’re just starting at MAIA and we’re hoping the word will spread and that we’ll be able to reach our goal of being able to get these kids through school.”
And there’s no doubt that every little bit counts. Just ask the recent high school graduates that received their $500 scholarship on Saturday thanks to MAIA.
The guest speakers at the event were Watsonville High class of 1997 graduate and now a professor at San Francisco State University Alegra Eroy-Reveles along with Murry’s brother Randy Schekman, cell biology profossor from the University of California, Berkley.
Murry invited his brother Randy to give the kids in attendance a couple of words of encouragement, his strong beliefs in public education, and the problems the state of California is facing in connection to education cost.
“I am committed to public education,” he said. “I am not going away and many of my colleagues remain at a place like Berkley because we feel very strongly that this was how we grew up and we want to make sure that that benefit is available for the next generation.”
“I’ve had opportunities to move to places like Harvard but I have no intention in moving because I feel so strongly on public prior education,” added Randy.
Randy mentioned about the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan that gives undergraduate students from families with incomes under 80 thousand dollars a chance to have all their fees waved minus the room and board.
“We found a few years ago that with the Blue and Gold scholarship program that we were doing very well with kids who came from working class families,” said Randy.
“And were also doing very well with kids who came from wealthy families, but it was the middle class that was getting shut out.”
“So at Berkley we’ve developed a program to on a sliding scale assist families with an income of up to 120 thousand [dollars] so that there are not barriers anymore,” added Randy. “But of course this is expensive and we rely on donors to make this happen.”
Randy is also a big supporter for proposition 30 and urged folks to go vote this November. If the proposition passes it will raise the sales tax by a quarter percent and impose an income tax on upper income families that will bring in an extra nine billion dollars.
The money will then go towards the school budgets and can be spent on educational purposes and intents, according to Randy.
“We’re hopeful and it’s still ahead in the polls but anything can happen,” said Randy. “It’s crucial that you recognize and I would argue vote for this. If it does succeed then we will at least for a time be able to suspend increases in tuition at the UC campuses.
“We will bite the bullet and figure out a way to pay for the extra expenses, but there will enough coming in so that we won’t have to keep increasing fees.”
However, the generous folks at MAIA try to make school possible for the children of our future and give them the confidence to move on without having to worry about it financially.
“The rent is due at the first of the month, my electric bill is due next week, I only have enough money for one meal a day,” are just some of the statements that a majority of college students like Rene Siqueiros and Montserrate Espitia can empathize with.
Yet, Siqueiros and Espitia, both graduates from Watsonville High, were also a part of the MAIA program and it helped them out tremendously to get them where they are at today. Both of them are now students at UC Berkley where Espitia focuses on her anthropology major and Siqueiros pursues a life in mechanical engineering.
“I can’t work full time, there is no way,” said Siqueiros to the crowd. “If I didn’t have the opportunities that were presented to me through the MAIA foundation, through Lorraine, who I worked very closely with on the Ivy Project which really got me excited for college and excited about going somewhere to learn about engineering. “
“I’m building a racecar, I don’t know any five year old that wouldn’t be stoked on that,” added Siqueiros. “It’s definitely a very important part of who I am and if I didn’t have the slack financially to absorb that I wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s something that I know now that I’m very grateful for, but I know ten years down the road I’m going to be more grateful for it.”
Elizabeth Contreras (PVHS) attending CSU Sacramento
Margarita Rocha - (PVHS) attending UC Irvine
Jose Manuel Navarro - (PVHS) attending UC Davis
Esmeralda Mauricio - PVHS) attending CSUMB
Berenice Hernandez Pizano - PVHS –attending CSU Sacramento
Abraham Corrales - WHS -attending UC Davis
David Lara-WHS - WHS - attending CSU Sacramento
Cecilia Vaca-Rivas - WHS – attending CSUMB
Rudiel Fabian Sanchez - WHS - attending UC Merced
Araceli Mariscal - WHS - attending CSUMB