College: Cabrillo College
Semester Attended ACE: Fall 2004
Initially community college was just about getting a two-year degree and then a job, said Carlos Anaya, 24, who recently graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay. He remembered how his friends had nice cars and his family was struggling to make ends meet.
“Getting $10 an hour was a big deal,” he said. Carlos was working as a teacher’s assistant through the California Mini-Corps Program migrant education project when he saw an Academy for College Excellence (ACE) flyer. It offered options -- skills, the opportunity to make change in the community and to learn group dynamics.
Carlos, who immigrated with his family at the age of four from Michoacán, Mexico, had done well in school but didn’t see himself in college. His parents, who had been working since the second or third grade, had not attended college.
“The first day was kind of scary,” Carlos said of the ACE Foundation Course. “I wasn’t a social individual. I’m an observer. I didn’t really participate. You have all these faces you haven’t seen.” There were group activities and listening practices. The students began to get to know each other, to understand their individual strengths.
“Usually you’re in classes just listening to instructors; [in ACE], you were hands-on. It made me see education through a different lens, see that it’s not just about sitting in class but about working together.”
Soon students were forming study groups, connecting, having dinner together and learning specific skill sets to help them communicate better with each other and be more effective students. “It’s like a family. When I finished with the program, I was more prepared to go on. I wasn’t as scared.”
Carlos faced his fear of public speaking and, using the difficult personal experience of losing his little sister when she was just 11, began speaking publicly on behalf of Jacob’s Heart, a local support organization for children with cancer and their families.
At the university he joined small study groups and became an active link between other students in the group. He kept them motivated.
“It was difficult adapting to [the university] environment,” Carlos said. “I made it happen. It takes a lot of hard work. Now I want to keep going.”
Carlos graduated in May with a degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services with a concentration in Social Work. He is working as a group supervisor for the Santa Cruz County Probation Department and volunteering when he can at the Women’s Crisis Support children and youth program. He intends to pursue a master's degree in social work or clinical psychology.
“I’ve always liked to help people,” he said.