City College graduate underscores San Diego Promise program success
May 14, 2019 |
Oscar Garza was leaning toward working as a laborer after graduating from high school – until a friend urged him to enroll at San Diego City College and an English teacher told him about the San Diego Promise program that would cover his tuition and help pay for his books. Two years later, Garza graduates May 24 with an associate degree in kinesiology and will take a GPA in the neighborhood of 3.4 with him when he transfers to San Diego State University this fall.
His long-term goals include securing a master’s degree in occupational therapy and a career as an occupational therapist, a profession with an average annual wage of more than $93,000 in San Diego County, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Garza is among the more than 50 San Diego Promise students in the program’s second cohort who are graduating this spring and whose futures are being transformed. Once shy and unsure of himself, Garza has found his confidence and is an asset on campus.
“It changed my life,” said Garza, 20. “The Promise provided me with so many resources and City College provided me with so many activities to get me on track and keep me on track so I could pursue my education. If you’re lost in life, being here can help you out, 100 percent.”
A resident of Golden Hill, Garza – who is in the country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – enrolled at La Jolla High School because of the educational opportunities it afforded. Getting there, however, required waking up at 5 a.m., taking a public bus to Einstein Middle School on the other side of the 94 freeway and then hopping on a school bus to the La Jolla campus.
Garza thought his formal education would conclude after earning his high school diploma, and he was set on going to work as a construction laborer.
“I didn’t really have the motivation to go to college,” he said. That changed after a close friend who attended City College urged him to give it a try. About the same time, his English instructor at La Jolla High told him about the San Diego Promise.
His future would forever be changed. Garza took part in a San Diego Promise orientation, met with counselors, developed an educational plan, and enrolled in a personal growth class. He also was accepted into the San Diego City College Price Scholarship Program, which provides mentorship to incoming freshmen, affords invaluable volunteer experiences, and provides a $10,000 scholarship. For the past two years, Garza has served as a mental health peer educator, “just educating people about mental health issues and letting them know about the mental health services that are out there.”
Brenda Torres, San Diego Promise coordinator at City College, said Garza embodies the success of the program, which offers a bevy of services to ensure students succeed.
“I have had the great pleasure to see him grow, to see his confidence grow,” Torres said. “He is now a very focused individual committed to his academics and to helping others, and he will go far.”
City College Commencement is May 24 at 5 p.m. at the San Diego Convention Center’s Ballroom 6A, 111 W. Harbor Drive.