The incredible story of this HEP Alumni highlights the impact that different programs and support services can have in a student’s academic journey. Vicente Peña Pérez came to the US with his parents seeking asylum from an extremely violent community in Mexico. His academic journey in this country begins as an Out-of-School-Youth in the Migrant Education Program.
He enrolled in the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), located in Northern California in 2016. Within one year, Vicente successfully obtained a High School Equivalency Certificate, enrolled full time in college level Math and English as a second language courses. He immersed himself in extracurricular activities, volunteered to help organize student events at SRJC through the HEP Ambassadors Club, and worked in the HEP office as student assistant. As a student, he started a math tutoring group to assist other HEPers. After obtaining his HSE, he then joined the staff at SRJC’s Welcome and Connect Center providing bilingual services to first year students. Vincente always has a warm, friendly and positive attitude. He continued to support during the COVID-19 pandemic providing technical assistance to students participating in the laptop loan program, helping with the setup and making sure they were able to continue with online instruction.
In 2018, he was awarded a National HEP/CAMP Association scholarship for his commitment to education and his volunteer work.
As he quickly progressed with English language acquisition, it was not long before Vicente was in a transfer level STEM track. “I have always had the goal of being a scientist, especially in particle physics.” Naturally, he joined MESA (Math, Engineering and Science Achievement), which is a program that serves disadvantaged students attain STEM degrees from four-year institutions. When the S-STEM Miles Scholarship program at SRJC began – he earned a spot as a Miles Scholar as well! Due to his work, last summer he was selected to be an intern at the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee calibrating pixels recreating the solar wind environments.
Vicente obtained four Associate (AA/AS) degrees this spring in Natural Science, Mathematics and Physics and has been accepted to the University of Santa Cruz as a Physics major with a full scholarship. An incredible journey for someone who emigrated with his family from Mexico to escape the violence in their community. Beginning as an ESL student, earning his High School Equivalency, matriculating into transfer level classes, completing four Associate Degrees and transferring to the university system in just four years – it is a testament to his hard work, perseverance and commitment. His journey involved three federally funded programs, (Migrant Education, HEP, S-STEM) and two state funded programs (MESA, Welcome & Connect). His story is a great example of the impact grants can have when they work together to support our students.