I Can And I Did: How Free Community College Shaped My Life

I Can And I Did: How Free Community College Shaped My Life

By Klayre Guzman

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I was one of the first students ever to receive the San José Promise, a pilot program at San José City College (SJCC) that covered my tuition and fees and gave me the academic tools to succeed. And now, after graduating from UC Davis, I am a staff member for the San José Promise, helping out students like myself. This is my story, which I was proud to share at the San José Promise Launch last year with Dr. Jill Biden, who advocates for free community college as Honorary Chair of the College Promise Campaign.

I was excited to enroll in college, but I was unprepared. My assessment test showed that I was two levels below in college math and one level below in English. But where I started didn’t matter. That’s because community college gave me the guidance I needed each step of the way. It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish. Over the summer of 2010, I was able to complete an accelerated math class to get me ready for the fall semester. I eventually completed a rigorous sequence of calculus courses, getting an A in each of them.

Later, with guidance from my mentor, Rosalie Ledesma, I went on to earn an associate’s degree in chemistry from SJCC before transferring to UC Davis as a neurobiology major, where I received full financial aid. I would have been lost without Rosalie’s help. Not only did she guide me through the transfer process, she also mentored me through getting my bachelor’s degree. And now I’m honored to work with Rosalie on the San José Promise staff, helping to manage the budget and create promotional materials for the program.

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I come from an immigrant family and my parents don’t have a high school education. As a first generation college student, this is the culmination of my family’s efforts to achieve the American Dream. I am grateful for all of the support I’ve had along the way. But I’m especially grateful to the San José Promise. I’m so glad that the Promise program has grown from a small pilot to a full program so more students, like my younger sister, can fulfill their own college dreams. I truly believe this program will reinvigorate our community and the local economy.

I am proud that—although the road was tough at times—I persevered. Today, I am stronger for it. To all the students who are the new cohort of San José Promise recipients: take the opportunity you’re given, and focus on your education. I promise it will be worth it!

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