When the committee interviewed candidates for the President’s Central Valley First-Generation Scholars program, their eyes must have widened when they listened to first-year student Angeles Ramirez speak.
“I see a lot of people get their education here or go to Modesto Junior College and move to the Bay Area and never come back,” Ramirez said. “A lot of my doctors and nurses, even my eye doctor came from the Bay Area, but they were originally from here, and I thought that was really cool."
The Ceres native epitomizes a Stanislaus State President’s Central Valley First-Generation Scholarship recipient. The award is the first of its kind scholarship program in the California State University system, in that it’s dedicated to students from a specific region. It pays for tuition, fees, books and a laptop and is awarded for four years for first-year students and two years for transfer students who expect to remain in the region after graduation.
Not only is she pursuing her education at Stan State, Ramirez hopes to launch her career in the region.
Torn between wanting to become a professor of biology or an optometrist, Ramirez is certain about staying close to her family roots.
“My optometrist, from the time I was very young, probably 11, told me he would guide me and he told me, ‘You have to come back to the Central Valley.’ That stuck with me,” Ramirez said.
The Central Valley, where her father was born and raised, and where she has some 40 cousins nearby, is the only place she’s ever called home. Visits to her maternal grandmother in Guadalajara exposed her to big-city life, but Ramirez prefers the quieter Central Valley.
“It’s not as fast paced as some Bay Area cities, and that’s nice,” said Ramirez, who has visited friends attending UC Berkeley. “It lets you savor a lot of what’s going on. This is the place that made you into who you are when you first started to get your education. I think that’s really important to remember.”
It, and hard work, made Ramirez a scholar at Ceres High School, where she took Advanced Placement courses and won the school’s Academic Decathlon Team scholarship as the member who most exemplified the spirit of the team.
She’s earned other scholarships, but the President’s Central Valley First Generation Scholarship is particularly special.
“It’s the fact it has a mission behind it, and that’s something I’ve never seen before,” Ramirez said. “That’s what sets this apart. This scholarship wants to help us get our education, and maybe we go off to the Bay Area, but they want us to bring the knowledge back and to contribute to the community that has helped us, and is continuing to help us now.”
The scholarship's financial award doesn’t mean Ramirez plans to quit her job as a supplemental instruction leader for a physics class, which she attends, takes notes and meets with students who may need help. She’s not enrolled in the course. She received credit for statistics by passing the AP exam in high school.
That work and tutoring, both of which she loves, are part of her desire to fully experience campus life.
She took some face-to-face courses in the fall and this semester is “on campus all the time.” She has participated in Associated Students, Inc.-sponsored activities.
“I drag my friends along,” Ramirez said. “It made me feel more welcome when we went back on campus in the fall. We painted on small canvases, and there was a pumpkin-carving contest. We were able to look at snacks of the world, and they gave us packaged snacks. There was a team building in the Quad with a water balloon activity. I didn’t participate in that, because I didn’t know about it soon enough, but I would have.
“There’s definitely a lot that Stan State does, and the students as well, to make us feel welcome. Even though we don’t know each other very well yet, I feel there’s a community that makes me feel welcome.”